Jim's Outdoor Blog

Hunting, RVing and Great Escapes – Everything Outdoors

There Will Be Birds

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Oregon’s Upland Game Bird Preserves

Some of my fondest childhood memories of time spent with my father are derived from cold winter mornings on the plains of Illinois.  After rising from bed in the pitch black of night and filling up on pancakes and eggs in a small town café, my brother, father and I spent the day trekking through snow-covered rows of corn stubble in search of pheasants.  I shook with anticipation when our English setter, “Bullet”, would lockup on a patch of fallen corn stalks.  My dad maneuvered my brother and I into shooting position, and then released the dog with an excited “get-em boy”.  The dog lunged forward and the brush exploded with action.  Snow burst into the air and the high-pitched cackle of a rooster taking flight would fill my senses.  The smell of gunpowder, the image of ole Bullet running with a pheasant protruding from each side of his muzzle, and the joy of time spent in the field.  Four decades have come and gone, but those memories are as strong as ever.

With over seventy licensed bird-hunting preserves in Oregon, northwest residents can build lasting memories of their own, and take aim on cackling pheasants for up to eight months each year.

Dave Budeau is the Upland Game Bird Coordinator for Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.  He informed me that as of September 2005 there were seventy-seven licensed bird-hunting preserves in Oregon.  Although many, or most preserves open in late September, they can operate from August 1st through March 31st.  Due to a concern for wintering deer herds, there are a handful of operations that close on December 31st, or as necessary. 

Most people are not able to raise game birds for dog training.  Mr. Budeau feels preserves are important as they afford dog owners a chance to train their dogs in the field.  Spending time on privately operated preserves sharpens the skills of both man and dog, making them better prepared for hunting birds in the wild during the general upland game bird seasons.  As any avid pheasant hunter could tell you, finding private ground or a reliable publicly owned piece of turf for hunting is difficult.  Preserve hunting can fill that need.  You know the birds will be there, and preserves enable you to easily schedule the time and date of your next hunt. 

In speaking with the owners of preserves across the state, I have found them to be true lovers of hunting and of the outdoors in general.  Many are hard working farmers or ranchers, who seemed to have naturally drifted into this business.  In August of 2005 I spent some time with Don and Alice Hewes, owners of the Olex Preserve near Arlington, Oregon.

Olex Preserve (http://www.olexbirdhunting.com/) has approximately 640 acres maintained for the hunting of pheasants, chukar partridge and quail.  Pheasants and quail are hunted in and along the edges of irrigated fields, while chukar hunts are primarily located atop high ridges dotted with sage brush and natural grasses.  Don has been training bird dogs for decades and owns a large number of both pointers and retrievers.  While guests are welcome to use their own dog on the preserve, observing a highly trained pointer or retriever in action is truly a thing of beauty.  

Don and Alice cited a number of reasons people utilize the services of an upland bird facility.  In order to tune up their experienced hunting dogs, ardent hunters may visit a preserve prior to the opening of wild bird season.  This preseason outing allows them to expose training issues with their dogs and gives them a warm-up for their shooting skills.  As well, the owners of young dogs can put their student-hunter on a large number of birds in a single day.  This can be a real confidence booster.  Hunting preserves are the ideal location for people who are new to the sport, or for those who have never experienced the exhilaration of a bird blasting into the sky from seemingly under their feet.

As any father could tell you, getting a youngster excited about hunting or fishing can be a real challenge, especially if you aren’t finding game or catching fish.  Since locating birds is a non-issue, preserves can be the perfect setting for a young person’s first field outing.  Many men bring their wives or girlfriends to a preserve, hoping they might ‘catch the hunting bug’.

Most preserves offer trap shooting or sporting clays as a part of their hunt package.  Facility owners or hunting guides will work with clients to improve their shooting skills.  Who among us couldn’t use a little practice at the range, prior to entering the field?  Getting some warm-up shots under your belt can increase your confidence and ability when a fast flying bird bursts from cover and rockets toward the sky.

A preserve hunt can be a wonderful way to treat your friends or business associates to an outdoor experience.  Don and Alice Hewes said much of their patronage comes from business owners who want their special customers to have an exciting day in the field.  Big game hunting and exotic fishing trips can be quite expensive and generally require extended periods of time away from the office.  At upland preserves, you can often schedule half or full day hunts, making them an attractive gift to corporate clients.

Oregon’s upland preserves offer hunting packages to fit nearly any budget or hunting desire.  Some offer half-day hunts, enabling hunters to stop in while traveling through a given area.  At others, hunters can visit for a day or a week.  With minimal effort you can locate a preserve where you may sleep onsite in your own RV, stay in a local motel, or experience true luxury in a magnificent lodge. 

Most preserves will sell you an agreed upon set number of birds, ranging in price from perhaps $10.00 for quail, to $30.00 or more for each pheasant released prior to your hunt.  Many provide a hunt package at a set price, which may include the taking of quail, chukar and pheasants.  You may pay as little as $150.00 for a walk-on, non-guided, two hour hunt.  Or, you could spend as much as $1,250.00 per day for a world-class bird hunt, with professional guides and first class accommodations (http://www.highlandhillsranch.com/).  With over six-dozen preserves in Oregon, finding a facility to meet your needs is easier than flushing a pheasant from a clump of dry grass.

Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife maintains a list of licensed facilities and their contact information.  Tyler Myers is the current Secretary for the Association of Oregon Hunting Preserves.  Mr. Myers maintains a list of their association’s members and he can be reached via email at Badgerme@centurytel.net.  Oregon upland bird facilities can also be found at http://www.gamebirdhunts.com/, or simply type “Oregon Upland Game Bird Preserves” into your favorite Internet search engine.

I have worked as a bird dog guide at one of Oregon’s fine preserves.  Time spent in the field with guests has been extremely rewarding and just plain fun.  I would estimate that 15 to 20% of the clientele have been women or teenagers, and with few exceptions it was their first trip to a bird hunting facility.  As well, adult men visiting a preserve for the first time make up a significant percentage of the guests.  Most of these folks have never fired a shotgun before their arrival at the ranch.  I see a transformation in each of them.  In the beginning they are quiet and reserved, intimidated by this new adventure.  Without exception, by the end of their hunt, they are grinning from ear to ear.

The bulk of the guests I’ve met are longtime repeat customers.  Many are seasoned hunters who come to the preserve for the sheer joy of the experience.  They bring their sons and daughters, their wives, business associates and friends, excited to share this excursion into the outdoors.

If you’re tired of trekking through fields devoid of birds.  If you’ve had your fill of crowded public ground with uncontrollable dogs running amuck.  Try one of Oregon’s fine upland bird hunting facilities.  You’ll meet down to earth hard working people who enjoy the outdoors.  One thing is for certain – there will be birds!

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March 28, 2008 - Posted by | Turkeys, Grouse, Pheasants and other Feathered Critters

2 Comments »

  1. This gentleman could be writing about my memories. Each year the seasons were always marked by which critters turn it was to die. Good stuff Pop!

    Comment by Bill Gaskins | April 10, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thank you son. Thank you.

    Dad

    Comment by jimgaskins | April 10, 2008 | Reply


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