Continental Hunts – Pheasant Hunting Phit for a King
By Gary Lewis
Shawna Mitchell dropped two 20-gauge rounds into the twin tubes of her side-by-side. A huge smile lit her face. 20 yards away, Bill Valentine and Chris Farrins loaded their guns. We stood then, looking at the top of the cliff above us. The horn sounded.
For a moment, all was still. Then a long-tailed rooster broke from the sage at the top of the cliff, silhouetted against the sky. For the next 40 minutes or so, the roosters, hens and chukars rocketed off the top of the hill over our waiting guns.
There was a time when a driven pheasant hunt was the province of European royalty and aristocrats. Hunters would gather on large estates in places like Scotland and England. When the horns would sound, hunters would make ready, their loaders at their sides. Peasants or servants would ‘beat' the forests and fields, driving pheasants, grouse, rabbits and foxes ahead of them toward the hunters.
At the edge of the trees, the pheasants and grouse would flush, gaining altitude and speed till they passed over the waiting guns. Over the course of a morning's shoot, hundreds of birds might fly the gauntlet. A hunter would pick a target, swing, shoot and then hand the empty gun to a loader, taking a loaded gun from the rack and picking out another target.That evening, the masters would gather at the castle while the servants brought them pheasant and rabbit served on silver platters. And the servants and peasants would share in the harvest, as well, taking game home to their families.
In America, we recognize that all men are created equal and a Continental European-style pheasant and chukar hunt should not be out of reach of any upland enthusiast.
Several preserve operators in Oregon offer driven hunts. A hunt can be arranged with minimum of eight hunters. The outfitter releases 200 or 300 or more birds over the course of the morning. Hunters are assigned stations and rotate through each station over the course of the shoot. After the shooting is over, dog handlers work the cover behind the shooting stations to pick up lost birds.
Hunters repair to the lodge for lunch and then may return to the field to try to pick up a few of the birds that escaped earlier in the day.
With bird handlers, dog handlers, dogs and cooks, it is not cheap or easy to put on a driven hunt. Prices for these pleasures start at $300 per gun and go up, up, up, dependent on the needs of the group. Being treated like a king doesn't come cheap.