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By Dave Higgins, president, Cochise Bird Dog Club
For the second consecutive year, the Sierra Vista-based Cochise Bird Dog Club partnered with the Huachuca Hot Shots team from Arizona’s Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) to conduct a youth quail hunt on the Empire Ranch, near Sonoita, on April 22.
The event gave the SCTP youths a chance to hone their shotgun-shooting skills under actual hunting conditions in the field, while observing and learning about top-notch bird dog work. Ten youths and five hunting dogs participated.
More than 45 bobwhite quail were released for the hunt. The outing was enhanced this year with the release of five ringneck rooster pheasants donated by local hobby breeders Mike Skiles and Erick Haldorson of Sierra Vista. The birds were released under the authority of a permit issued by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The SCTP youths were divided into teams of two and paired with a member of the Cochise Bird Dog Club and their dogs for a 30-minute hunt. The dogs found and pointed the birds, and the young hunters flushed them, allowing the youths to observe the skills and safety practices associated with using a bird dog while hunting.
The manner and safety practices exhibited by these young people were an excellent testament to their instructional shooting program at the Ft. Huachuca Sportsman’s Center. Several of the hunt guides commented that the youngsters were “darned good shooters” and would be great additions during quail season.
As an interesting side note, Christin Crounse and her brother Lamar became the proud owners of a 12-week-old pointer pup at the hunt’s conclusion. They are now officially part of the bird dog community. Christin was designated the “Annie Oakley” of last year’s hunt.
The SCTP program is a youth development program that teaches trap, skeet and sporting clays to youths from 5th grade through high school. It is administered by the Arizona Game and Fish Department through volunteer coaches and various clubs throughout the state. The Huachuca Hot Shots completed their second year of state competition this year.
The Cochise Bird Dog Club plans to invite additional SCTP shooters to next year’s event. The experience provides the young shooters with a natural extension of their practical learning in the SCTP program. These youngsters represent potential future dog owners, and the education will help them understand the responsibilities associated with raising, owning and training a bird dog.
The club is able to donate efforts and funds toward this special project due, in part, to the support received during its annual fall shotgun raffle project. For more information about the Cochise Bird Dog Club, contact President Dave Higgins at (520) 378-4114 or visit cochisebirddogclub.netkennel.com. For more information about the Huachuca Hot Shots SCTP team, contact Rene Dube at (520) 378-6864.