Waking up at 5 a.m. to hunt is an experience members of the Big Red Pheasants Forever have all enjoyed together.
“It’s about friendship,” Max Maguire, University of Nebraska-Lincoln junior advertising and public relations major and secretary of the Big Red Pheasants Forever chapter, said. “Our best memories (are) when we haven’t even shot anything – just joking around and hanging out with your friends.”
The Big Red Pheasants Forever chapter started about a year ago, and since then they’ve increased their membership from 15 to 20 students and held several events to bond and bolster their chapter. It’s all part of the group’s goal to spread habitat conservation and educate students about hunting.
The group’s next event is a chapter hunt.
“It’s kind of our version of a social event,” said Tony White, senior biochemistry major and president of the Big Red Pheasants Forever chapter. “Instead of having an ice cream social, we invite people to hunt.”
A typical hunting day is waking up at 5 a.m. to eat breakfast, walking to the hunting spot before sunrise with dogs and waiting to see pheasants to shoot, White said. He said the other people hunting in the same area are very friendly and help each other.
“Some people even lend you (their) gun,” said Matt Zvolanek, junior agronomy major and vice president of the organization.
In February, four group members went to Minnesota for the Pheasant Fest, the national convention for Pheasants Forever chapters throughout the country, to attend seminars and demonstrations about the latest hunting and conservation tools. Members Maguire, White, Zvolanek and Thomas Cowan, a junior natural resource and environmental economics major and treasurer of the organization, attended.
For their youth mentoring hunt they held on Oct. 19, the organization took kids with no hunting experience on their first hunt.
“We really want to stress that we are here to help anyone interested in the outdoors,” Maguire said.
Their annual banquet was on Nov. 1 and was their biggest fundraising event of this year, White said. The money raised will go to buying supplies and equipment for further youth education activities.
Besides hunting, the organization also promotes habitat conservation to make sure the pheasant population is not over- or under-populated, Maguire said. Pheasants can only live in grasslands, but higher crop prices and more farmland have decreased pheasant populations.
There is an under-population in habitats that are not sustainable to pheasants because they don’t have nesting or escaping covers, White said. Nesting and escaping covers are long grass from which pheasants can get food and stay safe. It takes about three or four years for grass to grow tall enough.
To handle over-populated areas, the group hunts. But for under-populated areas, some organizations buy land and turn it into grassland to make is sustainable for pheasants, Maguire said. White said through educating other students about conservation and hunting they can help the decreasing population of pheasants.
“We are more than happy to introduce them to outdoor hobbies,” Maguire said. “We are here to help them and teach about our passion for the outdoors and conservation.”