By Jessica Jones
For the Stettler Independent
The sixth annual Stettler Pheasant Festival on Oct. 18th, 19th and 20th is more than just a bird hunt.
The large, three-day celebration of pheasant conservation, hunting, and “field to fork” culinary education brings a unique opportunity to the local area, said Donna Morris of the Stettler Regional Board of Trade and Community Development.
The Stettler Pheasant Festival began in 2013 with the partnership between the Stettler Regional Board of Trade and Community Development, the Canadian Badlands Tourism and several dedicated volunteers.
Throughout the years it has grown to offer three days of privatized half or full day hunting on private lands inside Stettler County, with the opportunity to learn alongside educators from the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors’ Association, as well as chefs who teach registrants how to prepare and cook pheasant.
Morris said there is even a beginner hunt on Friday, Oct. 18th, free of charge, with the help of Harold Fakuda of Coulee Game Birds. She added that Fakuda will help interested registrants get started, showing them how to shoot, what to look for in the bird, “the whole basics.”
People interested in this opportunity should reserve their spot by calling 403-742-3181 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the Festival, a release of 300 Chinese Ringneck pheasants, the most popular breed, will be performed to help improve conservation within the County of Stettler, as well as to increase the pheasant population, said Morris.
“Southern Alberta was one of the largest areas for pheasants and so we are also trying to bring the birds back,” she said.
“We track where they are and how many roosters are harvested and how many are still remaining so there are further improvements for conservation,” Morris said, adding that they’ve noted baby chicks being born in the areas that the hens were released.
To date the Festival is responsible for releasing 1,500 of the strikingly colourful birds, which are trucked in from MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. located in Wisconsin, U.S. The idea is to try and get them, “Around the entire county,” Morris explained.
People also have the opportunity to aid in the conservation of pheasants by donating $25 to the adopt a pheasant program.
Morris said that there are a couple other pheasant festivals around the province but the Stettler Pheasant Festival is getting to be one of the larger ones.
She recalls a family coming every year, making the Stettler Pheasant Festival a part of their family reunion and tradition.
“It’s more than just a hunt, with a lot to do. Some people have come back since the beginning. It’s more relaxed because you have private land and so you can hunt, enjoy each other’s company, while also enjoying a favourite pastime,” Morris said. She also mentioned that they are very grateful to the landowners who have donated their land for the hunts.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Registration for the half-day sessions include privatized hunting grounds in pre-assigned areas for up to four hunters and their dogs.
Each half-day hunt will be $250, which pays for eight pheasants that are released prior to the hunt.
Registration for the Pheasant Festival go until it is sold out. Morris said they are starting to fill up and suggests registering sooner rather than later.
To register, and for more information as well as a list of activities, visit www.stettlerpheasantfestival.com.