BROKEN BOW — Hunters hit the field at sunrise today for the 50th annual Nebraska One Box Pheasant Hunt in Broken Bow.
Although the main hunt is today (Saturday), activities began Thursday when the shooting ranges opened for trap and skeet shooting, and new teams and past shooters were recognized at a reception.
Since 1961, the hunt has promoted fellowship among sportsmen and supported the creation of wildlife habitat. The hunt has grown to be an annual event attended by sportsmen from around the world.
Teams include five members, two guides, a judge and a dog handler. The judge scores shots fired and kills. Each team is given one box of 25 shotgun shells that can be divided among team members in any way they wish.
Hunting ends no later than 4 p.m., when a team reaches the daily bag limit, or when the 25th shell has been fired. Ties are decided by the time the last bird is downed as recorded by team judges.
Broken Bow resident Mike Bell has been a team guide. He’s met many interesting people on the hunt.
Bell said guiding the hunt requires a strategy that includes knowing where to take the team, wind speed, and direction and the location of the sun.
“We line them up, tell them which way to go and hope it works,” Bell said.
Participation as a hunter is a unique, invitation-only, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Through the years there have been numerous celebrity hunters, including General Norman Schwarzkopf, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Wally Schirra, baseball great Johnny Bench, beverage giant Pete Coors, television actors Leslie Easterbrook and Steve Kanaly and several professional athletes and politicians from around the country.
This year’s celebrity participants include country music singers Lorrie Morgan and John Anderson, author Stephen Coonts, National Football League player Chris Bober, Rear Adm. Mark A. Vance and National Rifle Association President Ron Schmeits.
Morgan said she was excited to be selected as a participant. “I love hunting and shooting a gun, but I’ve never hunted fowl before,” she said.
Morgan said the fact that she is a big supporter of the NRA and she’s on Schmeits’ team adds extra excitement to the adventure.
Past shooters are invited to return each year as participants in other events during the One Box weekend.
Dick Phillips of Kennesaw, Ga., was a shooter in 1991 and has missed coming back to the annual event only one time since then.
“I’m really involved,” he said. “The people here are the salt of the earth, and I try to do what I can to help them out.”
Phillips provides a $2,500 annual scholarship to a local high school senior. Since 1981, more $225,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to Broken Bow area youths.
The group’s habitat program was started in 2003 and has since established more than 3,000 acres of habitat restoration in Custer County and surrounding counties.
The shooting facility known as the Nebraska One Box Gun Club also was made possible through the fundraising of the Nebraska One Box Hunt.
Matt Lyne, a past president of the One Box organization and a member of the Boards of Directors for the One Box Foundation and Past Shooters, said the annual event is positive for Broken Bow and the surrounding communities because it brings so many people to the area.
Otis Thompson, a 1992 shooter from Soddy Daisy, Tenn., said he enjoys his annual trip to Nebraska as well. He gets to visit with a lot of people from all over the country that he’s met in Broken Bow. “I enjoy it every year,” he said.