By Reid Bryant
I have come to believe that there is no place colder than the Midwest in winter and no people more placidly impervious to that cold than the bird hunters of Wisconsin. I was dwelling on this theory one December morning while wading through thigh-high sorghum. My fingers were wooden, my toes were numb and my eyes were spilling over, tears running down my cheeks. I looked over at my pal Brian Carle and guide Scott Kusel; both were gloveless and smiling, undaunted by the chill.
They were focused on Scott’s setter, which had emerged from the strip and swung around to push back in. Something stopped him short. He plunged his nose in the cover. Off to the right the stems quit moving, and the bracemate stopped to honor, his tail tip flagging just above the stems. I tried to shake some feeling into my fingers as Scott walked in to flush.
The rooster comported himself well: He jumped up cackling, shifted gears from vertical to horizontal and presented a textbook shot. I fumbled the safety, mounted poorly and missed with both barrels. Unfazed, Brian made a tidy right-to-left and dumped the bird into the ditch. He whooped and beamed and gave us a thumbs-up; just looking at his bare hands in all that cold made me shiver.
That December morning was the first of many I hope to spend at Milford Hills Hunt Club, in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin. Milford Hills is a wingshooter’s paradise tucked into sprawling farm country less than an hour’s drive from Milwaukee or Madison. Founded in 1996, the club comprises 500 acres of cropland and creek bottom that have been parceled into 13 hunting fields, two clays courses, a rifle and pistol range, and an archery course. Complementing these grounds is a magnificent main clubhouse and a freestanding trading post stocked with premium guns, outdoor clothing and shooting accessories. An adjacent property features the North Lodge, which can accommodate up to eight guests overnight. Perhaps the most striking feature of Milford Hills is a pervasive attention to detail: Despite months of hunting leading up to my visit, the cover was tall and untrammeled, and the roosters, chukars and quail were among the hardiest and hardest-flying I have seen. The entire facility is immaculate yet comfortable—a tone set largely by the warmth of the staff and regular guests. The mood at Milford Hills is one of convivial goodwill—a true passion for the hunting experience and all that goes with it resonate throughout.
An Orvis Endorsed Hunting Grounds, Milford Hills offers both memberships and public hunting by reservation. Lunch and dinner are served daily at the Clubhouse Restaurant, and a hearty breakfast is available by request. Post hunt, members, guests and friends convene around the full-service bar or enjoy appetizers beside the grand fieldstone fireplace.
In my case it was the fireplace that finally warmed my bones. Brian, Scott and I ate hot chili and relived the morning, and I weathered some good-natured ribbing about my fumbled shots and feeble New England constitution. Ah, well, I thought, leaning closer to the fire, that’s what friends are for.
For more information, visit milfordhills.com.