By Connie Mertz
For The Daily Item
For 34 years, Jim and Marti Hornberger, of Lewisburg, have owned a kennel they call Cloverking German Shorthair Pointers. Their breeding business includes training their dogs in obedience and field work prior to selling.
“In the past, we’ve had eight of our shorthairs certified as Pet Therapy dogs. They love people and are eager to visit with strangers,” Jim Hornberger said.
His business has catapulted him into taking youths pheasant hunting accompanied by his pointers.
Hunting since the age of 12, he started hunting pheasants in Montgomery County and knew the thrill of pheasant hunting.
“When the youth pheasant hunt started in 2002, I’ve been taking kids out pheasant hunting ever since,” he said.
One of his favorite locations is SGL 252 near Allenwood.
“It’s a large game land well stocked for the youth hunt,” said Hornberger. However, he also takes kids to SGL 317 near Laurelton, SGL 201 near Mifflinburg, SGL193 near Winfield and SGL 188 near Beavertown.
“During the week, I’ll schedule the hunts on the game lands as close to the area where the kids live,” he said. “This way, I’m able to adjust my travel time to give them maximum opportunity to hunt. Fortunately, daylight saving time gives us an extra hour in the evenings that time of year.”
Not affiliated with any sportmen’s club or organization, he organizes the hunts and sets the rules.
“I require an adult to accompany each of the hunters,” he explained. “I also make sure they have completed the Hunter Safety Course, and are of legal hunting age to participate.”
He also talks with them before the season about the requirements. If the participants forget or don’t possess hunting essentials, he loans them out.
“I have a supply of 12- and 20-gauge shot shells, orange hats and vests. I also have a youth model Remington 870 20-gauge for kids who don’t have a shotgun,” said Hornberger.
If they have never shot before, Hornberger will also familiarize them with shooting sporting clays.
Before the actual hunt begins, he also explains the safe handling of firearms, telling the kids they are not to shoot at anything on the ground, and only pheasants are fair game.
“If they break the rules, I’ll put my dogs on the lead and ask them to leave. But I’ve never had that situation arise yet on any hunt,” he said. “All of them are respectful and obey the rules.”
It comes as no surprise that he has lost count of the number of youth he has taken on pheasant hunts.
“I know in 2012, I had 17 hunters in the field during the season. Girls are also participating,” he said. “I’ve been able to schedule the girls to be able to hunt together, but I have no problem with a mixed group. I have all the hunters take turns shooting at a pointed bird, but if it happens to flush, anyone who has a safe shot may shoot.”
How does Hornberger get the word out to youth?
Aside from a local sportsmen show sign up, his hunting buddies recruit some youth.
“We talk to other hunters with a youngster who doesn’t have dogs when we come across them in the field. We all carry cards with my phone number for anyone interested in going on a youth pheasant hunt,” Hornberger said.
He also has the kids, who hunt with him, tell their friends.
When given the opportunity, he also tries to recruit dog owners.
“When I sold a trained GSP, I told her about the youth hunts. She has signed up for 2013 as a volunteer dog handler at a club near her home,” he said. “In fact, I have encouraged all pup buyers, after they’ve trained their dogs, to consider taking the kids out in the youth hunt season.”
At the present time, Hornberger has nine short hairs that he takes hunting. Of course, he receives many compliments for his volunteer efforts of introducing or continuing the tradition of hunting to the next generation.
Payment for him is when he sees the looks on the faces of young hunters and their dads when that first pheasant flushes on point. He often hears a comment like: “I didn’t know there were so many pheasants to hunt. I didn’t see that many pheasants in a full season hunting years ago that I’ve seen today.”
He admits the Pennsylvania Game Commission is doing a great job stocking pheasants.
“This makes the hunts worthwhile,” he said. “Hunters could have their two-bird limit every day out, be it the first or last day of the youth season.”
One thing puzzles Hornberger: “I’m out almost every day of the hunting season. During the youth hunts, we see at most one or two other groups all morning. Most don’t have dogs, but a few do. I often wonder why the guys with dogs don’t get a kid out for the morning.”
For more information, contact Jim Hornberger at 716-9813.
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