Pheasants Forever Nebraska

A Year of Firsts

Kelly introduces her pup, Milo, to a prairie chicken harvested by a friend.

 

They say a lot can happen in one year. I can say first-hand that it is true! I grew up in a suburb just south of Milwaukee, WI that has a population just over 20,000 people. After high school, I went to college at Lake Superior State University where I received my bachelor’s degree for Fisheries and Wildlife Management. After graduation, I moved back home, started a summer job as a Conservation Technician where soon after I interviewed for a Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist position with Pheasants Forever in Alliance, NE. Less than three weeks later, I found myself settling into an apartment 14 hours away from home, in a Western Nebraska panhandle town with less than 9,000 people. This is where my journey in the hunting community took off.

Growing up, I watched my family hunt. Dad would let me sit in the deer blind with him where we spent Thanksgiving with my grandparents. We never saw much as we sat in the cold and snow, but I still loved being out there with my dad. I would watch him, thinking one day I’ll be able to hunt deer too. My mom’s side of the family would get together every October for Wisconsin’s pheasant opener just north of Ripon. We would buy a crate of 10 or so pen-raised roosters and release them on my Uncle Dick’s property. I still giggle as I remember the way they would tuck the rooster’s head under a wing, spin them in circles, and set them on the ground so they wouldn’t fly off the property. It was hilarious to watch as a kid! I would watch in admiration as my dad, grandpa, older brother, and other relatives walked the field with their shotguns. Us kids and other family members would take the rear as the designated “bird dogs” of the group, walking behind the line of hunters trying to kick up the pheasants we released that morning. I dreamed of one day walking in that front line. My parents and I always talked about taking a Hunter’s Safety course, but my after-school schedule kept me busy. So, I spent my days continuing to dream about chasing roosters and hunting deer.

After moving to Alliance in October 2019, where there is no shortage of deer and wild upland birds, I decided that I wanted to make the time and start the process of becoming a hunter. At the end of my first month in Nebraska, I took my Hunter’s Safety at the Wildcat Hills Shooting Sports Complex. Just a couple months later I joined Beyond the Shot, a group of my female Pheasants Forever coworkers who help teach and encourage each other as well as other women to get out in the hunting community. With them I have been able to go on various upland bird hunts throughout the year and harvested my first two mule deer does in January 2020. Since then, I bought my first rifle and shotgun, adopted and started training my first bird dog, harvested my first doves, went on my first teal hunt, and even harvested my first antelope. It has been quite the year of firsts! Of course, there is still a lot more to do and learn in the years to come, and plenty of time to do it.

To everyone dreaming of that “one day,” keep striving for that dream. All it takes is that first step and the rest of your first’s will follow suit.

Kelly with her mule deer harvested during the Antlerless Season of January 2020.

Kelly with her harvest of doves this September.

Kelly’s “speed goat” (Pronghorn Antelope) harvested this January late season.