LOWVILLE For Lesley J. Aucter of Croghan, nothing could wipe the grin from her face after she sacked her first pheasant.
Not shooting and making sure its the right shot was the most difficult part of the hunt, said Lesley, who had no prior hunting experience.
The 12-year-old and her brother, Wyatt J., 14, were two of 12 children who participated in the Youth Pheasant Hunt on Saturday.
The hunt, which will continue today, is free and open to children ages 12 to 15 with valid hunting licenses and a parent or guardian present at signup.
Its another way to get kids hunting and fishing it introduces them to the outdoors, said Steven A. Houck, the Region 6 Representative for Conservation Alliance of New York. That agency sponsored the hunt along with Lewis County Association of Sportsmens Clubs. Pheasants were provided by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Birds will get away, warned dog handler Staci D. Molyneaux. You dont want to get every bird, you leave some for seed. Its part of conservation.
The birds were released onto 300 acres of public hunting property belonging to Allan Brown. Hunters will be able to pursue leftover pheasants once the childrens hunt wraps up this evening.
Its for the kids; we do this all for the kids, Mr. Brown said.
Children practiced shooting clay targets before heading out and received further instruction during the hunt. Afterward they were shown how to pluck their prizes.
When the first bird flushed you were like, oh, whoa, what was that? Ian Widrick, 13, said of his first time hunting pheasants during last years hunt.
We stank at shooting last year, said Conner B. Proulx, 13, of Croghan.
This year we did pretty good, added Conners twin brother, Jory M. The two went home with four pheasants.
I could probably take two, but Ill let the other kids take theirs first, said 13-year-old Thomas McDermott of Pulaski.
While the hunt was arranged to be a fun time for children, the underlying focus was on hunting safety.
We want all the kids to have fun, but our end goal is to have fun and be safe, Ms. Molyneaux said.
Before heading out children were reminded to keep their barrels pointed upward, always to treat their guns as if they were loaded and not to shoot until the bird was surrounded by the blue of the sky.
We teach the range of where to stand and when you can shoot, because we are shooting over dogs, Ms. Molyneaux said.
Pointing and flushing dogs assisted in the hunt.
The event may have been just another hunting exercise for some, but to young hunters like Lesley Aucter, it was a moment of pride that could grow into a hobby.
Todays hunt will be held at 6490 East Martinsburg Road, Lowville. The first group will head out at 8 a.m. A second will head out at noon. Shells and a meal are provided. Children are expected to dress accordingly. Insurance for the day is provided by CANY.
For most of Eastern New York, the 2012 pheasant hunting season began Oct. 1 and will go until Feb. 28. Hunters are limited to two pheasants per person per day.
Youth hunting licenses can be purchased for $5 at most town clerks offices or sporting goods shops, including Dicks Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain and the sports section at Walmart.
To learn more about small- and big-game hunting seasons, visit www.dec.gov.