Little Hills puts on another great Youth Day event
Last Saturday and Sunday, 132 youth hunters ranging from 10 to 15 years of age got together for the Little Hills 18th Annual Youth Day at Little Hills Hunting Preserve.
Despite all the COVID concerns and social distancing, event coordinator Amanda Oberle managed to figure out a way for the youth and volunteers to stay safe without having to reduce the number of youth that could participate. But that’s the dedication the Oberles have put into this event for the last 18 years, developing it into one of the better, if not the best, Youth Day events.
Run at no cost to the youth, they have a faithful set of sponsors. The youth that participate live mainly in Taylor, Chippewa, Clark and Marathon Counties. But they always have a dozen or more youth from areas like Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, and even Illinois because their grandparents live in the area. And there are always a dozen or so youth from the greater Abbotsford, Colby, Curtiss, Dorchester, and Unity area.
It’s a two-day event that’s very structured to maintain safety.
“We try to keep the seminars to 15 minutes each and the pheasant hunt to an hour,” Amanda told me. “That keeps things moving, the kids interested, and helps us keep track of who is where and when. Each youth is assigned a buddy when they show up and sign into the event. They are all pre-registered.”
They are assigned a day and time to report. The youth are on site for about three hours. They receive a bag when they arrive with everything they need at the event. It includes a T-shirt, ear plugs, safety glasses, their shot shells needed for sporting clays, a goose call, and hand sanitizer.
Each youth will attend a safety seminar review, shoot some rounds at sporting clays targets and shoot archery equipment at targets. They’ll also experience a waterfowl hunting set up, (where they get to blow that goose call to their hearts content) and they’ll see an upland dog hunting demo. That dog demonstration starts preparing them for the main event, a pheasant hunt with three pheasants for each youth.
As you can imagine, all that activity could work up quite an appetite on growing youth in that age group, which is why a lunch is served for the youth.
“We try to provide some choices for the kids with the meal which is why this year we are adding hamburgers to the choices,” Amanda said. “Not every kid likes everything and they’ll have more fun if they aren’t hungry.”
“We have a very dedicated group of volunteers,” Amanda told me. “Some have been with us all 18 years and so have some of our sponsors. We need both to run the event.”
She told me they have over 60 volunteers at the event. They need 36 in the fields for the hunt. Each group of two hunters will have three volunteers, one handling the dog and one coaching each hunter. They run six fields and try to have three groups taking hunters through each so that the dogs and volunteers get a break. Each hunt is designed to last about one hour, and the next one begins about the time the previous one ends. That allows about 30 to 40 minutes to rest and water the dog, and volunteers rest before they meet their new group of hunters.
The hunters are brought back to the main area and meet another volunteer who has been running the bird cleaning station for many years now. Amanda told me she does a great job of getting the kids willing to get their hands dirty and start learning how to field dress game.
Other areas that need volunteers are all the seminars stations, the registration stations, and bird planters. Each field would most likely need its own bird planter, which would require six planters and wheelers just for that alone.
Like their business, which Dave and Amanda started back in 1999, running the Youth Day Event is a family affair. Their three children are at the event working as hard as them and the volunteers. They shut their business down on the last weekend of September every year for this event. And, come Saturday and Sunday night, the only people who sleep better than the kids are the volunteers.
You can find out more information about this event and Little Hills at www. littlehills.net, including how to register a youth hunter for next year’s event.
CHUCK K OLAR LOCAL OUTDOORSMAN