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Mentors take youths hunting

Patrick Burns, 12, of Worthington, draws a bead on a rooster as it flushes. Burns took part in a pheasant hunt sponsored jointly by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Nobles County Chapter of Pheasants Forever Saturday in Nobles County.

WORTHINGTON -- After what seemed like a month of cold, rainy weather, Mother Nature cooperated Saturday and allowed a select group of pheasant hunters to attend the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources/Minnesota Pheasants Forever Youth Mentor Hunt.

This is the second year of the combined venture, according to Nobles County Pheasants Forever president Scott Rall.

"Last year, they took over 300 kids hunting (in the state), most of them for the first time," Rall stated.

Sponsored by the DNR in coordination with Pheasants Forever, kids had to apply for the hunt by mid-August, and write down their first and second choices of counties where they would like to hunt.

"Each child is accompanied by a parent and a mentor hunter," Rall said. "They learn about sportsmanship, landowner relations, dog handling -- pretty much all aspects of ethical hunting."

The Nobles County chapter took five kids hunting this year. One, Patrick Burns, was from Worthington. He brought along his father Scott Burns. Derek Hunwardsen brought his father Ross from Fairmont. Cory Brouse of Andover brought his three sons -- twins Jacob and Josh, and older son Ryan. They also brought their hunting dog, Dakota.

Each of the youth hunters had already been through gun safety training, which was a requirement on the application, The five young hunters each had a little experience hunting, but were excited to hunt Nobles County.

Cory said his boys had been hunting several times, but he liked the idea of the youth hunt.

"It gives them a good chance to learn from someone besides me," he explained.

Scott Burns said Patrick was the one who learned about the youth mentor hunt.

"He had always wanted to try hunting, so he took gun safety last spring," Scott said. "He saw an ad for the youth hunt in the paper and printed and filled out the forms."

During a noon break, all of the hunters -- youth, mentors and parents -- gathered at the Worthington Gun Club for a lunch provided by Pizza Ranch, who is a national sponsor. They had breakfasted earlier courtesy of Hy-Vee and Burger King.

As they munched pizza, the hunters compared notes from their morning session, describing wildlife they had encountered, hen sightings, past hunting trips and wet socks.

"This is a really good time," said mentor hunter Les Johnson. "It's all about taking the kids hunting and giving them the experience.

Other mentor hunters included Steve Johnson, Chad Nixon, Glenn Lonneman, Chris Kruse and Bruce Amundson.