In fall, this family orchard becomes a bird hunting haven
Twin Ridge Upland Bird Farm’s small game preserve keeps hunting tradition thriving in West Virginia.
“We’ve always hunted, of course,” said Mark Minnick, one of the brothers who owns the farm. “Growing up here, my father and uncles have always small game hunted. It started out as a passion project that has turned into a part-time job. It’s just grown so much.”
Like most things that people find themselves passionate about, the brothers just sort of fell into it.
“We used to hunt on this apple orchard, and eventually that turned into guiding [other hunters] for [the owner], but after time it was too much for him to manage, and he offered it to us,” Mark said.
The property is still a fully functioning apple orchard, which is why Twin Ridge opens for hunting on Nov. 1 instead of in September, when the official season starts— they have to wait for all the apples to be picked.
But once November hits, the sport is on. Sign up for a 4-hour hunt in the morning or afternoon. At Twin Ridge Upland Bird Farm, it’s not a preserve in the sense that wild birds are kept on preserved land; instead, the brothers buy birds and release them for the sport. This means you can hunt quail, pheasant and chukars in any quantity or combination (and price point) you want.
If you’ve got a trained hunting pup, bring Fido to hunt alongside you. There is no guide required. But, if you want some extra help from someone who knows the land, you can book an expert guide or a well-trained hunting dog to join you.
For larger groups, or if you are looking for a more laid-back trip, sign up for a European-style hunt, where the birds are released from a tower above, and you position yourself around the tower below.
“Preserve hunting is a great option for novice hunters,” Mark said. “It’s a controlled atmosphere that is safe for young children, older hunters and even those with disabilities. Just the other week, I walked the field with a guy with Parkinson’s. There’s no way that he would be able to do, for example, a wild grouse hunt, but he can do preserve hunting.”
He said it’s a good introduction for children, who have more energy for the active style of hunting you do on the preserve.
“When I go out with my 2 daughters, it’s a lot more fun and they like it more because, unlike with deer hunting where you have to sit really still and just wait for the animal to come, preserve hunting is active— there’s a lot of walking and movement rather than waiting,” he said. “My girls like it so much better.”
The kids also help clean the birds, Mark’s parents help with cooking, and other family and friends help guide.
“It’s definitely a family operation,” he said. “And a great source of friendly competition for us too— my brother has pointers and I have Brittanys, so we like to argue about whose dogs are the best.”
Maybe you can weigh in on that debate on a trip to the orchard!
This post was last updated on July 28, 2020