Fifteen-year-old Virginia Walsh, of Portland, the young lady so intently following her dog Mike through the tall grass (left) while her father tags along behind, is one of the 35 teen-agers who, on Saturdays and Sundays from late September to early November, have been going after the birds on the E. E. Wilson Wildlife Management Area, deep in the heart of Oregon. This game-bird preserve is a pretty special place. There are 2,116 acres to roam around on, gun in hand and dog at point (now and then). But there's a special twist to this dreamy, staked-off area in the Willamette Valley woods—this place is marked, as it were, "For Juniors Only." You'll see adults there, as walkers and helpers, but not shooting. That's forbidden, because this is for young hunters only.
All this may sound as though it's a cinch to bag the daily two-bird limit, but Ginny could tell you a different story. As a matter of fact, less than one pheasant per young hunter has been averaged on Wilson since it opened in 1951 as the bird-brainchild (true compliment intended) of John McKean, chief of game operations for the Oregon Game Commission. The cover in much of the preserve is so thick that the pheasants have plenty of chance to sneak away; and the field trials and dog-training courses held there just before the season opens make the birds really wily.
Ginny Walsh certainly did, and for more reasons than those stated above. She and her dog Mike were both a mixed-up couple when they took to the preserve one morning recently, before the heavy ground fog had lifted and while the birds were still huddled in night-roosts. Ginny, the Girls' Outdoor State Champion with a .22 rifle, was trying out her shotgun for the first time. Mike, a cross of Labrador and Weimaraner, hadn't really been born to point. But before the day was out, both of them had learned—and well.
A BAD BEGINNING
The beginning was bad. Mike flushed a fine cock pheasant right before Ginny's eyes. Up came Ginny's gun—but it never went off. She had forgotten to flip off the safety catch, and she dropped into the grass with a long "oooh" of shame.
But the ending was swell. After the thickets, in the open fields, Ginny got the hang of her gun. Mike pointed like a veteran. Before the day was over, Ginny had bagged her limit. As she left the preserve's checking station, she patted her 20-gauge shotgun happily. Her .22 rifle, presumably, had lost her forever—because no matter how much fun it may be to pop bull's-eyes on a paper target, there's nothing to beat the thrill of a couple of birds in the hand.