went out anyway, and I guided them along for awhile as they slammed around and
shot up the place. Finally, all seven of them fired at the same bird and down
it came. (You got to understand that once a bird falls all friendships cease.)
One of 'em turns to me and says, 'O.K., Joe, who hit that bird?' It all seemed
so ridiculous. All I had in my hand was a piece of golden-rod, so I said, 'I
did.' He scorned me. 'No you didn't,' he said. 'You fired too late. I saw you.'
The Cox clientele
varies—politicos, businessmen with money, middle-incomers. Two of his clients
are big men—a financial adviser to a wealthy family and a politician, both of
whom he declined to name. They once caught a bird in cross fire and disagreed
violently as to who brought it down. "Pluck the bird," one demanded of
the guide, "and see which side it was shot." Cox intervened.
"Listen," he said, "you paid only to hunt. It'll be $10 extra for
tendencies of some of his customers, Cox manages to run an honest preserve. Jim
Dee, a development director for the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers
Institute, admits that some others do not. There are a few that use hidden
traps from which birds are released by trip wire when the hunter walks up.
Other preserves try to play straight but are just sloppily managed. One of
their worst sins is putting out poorly conditioned birds. Cox, whose birds are
in excellent shape, estimates his cost of operation at $2 a bird for pheasant,
chukar partridge and quail, and he insists that any cost-shaving results in
low-quality game. "There are clunkers," says Dee, "but they usually
end up out of business."
In most states
the game commissions try to see to it that the good preserves stay in business
as a supplement to natural hunting. But at the same time the states keep tight
control on acreage and seasons. The sizes of preserves vary generally from 100
to about 1,000 acres, but in the Southeast, where quail abound and more land is
needed, there are preserves that control as much as 10,000 acres.
Some are very
fancy. One such is the 6,000-acre Riverview Shooting Preserve, couched in the
flatlands of south Georgia on the muddy Flint River. By Georgia law only 1,000
of these acres can be open to shooting during the October 1 to March 31
preserve season. But during the six days (November 20-25) when Georgia runs a
statewide open season, Riverview's clients can hunt the entire 6,000 acres.
Whenever their customers shoot, Owners C. B. Cox (no relation to Joe) and Don
Hayes advertise their preserve as "strictly for the guy who can afford the
finest." They charge $45 per day per person, in return for which they grant
the privilege of bagging 12 quail; for an extra $3 per bird the client can keep
shooting indefinitely. While hunting he is accompanied by a guide, jeep and
dogs; for $15 more he can enjoy overnight accommodations, including a dinner of
catfish and hush puppies.
Though they have
been in business for only three years, Cox and Hayes say they have already
invested $200,000 in the project. Most of their business comes from the
company-president type and the corporate accounts, plus some wealthy fathers
introducing their young sons to hunting for the first time. "We steer
toward well-heeled businessmen," C.B. Cox says. "Presidents and
governors don't help us much."
are run as private clubs; one of the best of these is the Rainbow Springs
Lodge, five miles west of Mukwonago, Wis. It encompasses 945 acres and two
lakes, and its members—400 or more—are all from the Milwaukee and Chicago
areas. They pay by the shot at Rainbow Springs: $4 for ducks, $5 for pheasant,
$3.50 for chukar. Trout pulled in from a man-made lake are $1.60 a pound. The
lodge is a modified Swiss chalet with rooms up to $15 a day. A Milwaukee
real-estate developer, Francis J. Schroedel, owns the property and is president
of the board of directors. Schroedel declines to say what he charges to lease
the property, but it's plenty, and he claims to have spent $100,000 to raise
the birds. Club members usually are from what Schroedel calls the
"upper-third income bracket." Hunters who say they wouldn't be caught
dead on the place are usually those who couldn't afford to be.
Another kind of
preserve is typified by the Mills Brothers Game Bird Club just outside of
Bakersfield, Calif. Listed by the state game regulations as private, the Mills
Club actually is public. "We are open," says Owner Carl Mills, "to
anyone who wants to make a reservation and pay our daily rate." Mills has
720 acres, on which he limits hunters to 35 a day. He gets $5 per pheasant, $3
per chukar, with a bargain rate for larger lots. There are no sleeping
accommodations and just a small clubhouse, facts that reduce his overhead and
increase the range of his clientele from "five-and-dime clerks to movie
stars and millionaires." Mills raises 12,000 pheasants and 3,000 chukars a
season and objects regularly to the "idiotic" limit (six pheasants a
day, four chukars a day) imposed on his clients by state law. "You can go
right across into Nevada and shoot 1,000 a day," he cries. "Do you
think those birds know they're in California?"