This Christmas present was easy enough to unwrap. In fact, the only unwrapping was in reverse and that was wrapping my mind around the invite to a day of Ohio pheasant hunting.
But the gift from son-in-law Dave Miller and grandsons Josh and Danny Miller was for real, not a snipe hunt or a video, this was to be the real thing. How cool is that for a perfect gift for a guy who already has a pair of everything. I keep telling anyone who will listen that the best gifts don’t involve a box and a gift receipt. These guys listened.
For the most part, Ohio pheasant hunts have been distant memories for decades. Once numerous across the state, just scattered in the eastern counties but thick as fleas on a hound dog in the flatlands of western Ohio, the colorful game birds disappeared in the 1970s and never returned.
All gone for sure, all but here in Bucyrus, Ohio where Dennis and Terri Courtad have created what might be called a honey hole for pheasants and pheasant hunters. All right, it’s a man-made model of perfect pheasant habitat coupled with an unending supply of birds but credit is due because this is as close to the real thing as one could hope for.
The real deal
We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the Courtad’s Elk Ridge Hunt Club, a rural expanse of high grass mingled with briars, woodlots and more, even higher grass. In fact, Courtad’s playground is four hundred acres of South Dakota pheasant country just a half hour west of Mansfield.
Sure, Elkridge is a shooting preserve, a pay to shoot club where there will be birds, no question about that — I’ve always been a critic shooting release birds and animals. Most pheasant preserves are stocked minutes before the shoot with birds planted tightly so that shooters can find them easily.
That’s OK for dog training but hardly enjoyable for this old fellow who grew up around briar patches and beat up shotguns. But not here at Elk Ridge. The Courtad team built this place to be a hunt club but not a barrel with fish in it. And hunt we did. In fact, I had to use some mowed paths after a couple hours of pushing heavy cover looking for pheasants. Just like wild birds they ran, hid, and flushed in heart-stopping explosions, so much like the real thing that at times my mind and tired legs were a thousand miles west, pounding out miles of endless prairie grass.
About Elk Ridge
Elk Ridge opened its gate in 2000 and in just 15 years has become one of the best hunt clubs imaginable with a good supply of fast flying birds, a clean clubhouse, and patient and friendly hosts. Courtad raises some 80,000 pheasants each year, supplying other clubs, organizations, and individuals, as well as stocking Elk Ridge where he and she serve as an entire staff, stocking birds, guiding those who ask for help, training dogs, and cleaning harvested birds.
The best part of our day was not killing birds. In fact, we worked hard to make sure Josh and Danny got a good introduction to wing shooting, a lesson that at times seemed filled with frustration and wonderment at the difference between tossed clay discs and the real thing. That and watching Tessa, their black lab, catch up on past lessons as she settled into the hunt, retrieving the occasional downed bird and hunting for another feathered prize.
Dave Miller planned the hunt around both college breaks for the boys who have become avid outdoorsmen with limited time. Good plan for a three generation outing. I give this enjoyable experience and Elk Ridge an “A” for a family or friends outing. In fact, it will become a repeat on our calendars.
Elk Ridge operates from fall to spring year. For more information go to www.elkridgegamefarm.com or call 419-562-0195.
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