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The benefits of a hunting preserve

Out and about chasing pheasants in Pennsylvania this past fall, I often found that conversations ran to “the good ol’ days.”

Hunters of a certain age spoke longingly of hunting pheasants on their way home from school and described walking farmlands that were laced with native habitat.

Nearby, you can still find places that have hundreds of acres like that, along with plenty of birds – hunting preserves.

There is more wildlife habitat and “escape cover” for birds on a hunting preserve than there is on a typical farm. Step out into a field at a preserve, and you are in the middle of a conservation showcase.

There are cover crops planted at a hunting preserve, but typically about half of the property is in natural condition.

Even for non-hunters, a preserve has value – it’s like an oasis for nature and wildlife in our steadily-shrinking natural landscapes.

A day of hunting at a well-run preserve is a treat you should definitely give yourself.

There are few places better set up for mentoring a youth hunter, who needs plenty of action and fun to pump up interest in hunting. In Pennsylvania, preserves are open until the end of March.

“People often comment that visiting a preserve is like turning back the hands of time,” said John Mullin, Editor of Wildlife Harvest Magazine. “They can enjoy hunting as it was in their Grandfather’s day.”

Here’s a list of preserves within an easy drive:

Clover Hollow Hunting Preserve, Inc., Lime Kiln Road, Slatington, has been in business for more than 35 years. There are more than 400 acres of well-planned cover, and hunters can choose from a menu of pheasants, quail and chukar partridge. It is run by Wil, Michelle and Lucas Dise. Call for more information, 610-767-3319.

Ringneck Ridge, Coburn Hill Road, Laceyville, is run by John Piccotti (570-760-6969). Lodging is available. Youth hunters are a focus at Ringneck Ridge, and a parent and child (under 18) may hunt as 1 hunter. The facility also offers clay bird shooting as a warmup to the hunt. They offer a special mentored youth hunt, but that is always held the first weekend after the firearms season on deer – space is always filled so you may want to reserve a spot early.

Martz’s Gap View Hunting Preserve got its start in 1957 and is a three-generation business. It’s located on Game Farm Road in Dalmatia – a town name that even sounds remote! Located at the far end of the Hegins Valley, the drive there is beautiful.

In recent years Martz’s built an extensive clay target range, with a 50-target course. The clay targets are thrown from various positions in the woods and fields, simulating hunting situations. There is also a wobble-trap course, with 25 targets, with each trap capable of throwing targets in 64 different directions. Many parties of hunters shoot clays in the morning, have lunch, and bird hunt in the afternoon.

Martz’s Gap View Hunting Preserve (800-326-8442) has over 1,300 acres of prime hunting ground ranging from light brush, weed lots and cornfields, to open fields. The terrain is gently rolling with all types of cover and shooting situations.

If the weeks between today and the opening of turkey season seem very long, round up some hunting buddies and try a preserve hunt. Bring your own dogs or arrange for a guide with dogs.

No matter which way you hunt a preserve, you’ll get a glimpse of what is was like to hunt farms in the good ol’ days.

One dog is honoring and one dog is on point, during a recent hunt at Clover Hollow Preserve, Slatington. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS
It's said that "a tired dog is a good dog." Here is a glimpse of what happens when dogs long to get outside and hunt. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS