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Youth pheasant hunt a hit

December 02, 2007 at 01:17 AM

Illinois Outdoors

Sitting on a tailgate moments after his daughter shot her first pheasant, Dan Remmert smiled.

“I haven’t hunted squat in 15 years, but she’s getting me back into it,” the Princeville resident said, gesturing to his 14-year-old daughter Sam. “This is a lot more fun than working.”

No argument here. Watching Sam Remmert and other youngsters in the field last Saturday was practically cause for celebration. Times like that make me think hunting has a future.

But not without hard work. Remmert’s moment of reflection came during a two-day youth pheasant hunt that attracted nearly 75 kids to the family farm run by Ted and Ron Gilles. Illinois Outdoors

Each participant got a chance to shoot trap, to hunt birds, to eat venison sausage and to leave with a free blaze orange hat courtesy of Pheasants Forever.

“This is great what the Gilleses do,” said Sam Remmert, who was hunting pheasants for the first time. “It’s fun.”

Others in the crowd, like Colton Godrey, Robby Clark and Devon Reed of Princeville have hunted plenty before. But all the kids seemed genuinely pleased to be spending a windy day in the Gilleses’ well-manicured uplands.

And that’s exactly what the Gilles brothers hoped when they offered a first youth hunt in February of 2006.

“The main thing was when I saw the reaction of the fathers and kids when they shot some birds, I just knew I wanted to do more for kids,” Ted Gilles said. “I know when I was a kid I would have just died for something like that.”

Of course there’s more to holding a youth hunt than merely drumming up sponsors to buy pen-raised pheasants.

First came a hunter safety class last summer. Then a trap shoot last month. Last weekend was the culmination of the process. Youngsters shot clay birds and then — after a safety discussion — were sent into the field in small groups with volunteer dog handlers.Illinois Outdoors

The main sponsors of the event are the Illinois River Valley chapter of Pheasants Forever and Komatsu Ltd., which donated money thanks to Pat Murphy of Laura (whose daughter Shannon hunted). But the driving force are the Gilles brothers.

If we had outdoor awards at the paper, I’d definitely give one to the Gilles brothers. You may think the Gilles clan is getting plenty of press for their work. But they deserve the accolades.

In the past year more than 1,000 people visited the Gilles family’s 700 acres. Some came with school groups and others as part of the summer tours that allow the general public to see nearly 500 acres of tour grassy, flower-filled ground enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. At least one person who toured this summer headed home intending to create similar habitat on his farm.

Who knows how many hunting converts the Gilles family may create.

“The day after the hunt a neighbor stopped and said his 12-year-old nephew had been at the hunt and wanted something for Christmas as a result,” Ted Gilles said. “He figured he was going to say a shotgun. But the nephew wanted a bird dog.”

While that’s not the most appropriate gift for a youngster, it’s better than a Game Boy. Actually, that would be a cool thing to be known for: “Remember when Uncle Jeff gave Mitchell a bird dog.”

That’s almost as cool as the moniker Ted Gilles is earning.

“I was at Lion’s Club Monday night and a little boy said, ‘Hey, that’s the pheasant man,’” Gilles said.

Turns out the boy wanted to hunt in the next youth hunt. But his father was uncertain what that entailed and said he did not have a gun for his son to use.

“I told them, don’t worry, we’ve got guns,” Ted Gilles said. “He’s 12 and now he’s all enthused and he’s going to take the hunter safety course.”
Next fall he’ll be ready to hunt and the Gilles brothers will be happy to accommodate. With any luck the boy’s father will one day sit on a tailgate and think, “This sure beats work.”

Illinois Outdoors



Illinois Outdoors

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This sounds like an excellent program.  It’s great to hear of consrvation/community efforts like this.  Everyone who has a hand in this is really making a difference in the participants lives and the land’s.  Congradulations.

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