Above: Offering everything from Continental shoots to sporting clays, The Preserve at Boulder Hills is a playground for shooting enthusiasts. Members enjoy a beautiful clubhouse, well-managed grounds and activities that include not only shooting, but also golf, hiking, fishing and rock climbing.
Enjoying the sporting life at The Preserve
By Gregg Elliott
A member needed help. So amidst cackling pheasants and booming gunfire, a call went out.
“We need 20-gauge ammo, Peg 12, right away,” a blonde-haired woman barked into a walkie-talkie.
“Twenty-gauge ammo, Peg 12, whose got that?” a husky voice crackled back as a squadron of roosters zoomed over the heads of the shooters. Bang! Bang! . . . Bang! . . . Bang! Even though all three birds looked out of range, one tumbled and then another. Cheers and calls of “Great shot!” and “Nice shooting!” could be heard as another brace of pheasants zipped into range, passing right to left across three pegs. All six shooters fired, one after another . . . and the birds flew on untouched.
As everyone reloaded, a single rooster sped into view—dead ahead but low. The crimson badges around his eyes shown against the blue sky as he came closer, closer, closer . . . then Bang! A shot from the mother-and-son team on the right crumpled the bird into the knee-high grass. The mother beamed as her boy broke open his over/under and dropped in a fresh shell.
We were in southern Rhode Island at The Preserve at Boulder Hills, a private resort that was wrapping up the second round of its December 2020 Holiday Cheer Shoot. Twenty-four guests were enjoying a Continental shoot that included a full breakfast, a 1,500-pheasant release, a dinner of filets topped with lobster, and Scotch and cigar pairings. Members had paid $2,000 for the event, and The Preserve staff was doing everything it could to make sure participants were getting their money’s worth.
“Ammo?” the blonde woman again barked into her walkie-talkie.
“This is John at the shop. I got it.”
“Perfect,” she said. “Get it on the cart.”
“How many boxes do you need?”
“Send a case. The shooting’s hot up here today.”
As the member waited, handlers whistled their dogs into action. A husky yellow Lab bounded out from the peg on our left but was outpaced by a Brittany sprinting from the right. The dogs retrieved one pheasant after another until the field was clear. When the ammo cart arrived, the member dumped yellow shells into her vest pocket and rejoined the action.
The Preserve at Boulder Hills is New England’s first “guntry club,” and for those who’ve dreamed of owning a sporting estate, it’s the place to be. Across 3,500 acres The Preserve offers enough activities to keep sportsmen busy year-round: a golf course, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a fitness center, 12- and 18-station sporting clays courses, two 5 Stand setups, a Continental-shoot layout, and 300 acres of fields for upland hunting. There’s also fly-fishing, ziplining, ATV trails and rock-climbing walls as well as plans to add an equestrian center. Add to that lodging options and a luxury clubhouse that can accommodate a couple of hundred guests. And in the future there will be more lodges, a hotel and a helicopter pad for quick access from anywhere. While The Preserve at Boulder Hills is pricey (memberships cost up to $300,000), it’s one of the easiest ways to buy into a vacation property that feels like one’s own luxury estate and personal sanctuary.
The shooting facilities at The Preserve are especially impressive. Upland areas include fields of standing grass and sorghum that look like they belong in South Dakota. The tower-shoot pegs and sporting-clays courses include artful touches like timber-frame structures and stone fire rings, and scattered throughout are luxurious warming lodges for relaxing in any weather.
“We wanted to create memories,” said The Preserve’s Chairman, Paul Mihailides, reflecting on his goals in building the resort. To that end he made sure that the resort offered a range of unique amenities plus first-class accommodations and five-star service. Different mixes of all this are available at four levels: the Preserve Membership, the Ram Membership, the Sporting Clays Membership and the Corporate Membership.
Preserve Members enjoy year-round access to everything the resort offers, including 24/7 hospitality and concierge services—the kind of assistance one would expect from a top hotel and resources like an onsite interior decorator and full-service catering. Hospitality and concierge services also provide access to any equipment needed to experience The Preserve’s activities, from fly rods and ATVs to shotguns and ammunition. Ram Members are offered these amenities and services 12 days a year, while a Sporting Clays membership allows use of The Preserve’s clays courses, shooting facilities and indoor ranges. Corporate Members can pick and choose days, amenities and services whenever they need to entertain clients or host team-building retreats.
One of the most appealing aspects of both a Preserve and Ram Membership is having access to the resort’s lodging facilities. Joining at these levels gives one a carefree way to enjoy a vacation home with a 3,500-acre backyard. Members can travel to The Preserve (which is 150 miles from Manhattan and less than 100 miles from Boston) and stay in one of its condominiums, townhouses or luxury cabins. Those looking for a truly memorable experience can enjoy glamping options like treehouses, Airstream trailers, yurts and safari-style tents. The Preserve even has whimsical Hobbit Hillside Homes, which are cozy, rock-faced residences built into hillsides and topped with turf that feature stone floors, fireplaces, skylights and round doors.
Along with overnight and weekly lodging, The Preserve offers residences that can be purchased for seasonal or year-round use. At press time 55 residences had been built, and there was a cap of 150. Residences are outfitted with such amenities as gourmet kitchens, screening rooms, elevators and wine cellars, and buyers can purchase them fully outfitted or work with The Preserve’s design-and-construction team to build a custom home.
New England’s first “guntry club” boasts the well-stocked Sporting Shoppe, the country’s longest indoor range and even Hobbit Hillside Homes.
All residences come with 24/7 concierge services, and this was one of the features that convinced one full-time resident to move to The Preserve with her sons several years ago. “I was such a city girl,” she said. “I was living in a high-rise in downtown Boston, and I would never leave the city.” But a chance visit to The Preserve changed her mind. “It’s like a five-star hotel when it comes to amenities. Everything’s included. If we want to ride ATVs, they have them ready for us. If the kids want to go fishing, I don’t have to buy equipment.” The team at The Preserve even helps with the kind of everyday tasks that make life easier. “The landscaping is taken care of, the plowing is taken care of, snow gets cleared off my car . . . . You couldn’t ask for a better place to be a single mother.”
Being able to step into The Preserve’s sporting lifestyle has brought other benefits, as well, including opening the family’s eyes to the outdoors and to firearms, shooting and hunting. “I had never been on an ATV,” the resident said, “but now I love it. And the wildlife. I’ve seen a snowy owl; I’ve seen mink . . . . . It has also made my kids more well-rounded and really educated them about guns.”
It’s obvious how committed The Preserve is to the shooting sports as soon as you drive into the parking lot and see the Sporting Shoppe, the resort’s sporting-goods store. Spread out over two sprawling floors, the Sporting Shoppe is open to the public and sells everything from archery and camping equipment to dog-training gear, ammunition and new and used firearms. There’s also clothing and accessories for hunting and shooting and even prints and sketches by famous sporting artists. In the luxury-gun vault is a selection of high-end doubles, such as Purdeys, Beretta SL3s, Connecticut Shotgun A-10s and Krieghoff Parcours along with vintage doubles like Sauers and Parkers. There are special items like antique double rifles and several models of over/unders and side-by-sides from FAMARs, the Italian gunmaker that Paul Mihailides purchased in 2014.
The Sporting Shoppe also boasts a world-class indoor range. It features 19 shooting lanes, including four 150-yard rifle lanes (the longest indoor lanes in America), as well as lockers and facilities for firearms training and shooting simulations. While the range is private, membership is open to everyone and costs just $450 a year.
As The Preserve’s 2020 Holiday Cheer Shoot came to an end, members cased their well-used shotguns, handlers called tired dogs to heel and everyone came together to honor the birds taken. The smiling faces were proof positive that The Preserve at Boulder Hills was fulfilling Mihailides’ original vision. That day and every day at The Preserve families enjoy wonderful times, friendships are strengthened and memories are created.
For more information about The Preserve at Boulder Hills, visit thepreserveri.com.