Fall has arrived and for many people that signals the start of Oregon's fall hunting seasons.
This week, Grant McOmie discovers that women who have always wanted to try their hands at hunting have a new way to learn about one of Oregon's premier recreational pursuits.
He recently traveled to the EE Wilson Wildlife Area near Corvallis, Oregon to learn that there's a new class in session and he says, "Fellas, this one is for women only!"
When you go hunting for pheasant, be ready to put in your time and lots of energy - often you are pushing through thick, waist high grass.
On the EE Wilson Wildlife Area near Corvallis, newcomer Kelly Ruboin is on her toes because the pheasant can launch themselves skyward in a heartbeat.
Kelly joined accomplished hunter Mark Steele, and his hunting dog, "Neela," for an afternoon in the field.
Mark is a volunteer guide who gave his hunting services over for a special day designed for women only.
In fact, two-dozen women gathered on the wildlife area to learn what upland bird hunting's all about.
"Ok, Kelly," coached Steele. "Walk right down into this field - a bird could be sitting out there fifty yards or so - if I was a pheasant this is where I'd be hidin 'out."
Ruboin, like many of the other women, has never done anything like this before. But that's okay because she's taking a class to learn how it's done.
The class was too good a deal for Kelly to pass up. For twenty-five dollars each woman learned hands on gun safety, hunting techniques, proper clothing, plus how to shoot and hit what they aim at.
Kelly said that her interest in the class was simple, "I'd never done it before and it's just fascinating. I'd love to learn more about it because I've family members who hunt. If I could learn, maybe I could go with them."
Michelle Dennehy, a public affairs spokesperson for the state wildlife agency, agreed and said she was attending the class - not as staff, but had taken the day off from work to participate as a student:
"These classes are designed for people like us - people that are new to the sport, a little bit nervous about handling a shotgun and don't want to be rushed or pushed or anything like that."
Experienced instructors from ODFW offered lectures on firearms and led the students through a number of exercises in proper gun handling and safety.
They helped to build confidence in the newcomers with an atmosphere of trust that paid off with relaxation and fun.
Betty Rose Richardson agreed with the theme and said, " I love it! There's so much opportunity for hunting and fishing in Oregon's outdoors and this class is wonderful."
That is a message that ODFW would like more women to hear!
You see, the agency sells approximately 300,000 hunting licenses and tags each year and women make up just 16 percent of the total.
Rick Hargrave, ODFW spokesperson, said they hope to change that percentage with specific classes that encourage women to participate:
"What our outdoor skills program does is plant that seed of interest - if it leads to hunting or fishing, that's great - but if it leads to getting their families outdoors more often that's even better too."
EE Wilson offers nearly 1800 acres for hunters, fishers, hikers and cyclists to explore throughout the year.
Mike Moore, the wildlife area manager, said that the site was a military training facility during World War II and that today that means side benefits for the visitor.
"Well, we're so accessible," he said. "The road system that was left behind after the Army created easy access for people who want to ride bikes, ride horses and it's also really A.D.A.-friendly. People who require a wheelchair find it a lot easier to get around here than some of the other public wildlife areas."
Today, the area offers wetlands for wildlife, a stocked fishing pond to cast lures and a wildlife exhibit area where you can see many of Oregon's upland birds on display.
Back out in the hunting area, Ruboin was on high alert and ready for her shot at a pheasant. She walked the field with "Neela" out front and on point.
Suddenly, two birds erupted from the grass, Ruboin tracked one of the birds as it flew to her left and away - she fired, but it was a clean miss!
Yet, she turned and smiled - full of enthusiasm: "That was great!, she shouted. "This has been so educational even though I didn't get a pheasant.
At least I got a shot off. It's so much fun! I'll be back too."