SHERIDAN — Fort Phil Kearny will host its sixth annual Family Pheasant Hunt this weekend, an event designed to encourage family hunting outings and promote safe hunting practices among young hunters.

Fort Phil Kearny Superintendent Misty Stoll said the fort has hosted a family pheasant hunt since she took over in 2012 and has been geared toward groups of friends and family members taking out hunters who are 17 years old or younger. This year’s hunts are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s always been the weekend following Thanksgiving for people who maybe have family in town and people can go out together after Thanksgiving,” Stoll said.

The event was designed to provide a broader range of hunters access to Fort Phil Kearny’s grounds, which have become a popular hunting spot. The fort has been a hunter management area as part of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s “Access Yes” program for several years.

WGFD Sheridan-area Public Information Specialist Christina Schmidt said the Access Yes Program was established nearly 20 years ago as a way to give hunters and anglers access to some of the private lands around the state.

Some of the landowners participating in the program have designated their land as “walk-in hunting” areas, which means hunters can travel onto the land without notice so long as they follow the landowner’s rules.

Fort Phil Kearny, Schmidt said, is a hunter management area under the program, which gives the landowner more control over who is hunting on their land and when.

“Some of that is just to manage numbers,” Schmidt said. “…Especially for a place like Fort Phil Kearny — it has 500 acres that are open but to make sure everyone has a good time and it’s not too crowded, we offer permission slips for certain days and times.”

Stoll said the fort’s hunter management area designation has actually contributed to its appeal among hunters.

“We’re the only publicly-accessible pheasant hunting site that kind of caps the number of hunters that can go out at a time, so it became a pretty popular place to hunt because a lot of the other places where Game and Fish releases birds, it’s just a free-for-all,” Stoll said.

In addition to pheasants, the Fort Phil Kearny grounds are home to deer, antelope, doves, partridge, turkey and rabbits.

The WGFD typically stocks the Fort Phil Kearny grounds with pheasants Dec.1, but Stoll said the agency has released the birds slightly early this year to accommodate this weekend’s family hunt.

This weekend’s hunt not only marks the WGFD’s release of pheasants, it is also a chance to familiarize younger hunters with proper hunting practices.

“It’s just a really good opportunity for adults to model safe and fun hunting for youths in the field,” Stoll said.

Hunters participating in the family hunt will not need to secure a permission slip through the WGFD website, as would normally be the case. All hunters, including youth hunters, will be required to adhere to licensing requirements and regulations, possess conservation stamps, have a hunter safety certification — or be enrolled in the Hunter Mentor Program — and purchase the $15.50 pheasant special management stamp.