Most of us outdoorsmen are anxious to see more young people involved in the hunting and fishing sports. From the Eddie Eagle gun safety programs to the well-known youth hunting programs such as the “Jakes” program conducted by the National Wild Turkey Federation, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on bringing youngsters into our sports. To put it bluntly, if we don’t recruit newcomers, hunting and fishing may fade and die at some point in the future.
It was truly encouraging last week to see so many youngsters participating in the American Cancer Society’s (dove) Hunt For A Cure last week near Lake Mattamuskeet in Hyde County. The dove hunt on the second Saturday of the 2012 hunting season seems to be headed for becoming an annual affair with the full blessings of the American Cancer Society as a very effective way to raise money for cancer research. The hunt’s mission is not only to raise money for a good cause but is placing a lot of emphasis on getting young hunters outdoors and learning to safely handle guns.
Hunts such as the Hunt For A cure can’t take pace without the cooperation of landowners who help out by opening up their farms to the hunt. In the case of last weeks hunt the benefactor was Jamin Simmons and the Mattamuskeet Ventures.
Most dove hunts don’t really get started until late morning or early afternoon but this hunt begins at 7 in the morning with breakfast being served under a protective canopy set up on the edge of a huge field where the hunt was to take place. When we pulled into the hunt site I was shocked to see about 40 cars lining the muddy road near the breakfast site. From the parked cars streamed a sea of yellow, brown and black Labrador retrievers, youngsters and adult hunters all dressed in camo and headed for coffee, sodas and sausage sandwiches at he tent.
Adult hunters were carefully monitoring the shotguns and the youths to be sure that gun safety was being practiced as the hunters began to take to the field in search of dove.
The recent rain down east had turned the fertile Hyde County corn fields into a muddy mess where ever the corn had been harvested but this didn’t seem to deter the hunters as an assortment of all terrain vehicles (ATVs) sent black mud flying as the hunters headed for the far ends of these huge fields to begin the hunt. I’d venture to say that many of the under 16 crowd enjoyed riding around the muddy fields on the ATVs as much as they enjoyed the dove hunt
From a large track driven Caterpillar type tractor to the smaller ATVs that we’re more familiar with the ATVs seemed to be the best way to travel to the far ends of these huge fields. Those who tried to walk to the sots where they hoped to get shots at high-flying dove found that the Hyde County mud made their hike a bit difficult. Retrievers following the hunters soon began to become covered with sticky black mud, which probably made them a little less conspicuous beside their camo-clad masters.
This hunt took place in one of the last days of the oppressive heat we’ve been experiencing this summer so it was necessary for the youngsters who were taking hunters to and from their chosen dove stands were constantly stopping by the waiting hunters to see if they’d like some cold water. Dogs also suffered from the heat and if they could find a nearby ditch filled with water they’d jump right in and wallow around like a pig in a pigpen.
I’m sure that anyone not familiar with our southern hunting culture would have been horrified with the way these young hunters were buzzing around the fields on their ATVs with shotguns waving but I didn’t see one instance of what I’d call careless gun handling. As a matter of a fact, the only casualty of the hunt that day happened to an adult who suffered a mild heat stroke during the afternoon. In spite of the relatively remote area where the hunt was taking place the Hyde County Emergency rescue ambulance had the hunter taken out of the field and to a waiting helicopter that rushed the victim to the hospital in Greenville. He was treated and released the very next day.
The 15 adults who were conducting the hunt made sure that every one had plenty to eat and drink from the time they arrived at the hunt headquarters tent. With 45 hunters under the age of 16 and 55 hunters over the age of 16 they had plenty to do. As most of the enthusiastic hunters drifted in and out of the fields they found a shaded place to sit around and enjoy the tall tales of the Old Timers who enjoyed just sitting around and reminiscing about the “good old days.”
Since the mission of the Hunt For A Cure dove hunt was to raise money for The American Cancer Society it must be noted that this one-day hunt cleared some $5400 for the cause. For the hunters their entry fee was a tax deduction and for the youngsters it was an enjoyable hunt. A hearty “Well done” to Hyde County members of the American Cancer Society.