Pheasant hunters can now cure cabin fever a bit longer each winter season. In past years, the Department of Environmental Conservation set the end of preserve hunts at March 31, with the possibility of an extension to April 15 if officials deemed the winter weather too severe for many hunts.
Hunters and hunting preserve operators had to guess and gamble each year to determine when the season would remain open and how much stock should be saved and used to end the season.
Now, hunters may order packages of pheasants, chukar and quail in any combination throughout the winter season until the April 15 closing day.
Bill Keppler at Forestel Farm Hunting Preserve is one of the few area operators that also offers duck hunts.
“Hunters can only order mallard duck hunts until March 31,” Keppler explained. Preserve duck hunters need not use shotguns plugged to just three rounds and do not need a federal duck stamp, but waterfowl hunted on preserves must be taken with non-toxic shot.
Most preserves offer mainly upland bird hunts. Fred Paye and Bill Surridge have developed considerable volume at their F&B Upland Birds facility in Hamlin.
“We started in 2007 and raise about 4,000 birds for our hunts now,” Paye said. F&B offers 115 acres of preserve-owned property plus an additional 180 acres of adjacent hunting areas.
Located closer to Rochester, Paye noted that many of their clients are repeat customers from the Buffalo area.
“For the remaining season, we have about 400 birds and will book hunts until April 1,” Paye said of their operation. They take in pheasant chicks in early April and begin the brooding process early each season. For that reason, they will only take hunt reservations until April 1.
For details on pheasant hunts at F&B, call Paye at (585)298-0750 or Bill Surridge at (585)748-8070 or go to fandbupland.com.
Keppler has had a good hunt season for all stock. He raises 4,000 pheasants, 800 chukars and about 300 mallard ducks each year. This season he still has more than 700 pheasants, 100 chukars and most of the ducks ready for late-season outings.
The past summer’s drought did not hurt Keppler’s ducks broods. “I could pump water up to the duck ponds to ensure their water supply,” he said of the Medina preserve that once was a municipal water-supply site.
He plans on booking hunts until the last day of the open preserve season. For outing information, check with Keppler at (585) 590-2061.
Gene and Peggy Bontrager at Ringneck Hunting Preserve in Darien have a good supply of pheasant and chukar stock and will set up hunts until April 15. “We have more than 1,000 pheasants and can order even more birds; we raised more chukar than we needed for this season,” Peggy said of the remaining count.
But the more interesting count at the Bontrager digs right now is a brood of 10 vizsla puppies born to their reliable hunting pointer Kaya. “Eight of the 10 are already spoken for; all that are left are two females,” Peggy said of the 6-week-old puppies that now weigh in somewhere between 10 and 12 pounds.
“They started showing an interest in hunting after just a couple weeks, even though they didn’t know what they’re doing,” Gene said of the russet-brown young pointers adept at so many aspects of upland bird hunting.
To view the pups — until their first departure date of March 6 — and check out hunt options, call the Bontragers at (585) 547-3747.
Jim Lederhouse at Pheasant Ridge Hunting on Ridge Road in Lockport has a good supply of pheasant stock. “I expect to hold hunts until the April 15 end of the season,” Lederhouse said of outings on his 273-acre preserve in Niagara County. For details on hunt packages, check with Lederhouse at 628-4189.
Joe “JJ” Valone at Pheasants on the Flats on Cone Dorman Road in Batavia enjoyed many good hunts earlier this season but has closed bookings for the remainder of this season. “We had great hunts for pheasants and chukars, but the fields here don’t have the cover suited for quality hunts now,” Valone said.
His preserve provides easy access for handicapped/impaired hunters and specializes in youth hunts.
To make arrangements for future seasons, check with Valone at (585) 770-4971 or go to pheasantsontheflats.com.
Featherquest Shooting Preserve, situated on 165 acres of hunting land south of Le Roy village, provides pheasant and chukar hunts Fridays to Sundays throughout the preserve season. To check on hunt venues there, call Dana or Roxane Poray at (585) 768-8194.
Most preserves will try to accommodate hunters until the new Ides of April end this season. For general information on bird hunting preserves across New York State, go to gamebirdhunts.com and click on NY.