Bird season gone bad
Club hunts may be a viable option for bagging pheasants during seasons in which conditions are poor.
As the upland bird season mercifully comes to an end, we can look back now at the past three months and pretty much agree that the bird hunting was horrible this year.
Continued drought conditions, caused by the effects of a spoiled La Nina off the Pacific Coast of the country which pushes virtually every weather system up and around us and into the Midwestern states, has taken a serious toll on the pheasant hunting in Colorado and Kansas. Not that we were in such great shape to begin with, having come into this season with three previous dry winters under our belts and grass that was as dry as straw on a barn floor, but that didn’t stop us from trying. And in the end,
I think most of us who chased wild pheasants this year came away frustrated, sad, and vowing to not even try it again until things improve.
In a good year the average Colorado pheasant hunter will bag only three birds per year. In doing so, the average bird hunter is dropping close to a thousand dollars on travel, lodging, license, food, and ammunition, and is spending an average of only four days in the field. And given the current state of the sport we can only come up with one conclusion: bird hunters, the eternal optimists, are real gluttons for punishment.
Considering all of this and the fact that the objective to bird hunting is to actually find, shoot at, and bring home the occasional pheasant, the expense of time, money, and emotional stability that comes with hunting wild birds just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Instead, club hunts are becoming the way to go for hunters who would like to actually experience success in the field.
There was a time when the mention of a club hunt was synonymous with an artificial experience, where the birds didn’t fly, the cover wasn’t good, and the hunts weren’t what most would consider “real” hunts. Anymore, though, clubs are working hard to make their hunts simulate, as closely as possible, wild bird hunts.
There are several benefits to club hunting that are immediately apparent to most hunters, and some that are not, so it’s important to understand the apples to apples comparison between wild bird hunts and most club hunts.
Pheasant clubs typically stock birds on their properties, which guarantees that hunters will at least get to see a fair number of birds during their hunt. Contrary with wild bird hunts, where a hunter might consider himself to be lucky if he sees three pheasants in a weekend, hunters who utilize hunting clubs will likely see 20 or more birds during a day of hunting.
Pheasant clubs, being licensed game parks, can also set their own regulations. For instance, most clubs do not require a hunting license, allow their clients to bag hens, set their own season dates, and also set their own limits.
Depending on where you go, too, you may find clubs that offer first class service, with hot meals and bird processing included in the price or offered as a service for a minimal fee.
Cost is one factor that always comes up when discussing club hunts versus wild bird hunts, and when you look at all the expenses that come into play with a wild bird hunt and compare those with the cost of a club hunt, club hunts begin to look more and more reasonable, especially for those who travel long distances for wild birds.
Most clubs will charge by the hunter and some will have specials for youth hunters as well as special pricing for large groups. The key is to call around and find the best deals.
Not all clubs are created equal, so it’s best to call around and get recommendations from friends or relatives who have hunted a particular club. You can also call the club you’re interested in and ask questions about the hunts, number of birds you can expect to see, whether or not the hunt is guided and if dogs are provided, if the hunt is for a full day, and if bird processing is included. Don’t be shy about asking the questions since most club owners will be happy to provide good information that will help you to make your decision.
The regular Colorado pheasant season will be closing on January 31, but most clubs will be open for hunting until the end of March. It’s not a hunt that most people will do every weekend but taking one of these trips per year will certainly restore your faith in the pheasant gods and will help you to keep your dreams of awesome pheasant hunts alive.