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Pheasants aplenty

Posted on October 16, 2013 by Taber Times

Novice hunts run Oct. 19-20, as the 2013 Taber Pheasant Festival gets underway, with regular hunts Oct. 21-26. Just a reminder — 360 sites are sold out.

According to the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), the first weekend is all about new hunters on Oct. 19 and 20.

“This year we have over 80 novice hunters signed up. They’ll get an opportunity to come out and be given gun safety training. We’ve got a clay target thrower, so they’ll be there with Alberta hunter education instructor mentors. They’ll be shown how to, hopefully, be able to hit a clay target. Once they’re on the clay target then the mentors will actually take them and let them take a shot at a pheasant or two,” said Todd Zimmerling, president and CAO of the ACA. Novice hunts are free, but novice hunters must pre-register, as space is limited. Registration is by phone only. Call Zimmerling at 1-780-410-1990 to register.

As for the regular hunts planned for this year’s annual Taber Pheasant Festival, Zimmerling said there are a few new things in the barrel to coincide with the festival’s activities. On Oct. 1, a raffle began for hunters who may get a chance to have their name drawn to choose a early hunting site for next year’s 2014 Taber Pheasant Festival. Funds raised from the raffle will help fund this year’s highly anticipated hunting event.

“This past year, for this event, all the sites booked up in just over three minutes online so we thought we’ll raffle off the first couple of spots so people will have an opportunity to pick those early and I guess be the most popular guy in their circle of friends for the rest of the year,” joked Zimmerling, adding the raffle will run up until the Oct. 24 dinner, with 900 tickets being sold. “We will do the draw at the dinner and there will be three lucky winners.”

The dinner and silent auction will be held at the Taber Community Centre. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 each and are available by contacting the ACA at 1-877-969-9091 or tickets are available to purchase online at http://www.ab-conservation.com. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

The ACA also noted participants in the 2013 Taber Pheasant Festival can join Rick Delmar Smith, a U.S. dog trainer who will be holding a bird dog seminar classroom session on Oct. 25 and a field demonstration session on Oct. 26. The cost for the sessions are $20 to cover expenses. Contact the ACA to sign up.

Zimmerling said participants in the sessions will gain insight on how to train dogs, how to deal with dogs and gun shyness and how to work dogs in blinds and water, as well as choosing a dog and training dogs for hunting purposes.

For the regular hunts Oct. 21-26, 3,600 pheasants will be released on 30 sites throughout the Municipal District of Taber. Up to four hunters are allowed on each release site for either a morning (sunrise until 1:00 p.m.) or an afternoon (1 p.m. until sunset). If hunters need to make changes to a reservation  hunters can call the ACA at 1-877-969-9091. Hunters can only reserve one hunting time per day, but up to three times for the week.

Another aspect new to this year’s event is the festival welcoming birds from the United States — which will come to Canada, stacked in crates and stacked on a semi-trailer.

“Our birds this year, the Brooks hatchery shut down, so our birds are coming from out of the States this year. They will be arriving in town, I think, the Thursday before hand. We’ve got 4,500 pheasants that we will be storing in a quonset and every morning we will be going in there and will try to capture several hundred in order to go out and release them ourselves,” noted Zimmerling.

“It will be a new and exciting experience for all of us this year,” he joked, adding the same company supplying the birds for the festival have been supplying pheasants to a number of private pheasant hunt ranches in-and-around the Calgary area for a couple of years.

“They seem to know exactly what they’re doing and everything that’s required and the birds have always arrived really healthy and happy from all the reports we have received. The same company is also supplying birds for the provincial pheasant release program,” said Zimmerling.

Zimmerling would also like to thank local businesses for their generous support.

“We’ve got a significant amount of sponsors. We could still use some more, but certainly we’ve seen an uptake in the number of sponsors this year, especially local businesses, so that’s been going very well,” said Zimmerling.

Mayor Ray Bryant recalled the days around Taber when it was a prime are for pheasant hunting, drawing the likes of movie stars from Hollywood who would make their way up to southern Alberta to hunt.

“With the decline of pheasants, people have gone elsewhere to hunt pheasants. Economically, this is good to try and get it back to where it was before,” said Bryant. “Let’s get this corridor in the Taber/Vauxhall area back to where it was before. This interest with how fast things have filled up is three years in a row. There is the interest there and it would be nice eventually where it would just be pheasant hunting season and you wouldn’t need a festival. We would like the pheasant population to grow and survive on its own.”

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