Northwoods Sporting Journal 
By V. Paul Reynolds


Commercial hunting preserves have their detractors – especially among traditional Mainers accustomed to years of nearly unlimited, no-fee access to hunting territory.

The thinking goes something like this…

 

Read Reviews on Shepody Pheasant Hunting Preserve in 
"The Maine Sportsman
November 1996

and

"The Northwoods Sporting Journal"
 December 1999

 

“Hunting a commercial game preserve isn’t really hunting. After all, some guy fattens this bird in a pen and then, for a price, the bird is planted in a field and you walk up and shoot it. The cover isn’t natural, nor is the quarry wild. As hunters, you and your dog are simply clients being shepherded about in a contrived setting. If the Texans like this sort of thing, well that’s their business. No thanks. Preserves aren’t for me. It’s all too easy.”

I’m here to tell you that the cynics are wrong. Dead wrong. Preserve hunting – if it’s the right preserve- can be one of those memorable and very special outdoor experiences. In fact, if you are a frustrated upland hunter whose dog just isn't getting enough exposure to game birds and all that goes with an action-packed upland hunt, spend three days at the Shepody Pheasant Preserve on the Bay of Fundy in Albert, New Brunswick.

Like my wife Dianne and me, you will not only change your opinion about preserves, you will start planning next year’s trip before you even reach the duty free shop on your way home. In short, the Shepody experience will make you a true believer, a proponent of classy hunting preserves and what they can do for your wing shooting skills, your dog’s education and you enthusiasm for upland hunting.

Here are some reasons why.

The Shepody Pheasant Hunting Preserve comprises 400 acres overlooking the Bay of Fundy near Harvey’s Bank in southeaster New Brunswick. The scenery and the bird cover is diverse and breathtakingly spectacular in every respect. Rolling hills, softwood forests, mowed and unmowed fields, berry brush, marshlands, new growth, tote roads and always lots of edges to work the dog against a backdrop of the shimmering Bay and winding tidal basins. Nearby, the famous Mary’s Point is a Mecca for international birdwatchers.

The Shepody Lodge is a cozy 4-bedroom cottage, a lovely rebuilt 180-year old farmhouse, that sits atop a bluff with a sweeping panoramic view of Shepody Mountain and the Bay of Fundy. In early October, Canada Geese make vees in the sky before the flaming sunrises across the Bay. Delightful Country style home cooked meals and the gracious hospitality of the Shepody owners Claude and Lynn Dixon add a special dimension to an action-filled daily hunt.

The Dixons started the Shepody Preserve in 1989. It is the only one of its kind in New Brunswick. Telling their story, Claude and Lynn beam with pride when they recount the hard work and long days that have shaped the Shepody Preserve. As they start their 11th year, it still takes long days and hard work to maintain the quality experience for which their Preserve has become famous. Claude and his wife Lynn, a bright articulate woman who was once a highly successful regional sales director for a cosmetics company, have four daughters and a son whose ages range from 18 to 29. The Dixons, who are native New Brunswickers, lived for a number of years in Alberta. They returned to New Brunswick in 1974. An accomplished cook who enjoys downhill and cross-country skiing when time permits, Lynn is Claude’s partner in a dawn-to-dusk beef farm operation, as well as the hunting preserve.

Claude Dixom, a former New Brunswick game warden, has thoughtfully partitioned his 400 acre preserve into five distinct hunting zones. Although Dixon says there was no master plan, that it just evolved as he acquired new pieces of abutting land, each zone seems strategically located so as to give the hunter and dog plenty of solitude and elbow room. Each zone contains a mixture of diverse bird covers and terrain that challenge both the dog and hunter.

Dixon breeds and raises about 6,000 pheasant a year for his preserve. His birds are spread out in flight pens that are 50’ x 150’. By allowing 20 square feet per bird, and feeding them a low fat feed, he is able to raise game birds that are strong flyers and as wild as possible. In fact, having hunted somewhat slow-witted and overfed stocked pheasant raised in Massachusetts, I was impressed by the performance contrast between the Shepody pheasant and those planted by state biologists in the Bay State. Shepody birds are as billed: strong flyers, crafty and elusive, and the roosters are as handsome as any pheasant in the wild.

During our two-day hunt at Shepody, Diane, our setter pup Sally, and I hunted four of the five zones. Our first day, we hunted Zone 4, which is a composite of fields, alders and scrub growth situated on a hillside overlooking a meandering marsh and an expansive wetland. In the first few minutes, Sally began pointing birds. Before the morning was up, we had points and flushes on a half dozen hen pheasant, including a handsome rooster that outsmarted us all – man, woman and dog. In the afternoon, we hunted Zone 5. By 4 o’clock, we called it a day. Thanks to some poor shooting, we wound up the day with an empty game pouch and a tired setter. Sally located and “locked up” on more than a half dozen birds that first morning. Diane and I missed almost that many.

The next day was a different story. After a session of shooting clays behind the lodge and some coaching from Claude, Diane, Sally and I headed for Zone 2 with fresh expectations and gunmanship. Within 30 minutes, Sally went on point on the edge of an unmowed field. A hen took to flight and it soon bit the dust after flying through my load of No.6 shot. “Dead bird,” I was finally able to say to Sally as her magical little nose ferreted out our prize - her first pheasant – from under some clumps of dead vines.

“Good girl, good girl,” I cooed to Sally, as she sniffed and wagged through a picture – taking sessions with Diane and her Pentax. By late afternoon, the wonderful scene repeated itself four times. Our 10-month old setter pup just got better as the day wore on, and our wing shooting improved somewhat, too.

Then a bonus. Shepody guide Doug Hawkes, who seemed smitten by our delicate but hard driving English Setter, invited Diane and I to hunt with him and his 4-year old Brittany. Diane wanted to see what a veteran “finished” dog could do. As a team, Doug and his “Brit” were a pleasure to watch and learn from. “Brit,” a careful, meticulous hunter, works the pheasant cover like a pro. When the scent got hot, she slinked and picked her way toward the hunkered down pheasant like a cat after a songbird. Doug, an easygoing gentle man who has a way with people and bird dogs, put us into some fine birds. Soon the shadows lengthened and we headed for the lodge with our birds and a good tired feeling.

“What a great way to celebrate a 35th wedding anniversary,” I thought to myself. A glance from Diane and a quick smile told me that the same thought had also crossed her mind.

Shepody is Atlantic Canada’s largest game bird hunting preserve and the only one of its kind in New Brunswick. It’s season runs from September 1 to December 31. Shepody is located in Albert, New Brunswick about 17 miles from Fundy National Park. From Bangor, it is a scenic 6 hour drive to Shepody. Although a number of different hunting packages are available, a two day hunt, which includes three night accommodations, all meals and licenses, is $495 Canadian funds. For U.S. citizens, with the currency discount of about 48% a three day stay at Shepody is about $250 per person.

copyright © V. Paul Reynolds
used with permission

 

Updated 11 September 2016
©
Shepody Pheasant Hunting Preserve 2004
206 Mary's Point Rd.
Harvey, Albert Co., New Brunswick    CANADA