By Bob Curley
Gordie the hunting dog waited patiently on station one of the shooting “bungs” during a recent private pheasant hunt at The Preserve Club and Residences in Richmond, Rhode Island. The Labrador Retriever—a veteran of hunts from Nebraska was getting a little antsy waiting for some of the huntsman to hit their mark. With each shot, Gordie would strain at his tether, only to be soothed and encouraged by his handler, Dave Olson.
Finally, someone found the right range and angle, catching a pheasant soaring overhead with a blast from a 12-gauge shotgun as the shooter steadied himself before taking aim again.
The continental hunt, one of the many organized activities available to residents and members of The Preserve, was the centerpiece of a day-long event beginning with a lavish breakfast spread in the members lodge, followed by a detailed safety briefing delivered in a handsomly appointed member lounge by owner and developer Paul Mihailides, himself an experienced hunter, and operations director Eric Northup.
Among the main takeaways: don’t start shooting until the horn sounds to begin the hunt, and don’t leave the shooting station until the next horn sounds. And, in the two-person bungs, don’t cross the field of fire with your fellow shooter. All sound advice.
THE WIDE OPEN SPACES
Thus prepared, we headed out to the “backyard” of the 3,500-acre sporting club and residential community, a swath of pristine New England woodland undeveloped save for recreation facilities. For the continental pheasant hunt, the 30-odd participants—including Preserve members and their guests from various parts of the United States and abroad—were divided into groups and placed in one of 12 shooting stations.
No less than 1,500 pheasants, were released in stages from a central tower measuring 210 feet tall from the lowest station, making it the tallest such tower in the Northeast ensuring birds fly high and fast which is most desireable for upland hunting enthusiasts. Throughout the day, participants rotating from station to station in 15-minute intervals, were afforded an opportunity to shoot from different angles and positions. For a little extra challenge, a “money bird” tied with a pink ribbon was released among the flock.
Pheasants are large, colorful birds prone to soaring, but also can fly at up to 60 mph, so bringing one down with buckshot isn’t as easy as it might look. Whether by luck or a little skill, I managed to hit a bird on my third shot, much to the delight of Gordie posted at my station.
A CLASSIC DAY
On a grey New England fall day, a crackling hilltop bonfire and hot coffee helped warm up the hunters, while hot toddies and other warming spirits were put on hold until after the three-hour hunt. By the time the day was done, the hunters had “harvested” about a quarter of the released birds, and many more would be taken the next day in a cleanup hunt, with dogs deployed to flush the birds from their hiding places in a classic upland hunt across hundreds of acres of The Preserve’s property.
Meanwhile, participants gathered back in the lodge for a white-tablecloth dinner of filet mignon, lobster, and pheasant pot pie, accompanied by fine wine and stories of the day’s adventures. Pheasants would be cleaned and dressed for another meal, and after a farewell toast the group broke up, some returning to their private homes at The Preserve, others to lodging in the club’s townhomes, cabins, condos, and perhaps even the yurts or treehouses on the property.
From field to table, we savored the experience of the hunt at The Preserve, where the fun extends well beyond hunting to include an 18-hole championship golf course, America’s longest indoor range with with 150-yard shooting lanes, the two story Sporting Shoppe, tennis, sporting clays courses, fishing, hiking, and equestrian. Our day-long continental pheasant hunt featured just a taste of The Preserve’s culinary program, which features farm-to-table fine dining in an intimate atmosphere, an extensive wine program, and a casually elegant cocktail lounge styled after a vintage hunting lodge.
For more information on upcoming continental hunts, real estate and memberships at The Preserve Club & Residences, visit thepreserveri.com.