There are certain iconic places that come to mind when upland and waterfowl hunters think of American wingshooting destinations. There are the cropfields and prairies of the Dakotas, for example, the creeks and marshes of Chesapeake Bay and the longleaf pines and wiregrass of South Georgia.
Then there are the atypical. Southern New Jersey might be one of the best places to hunt brant, but Atlantic City’s casinos make for an “interesting” backdrop. Or the high country of Colorado—known for its blue and ruffed grouse but seldom thought of as holding birds typically associated with Alaska and northern Canada: ptarmigan.
Falling in between—and perhaps even in a category by itself—is Castle Valley Outdoors, a 15,000-acre ranch in southwestern Utah. Most of the hunting for pheasants and chukar is conducted in tracts of native grasses and food plots—not dramatically different from parts of North Dakota or Idaho, for example. But the red rock cliffs and buttes surrounding the river bottoms and bird fields state definitively to hunters that they “aren’t in Kansas anymore.” Castle Valley is unique in a number of ways, but none more than the fact that it sits in the heart of the West’s famous monument country. Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon are located within a couple hours of the lodge, and Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are even closer. This is storied country, evidenced by the nearby Rochester Rock Art Panel (a rock wall adorned by Fremont Indian petroglyphs that date back to 1300 AD), accessed by crossing the lodge’s property. A morning’s bag at Castle Valley might consist of a half-dozen pheasants, several chukars and a 400-year-old arrowhead.
Photographs courtesy of Castle Valley Outdoors and Terry Allen
Castle Valley rightfully plays up the exotic nature of its location. In addition to the usual amenities one would expect at a luxury lodge, the 10,000 square feet of space include a replica of the Rochester Panel and oversize windows that offer awesome views of the red rock cliffs that bracket the property. And although the main focus for most visitors is the excellent no-limit bird hunting, sorties to see some of the area’s attractions can be organized for shooters and non-shooters alike.
One of the best aspects of Castle Valley is that it is easily accessible, considering its remoteness. Salt Lake City is a mere three hours away (airport pickup/drop-off can be arranged), and the lodge is only 10 hours from Southern California, making it one of the few nationally recognized wingshooting destinations within driving distance of the Golden State.
In the end, Castle Valley offers the high-quality hunting, lodging, dining and service of a high-end hunting establishment in a setting that is certainly outside the norm. An intriguing blend of the typical and atypical—like a bag of gamebirds and arrowheads.