September is designated as Tree Stand Safety Awareness Month. September is the month that most hunters start heading back to the woods to cut trails and hang stands in preparation for upcoming hunting season making it an opportune time to raise awareness about stand safety.
The Wisconsin DNR’s Learn to Hunt program and SCI Badgerland provided financial support for Wayne and Robin Smith, owners of Smith’s Pheasant Crest in Oxford, WI, to host a pheasant hunt for recent graduates of DNR Hunter Safety classes. The twenty hunters who took to the fields on Sunday, November 4, had attended safety classes taught by members of SCI Badgerland. Volunteer instructors from the participating groups were on hand to mentor the hunters in the field, to ensure the graduates remembered the four rules of firearm safety, and the correct methods of carrying their shotguns so that the muzzle would be pointed in a safe direction at all times. All the students performed admirably, and everyone enjoyed a safe hunt.
Prior to heading to the fields, the new hunters tried their shotgun skills behind a trap thrower. Instructors gave tips on how to bring up the gun to the correct shooting position, how to lead the targets, and how to follow through for a successful shot. Once everyone had a chance to break some clay birds, they were ready and eager to go after the real birds.
Volunteer guides brought various breeds of dogs, all of them highly trained and great hunters, and the grads were treated to the thrill of watching the dogs work the scent. The excitement built when the dogs got “birdy.” When they locked up on a pheasant, the mentor helped the first-time hunters get ready for the flush. The Wisconsin State Game Farm at Poynette provided two pheasants per hunter through the Learn to Hunt program. An extra surprise was provided by the Smiths who donated additional birds. All the hunters experienced the thrill of birds flushing in front of them, but they also discovered the excitement generated by the pounding wings and how the cackle of a rooster bent on escaping could affect their marksmanship.
While not all hunters harvested a pheasant, everyone came back from the fields with a priceless grin. All agreed that the experience was great, and they were eager to go hunting again. For those skilled enough to bring back a bird or two, 14-year-old Cheyenne Smith was on hand to teach them how to quickly clean a pheasant. Stand on the wings and pull on the legs, and soon you can bag those delicious pheasant breasts for the ride home. After the hunt, the Smiths provided a delicious lunch of turkey sandwiches, barbecue sandwiches, chili and desserts.
Conservation Safety Warden, Judi Nigbor, came to observe the hunt. She spoke with several of the students and congratulated them for not only completing hunter safety class, but also for participating in the Learn to Hunt event. She expressed her thanks to the Smiths and to SCI Badgerland for the opportunity they provided the grads. Judi noted, “It is this kind of effort that is needed to keep our great hunting heritage alive and well.”
This is SCI Badgerland’s second year sponsoring this new event. It certainly seems to be a great success. Without the help of groups like this, our hunting heritage could be lost. My hat is off to SCI.
Alan Heth, SCI Badgerland Chapter’s President commented, “Thank you to the volunteer DNR Hunter Safety Instructors / SCI Badgerland Chapter members, Ray Anderson, Bill Hilgers, Ken Hei, and Scott Young. They spent a whole day of their time doing what is one of SCI’s pillars–education. They are also part of an elite instructor group that just received this award from the DNR. On August 4, 2012, their Madison Area Safe Hunters Group was presented the 2011 DNR Hunter Education Administrator’s Award for their willingness to change, and their desire to improve themselves.
“Special thanks to Chapter member Wayne Smith and his wife, Robin for working on this event and the Disabled Hunter Event, as not-for-profit, the first November weekend each year.”– Ken Heim