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Women 'join the hunt' for pheasants

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Jessica Holinka (from left) takes aim at a clay pigeon thrown by Worthington Gun Club president Glen Lonneman as Rylan Baumhoefner and Tristan Yackley wait their turn during instructional shooting Saturday at the Worthington Gun Club north of Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- A handful of local women and youths experienced the thrill of the hunt, the rush of the flush and the wet trousers of a rather damp October morning when they participated in the Minnesota DNR's Special Mentored Youth/Women Pheasant Hunt on Saturday.

The event -- set one week after the state pheasant opener -- was a joint effort of the Department of Natural Resources and Pheasants Forever, and was organized locally by Nobles County Pheasants Forever. Though there have been kid-friendly hunts in the past, this is the first local event that has also targeted females as potential hunters.

One such female, Rosa Ingenthron of Worthington, began her exploration of the hobby early this year -- but after her subsequent diagnosis with ovarian cancer, her interest was really piqued.

"I took firearm safety this spring. It was just an interesting thing I'd always wanted to do," explained Ingenthron,after removing a shocking orange cap from her temporarily bald head.

"I had every intention of coming out of this cancer-free. But it does make you think about the things you'd like to do.," she said. "I just wanted to experience what it was like to walk through the grasses. And I'd never really used a gun before."

She had her chance during the mid-morning hunt on private land near Rushmore.

"The adrenaline really was flowing," she said with a laugh. "I was walking with the dogs and that was interesting because they run around and sniff around and they know what they're doing.

"My first couple times that I saw a rooster come up, I lifted the gun in position and I couldn't get the safety off," she continued. "It was good practice to aim, but then by the time I got the safety off, the bird was gone. Then the few times I had the safety off, the bird was too far away."

Though birdless at lunchtime, Ingenthron said she enjoyed her first real hunting experience, aided by the experienced dogs and the hunters -- both male and female -- who donated their time to mentor the newcomers.

"It amazed me what other hunters know, what direction to walk so you can find the birds," she said. "Being out here I can see why men and women like to do it: the beauty of the watching the birds fly and the fact that you can be right next to one and not know it."

Another relative newcomer who had slightly better luck than Ingenthron was 12-year-old Gage Langerud, who snagged his first pheasant ever after a couple hours walking the grass with dad Scott and a friend.

"I thought it'd be a better experience to go out today because the people that are going have good dogs to hunt with," explained Langerud, who has been hunting for about a year. His favorite part of hunting?

"Being outdoors and being able to hunt with people you know and spend time with them," he said.

That is the whole idea behind endearing youths to the sport, said Nobles County Pheasants Forever committee member Les Johnson.

"We try to take the kids out to experience hunting wild birds and have an appreciation for the outdoors and the birds out there," he said. The event began with a breakfast donated by Burger King manager Chad Nixon and lessons in firearm safety.

"We don't want them exposed to any danger other than what is inherent in hunting. We teach them to be responsible," Johnson said, also thanking the Worthington Pizza Ranch for providing lunch and the Worthington Gun Club for the use of its facilities.

As the amateur hunters headed back out the fields for the afternoon, Ingenthron hadn't yet given up on her very own pheasant.

"I do have a hope for a tail feather before they day is over," she said with a smile. "I might have to steal somebody else's."