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February 17, 2009 4:00 am

Youngsters have a pheasant time at Jake Hunt

Written by Tribune Staff

More than 30 youths really had a blast at the annual Jake Hunt Saturday, many filling their two-bag limit of pheasants.

The hunt was stocked and sponsored by the Northwest Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Mike Mundy, a strapping Powell lad of 14, was uncertain during his practice rounds at the Cody Shooting Complex prior to the hunt. He and three other shooters lined up trap-style to bang away at clay pigeons.

Each youth had an adult coach offering shooting pointers and to verify gun-safety protocols.

“Pull,” commanded Mundy, holding Grandfather Bill Mundy's 12-gauge pump.

Like an overwrought plate, the pigeon leaped from the trap.

“Bam!”

It was hit and miss for Mundy, but he was clobbering a few.

His dad, Willy Mundy, said Mike bagged only one pheasant during the season.

But the day was young.

At the Triple KB Ranch and Bird Farm west of Powell, the youth hunted in groups of two. An adult chaperone accompanied the youngsters to oversee safety and locate the pheasants lurking in the tall grass.

It was a crisp morning. Pallid clouds refused to vacate. When the sun did make a feeble break for it, warming the land slightly, it felt heavenly.

Greybull dog trainer Albert Dickinson took Mundy and another youngster out. His two bird dogs zig-zagged across the field like eager white comets, determined to unearth birds.

Mundy crunched through the brittle grass, cradling his shotgun. A few yards back, his parents followed, offering advice.

In the distance, a shotgun boomed like thunder on a hillock.

Dickinson's dog, Rosie, flushed a pheasant. In a blur, Mundy shouldered his shotgun.

“Blam!” The pheasant dropped like a stone.

They moved forward. The grass, probably near two feet in its summer hay day, was mashed down in spots, forming a rumpled mat like wind-blown straw. In other spots the grass stood in clumps, making it tricky to spot the pheasants sporting natural camouflage.

But the dogs knew their business. They kicked up another pheasant, which Mundy's partner missed.

Then it was Mundy's turn again. As though snapped from a Wrist Rocket, the pheasant sling-shots into the air. Taking his time, Mundy gave the winging bird a slight lead. Then he squeezed the trigger.

He had two pheasants.

“This is a good program,” Mundy said, barely masking his elation. “Thanks,” he said to Dickinson.

Willy and his wife, Jackie Mundy, both said the federation members rolled out the red carpet for the young hunters.

Meanwhile, back at the shooting complex, Kasey Gonion, 19, of Cody, was taking a break inside where donuts and refreshments warmed the youth and parents.

Gonion's National Guard unit is shipping out for Iraq soon, but before he goes, he took his little brother, Tukker Betz, 9, hunting.

Filling Tukker's limit was on the agenda, but the guys wanted to hang out, too. Gonion will be deployed for one year.

Passing the hunter-safety course mandated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department normally is required before a person can hunt in Wyoming, and Tukker has not completed the course.

However, thanks to the department's Hunter Mentor program, Gonion can act as Tukker's mentor.

Gonion's plan was simple, but crucial. He wanted to teach his little brother hunter ethics.

“I'm the male role model for him (Tukker),” Gonion said.

Cody Game and Fish Game Warden Craig Sax was signing up young hunters left and right. Some did not have bird licenses, but Sax and the Wyoming Game Warden's Association were flipping the bill for one-day bird licenses.

The association does make certain hunting and fishing regulations are followed, but its members also support conservation and work with youth, Sax said.

The association also provides scholarships and holds fundraisers to pay for youth-oriented programs, Sax said.

“The kids need to be mentored,” Sax said, “and that is what it's all about.”

Federation member and hunter safety coordinator Joe Desson was outside watching the kids shoot.

“He (Desson) is the real hero here, because he is making the whole thing happen,” Sax said.

Desson, of Cody, is a big bear of a man. A thick, gray beard covers his lower face, and the ends of his mustache curl slightly.

At first glance, he might seem intimidating, but the 4-H hunter-safety coordinator enjoys an easy rapport with the youngsters, who both adore and respect him.

Desson's son, Joseph, 21, participates in Jake Hunts. On Saturday, Joseph was chaperoning the youth in the field, Desson said.

Back at the farm, Desson drove Skyler Gable, 13, and Sheldon Leong, 16 — both of Cody — to the field.

Desson was giving the boys a tough time, and they were firing back with easy banter borne of friendship. Desson might have given the boys benign flak, but once the truck stopped, he made sure the guys were safety conscious.

Gable and Leong hook up with Dickinson.

Within minutes, Dickinson's dog, Rosie, stopped in her tracks, pointing a cock crouching in the grass. Rosie was motionless like a spotted marble statue, her nose extended, signaling the bird's location.

With a squawk and pumping wings, the pheasant grabbed the sky.

“Ka-bam,” one of the boys took his first pheasant. Within 20 minutes, both of the young, experienced hunters had their two-bird limit.