Pleasant pheasant hunting awaits in West Virginia Foxy Pheasant more farm than preserve

OUTDOORS

January 24, 1993|By LONNY WEAVER

"I've got to admit that I really didn't think today was going to be as great as it turned out to be. I don't know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn't what we just enjoyed," said local sportsman Dick Broden as we pulled out of the Foxy Pheasant Hunting Preserve last Monday.

Pheasant hunting throughout my central Maryland home turf has declined so sharply over the past decade that my former ringneck gunning pals and I don't even bother anymore. Take Carroll County Bank & Trust Company vice president Bob Chrest, for example.

"You know, this was the first time in over 40 years that I didn't even buy a license," he told me last weekend. "I couldn't see walking all of those farms and busting through briars all day and never even seeing a bird, let alone get off a shot. It sure has changed since the days when you and me and Johnny Weller pheasant hunted almost non-stop from November to January."

There are a lot of reasons behind the decline in wild pheasants and quail. I've come to the conclusion that modern farming methods are the culprit. You can point to the rebound of game birds throughout the Midwest where we once again are seeing large tracts of acreage as evidence. Local, modern farming methods are not about to change any time soon, so if you want to enjoy quality bird hunting, the only local alternative for most folks is to hunt up a first-class preserve.

And that's where Foxy Pheasant comes into the picture.

The place isn't right around the corner for Anne Arundel County gunners, but it's no farther than a couple of popular spots on the Eastern Shore. Foxy Pheasant is west of Charles Town, W.Va., about a two-hour drive from the Annapolis area. Gene Abelow says that about 80 percent of his business comes from the Baltimore-Washington area, with the rest drawing from "local people, some up from Virginia and a few down from Pennsylvania."

So, what makes this place so darn good? For starters it isn't so much a hunting preserve as it is a working farm like you may have remembered from those days I fondly call youth.

This big, sprawling farm on easy rolling land is occupied by strips of unworked cover, cut cornfields, small and large wood lots, enough briars and cedar brambles to keep the hunters and dogs honest and no less than three ponds.

It's exactly what bird hunter's heaven is supposed to look like.

During Monday's hunt, Broden and I worked behind one of Abelow's super short-hairs, 6-year-old Sinbad. Abelow drove us a couple of fields over from the farmhouse and while Sinbad introduced himself to all the bushes within the immediate area, guided us to the edge of a 40- or 50-acre plot combining cut corn stalks, overgrown strips of foxtail and thorny hedgerows. Before the morning was done, we'd worked close to 150 acres of similar cover.

"Just take your time and follow along behind Sinbad," Abelow told Broden. "When he goes on point, walk up beside him and shoot when the pheasant or chukar comes blasting out of the grass. Don't shoot at anything on the ground."

That's about when the dog went on point.

Broden gripped his 12-gauge semi-auto with a purpose and waded into the thigh-high foxtail. He tip-toed past the rigid spotted dog.

"It may be sitting pretty tight because of the cold. Look right in front of Sinbad's nose," said Abelow.

The bird came charging out of the grass, cackling and beating wings sounding like drumbeats. It was a real production.

Broden got his gun to his shoulder before the pheasant passed the 30-yard mark. He hit his target.

The basic Foxy Pheasant 5 pheasant hunt carries a $75 price tag. Broden and I had 10 ringnecks put out plus some chukars. Take a pal or two, throw in a guide and dog and split the cost.

Hunting will continue on the preserve through April 30. Call Abelow at (304) 725-4963 to arrange for a hunt or for full details.

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