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Spring Break: Sporting Clays, Pheasants, Chukars, Fun and Memories

To get young people ‘outdoors’ these days, you have to be flexible and take advantage of any windows of opportunity that are there. Such was the case this past week when my 17 year-old Son Noah, a junior at Omaha’s Creighton Prep High School, had spring break. Noah had been bugging me to take him hunting in some fashion over his break from school. As adult sportsmen and women we all need to make time in our own busy schedules to take kids to the field. Think back. Do you remember who took the time to take you?

But, what would he hunt? Where could  I take him? It’s mid March in Nebraska, there aren’t many seasons open, and the snow geese were just starting to arrive for Light Goose Conservation Order hunting. Hey, how about a hunting preserve – a Controlled Shooting Area (C.S.A.) here in Nebraska? C.S.A.’s are open through the end of March for upland game bird hunting. Hmmm … That’s a thought. Now look, I know what you’re saying” C’mon Wags, seriously, a pay hunting preserve, where upland game birds are released and hen pheasants are legal to shoot? Absolutely, that’s it!

I want my son to get in as much shooting action as he possibly can have. I want to get him “hooked” on the fun of shooting sporting clays and upland game bird hunting with very good dogs.

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If you’re curious, sporting clays are a form of small circular disc/clay pigeon shooting often described as “golf with a shotgun” because a typical course includes a number of different shooting stations simulating different shotgun hunting scenarios laid out over natural terrain.  In addition to the traditional hunt in the field, a lot of hunting preserves offer different shotgun target shooting opportunities such as sporting clays as a warm up before getting a number of wing-shooting opportunities in the field.

I liken this experience hunting at a Controlled Shooting Area to taking a child fishing for the first time. You have a youngster attend a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission kids fishing workshop or family fishing event. They will be given the necessary equipment to use, acquire some skills, and then be put on the water to catch fish in a pond that possesses a good fish population or has been well stocked with catchable-sized fish.

Today’s modern C.S.A. or hunting preserve offers more than you think; multiple target shooting range possibilities (sporting clays course, trap, skeet, 5-stand, etc.), high quality habitat, hard-flying birds, wonderful instructors, experienced guides, well-trained dogs, food service, and a tremendous overall outdoor experience. Plus, you’ll have nutritious game meat to take home with you to enjoy at your table with the family.

I made a phone call a few days in advance of the date we had available to my good friend Terry Kriz whose family owns and operates the scenic Oak Creek Sporting Club near Brainard, NE to see if space was available for Noah. I explained to Terry that I wanted to get Noah some shotgun shooting instruction on the sporting clays course and then hunt pheasants and chukars. It was a ‘go.’ My son was pumped (and so was I)!

At this point, you may be asking: Why are you taking your son hunting? Why not do some other easier recreational activity like bowling?First off, Noah is a hunter and really wanted to go! Secondly, it had been a while since he hunted upland game birds and shot sporting clays. And third, there are many good reasons to pass on the tradition of hunting from one generation to the next, from me to Noah. Hunting can help connect children to the land and its inhabitants, countering what noted author Richard Louv has coined “the nature deficit disorder” and building a conservation ethic. Hunting also makes for excellent bonding time in the outdoors with family and friends, encourages fitness, safety and health, and develops life skills such as focus, discipline, self-control, respect, responsibility, the value of teamwork as well as good sportsmanship.

Noah had a blast! It began with him receiving invaluable instruction and gaining confidence in shotgun shooting on Oak Creek’s fun sporting clays course with a patient, first-rate teacher – Terry Kriz.

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Various stations were visited and dozens of rounds were shot under Terry’s watchful eyes.

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Next, after shooting sporting clays, it was time for Noah to hit the field. He, with me tagging along, went to one of Oak Creek’s beautiful warm-season grassy fields for pheasants and chukars with expert guide – Jonny Kriz along with the top-notch German shorthair pointers Ollie and Sasha.

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I shot only photos.

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There is nothing more rewarding than watching your son or daughter harvest game birds or animals. To see the excitement in their eyes and to feel the pride of knowing that you organized the hunt and played a part in their success. It is a feeling like no other. Most of all, it is the bond that develops between you and your child that makes it so darn special. It is a closeness that could only come from time shared outdoors without the interruptions of modern-day life.

Please take some time to get your youngster out in the field. It will be time well spent with many smiles and these memories will last a lifetime!

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Listen, I have to tell you this. Upon arriving at home for our hunting expedition, I received something priceless from my 17 year-old son — a huge hug (a rarity), along with a big thank you and a “when are we’re going again, Dad?”

It was definitely time well spent for Noah, don’t you think?

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About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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