Nebraskaland March 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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22 Nebraskaland • March 2019 C ontrolled shooting areas are a mystery to many hunters. Defined as a private location leased or owned by an individual or group to hunt upland birds like ring-necked pheasants, quail, chukars, Hungarian partridge, and even mallards, during an extended season – they are often viewed as hunting spots for the inexpe- rienced. When I started at Nebraskaland in 2006, I didn't see what a controlled shooting area offered to an experienced, able-bodied hunter like myself. After visiting some – and talking to hunters who had visited others – I discovered these areas offer much more than I thought. So All Can Hunt My first introduction to a controlled shooting area was during the fall of 2006 when I photographed a Sportsmen Assisting Nebraska's Disabled Sportsmen (SANDS) hunt at Pheasant Bonanza near Tekamah. Participants who couldn't walk far – or at all – were able to watch excellent pointing dogs work, see flushing birds, and even shoot pheasants on the rise. That day, I realized that other hunters' needs were different than my own, an important idea to the owners of these establishments. "We continue to provide hunts for people who need assistance like this," said Pheasant Bonanza owner Trent Leichleiter. "We don't want to turn anyone down. For example, maybe we have a person whose dad introduced them to hunting and can't get around like he used to. We want to make sure we have opportunities for those hunters as well." Education Some controlled shooting areas, like Oak Creek Sporting Club near Brainard, also provide the skills needed before the hunt. When Oak Creek hosts youth days throughout the year – with 4-H groups, trapshooting teams, and the like – participants study hunter safety, watch dog trainers work, learn how to appropriately shoot shotguns and rifles, and actually have an opportunity to hunt pheasants. For many young hunters, it is their first time afield. "We want to cater to families," owner Terry Kriz said. "We love seeing people get their first bird. From mothers and daughters to fathers and sons, we want our guests to see action – to provide an environment that is more than a walk in the park. "We also want to make sure we keep hunting's legacy moving forward." Volunteer Chad Phillips demonstrates with his pointing dog, a small munsterlander, during a youth day at Oak Creek Sporting Club near Brainard. Story and Photos by Jeff Kurrus Choosing a Controlled Shooting Area (CSA) to visit is like picking a dog breed or style of shotgun – you have to find the one that fits your needs. This can be accomplished by speaking to someone at the preserve. Ask about the terrain, the length of the hunts, and exactly what to expect. Tell them if anyone in your group has physical limitations, and they will let you know if they can accommodate you. For those who have visited Oak Creek Sporting Club and Pheasant Bonanza, it's clear once you arrive that they are completely different operations – Oak Creek offers a blue-collar experience while Pheasant Bonanza caters to an upscale audience, both in accommodations and feel. Both are fine, unique examples in the world of controlled shooting areas. However, they are not the only controlled shooting areas in the state. From Dawes to Richardson counties, Nebraska has 45 commercial (available to the public) controlled shooting areas to visit. A list of these can be found at INTERIOR OF LODGE AT PHEASANT BONANZA NEAR TEKAMAH

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