The 15th annual Youth, Women, and Celebrity Pheasant Hunt at Waconda Lake was held on December 8, 2012 and drew a large crowd of both youngsters and celebrities. Pheasant populations had declined in the area due to the heat and drought conditions, but that did not wither the participants’ excitement. The goal of the annual event is to provide new and inexperienced hunters with a positive and fun day where they have an opportunity to harvest a rooster pheasant or two. The hunt is organized by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and Wichita-based Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors, Inc.
This year, 32 young hunters (5 girls and 27 boys) ranging in ages from 10 to 17 attended the pheasant hunt. Several were local kids from Cawker City, Jewell, Glen Elder, Beloit, and Downs. However, many others came from farther away, including Kansas City, Wichita, and Salina. Three women also enjoyed their first- or second-ever pheasant hunts.
Eighteen celebrities and armed forces heroes were in attendance and served as hunting role models. Celebrities were headlined by three generations of the Segui family. Diego Segui and his son David each had long Major League Baseball careers, and now David’s son Cory is attempting to work his way up through the Baltimore Orioles’ minor league system. Brody (age 12) and Nolan Pope (age 14) from Harrisonville, Mo. also joined the festivities this year. Each of the brothers already has four National Go-cart Racing Championships to their credit. Other celebrities this year included former NFL players Mark Arneson and Jerry Holloway and former drag racer Guy Caster.
The event was also honored to have nine military heroes participate. These servicemen and women had various affiliations with the U.S. military from Fort Riley’s Warrior Transition Battalion and the Kansas National Guard. The majority of these heroes were “wounded warriors” who were fortunate to survive injuries suffered during deployments. One of the soldiers brought his three sons with him for the family’s first-ever hunt, and several others brought spouses or children who were also new to hunting. “Family hunting” turned out to be the theme of this year’s event.
The day started with a biscuits and gravy breakfast, a safety talk, then participants were divided into five different hunting groups by age and experience level. Each hunting group had celebrities, a hunt captain, and at least two bird dogs. With almost ideal weather conditions, the groups hunted in either Glen Elder State Park or in one of the refuge areas on Glen Elder Wildlife Area surrounding the lake where public hunting is generally not allowed.
Each group saw plenty of pheasants up close and almost all of the hunters got multiple shot opportunities at the tough birds. Only the youth, celebrities and heroes hunted in each group and each youth was “shadowed” by a parent or other adult mentor throughout the morning. The five groups managed to harvest a combined total of 16 roosters for the morning, and all but one of the groups managed to harvest at least one bird. Several hunters took their first bird.
The Waconda Lake Association sponsored a longest tail feather contest for the successful youth hunters. After lunch most of hunters took part in a trap shoot that was held near the Glen Elder Area Office. The majority of the celebrities also joined in for the afternoon fun of busting clay targets alongside the kids.
The day’s events concluded in the evening with a Hunter’s Banquet held at Memorial Hall in Downs where participants feasted on a barbeque brisket and pulled pork supper. After the meal each young hunter received a prize package and heard a few words about the importance of getting more kids involved for the future of hunting. They also had the chance to collect autographs and visit more with the celebrities, and a special award was presented to celebrity Guy Caster for his long time involvement with the event and his networking skills to invite new celebrity participants each year.
This event would not be possible without the generous support of over 30 different businesses and individuals that stepped up as sponsors from the communities around Waconda Lake. Their donations of prizes, food, services, and financial contributions continue to make the event a success every year. To learn more about this event or similar ones offered around Kansas visit ksoutdoors.com or outdoormentors.org or contact the Glen Elder Area Office at 785-545-3345.
Image courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism