Shooting for a more supportive sport
Melvin and Faye Tachick host the annual Women’s and Youth Bird Hunt every year at their homestead in Funny River because they like what it stands for.
Melvin says he's for it because it's geared toward women and kids.
"You’ll never keep hunting alive if you don’t get mother involved," he said.
Faye gets a kick out of watching participants get to experience hunting — for some of them, for the first time.
"And it’s really fun to see those young girls that have never touched a dead thing before jump right in there and pluck feathers and clean the birds," she said, laughing."
It reminds the Tachicks of the hunting tradition they created in their family.
"My girls — we raised three girls, and they gave us a bunch of grandkids and they’re all hunters," Melvin said. "They just live for hunting season."
The underlying ethos of the event is that hunting is a boy’s club and getting started is intimidating. The bird hunt, in addition to local groups like Women on Target, have been helping women shooters blast through that glass ceiling for years.
Pamela Hardy was one of the volunteers at this year’s event, held last Saturday. She drove down from Palmer to participate.
"I really like it because it gives women and children the opportunity to come out to a very safe, non-judgmental environment and learn how to safely shoot a firearm," she said. "And there’s not a lot of that around anymore that you hear about. And I think it’s really important."
The event is organized by Billie and Joe Hardy, of Soldotna, and sponsored by the Kenai Safari Club and North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association. Instructors from Women on Target operated a skeet station, where I waited in line with first-timer Aisha Bouziane and her friend Jen Leahy, from Seward.
“I’ve never been to one of these before but I came with Jen, mostly because she promised there were going to be dogs here," Bouziane said. "I have family members that hunt, but I’ve never done that. Yeah. Here to learn some stuff.’
Leahy is a relatively new hunter and wanted the practice.
"For me, it’s a springboard into furthering skills that I’m really intentionally working on growing, but I think there’s a good mix of folks at the event today," she said.
Aside from the skeet range, there were three fields where attendees could shoot chukars, with plenty of chances to do so — the Hardys ordered 160 birds. Those were pretty good odds for the 42 participants and 30-plus volunteers at the event.
NAVDHA had its own station, manned by Alaska Yukon Chapter President Ken Gates and several volunteers.
"Our part in the event is to add a dog component and actually allow the participants to hunt behind a versatile hunting dog and experience what we have to offer with pointing breeds," Gates said.
NAVDHA had 10 dogs and dozens of its own chukars at the event.
"So we’re basically two participants in the field, one dog, and they’re working down the field," Gates said. "And when a dog goes on point, the dog handler will direct the hunters and allow them to shoot the bird."
I caught Bouziane and Leahy in the parking lot to ask how it went.
"I guess it was easier than I thought it was going to be," Bouziane said. "It was a lot of fun and it’s really neat to hold a gun and feel how powerful it is. And the instructors are just fantastic. The instructor’s great. I think I hit almost all of ’em."
I wish I could say the same, when it was my turn.
Beginner's luck was not on my side. But the goal is gaining experience, not mastery. In that, this year’s Women’s and Youth Bird Hunt is a resounding success.