Picture it: pointers and flushers coordinatingly coursing in tandem through seemingly endless rolling fields with cover ranging from wild grasses to milo and standing corn, game birds exploding from the thick cover and shotguns blasting away. It was October in Nebraska.
There is something very special about upland bird hunting. And Pheasant Bonanza is a very special place to do it.
The saga began more than a couple of years earlier during the SCI Convention when Greg Middleton asked me to stop by the Pheasant Bonanza booth. Middleton, Pheasant Bonanza Managing Partner Trent Leichleiter and I talked about the hunting there and tried to get a hunt arranged.
For reasons I no longer remember, it didn’t happen that year, so this past Convention, we huddled again. This time, it worked. The pheasant safari would take place in October at the expansive ranch, located an hour or so from Omaha.
Middleton has been active in SCI forever and is an integral part of the Convention team each year. He also is active in local chapters, both in Nebraska and in adjacent Iowa. I came to learn that the Nebraska Chapter has held events at Pheasant Bonanza, but I digress from the hunt.
It was to be a quick, but intense couple of days, checking out the facilities and the birds while taking notes and photos along the way.
Separately, I was talking with Tim Bailey from California about shotguns (he heads the Dickinson Arms company) and by the time the dust settled, I showed up in Nebraska with a 12-gauge Dickinson Plantation side-by-side. Nice gun, but more about that later.
Situated squarely in the middle of corn, milo and other fields that stretch over the horizon, Pheasant Bonanza is a whole lot more than just a place to shoot birds.
It’s a place to have all kinds of fun with guns; socialize in spacious, opulent surroundings and generally indulge (or over-indulge) in the nicer things in life. We’re talking brandy and cigars after dinner for those who want to relax on the patio.
On various trips into the fields with a variety of dogs and fellow hunters, the true nature of Pheasant Bonanza came into focus. Doing it with a classic side-by-side was icing on the cake.
First, I joined Greg and his dogs Max and Ginny for a morning stroll through mixed fields of milo and wild brush just on the far side of a huge field of standing corn. Wet conditions earlier in the year meant a delay in the harvesting of the corn, so even in October, standing corn provided ample sanctuary for upland birds.
It was a joy to watch the dogs work the fields and then retrieve the birds that were shot. Both pheasants and bobwhite quail were the bounty on that outing.
Later, we joined other hunters and dog handlers, methodically working the long, wide and rolling fields. Soon, chukar partridge were added to the steady stream of pheasants, with a few quail, as well.
For the hunt, I used a 12-gauge Dickinson Arms side-by-side with 28-inch barrels and interchangeable chokes (improved cylinder and modified were used).
With case hardened action, side plates and other metal, it was a handsome gun and handled quickly and smoothly in the field. At an even eight pounds, it also carried very nicely.
The straight grip buttstock was checkered at 24 lines per inch and the wood buttplate also was checkered.
Fit and finish were all very nice. Overall, since it entered the market a number of years ago, Dickinson has made great strides in offering a wide variety of guns, ranging from over/unders and side-by-sides to pumps and semi-autos. Certainly, the Plantation side-by-side is a great upland gun, ready to take on pheasants, partridges and quail.
Of particular note was the quickness with which the gun went to the birds as they flushed. Its balance was such that as soon as the eyes focused on the bird, the gun was on-target and the shot a natural part of the fluid progression of movements.
When I used the Dickinson side-by-side instinctively, birds dropped from the sky.
A better run pheasant hunting operation I have not experienced. This is a high-class place that does everything just right.
Pheasant Bonanza is a premier hunting destination for all Midwest hunting needs in Nebraska and now Kansas.
“We offer a variety of packages including pheasant hunting, waterfowl hunting, turkey hunts, deer hunts, European hunts, day hunt packages, overnight hunt packages, an Orvis Endorsed Wingshooting Lodge and ice fishing,” said Leichleiter.
The centerpiece of the Pheasant Bonanza grounds is a stately, three-story lodge that boasts 15 rooms that can accommodate ___ hunters.
The facilities also are available for corporate retreats. Pheasant Bonanza has four retreat levels at the Orvis Endorsed Hunting Lodge.
Pheasant Bonanza offers a first-class dining experience for guests. From hand cut ribeyes to three bird pheasant soup, to handmade pies (grandma's crust recipe), the facility offers fresh ingredients and a world class dining experience.
“We offer dining in Roosters Pavilion,” said Leichleiter. “It features a full bar and restaurant, with a wide selection of wines, spirits and domestic and craft beers to complement our menu.”
In addition to the many hunting options available, Pheasant Bonanza also offers the entire range of clay target shooting disciplines.
Pheasant Bonanza's sporting clay course has 20 stations and is designed to replicate every conceivable shot encountered in the field from a covey of quail to crossing pheasants or hopping rabbits and decoying ducks.
“Our course is open to anyone,” said Leichleiter . “We have open shooting from 1-9 p.m. on league nights, and Fun Nights on the first Saturday of the month, May-August. We are open for appointments otherwise.”
The 5-stand course features the following shots: outgoing overhead tower, incomer, springing teal, crossing rabbit, and both right and left crossing.
The shooting area can be viewed from the Pavilion area. The course is lit and may be shot until 10 p.m. or later by appointment.
Pheasant Bonanza's skeet and trap field is a great place to learn how to shoot. Often it is used for fun shoots like flurries or Annie Oakleys.
The skeet and trap fields are lit and may be shot in the dark. Skeet & Trap is open to anyone by appointment.
Pheasant Bonanza is located near the Tekamah Municipal Airport - TQE (15 minutes distance) and Eppley Airfield - OMA (Omaha, NE - 1 hour distance).
To experience Pheasant Bonanza, just head to Nebraska and say hi to Trent and the gang at the office. Or, stop by booth 3047 at the SCI Convention in Reno. Visit www.pheasantbonanza.com.--Steve Comus