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Getting an early start

By:Todd Burras, Outdoors Writer October 29, 2004

Special season gives youth a chance to hunt pheasants a week before the state opener. (10/29/04)
COLO - Take a gusty wind, skittish birds and a dozen inexperienced but rambunctious teens and what do you get? This year's youth pheasant hunt at Colo Bogs.
You also get lots of shooting, some achy muscles, several tired dogs, a few ringnecks in the bag and plenty of smiles.
"It's awesome," said 12-year-old Daniel Berg, a wide-eyed seventh-grader from Ames who was hunting for the first time. "I thought the birds would get up in flocks, not one at a time."
In fact, at least one large flock of ringnecks did get up even before the hunt had begun, prompting the energized troops to hurry into formation before marching into the field. Keeping them spread out and a safe distance from one another was the daunting task of another dozen dads, grandpas and volunteers.
"A lot of these boys don't have grandpas or uncles or dads who live in the country so it's a new experience for a lot of them," said Terry Burleson, who organizes the event each year for Story County Pheasants Forever and the Ames chapter of the Izaak Walton League. "The main thing is to get them out and let them have a good time."
From the looks and expressions on their faces, the boys were indeed having a good time.
"It's my first bird," said 14-year-old Ross Hackerson, a broad smile creeping across the face of the Ames High freshman. Hackerson participated in last year's youth hunt and went out with his dad a few other times but never bagged a ringneck.
Even Daniel Berg's older brother, Thomas, managed a few smiles in between grimaces. Thomas, 14, injured a knee playing football a month ago and was sporting a full brace on his left leg.
"It's fun, but it would be easier going without it," said Berg, a freshman from Ames. "But I'm okay."
"We kid Thomas that he's more active now than before he hurt his knee," said Kevin Berg, the two boys' father. "He wanted to come anyway so we came."
Thomas Hockett, a sixth-grader from Ames, wasn't so lucky as to have his dad with him. The elder Hockett is in the U.S. Army and in September was sent to Qatar. He won't be back until spring.
"My dad and I hunt coyotes and deer together," said Hockett, who added that he would send an e-mail to his dad to tell him about the youth pheasant hunt. "I've never shot a pheasant before."
Burleson, who's 15-year-old son Zach bagged a ringneck Saturday, hopes to change that this fall.
"I'll talk to your mom, and Zach and I will take you out some more this fall," Terry said. "Would you like that?"
Hockett nodded in the affirmative.
"This is a great thing the Izaak Walton League is doing," said Lee Livingston, who brought his 12-year-old grandson, Evan Jorgensen, to the hunt. "We fell out of favor with the soccer moms. I mean no disrespect saying that, but it's sure nice to see some of these kids getting the chance to get outdoors and hunt."
And while the event was meant as a way to promote hunting among the state's youth, it might have been just what Livingston needed to get himself back outdoors this fall.
"My grandson is an inspiration to me," said Livingston, a lifelong hunter who injured his back about 10 years ago and hasn't been hunting since. "I've missed it. I'm going to have to get out with him this fall."

Editor's Note: After a 2 1/2-hour hunt that bagged four pheasants, the boys went back to the Izaak Walton League for lunch and the opportunity to shoot several rounds of trap and skeet. Needless to say, they had better luck with clay pigeons than they did with live ringnecks.


Outdoors writer Todd Burras can be reached at 232-2161, Ext. 347, or at

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