Glen Elder, KS — “There were 18 happy and tired kids — both girls and boys — leaving the Waconda Lake [Glen Elder Reservoir] area and heading home on the night of Saturday, Dec. 10,” said Chris Lecuyer, Glen Elder Wildlife Area manager.
These new hunters had just wrapped up a full day of activities after participating in the 14th Annual 2011 Waconda Lake Youth, Women, and Celebrity Pheasant Hunt. The event is co-sponsored by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) and Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors, Inc., of Wichita.
“We began before sunrise with a biscuits and gravy breakfast served by the Waconda Struttin’ Dusters Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation,” Lecuyer said. “The youngsters listened to a quick talk concerning regulations and safety, and then we introduced them to celebrities and heroes who would join them for the hunt.
Celebrities included John Gillotte, the 2010 National Youth Crappiemasters Champion; Wayne Hubbard, creator and host of Urban American Outdoors TV show; and Guy Caster, former professional drag race car driver. The youth were also joined by four true heroes, soldiers who had been wounded in action, including Colonel Phil McCune and Colonel Tom Kurlick from the Fort Riley Warrior Transition Battalion, and Captain Aaron Isaacson and Second Lieutenant Chad Blow from the Kansas National Guard of Topeka.
Near-perfect morning weather greeted the hunters after breakfast. They were divided into three groups to hunt for the rest of the morning. Several non-hunting adults, parents, and family members went with each group to serve as mentors for the inexperienced hunters. The groups hunted in portions of Glen Elder State Park and the refuges of Glen Elder Wildlife Area.
“Generally, public hunting is not allowed in these parts of the Waconda Lake property except for special events such as this,” Lecuyer explained. “The young hunters were definitely up to our challenge, and the groups managed to bag 16 roosters in just three hours of hunting. Many of the young hunters harvested their first-ever pheasants, and nearly everyone had the opportunity to take a shot or two at the tough birds. A couple of the kids actually harvested multiple birds, and even Colonel Kurlick got his first pheasant.”
A hamburger, hot dog, and chili lunch was served at noon by volunteers from the Waconda Lake Association. The association also sponsored a prize contest for the youth with the longest tail feather from their bird. Devin Basnatt’s 22 1/2 inch tail feather won by more than 1 inch.
After lunch, a trap shoot was held near the Glen Elder Area Office. Three shooting stations were available for the participants to hone their shooting skills. A few of the young hunters and their mentors decided to continue hunting during the afternoon at other locations on the wildlife area.
The day’s events concluded in the evening with a barbeque brisket supper at Memorial Hall in Downs. After the meal, each young hunter received a prize package and heard a few words and got autographs from the celebrities. Attendees also listened to information about youth and mentor hunting opportunities, the importance of recruiting new hunters, and the work of conservation organizations.
This year’s youth participants were Bryce Nichols – Beloit; Rhiley Kaser – Osborne; Bryce Griffin, Andrea Howard, Noah Bradley, Matt Parks, and Cole Sauber – Salina; Cody Heiland – Topeka; Ryan and Megan Richards – Stillwell; Marcus Florence – Olathe; Derek McCarthy – Kansas City, Brandon Regester, Dylan Brittain, Nick Miller, and Jakhai Adams – Wichita; and Devin Basnatt and Sabian Dolvig – Rose Hill.
“We couldn’t have done this without donations from of a host of local businesses,” Lecuyer said. “And a special thanks goes out to all the volunteers and mentors who gave their time to the kids. Almost 50 adults gave up a substantial portion of their day or weekend to help these young hunters.”
KDWPT and Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors believe that offering youth opportunities such as the Waconda Lake Youth, Women, and Celebrity Pheasant Hunt is vitally important to ensure both the development of future hunting generations and well-rounded young people. For information about future special hunts at Glen Elder, phone (785) 545-3345.