Despite the snowy and wet fields, chilly temperatures and grey skies on festival weekend – Thursday, Oct. 13 to Sunday, Oct. 16 – the Pheasant Festival went off without a hitch, according to Stettler Board of Trade Executive Director Stacey Benjamin.
“It was definitely a success,” she said. “We received lots of compliments from our hunters.”
Only one hunting party cancelled, and the festival was able to accommodate people who wanted to move their hunt days to Sunday due to Thursday and Friday’s less-than-hospitable weather.
The festival included its tried and true events – the banquet, pheasant cooking lessons, and dog training sessions – but added a trap shooting competition to the fold this year as well.
“The Stettler Trap Club approached us and wanted to hold an event,” Benjamin said. “I know we had people register with us (for the event). For first year events, we always like to start small and see it grow.”
The festival has grown by leaps and bounds in its three years of existence, to the point where a profit is almost a guarantee. Pheasant Festival merchandise – sweatshirts, hats, travellers’ coffee mugs and more – disappeared fast, and hunters had a wonderful time in the community.
Each hunting party purchased either a half-day or full-day of hunting, which allowed them to hunt on a quarter of land. Festival volunteers released eight pheasant roosters in the area before the hunt began, giving the birds a chance to roost before the hunting commenced.
Hunters could purchase additional roosters for hunting, or could contribute to pheasant conservation in the area by purchasing hens, which were released after the hunt was complete.
These conservation efforts are visibly paying off, the board reported, as several hunters have reported successful hunts of band-less pheasants.
The pheasants released by the board have bands around an ankle to identify them, whereas those that breed from the released hens, surviving roosters, or wild pheasants do not.
The event would not be possible without the many volunteers who begin working weeks and months in advance of the festival to see the four days go off smoothly, said Benjamin. Volunteers man the banquet, set up and take down events, and release pheasants at hunt sites, besides doing site set up, putting up posters and manning the office. The four-day event saw between 30 and 40 volunteers hard at work.
“We had people come from all over for the hunt,” Benjamin said. “We had people from Athabasca to Victoria in town for the hunt.”
She said the people who come to the community not only enjoy the hunt and hunt-related activities, but support the community by spending at local businesses, making return visits and even have the potentiality of relocating to the community.
“I can’t thank our volunteers and landowners enough,” Benjamin said, noting that without landowner cooperation – who allow hunters to hunt on their land without any sort of recompense – the event would not be possible.