Over the weekend of Sept. 16 and Sept. 17, youth from around Clark County took advantage of the opportunity to hunt for pheasants in the Shillapoo Wildlife Area near Vancouver Lake.
The early morning hunting on Saturday, Sept. 16 began successfully. From the sign-up area, shots in all directions could be heard, and some cheering as well. Pheasants could be seen flying away from hunters or from the hunting dogs out in the fields.
The event was hosted by the Vancouver Wildlife League, with support from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The Vancouver Wildlife League released 240 pheasants for the event, and each hunter had a limit of two birds.
Some hunters brought their own dogs, with others using a hunting dog from a volunteer.
Vancouver Wildlife League Director Gene Ritter said he was pleased with the early turnout of youth hunters as 12 signed up and hit the field at the main location off of La Frombois Road near the Vancouver Lake boat launch site.
“If they start out and have a good experience on a day like today, it’s something that they will cherish for the rest of their lives,” Ritter said. “And, of course, our motto is ‘Conserve and Protect,’ and we like to get these young people involved as early as we can so they’ll continue the great American hunting sport and abide by the laws and help the next generation.”
The Vancouver Wildlife League began releasing pheasants in Clark County in 1982.
“The history of the Vancouver Wildlife League dates back to 1929, and it is most likely the oldest sportsmen’s club in the state,” Ritter reported to The Reflector in a 2017 article. “It came about because fishermen were upset when they learned that Ariel Dam, now Merwin Dam, would not have fish ladders that would allow salmon and steelhead to return to the upper reaches of the North Fork of the Lewis River. The newly formed organization lost the fish ladder battle, but soon took on other important sportsmen-related issues of the day. As a way to raise money and attract new members, the club began holding annual wild game dinners prepared by members. The fundraising dinners continue today, minus the wild game.
“Over the years, the Vancouver Wildlife League has been recognized for many state and national awards,” Ritter continued in his 2017 article “Pheasants in Clark County, past and present.” “The club played a major role in the 1964 campaign to establish the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge in 1964 and the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge in 1972. Fighting for the sportsman’s fair share of Columbia River fish has been ongoing since the formation of the club, and it never gets easier.”
WDFW’s Regional Hunter Education and Volunteer Coordinator Amy Elliott was happy to see so many participants over the weekend.
“I think it’s really rewarding to see the youth show up,” Elliott said. “We’re doing a lot of work on our three, which is recruitment, retention and reactivation. Seeing the youth here in good numbers is an indication that we’re meeting that recruitment goal.”
Elliott’s work in the region includes coordinating with instructors and teams to ensure the area has enough hunter education programs to meet the public need and demand.
“I’m constantly making sure that all the various areas of our region are represented and have access to classes,” Elliott said. “If we have people who have special needs in the classes, then we’re working to … make sure that everybody has access.”