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PIERRE | The dark red bird launched into the sky caught the wind and looked for all the world like it would sail away until it crumpled under the weight of a load birdshot fired from a youth model 20 gauge and fell into a shelter belt.

It was the second bird to catch a load of pellets Sunday on Darrell and Brad Reinke’s farm about 10 miles east of Pierre. It wouldn’t be the last. There were eight 12- and 13-year-old girls all vying to bring their own rooster down that afternoon, the second day of South Dakota’s weekend-long youth pheasant season.

Resident hunters under the age of 16 get first crack at the state’s wily ringneck pheasants. And even after a particularly tough drought year, there were birds to be found on the Reinke farm. Remington Price, 12, of Pierre killed the hunt’s second bird after taking some practice shots at clay targets before the hunt started. It was the first pheasant she’d ever killed.

Lily Sanchez, 13, of Fort Pierre shot the first bird of the day. She’d been blocking at the end of the second field the group of girls and their parents had walked when a rooster flushed, caught the wind and sailed within range of her 20 gauge. It was her first pheasant of the year.

“It was pretty good,” Sanchez said.

Isabella Jackley accounted for the third bird of the day. She was blocking on the third walk of the hunt when a rooster flushed and rocketed to her left just within range. The pink Remington 870 youth model 20 gauge shotgun she won during the Pheasants Forever youth gun giveaway last August barked once and the bird’s hindquarters rippled. The bird sailed off nearly 100 yards further to the left and was found only with the help of a well-trained dog.

“I told her it took her brother a whole season to do that,” said Marty Jackley, Isabella’s father.

The Reinke farm has hosted youth hunts for close to 13 years, said Darrell Reinke. It started with a friend asking if he could take his young son on the property and quickly became an organized annual event of sorts. Often, the hunts involved Reinke’s grandkids, he said.

“We’ve got to get the youth involved (in hunting),” Reinke said of the Sunday hunt.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.