BY DOYLE DIETZ
DALMATIA — In 1968, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell first told us there “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and since then there have been dozens of artists who have reminded us of that with their cover versions.
For upland bird hunters, there is nothing like the cackling of a ring-neck cock bird breaking from cover in front of a hard-working bird dog. Very quickly, however, we grasp that “The Thrill Is Gone” is more than a Blues classic by B.B. King when our shot fails to down the bird and we get that “look” from our faithful dog.
So, with archery deer season not opening until this coming Saturday, now — yes, like this week — is the time to get on target for the upcoming pheasant seasons. And that includes providing junior hunters the opportunity to sharpen their skills and build confidence.
This year the Pennsylvania Game Commission special pheasant season for eligible junior hunters, with or without a license, opens Saturday, Oct. 10, and continues through Saturday, Oct. 17. Both cocks and hen pheasants may be taken in all wildlife management units. There is a daily limit of two birds and six in possession after opening day.
There are three segments of the regular pheasant season, the first opening Saturday, Oct. 24, and continuing through Friday, Nov. 27. Phase 2 opens Monday, Dec. 14, and continues through Thursday, Dec. 24, and then reopens Saturday, Dec. 26, and continues through Saturday, Feb. 27. Bag limits are two daily and six in possession after opening day, and cocks and hens are legal.
Hunters can get an early start to their pheasant hunting, and also get in some practice shooting Wobble Trap or sporting clays, at Martz’s Gap Hunting Preserve in Dalmatia. Hunting parties with a minimum of one woman or a youth hunter 17 and younger can participate in the first half-price kickoff special, Saturday, Oct. 3. Parties with a minimum of one senior citizen or an active or veteran military member can participate in the second kickoff special, Saturday, Oct. 10.
A round of sporting clays is comprised of 50 targets thrown by Lincoln traps from various positions in the woods and fields. These targets simulate realistic hunting situations of rabbit, pheasant, quail, springing teal, fox, dove and grouse.
Wobble is comprised of one trap that throws targets from one location in 64 different directions and is comprised of 25 targets. Shooters shoot five shots at five different locations, all of which are at different elevations.
Mike Martz, the third generation of his family to operate the business that has expanded both its hunting and trap operation in recent years, created special “Kick off the Season Specials” a few years ago. These are half-price hunts for everyone in the hunting party designed to attract youth, women, senior citizens and U.S. Military active duty and veterans.
“I believe that youth and women should be exposed to the excitement of pheasant hunting as it was back in the days when my father was growing up,” Martz said. “By the time I was in high school, the only place my friends and I had to hunt pheasants was here at the farm because of our busy schedules playing sports.
“At the same time, we are committed to honoring those now serving and those who previously served our nation in all branches of the armed forces. It is also important to thank those 65 and older who were there teaching us about the outdoors.”
For generations, thousands of hunters throughout eastern and central Pennsylvania and hundreds from Maryland, New Jersey and New York have been hunting pheasants and chuckers on their schedule at Martz’s from mid-September through mid-April. In recent years many of those regular hunters, including those who have season memberships, have discovered the added experience of Continental, also known as European, shoots.
Continental hunts simulate driven pheasants and consists of pass shooting out of comfortable blinds, which are able to keep shooters warm and dry even during inclement weather. There is a maximum of 33 shooters and a minimum of 11 shooters per hunt, which have been scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 19; Saturday, Jan. 16; Saturday, Feb. 13; Saturday, April 3; and Saturday, April 10.
In addition to pheasants, chukar partridge and Hungarian partridge are available to hunt. Private groups with a minimum of 11 shooters also have the option of scheduling their own Continental hunts.
“We plan to stock only cock birds for hunts through New Year’s Day,” Martz said. “This spring the habitat improvements made by farm manager Chris Lenker on our more than 1,300 acres will make it seem like hunting pheasants in the 1960s.”
Information about Martz’s Gap View Hunting Preserve is available by calling 800-326-8442 or going to www.martz.com.
Dietz is parliamentarian of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org