Young guns get invited to Governor's Pheasant Opener

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 16, 2013 - 12:23 AM

Eight enthusiastic teenage hunters were invited to the Governor’s Pheasant Opener.

view larger photos

  

MADELIA, Minn. --

Fourteen-year-olds Stephanie Lohse and Blair Jilek, cradling 12-gauge shotguns, hiked through tall amber prairie grass Saturday, seeking rooster pheasants on Minnesota’s ringneck opener.

They didn’t bag a bird, but they did bag a photo with Gov. Mark Dayton.

The pair were among eight high school students — and top shooters in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League — invited to the Governor’s Pheasant Opener. Only about 100 people got the coveted invitations, and this was the first time since the event was launched three years ago that high school clay target shooters were invited.

“The goal is to get more youths hunting, and this seemed like a natural fit,” said Dan Madsen, Madelia city administrator and an event organizer. “Everyone was excited about it. It’s something that hadn’t been done.”

Getting more kids out hunting, at a time when the number of hunters nationally is on the decline, long has been the goal of conservation groups and agencies such as Pheasants Forever and the Department of Natural Resources, both of whom sponsor youth hunts. In Minnesota, while the number of hunters has remained stable, their average age is getting older, meaning fewer young people are replacing older hunters who drop out of the sport.

The phenomenal growth of the league — 30 students at three high schools participated in 2001, and 3,400 students from more than 200 schools in the league this year — shows kids are interested in shooting sports. How many of those shooters will become hunters is unknown.

Lohse, a ninth-grader at Lester Prairie High School, was the top female shooter on her team this year. Blair was one of the top male shooters on the same team. Both break 85 percent or better of the clay targets they shoot at in competition.

Shooting at clay targets and game was a natural for both: They’ve been hunting since they were 12, encouraged and taught by family hunters.

“Not a lot of girls hunt in my grade,” Lohse said. “But I love hunting, and it doesn’t matter to me that no one else did it.”

Jilek knows a few boys who hunt, and said he started clay target shooting to hone his skills for hunting.

“It’s made me better,” he said.

Mike Bjork of Mayer, their shooting coach, also was invited to the event. He said kids approached him three years ago about forming a clay target team. Bjork, an avid hunter, agreed to pitch the proposal to the school board.

“I was a little nervous, mixing guns and school, but the board approved it,” Bjork said. “The first year, we had 18 on the team. Last year there were 34. I expect about 45 next year.”

When Bjork learned he and two of his students had been invited to the Governor’s Opener, he was thrilled. “What better way to get them involved,” he said.

“Minnesota has such a hunting heritage. This [hunting and clay target shooting] is something anyone can do. You don’t need to be a jock. And it’s something they can do their entire lives, and it gets them outside and enjoying nature.”

These kids aren’t one-dimensional, either. Lohse participates in track and basketball; Jilek plays football and basketball. Jilek played in the football team’s homecoming game Friday, and both went to the homecoming dance, then got up at 5 a.m. to make the trip to Madelia.

“They’re tired,” Bjork said.

  • related content

  • Pheasant hunters still optimistic despite dreary opener

    Wednesday October 16, 2013

    MADELIA, Minn. --High winds, rain, a sea of unharvested corn and a smaller ringneck pheasant population — that’s not exactly...

  • Stephanie Lohse, 14, of Lester Prairie, Minn., hunted pheasants Saturday at the Governor’s Pheasant Opener. She was one of eight Minnesota State High School Clay Target League competitors invited to this year’s event. “Not a lot of girls hunt in my grade,” Lohse said. “But I love hunting and it doesn’t matter to me that no one else did it.”

  • Blair Jilek, 14, of Lester Prairie started clay target shooting to hone his skills for hunting. He and Stephanie Lohse later had their photo taken with Gov. Mark Dayton.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 3
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 12 FINAL
Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez 4
Washington - LP: D. Fister 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 8
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1
Boston - LP: T. Layne 2 FINAL
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 5
NY Yankees - WP: S. Greene 8 FINAL
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: Z. Wheeler 2
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: M. Latos 7
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: H. Noesi 3
Minnesota - LP: P. Hughes 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 6
Oakland - WP: D. Otero 5 FINAL
Houston - LP: C. Qualls 4
Milwaukee - LP: Z. Duke 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: D. Thayer 3
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 3 FINAL
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 1
Miami - LP: H. Alvarez 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: H. Santiago 6
Colorado - LP: J. Nicasio 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: S. Casilla 4
Atlanta 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close