By Scott Mims
A hunting trip doesn’t always yield the desired results. Perhaps you could even say that the uncertainty is part of the thrill. But it helps to have a good place to start.
It was a disappointing hunting trip that inspired Mike Atcheson and Jeff Giles, owners of Central Alabama Fowl Preserve in southern Chilton County, to turn their love of duck hunting into something more.
While hunting in Arkansas about 10 years ago, Atcheson and Giles spotted a billboard that read, “Guaranteed Duck Hunting.” This seemed like an idea they could take back to Central Alabama.
“That’s basically how we got started,” Atcheson said. “We got the idea from him (the Arkansas preserve’s owner) and just built on it year after year.”
Of course, there were other preserves, but many of them consisted of just one pond and one group of ducks.
“Ours is more spread out, and it’s more like natural duck hunting in the wild,” Atcheson said.
Located not far from Stanton, the Central Alabama Fowl Preserve offers duck, pheasant and quail hunting, as well as skeet shooting. Atcheson and Giles own about 60 acres of land and lease 300 more from family members.
About 2,500 mallard ducks are released on the property each year, along with 50-100 pheasant and quail. At the time of release, the ducks are between 15 weeks and 20 weeks old. Atcheson estimated that up to 800 ducks are not killed by hunters.
“We wind up populating the state with more ducks,” he said.
The preserve boasts 120 acres of creek bottomland and 30 ponds. Among these ponds are several duck blinds (a blind is a shelter, usually camouflaged with reeds and grasses, for the purpose of concealing the hunter). Hunters may also utilize duck calls, decoys and hunting dogs provided by the preserve, although some opt to bring their own dogs.
A guide can assist both beginners and experienced hunters and can make the experience more enjoyable, Atcheson said.
“The less-than-average shooters have a better chance of shooting ducks (at a preserve),” he said. “Young people can shoot with their parents, and we also offer more challenging shooting for the experienced hunter. We do our best to make it as close to duck hunting in the wild as we can make it.”
The preserve is now in its eighth season with potential for future expansions. It hosts events for Girl Scouts, church groups, women’s groups and corporations. There is a lodge with sleeping quarters for 12 people and a full kitchen.
“A buffet-style breakfast is included in hunting packages,” Atcheson noted.
Both Atcheson and Giles have full-time jobs. Atcheson is a truck driver, and Giles is a maintenance electrician.
While Atcheson has been hunting since his teens, it was mostly deer hunting he did in his younger days. He first got into duck hunting in the mid-’90s. He seems to prefer duck hunting now because it involves more movement rather than staying in one place for hours on end.
“It’s more of a camaraderie and something you can do with somebody,” he said. “It’s more fun and exciting.”
Reservations are now being accepted for duck hunts on any Saturday through March 2013. The cost for four ducks is $159 per hunter ($35 per duck over four). A reservation fee of $50 is required.
For more information about the Central Alabama Fowl Preserve, call (334) 366-2589 or (334) 412-3509, visit alfowlpreserve.com or e-mail email@example.com. All activities are by reservation only.