Eating crow at pheasant hunt

Doug Streed and I have known each other long enough to agree to disagree. When I wrote an article proclaiming that fishing wasn’t a sport because I couldn’t catch a fish in Hawaii and I included hunting as a non-sport, Doug took umbrage. He did so eloquently in a letter to the editor. He also asked me if I would give him a chance to prove his point.

My definition of sport was a bit nebulous. Here are my criteria: must be able to keep score, must have a winner and a loser, must involve physical skill or endurance and must be objective in scoring. My definition excluded hunting, on the grounds that there is no way the bird can win or the hunter can lose. I have since learned that it is not prudent to anger those who are experts with rifles. I had nightmares about the NRA putting me on some list.

I took Doug’s challenge. I went to the San Diego Junior Pheasant Hunt at My Country Club (it is not my country club, that is the name of the place) in Mesa Grande. Mike Jordan, who is an outdoorsman (I didn’t use the word sportsman to anger as many people as possible) picked me up before dawn on a cold morning. We had planned to go out to breakfast on our way. We didn’t plan well enough.

None of the restaurants in Santa Isabel were open. I didn’t bring my warm jacket because Mike said that he had a special warm hunting jacket in his truck. I have pulled many a trick or two on Mike (kayaking for one) and Mike has gotten me on several occasions. This was one of those occasions. His special warm hunting jacket was warm but one had to be four years old to wear it.

We got to My Country Club before dawn. Doug was kind enough to invite us into his camping trailer, which was not as big as the Taj Mahal but was just as nice. I didn’t want to leave the warmth, but Doug had other plans for Mike and me.

By the time I was eighty-sixed from the warmth of the Taj, Doug, 70 junior pheasant hunters and their parents, and an army of volunteers were lined up outside the trailer registering for the hunt. “Thank Maureen at the Sentinel. Sixteen of those young hunters are from Ramona and Maureen’s article got them here,” said Streed.

Over 40 volunteers from NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association), The San Diego Sporting Dog Association, the San Diego Chapter of Safari Club International, the Palomar Hunt Club, The Wild Turkey Federation (not the Wild Turkey some are familiar with), the California Department of Fish and Game were on hand and getting to work.

Doug is a super salesman and is a pilot who can pile it. He procured sponsors. Safari Club International donated over 50 percent of the funds necessary to have the event.  So with other help, it was a free hunt. My Country Club donated the land and food preparations. Ramona’s Wayne Elston donated the hay necessary for the artificial cover.

The volunteers were true volunteers. They received no hats or T-shirts. “I don’t even get a chance to thank every one of them,” said Streed. There was no need. They loved every minute of the junior hunt.

After registration, the hunt began. Before the novice hunters were dispatched to seven learning stations (my term), Doug gave an impromptu speech. The theme of the speech was the most important lesson taught. Doug stressed safety first. He demonstrated the proper way to hold the different types of shotguns safely. He made sure that the junior hunters had safety glasses, blaze orange vests and caps, and knew the proper way to hold a shotgun and when to fire and when not to fire. These lessons were repeated several times before the young hunters took to the field.

Doug wears several hats. He was an Air Force pilot and an airline pilot. He is a hunter safety instructor. He is a full-time grandfather who teaches his grandkids how to hunt and fish. His daughter, Holly, was at My Country Club as was his wife Marilyn. Doug was there to teach what he loves doing.

“I feel bad that none of us girls (Monica and DeDe are Doug’s other two daughters) got into this. We were into other sports. But dad has his grandkids,” said Holly with a smile. No felling sorry for a guy having fun doing what he loves doing.

There were seven stations. The Wild Turkey Federation had a booth that explained the ins and outs of turkey hunting. The California Department of Fish and Game had a station that taught about trapping and gun safety and safety for animals and humans. There was a shooting range with .22 caliber rifles. There was an archery station. Kids of all ages love to shoot rifles and bows and arrows. There was a trap shooting station. The young hunters loved that the most.

Doug made some key points about hunting being a sport. Score can be kept on a shooting range and an archery range: points well taken.

The sixth station was going to the field. If a junior hunter did not have a 12- or 20-gauge shotgun, one was provided along with ammo and safety equipment.

One hundred fifty pheasants were purchased at about $15 apiece. Every junior hunter got a chance at two pheasants. When the hunters got to the field, they got a practical safety lecture. Mike Jordan and his fellow planters planted pheasants in the hay supplied by Elston. Jordan and his compadres took the birds from cages, tucked their heads behind their wings and took them to the hay. By the time the birds got to the hay, they were asleep.

Every hunter went out with an adult dog handler and a hunting dog. My favorite dog was a Bronco Italiano named Romeo. His handler was Ericka Dennis. Doug’s dog, Drake, is also an excellent hunting dog. Drake is a Vizsla.

Doug went out with Drake and the junior hunters. He made sure the volunteers did the work so he could have fun. Doug loves hunting and loves teaching youngsters the proper way to hunt safely. It is a great job, but it was not work to Doug. He was having too much fun.

Most of the 70 boys and girls got at least one pheasant. Not all of the 70 were from families that had hunters. Some read about the hunt in the Sentinel and bugged their parents to take them to the hunt.

The final station was the bird cleaning station. At that station, a volunteer taught the young hunters how to clean a pheasant. The volunteer cleaned a bird and the young hunters cleaned another bird at the same time.

It was one of the most educational experiences that I have ever observed. I only wish that we teach driving  as well as Doug and his crew teach hunting.

I have some differences with some of the NRA stands on some issues. I don’t think that assault rifles should be able to be owned by anybody who is not a police officer or member of the military. (There I go again, angering people who shoot rifles.) Killing Bambi with an AK-47 is not a sport.

I went to Mesa Grande Road cold and with some axes to grind. I came away impressed. Every instructor at every station was well-prepared, inspirational and enthusiastic.

Most of the young hunters got to eat pheasant that night. Thanks to Doug Streed, I got to eat crow. Doug, what you and your volunteers do is great. It is a service to the youth of our community. It is inspirational. It is educational. The way you do it creates sportsmen and sportswomen. But, Doug, there were no losers that morning along Mesa Grande Road. See the criteria above.  

“But protein is protein, whether it comes from the slaughterhouse by way of the grocery store or adventure in the field. One must understand that the hunter helps control wild species to the number that the habitat can sustain,” countered Doug Streed, safety instructor, sportsman, hunter and fisherman.

   
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