Sponsored by The Preserve at Crooked Run
The Preserve at Crooked Run might be an all-around outdoor venue but, above all, the Virginia-based business is driven by a deep-seated passion for wingshooting. The lead-up to bird season starts in the spring with a litany of habitat and logistical preparations that continue all the way to opening day, in October. While it is always extremely satisfying for those who have put in the hard work to hear the first shots of the season, the real excitement starts at the commencement of “prime time.” The span that runs from November to early February is when The Preserve’s beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains environment lends itself to great hunting and when The Preserve is firing on all cylinders.
“Traditional field hunting behind great bird dogs is the go-to wingshooting activity,” says owner and hunting guide Tommy Spellman. The Preserve specializes in custom wingshooting experiences, but a typical half-day begins at the Pro Shop (aka the General Store). After a meet-and-greet and safety talk over coffee, the party hits the 5 Stand and Wobble Trap for a quick warm-up. “We then hit the field in pursuit of various gamebirds including quail, pheasant, chukar and Hungarian partridge,” Spellman explains. “Our wingshooting grounds are specifically managed to ensure a high-quality experience. We believe that the key to our success here begins with maintaining a habitat in which our birds have the upper hand. A combination of native warm-season grasses, purposefully planted food plots and heavy transitional cover creates an environment where our birds can acclimate, hold over and produce larger coveys and more explosive flushes for wingshooters to enjoy.” When the hunt is over, guests convene at the lodge for a gourmet lunch. For those who want to call it a day, their birds will be cleaned and packaged for their departure. Those who want to keep the good times rolling through the afternoon have the choice of shooting at the Orvis-designed clays facility, pond fishing for trout or venturing again into the upland fields.
The Preserve also offers a completely different style of bird shooting in the form of its tower shoots. This activity features eight releases for a total of 320 birds for 16 Guns. A Tower Day starts with breakfast in the lodge and a safety orientation followed by four releases of pheasants and partridge. Then comes an intermission that features an outdoor warming fire, heavy snacks such as bacon-wrapped scallops and chili cooked over an open flame, as well as hot and cold refreshments. After returning to the field for another four releases, guests move to the luxurious main lodge to conclude the day with bourbon pours, appetizers and a gourmet ribeye-steak lunch.
“A number of things make our tower shoots special,” Spellman says, “but two aspects really stand out. The first is the premium quality of the entire affair. The grounds on which this shoot is conducted are meticulous, the blinds are well constructed, the shoot staff operates in a highly professional manner and the meals are exquisitely catered. The second aspect is that the event can be fully enjoyed by a wide array of shooters. The shooter who dresses in English attire and the one who prefers to wear khakis and a field shirt will feel equally comfortable at one of our shoots.”
Whether it be walk-up hunting or tower shooting, The Preserve is always happy to receive guests for day hunts and prides itself on doing everything necessary to make those days outstanding. That said, the dining and lodging options are world-class, so for the ultimate experience Spellman recommends overnight stays. “It’s a surefire way to turn a great day of shooting into an unforgettable wingshooting experience!”
Photographs by Alex Durino, courtesy of The Preserve at Crooked Run.