Bill, Andrew, Carly, Ken, and the writer
Last week I received an invitation from friend Bill Habich to take part on the first pheasant hunt of the season at Thundering Aspens Sportsman Club, in Mesick, MI, about an hour from my home, and at the time I could not imagine how great and memorable an occasion this would become.
Thundering Aspens was established in 1987 and currently has a 84-person waiting list (including yours truly) to become members in the family operated private club that offers the opportunity to hunt bobwhite quail, chukar and Hungarian partridges, and of course pheasants in its 600 acres carefully managed to ensure habitat for birds to thrive year around.
T.A.S.C. is not your usual hunting preserve where birds are raised in pens and released in the fields shortly before the hunt starts. At T.A.S.C. birds do what their are supposed to do year around, breed, hide, forage, run and eventually fly after being pointed by fantastically trained dogs, mostly brittany spaniels, without any enclosures to tame them.
I arrived at Thundering Aspens beautiful lodge at about 7:30 AM on Friday and had the opportunity to talk a bit with Greg, Jason and Jon, the brothers that run the club and was introduced to the world class taxidermy that is Jon's passion. Shortly after the other members of our party arrived, Bill and his son Andrew, and Ken and his granddaughter Carolyn, or Carly.
We followed Jason, who also handled the two brittanys, Olive and Misty, and one black labrador, Wilco, to a large field planted with strips of corn and sorghum that held the promise of many birds. Jason explained that from their opening on September 1st to about November we are allowed to shoot both roosters and hens, but from November to the end of the season (which could be as early as January depending on weather and number of birds taken) only cock pheasants are taken in order to ensure enough breeding stock to the following years.
About the hunt itself it is sufficient to say that the dog work was outstanding and every bird shot was retrieved, the birds were all strong fliers and except by paying attention to the dogs it was impossible to tell when one or more birds could flush (there was no marked paths or vehicle tracks so common on other places that indicate where birds were planted), and that all hunters and huntress were safe and had a great time.
We hunted until about noon and then drove back to the lodge where a great meal of barbecued pheasant, maple finished white beans and homemade apple pie waited for us. The lunch was really a feast when we celebrated friendship and the passion of hunting.