7 reasons you’ll kick yourself if you miss this shoot …

“The memories will last a lifetime!” – David J.

Wales awaits! If you’ve ever dreamt of shooting in the UK, you’re in luck: The Harding Shoot has a few spots left. It runs from November 15, 2015, to November 21, 2015. .Here are 7 reasons you have to go:

1) Superb Birds. High and fast, with great presentations for shooters.

2) Visit five different estates over five days. With shoots in England & Wales

3) Be challenged by a variety of driven birds. Pheasants, partridge, ducks, and woodcock – far more variety than most shoots offer.

4) Shoot more. This shoot present you with more birds and drives than shoots costing much more.

5) Wonderful accommodations. Including great Welsh food and hospitality.

6) Experience the camaraderie of the entire team: shooters, keepers, beaters, pickers-up, and dog handlers.

7) Best of all: it’s a superb value. $8500 for an all-inclusive week.

To learn more, visit The Harding Shoot now, or call 717-919-5317 to speak with the shoot’s organizers right away.

The Harding Shoot is as good as it gets! I have gone for 14 years. I have great memories of outstanding drives. If one wants to experience true British Driven Shooting on beautiful Estates at a reasonable price, I highly recommend the Harding Shoot.” -Tod D.

The Harding Shoot – A Driven Bird Hunt in Wales from Sean Delaney on Vimeo.

“The experience was truly unique. Staying in a classic 16th Century hotel in the charming rural village of Crickhowell, shooting a mixed bag (pheasant, partridge, ducks, and woodcock) on a new estate daily were just some of the highlights. What I thought to be a one time experience turned into me returning for the next five years. The memories and, more importantly, the friendships developed during those years, will last a lifetime.” – David J.

You can read more about everything that makes the Harding Shoot a great time in this post which I put up a few months ago.

Think your dog can hunt all day? This trainer says no way…

Cocker Spaniel at a Field Trial
Cocker Spaniel at a Field Trial

Todd Agnew is a well known dog trainer who works with top-notch Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels. At his Craney Hill Kennel, he has worked with hundreds of gundogs and trained a number of them to world-class levels.

In his recent post CONDITIONING…IT IS MORE THAN JUST FINDING MORE BIRDS, he talks about getting hunting dogs into shape – what it takes, why it matters, and how it affects a dog’s performance. If you have a bird dog, I suggest you read it. Here’s a taste of the info, and opinion, you’ll encounter:

“…If your dog can hunt all day, then I do not want to hunt with your dog! There, I said it and I mean it. Let me explain and then you think about it…”

To find out why, read Todd’s entire post now: CONDITIONING…IT IS MORE THAN JUST FINDING MORE BIRDS

A good cause for a great bird…

American Woodcock
American Woodcock

If you’ve spent any time checking out this blog, you know how much I love woodcock. Fortunately, a lot of folks feel this way about these little birds. Some of those folks have come together to reform Woodcock Limited, an organization of  “Hunters and other conservationists dedicated to the welfare of the American woodcock.” I encourage you to find out more about Woodcock Limited. From their website: “We work with local, state and national organizations and agencies to promote woodcock habitat creation, restoration and maintenance; woodcock and habitat research; and woodcock harvest management across the range of the American woodcock.”

If you can, please donate your time and money to their efforts. The future of our sport depends on conservation. Woodcock numbers are falling throughout North America. I want to make sure that I do all I can to make sure that trend swings in the other direction.

Woodcock Limited
Woodcock Limited

So…does South Dakota stock pheasants?

100% Wild South Dakota Ringneck Pheasants
100% Wild South Dakota Ringneck Pheasants

Heaven, Mecca, Valhalla – South Dakota is all three to fanatical upland hunters like me. With millions of birds, countless places to hunt, and great people, it’s one of the finest places on earth to find yourself walking behind a hunting dog with a double barrel in your hands.

Part of what makes South Dakota so special to me is its “wildness” (or what suburbanites like me think is “wildness”) and part of this comes from the birds I hunt: Wild, long spurred ringneck pheasants. That’s what I travel thousands of miles see and that’s what I want to draw a bead on when I’m in the fields.

But every year I hear rumors about stock pheasants and the state of South Dakota releasing pen-raised birds. Several years ago I saw crates of pen-raised roosters stacked on a flat bed driving west towards Pierre. This makes me wonder: just how wild are South Dakota’s pheasants?

The answer is……drum roll………it depends. One thing I want to make absolutely clear is that I’ve never seen any evidence that the state of South Dakota stocks ringneck pheasants. None. And if you’re on land open to the public, your pheasants are probably 100% wild. But if you’re paying to shoot, especially on what the state calls a “private shooting preserve”, that may not be the case.

South Dakota’s Private Shooting Preserves are hunting operations licensed by the state. Right now,  there are 198 of them in South Dakota ranging in size from 160 to 2500 acres (1018 acres is average). According to the state’s, these preserves released 356,727 roosters in 2010-2011. Over the same period of time, these preserves killed 242,705 stocked birds and 57, 611 wild birds. So in 2010-11, the chances that a person killed a wild pheasant on a licensed SD Private Shooting Preserve was roughly 1 in 4.

Of course, some operations release more birds than others. Some probably get by on the state’s minimums (300 roosters the first year of your license, 600 a year afterwards), while a few must stock hundred of roosters a week at the peak of the season.

(BTW: Here are all the numbers and here’s SD’s rule on stocking.)

Now that we know the answer to “Do they release pheasants?”, lets ask another question: “Is stocking a bad thing?” I don’t think so. First of, I’m sure some commercial operations need to do just to stay open. Hunting the same ground, day after day, kills a lot of birds. The only way to guarantee a great experience is to stock roosters.

Stocking also gives hunters more options. SD’s Private Shooting Preserves have long seasons.  According to the state: “The shooting preserve season runs from September 1 until March 31 of the following year.” The upcoming pheasant season goes from Oct. 20, 2012 to Jan. 6, 2013. So Private Shooting Preserves gives guys 16+ more weeks of hunting.

That’s a long time, and it’s not just more days to shoot birds. It’s more time for folks to spend time with friends, firm up business contacts, experience a great sport, and even to spend time in the field with bird dogs. On top of that, more time and more hunting adds up to more jobs for people in the area and more revenue for land owners and the state. Regardless of how wild the birds are, all this is 100% positive.

Of course, if you want wild pheasants, South Dakota is still one of the best places in the world to find them. Last year, 189,000 hunters killed 1.55 million South Dakota pheasants. About 16% of these birds were stocked. The rest were as wild as a summertime thunderstorm. Those are the birds I’ll be chasing the next time I’m out that way.