Real People. Stihl People.

Rural Missouri Magazine

Wing shooters welcome
Fast-paced action awaits hunters at Moser's Pheasant Creek

by Jason Jenkins
Fred Brookshire, left, and Danny Crigler react as a rooster pheasant flushes during a January hunt at Moser's Pheasant Creek.
Fred Brookshire, left, and Danny Crigler react as a rooster pheasant flushes during a January hunt at Moser's Pheasant Creek.

"Birds in here, Bo. Let’s hunt ’em up.”

The 7-year-old Brittany spaniel hardly needs Roger Brookshire’s encouragement. After a quick sniff of the gentle southerly breeze, Bo puts his nose to the ground.

Like a shuttle on a weaver’s loom, he steadily threads himself through the tall prairie grass along a harvested cornfield, zigging and zagging past foxtails, clover and cockleburs. Suddenly, Bo freezes.

“He’s on point up here, boys,” hollers Danny Crigler. “Definitely a bird in there; that dog’s as stiff as a board.”

With muscles quivering beneath his liver-and-white coat, Bo holds his point until the hunters move in, denying his hard-wired desire to spring on the bird.

“This one’s yours, Fred,” Danny says, his eyes fixed on the clump of grass to which Bo points. “Get ready.”

Pheasant Creek owner Mike Moser, removes a plastic blinder from a rooster pheasant’s beak before a hunt. When penned together, the birds will peck at each other, and the blinders help prevent injury.
Pheasant Creek owner Mike Moser, removes a plastic blinder from a rooster pheasant’s beak before a hunt. When penned together, the birds will peck at each other, and the blinders help prevent injury.

Fred Brookshire raises his Browning A-5 Sweet 16 shotgun to his shoulder and steps forward. Without warning, the ring-necked pheasant explodes into the air, cackling as it attempts an escape. But the helicopter beat of the rooster’s wings is quickly silenced by Fred’s Browning.

“Great shot, Dad,” says Brian Brookshire as Bo retrieves the bird. “That’s the way it’s done.”

The same could be said for the hunting preserve at which the four men from Ashland, Rolla and St. Charles enjoyed their day.

Since 1985, Mike and Bonnie Moser have catered to the upland game bird hunter, offering realistic, wild-style pheasant hunts at competitive prices. Today, more than 1,200 hunters annually make the trip to Moser’s Pheasant Creek, located north of New Franklin in Howard County.

Preserves like Moser’s are popular with those who want to ensure their hunts are filled with many opportunities to harvest birds.

“We started up the hunting business as a way to earn some extra money and keep us on the farm,” says Mike, who still grows about 150 acres of row crops. “Now I guess you’d say the hunting supports my farming habit.”

The Howard Electric Cooperative members sold 300 ring-necked pheasants their first year. Rather than offering many species, the Mosers focused solely on pheasants, raising the birds themselves. Today, the couple raises more than 9,000 birds annually to satisfy demand at their licensed hunting preserve.

Raising pheasants is similar to raising conventional poultry such as chickens or turkeys. However, pheasants take much longer to reach maturity, about 20 to 22 weeks, as opposed to broiler chickens, which are market-ready in as little as six weeks.

Like many bird species, male and female ring-necked pheasants have strikingly different plumage. While males are bright and colorful, females are drab and mottled. The camouflage helps protect females from predators while on the nest.
Like many bird species, male and female ring-necked pheasants have strikingly different plumage. While males are bright and colorful, females are drab and mottled. The camouflage helps protect females from predators while on the nest.

One other key difference is that while all the birds will eventually reach the dinner table, the pheasants are tasked with one other specific duty — flying like wild birds.

“The standard we’ve set for ourselves is raising good-looking, good-flying birds that get as close to hunting wild birds as possible,” says Mike, who also is president of the Missouri Game Bird Breeders and Hunting Preserve Association. “We’re raising athletes, so they get fed a special diet high in protein and essential amino acids.”

The Moser’s athletes get plenty of exercise, too. For the last eight to nine weeks before they reach maturity and thereafter, the birds are housed in flight pens where they condition their flight muscles. Netting ensures the birds remain in their enclosures. “They stay pretty wild,” Mike says.

Mike and Bonnie moved to their current location in 1993, expanding to about 500 acres of pheasant hunting habitat in 2001.

Moser’s Pheasant Creek offers a wide range of hunting packages to accommodate groups of any size. From September to April, hunters can choose among several half-day and full-day hunts, selecting as few as three pheasants for a single-person hunt. An area can be reserved for an entire day for parties purchasing a 27-bird package or more. Current prices range from $113 for a half-day, six-bird hunt for up to two hunters to $460 for a full-day, 27-bird hunt for up to four hunters.

Bo retrieves a ring-necked pheasant rooster for Roger Brookshire.
Bo retrieves a ring-necked pheasant rooster for Roger Brookshire.

Hunters are required to obtain a Missouri Licensed Hunting Preserve Hunting Permit. Any number of birds, male or female, may be hunted.

“I’d say we cater to the middle-class hunter,” Mike says. “We try to keep our prices reasonable. You’ll find preserves in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota charging two to three times what we charge.”

Guide services also are available for hunters without dogs, or for those skeptical about how their dogs will perform. Mike and Bonnie maintain a kennel of dogs, including Labrador retrievers and Vizsla pointers.

“It was outstanding. We had a great time,” says Brian Brookshire of Ashland, who made his first trip to Moser’s in January. “We hunt wild pheasants on a regular basis, and the way Mike’s birds are flight-conditioned, it’s about as good as it gets when it comes to mimicking the real thing.”

While Mike ensures an action-packed pheasant hunt, Bonnie keeps busy inside the Pheasant Creek hunting lodge — a converted hog farrowing house — where she serves up a hot lunch for hunters. “After walking around all morning in the cold, the guys like to come in and get something warm in their bellies,” she says.

The Mosers recently added a 2,000-square-foot conference center to the rear of the lodge, improving their ability to serve larger groups. “We’re equipped now to handle company retreats and parties,” Mike says. “We’re ideal for folks who want to do some business and then entertain clients or guests with a pheasant hunt.”

Jim Reinsager waits in the tall grass adjacent to a wetland cell as Moser’s flock of captive-reared mallards approaches. A half-day mallard duck hunt with a guide costs $150 and provides a reasonable chance to harvest three drakes and three hens.
Jim Reinsager waits in the tall grass adjacent to a wetland cell as Moser’s flock of captive-reared mallards approaches. A half-day mallard duck hunt with a guide costs $150 and provides a reasonable chance to harvest three drakes and three hens.

For those who’d like to stay longer than just a day, Pheasant Creek offers lodging for up to 11 guests in a remodeled 1860s farmhouse.

Equipped with modern amenities, the house has three separate sleeping areas with baths, as well as common areas to eat, watch TV or play cards. Many of the house’s hand-hewn timbers, joined with wooden pegs, are exposed, adding to the rustic charm. The current lodging rate is $65 per person, which includes breakfast and lunch from “Bonnie’s Kitchen.”

While pheasants have been Mike and Bonnie’s bread and butter, in 2005 they began a new venture, offering half-day hunts for captive-reared mallard ducks. Such hunting is quite popular on the East Coast, but Mike believes they are among the first to offer it in the Midwest.

“We have a resident mallard flock that we raise from ducklings,” Mike explains. “They’re penned at night, but during the day, they’re free to fly around our 120 acres of wetlands.”

Regulations allow captive-reared duck hunting from Sept. 1 to Feb. 15. According to Jim Reinsager of Camdenton, hunting these ducks closely resembles hunting their migratory cousins.

“They flare just like wild ducks when they see that gun come up,” says Jim, who has hunted regularly at Moser’s for the past 15 years.

The Brookshire hunting party heads out for an afternoon hunt after eating lunch at “Bonnie’s Kitchen.”
The Brookshire hunting party heads out for an afternoon hunt after eating lunch at “Bonnie’s Kitchen.”

While there have been changes in the hunting preserve industry since Moser’s first opened, there has been one constant. “It’s all about people,” Mike says. “If you don’t like people, you shouldn’t be in the business.”

By providing hunters with a relaxed atmosphere and hunting action that rivals that of wild hunts, Mike and Bonnie have brought together the elements that make trips to Moser’s Pheasant Creek special for clients, including the Brookshires.

“To us, it’s all about spending time with family and friends,” says Brian. “Being able to do it while you’re out there hunting pheasants — it’s just a great time for us.”

Moser’s Pheasant Creek is located north of New Franklin on Highway 5. For more details, call Mike and Bonnie at 660-848-2621 or visit their Web site at www.moserspheasantcreek.com.

Rural Missouri December 2014
Best of Rural Missouri Readers' Choice Contest
 
Rural Missouri Merchandise Out of the Way Eats Subscribe to Rural Missouri Rural Missouri Prints Store

Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102
573-659-3423

Rural Missouri's Facebook Page Rural Missouri's YouTube Channel Subscribe to Rural Missouri's RSS Feed Rural Missouri | Pinterest