CENTERTOWN, Mo. — Hunters trudged through more than 200 acres of icy land all day Feb. 17 on foot or in track-wheelchairs tough enough to handle any terrain. Many were experiencing their first pheasant hunt, led by the Missouri Disabled Sportsmen at String Creek Game Bird Farm, Centertown.
The annual Bachtel and Henry Pheasant Hunt brings youth and mobility-impaired hunters together to experience the outdoors.
For more than a decade, volunteers have helped facilitate this event for Missourians. President of the organization, Pete Eisentrager, said the volunteers and donors make the event what it is.
"The whole goal of our organization is to provide hunting opportunities for either youth or mobility-impaired in Missouri," Eisentrager said.
He said the hunt was an "overwhelming success." This year saw 27 hunters and around 60 volunteers, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at sunset.
During a continental-style shoot, hunters gathered in a circle and rotated nine stations. As the birds were released from a tower, hunters had the chance to take their shot from each angle.
"When they flew out at first, I couldn't hit them. But I eventually got the hang of it," Waylon Rambo, 12, said.
Rambo and his dad live in Tipton. This was his first pheasant hunt and by lunch he had seven kills.
Four-year hunter Gabe Glastetter said the track wheelchairs make the experience easier. The camouflage chairs were provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation for safe control and stability.
"If you've got the nerve to take the chairs — they'll go wherever," Glastetter said.
In previous hunts, he said he's gone through tall grass, water and thick mud.
"I just enjoy the people more than anything and being out in the outdoors, even if I don't kill anything," Glastetter said.
Hunters were told the measurement of the day was not how many kills they had but the outdoor experience and sense of community they would take home. During a safety lecture from landowner Tom Peak, he commended the group of men and women for their time spent outdoors this weekend.
Early afternoon, hunters split into six groups for field hunts, guided for the first time by hunting dogs. Members of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association led the way.
Pheasants were disbursed throughout the fields and the dogs were let loose to follow their scent. When the dog locked on a bird, hunters approached and waited for the bird to flush and take their shot.
Fred Rice, president of the Missouri chapter, said having the trained dogs pointing the birds' location for hunters is an added experience. He said the dogs are fulfilling their lives' purpose.
Supporters traveled from around the state including Smithville, Cape Girardeau and St. Louis to volunteer and hunt. The hunt is funded by a fundraiser held the day before at the farm. More than 50 able-bodied supporters paid to hunt and bid on auction items raising more than $5,000.