Winged Wisdom: Hunting Season Wrap Up

by Kate Ahnstrom

The landscape has bloomed into vibrant yellows, pinks and blues against a sea of lush green. Spring is officially here, ushering out the final tidbits of the upland season. This past year was exceptionally busy for VSS and Blue Kai Kennels. There were several times Mike and I were arm wrestling over dogs, as we both had hunts. My clay students found new reasons to give to their admins and principals for taking the day off, as the weekdays were the only days with any sort of availability.

   All the crazy scheduling and late-night emails and phone calls makes me very happy though. It means more and more people want to shoot and hunt.  That means we will hopefully begin to see an uptick in the numbers of hunters and recreational shooters across all age brackets and with more diversified backgrounds. 

  Virginia Shooting Sports hosted five Beginner Hunts at Orapax. These hunts are designed specifically to promote the R3 movement, create a love for upland hunting and ensure hunters are receiving the knowledge they need to safely pursue birds. All five hunts sold out bringing in 30 persons to the sport. It was so interesting to see the variety of people seeking the skill sets needed to chase feathers. We had hunters from the past trying to re-engage with the sport, new residents seeking more information and insight on what bird hunting is all about and several that have been hunting with us before and want to continue the sport.

  In November, we worked with the Central Virginia Chapter of Quail Forever at Bacon Farms and hosted 10 ladies for a full weekend of all things upland. Several of the ladies had never shot any type of firearm before, much less been hunting! Many of them are now active in the chapter and have attended other outings afield. 

  March saw our third annual free upland youth hunt have to be rescheduled due to rain. This year we expanded it from four youth hunters to 12! The kids, ages 12-15, rotated through three modules including wing-shooting and firearm safety, conservation education and habitat, as well as a bird dog demo and upland gear review. It was to be a full day, chocked full of everything upland and conservation.

  Blue Kai Kennels was rocking and rolling with numerous client hunts and guide opportunities for the dogs to chase feathers. The three young pups all came online in the guide string at the end of the year and are knocking it out of the park. Kai completed the NUCS amateur division as a four-time champion and added a St. Hubert’s championship in February. Gunner charmed his way into more hearts and his Instagram account grows daily!

  April temps rein in our excursions for feathers. While we hate to let go of heart-pounding points and flushes on those cold, crisp mornings, we are excited to get into training mode. It also means that the clay student schedule is now offering more and more great ways to get out and enjoy the warmer weather and longer days.

  The ladies practice sessions started back up last month and are extremely popular. We have had several husbands grimacing that they weren’t allowed to join so, we have also added a group practice session starting Friday, April 12th. While the ladies practice sessions are geared to newer, lady shooters, the group practices are limited to only five shooters and can take more advanced students and will be a mixed group. 

  The Shotguns & Saddles weekend is just around the corner May 12-14 at North Mountain Outfitter and Shenandale Gun Club. This is an incredible event and currently we have two open spots! This event is ladies-only and features horseback riding, sporting clays instruction, fishing, hiking, fine wine and scrumptious food and gorgeous vistas.

  We are still searching for a home for the ever-popular Birds, Bass & Brews for you guys, so stay tuned! For a complete list and full details of all our events, check out our website and follow us on Facebook @VaShootingSports and on Instagram @VirginiaShootingSports. We would love to have you join in the fun this summer at one of our great events, lessons or clinics. Be sure to bring a friend or family member!

Kate Ahnstrom, owner of Virginia Shooting Sports is a certified, professional instructor of the Paragon School of Sporting, pro staff Syren/Caesar Guerini, resident pro Orapax Hunting Preserve, Artemis ambassador for Virginia and field staff member of the Sisterhood of the Outdoors. Her tireless dedication to her students’ success is obvious in each and every lesson.

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