Upland bird hunting is known stereotypically as a rich mans sport. Fancy coats, clothing and pure bred, championship dog bloodlines are some of the things the average person thinks of.
At the Ashland County Pheasants Forever banquet back in March, one thing up for grabs was a pheasant hunt in October of 2015 at The Homestead Hunting Preserve in West Salem, Ohio.
There was a catch to sign up though. You had to be a woman and you had to be new to the sport.
Pam Kline-Eikleberry, owner of “The Homestead Hunting Preserve,” located about 15 minutes east of Ashland, Ohio, donated the hunt to the Pheasants Forever chapter. Best of all, the hunt was simply that, a donation. It cost the women, nothing to sign up and come spend a day pheasant hunting.
“I wanted to teach women how to pheasant hunt,” said Kline-Eikleberry. “I love the outdoors and wanted to pass that along to other women in our area.”
Just over half a dozen women signed up for the inaugural event, making their way to The Homestead on a windy and cool Friday morning.
“I thought it was great that [Kline-Eikleberry] wanted to donate this,” said Pheasants Forever representative, Lori Cline. “It’s great to expose women to hunting and get them involved in the sport.”
The Homestead Hunting Preserve has a number of fields with high and short grass available for hunters along with trees and some wooded areas, a wide-variety of property for all skill levels looking for a challenge.
The day started with safety training for the hunters, many of who had limited hunting experience. “I’d never killed anything other than a raccoon in my barn,” said Tiffany Meyer of Ashland. “This was a totally new experience, but something I’d been looking forward to since I signed up at the banquet in March.”
Kline-Eikleberry covered basic gun safety such as how to carry guns in the field, removing the safety, properly flushing the bird and shooting at a height and direction where no person or dog would be in danger.
After getting acquainted with the guns and ensuring proper safety, all of the women took to the field to begin their hunt.
The hunt was set up where one woman at a time, a dog and guide went out with two planted birds ahead of them in the field. Once the “find bird” command was given to the dog, it was all up to the female hunter and the dog to find success.
Mindi Cantrell of West Salem missed her first bird, but capitalized on her second opportunity knocking down a beautiful hen. “I thought this hunt was a great way to learn,” she added. “My husband, family and everyone I know hunts so it was good to get into it without having men pressuring me about doing things their way.”
Cantrell wasn’t the only one though who walked away with a bird. In fact, when it was all said and done, all participants walked away with a bird in hand.
“I was a bit scared a first,” said Meyer. “Flushing the bird and making sure it flew was a bit nerve wracking, but once I got into a rhythm all I could feel was excitement.”
For some this was an opportunity to call out sick from work on a Friday. But for others, this was the beginning of something they’ll do with their husbands, fathers, brothers and future kids and carry on to generations.
“It’s important for us to keep passing these things on,” said Cline. “I wasn’t from a hunting family but now that my husband and I do it, we’ll need to pass it on.”
In an area like Ashland County, full of farms and big outdoor retailers, teaching its residents especially women to hunt, provides a lot of growth for surrounding businesses.
“As a realtor, I sell large farms and vacant ground,” added Meyer. “Releasing pheasants and working with Pheasants Forever and The Homestead, it really benefits our community and gives us a natural resource to enjoy like the outdoors.”
As for all the women coming back to hunt pheasants, Mindi Cantrell said, “I live in this county and now know how to shoot birds. I would come back next week!”
In regard to future of this women’s hunt, The Homestead Hunting Preserve hopes to keep it going and continue to attract bigger crowds of women every year.
“I thought it was very successful,” said Kline-Eikleberry. “I hope all these women come back and bring others too.”