I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a hunting virtuoso. I didn’t grow up hunting, no one in our household hunted and I definitely didn’t own anything blaze orange. The whole idea of hunting seemed intimidating because it involves guns, animals, treestands and it had a reputation for being a “guy thing.” But it doesn’t have to be intimidating.
I began archery and gun hunting a couple of years ago. This year marks my first year pheasant hunting. I love the outdoors, I enjoy the camaraderie it provides and I am all for ethically harvesting my own meat. So when I got an invited by the DNR to attend the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Opener in Luverne, Minnesota, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to learn a new type of hunting and help others, women and men, who are in similar shoes: wanting to try pheasant hunting but don’t know where to start.
Luverne is a historic city with charm, kind neighbors and close proximity to thousands of acres of beautiful prairieland. Here’s a quick highlight of our stay:
Stay: Econo Lodge
Activities: Trap shooting at Rock County Sportsman’s Club, Women’s mentored hunt training at Luverne Country Club, Rooster Ridge Wildlife Management Area Land Dedication, Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener Community Banquet at Grand Prairie Events, morning hunt with guides and land donated for the morning by local landowners, Take 16 Brewing Company
Activities I didn’t have time for, but wish I did: Hiking and bison touring at Blue Mounds State Park, hiking at Brandenburg Prairie Foundation Touch the Sky Prairie
I talked with women who attended the opener, many of them experienced hunters. They gave me some great pointers on how to get started in pheasant hunting. Meadow Kouffeld was one of the guides for the women’s mentored hunt. She said much of it is about the dogs who flush, point and retrieve.
“It’s quite different than up north where I hunt grouse and woodcock,” said Kouffeld. “It’s also exciting because I get a chance to watch dogs work over big country. When the birds get up, they’re large, they’re colorful, they’re exciting and obviously they taste good so it’s a lot of fun.”
TIP 1 IS MANDATORY: HUNTER EDUCATION
TIP 2: GET A MENTOR
“It’s got classes for hunting pheasant, it’s got classes for fishing,” said Landwehr. “It’s women teaching women about how to do those things. It’s a very low pressure environment.”
He said once you have a little bit of experience, you’ll feel confident going out by yourself or with friends.
TIP 3: MAKE FRIENDS
Your mentor can definitely become your friend or help you find friends who enjoy hunting. Becoming friends with someone who has a hunting dog is a bonus. It will make your hunting experience much more productive and enjoyable.
After living away for a while, Ashley Peters returned to Minnesota three years ago. She said she was looking for a community of friends. “So I met a few women who were interested in hunting and they kind of took me in and we just started trapshooting,” said Peters. “I was terrified at first and I didn’t know if I wanted to buy a gun.”
This is similar to how I felt. I didn’t have much experience with guns and I had never gone trap shooting. But like Ashley, I like knowing where my food comes from and I also enjoy the social aspect of hunting.
“I went out with my friends, had these great experiences and made some great memories,” she said.
I happen to have a trapshooting night planned with Ashley after work this week. I took her advice to heart!
TIP 4: PRACTICE TRAP SHOOTING
Practice makes perfect or hopefully close to perfect! Visit your local gun club to practice trap shooting. Spending time on the range will lead to muscle memory in using your shotgun, swinging your gun as birds take off and making consistent shots.
Join a summer shooting league so that you are well-practiced by fall. Shoot clay targets from different distances and directions. Practice shooting in the elements, whether it is rain, windy or even snowy. It actually snowed while we were trap shooting at Rock County Sportsman’s Club in Luverne. Get to know your gun and feel comfortable using it.
TIP 5: LET GO OF YOUR FEARS OF JUDGMENT
To be honest, I do have fear over what other hunters might think of an amateur like me. But that’s why I think it’s important to go back to tip 2: get a mentor.
“It’s really easy to be scared when you start and it’s ok to be scared,” said Peters. “Your mentor will help address your fears and talk you through them. It’s ok to be worried about your gun, it’s ok to be worried about all these different pieces, but just sticking with it and finding a person to guide you through it is really where I found my stride in hunting.”
Be confident in yourself by remembering hunter safety, taking time to learn from experienced hunters, hanging out with others who are interested in hunting and studying the rules and regulations from the DNR.