Farmers Welcome Hunters, Bird Dogs to Find Game on Land

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Hunters at Meadow Brook Game Farms

Farming and hunting go together like bread and butter – and can provide a hefty slice of an operation’s bread-and-butter livelihood. Since the 1950s, Richard Denning’s family has combined hunting with farming on their 1,200-acre Westmoreland property called Meadow Brook Game Farm. About 10 percent of the operation’s income stems from its status as a shooting preserve for game birds, specifically pheasant, chukar and quail.

Denning’s row-crop farm schedules hunting outings from Nov. 1 through March 31, which, he explains, “brings in income in the winter when we’re not doing a lot of farming.”

While Meadow Brook primarily offers game bird hunting, some landowners and hunters focus on other species and arrangements. “I know quite a few farmers leasing their property and hunting rights to hunters,” says Don Crawford, who’s with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). “Sometimes it’s specific for, say, deer or whatever is in season. And sometimes it’s all hunting rights.”

In addition to lease profits, the practice is a “legitimate management tool,” Crawford notes, because it can minimize the wildlife population raiding a farmer’s crops. The TWRA leases fields from farmers and allows the public to hunt on these leased properties.

For the Birds

Somewhere between 300 and 400 hunters a year come to Meadow Brook to bag their limit at $120 minimum per hunter. “There’s no maximum limit because the birds are released,” Denning says, as opposed to migratory. “The hunters can shoot as many birds as they want to pay for.”

The crowd who hunts at Meadow Brook ranges from experienced to novice, Denning says. “We get a lot of guys who hunted a little bit when they were growing up, went to college, and then moved to the city,” he says. “Now all they see all day long is concrete and pavement and the building they’re sitting in.”

Guides make sure even the inexperienced get game. “[The guide] takes the dogs out and flushes the birds out,” Denning explains. Some places charge for every bird released, but not at Meadow Brook. “Here, they’re only going to pay for the birds that they shoot. We guarantee the hunt. We’re going to make sure that they get all that they want.” Denning attributes the guarantee policy to the expertise of the preserve’s guides. “If the hunters listen to the guides, they won’t have a problem getting the birds,” he says confidently.

Hunters at Meadow Brook Game Farm

A Hunter’s Best Friend

Jimmy White, a Meadow Brook guide for 37 years, has judged around 250 bird dog trials (competitions) in the United States and Canada and has raised several champion dogs. “You look for natural ability,” says White, who works with pointers and setters. The dogs need to know where there should be birds, and hunt the cover, he adds. “They don’t need to be running around out there. They’ve got to be thinking ‘bird.’ ”

At Meadow Brook, the dogs point and retrieve. “I don’t keep them on ‘steady wing shot’ at Meadow Brook,” White says. He refers to the practice in which the dog flushes the birds, points, then stays put until released to retrieve the harvest.

A hunter himself for 50 years, White enjoys guiding at Meadow Brook. “I’ve always said if you want to know who a true person is, you go hunting or fishing with them,” he says. “You will pretty well find out.”

Visiting hunters at Meadow Brook are there to have a good time. “That’s what we try to do,” he says.

Testimonies from satisfied clients posted on the farm’s website back up his assessment. “It was [my son’s] first hunting experience,” one father explained. “Jimmy White was very patient with him and gave him just the perfect amount of instructions.” Another wrote, “There were plenty of birds and the service you all provided us with was second to none.”

“I haven’t had a person leave yet that didn’t get their limit,” White says. “We just never have people leave disappointed.”

But, as any hunter will tell you, hunting is not just about bagging the limit. Most farmers are hunters, too. They understand the joy of being in the woods and fields in the early morning or late afternoon. They know the thrill of the chase. They enjoy the companionship of other hunters.

“It’s kind of nice to put something in the freezer,” Crawford says, “but mostly hunting is about the camaraderie of family and friends. It’s about getting out there and connecting with nature.”

Denning agrees. “We have a lot of fun, just having fellowship and cutting up and joking,” the landowner says.

As for White, the guide thinks he knows what many of the hunters that he takes out appreciate the most. “A lot of them enjoy watching the dogs work as much as they do any other part of hunting,” he says.

Hunting Dog at Meadow Brook Farms

This Dog Will Hunt

Jimmy White has hunted for more than 50 years. He recalls shooting rabbit with his father’s double-barrel shotgun. “I’d walk up on some birds, too, but I didn’t kill very many,” says the veteran bird dog trainer. He purchased his first dog, Bob, for $25 when he was a teenager. He sold the dog a year later for $150. “I thought I was getting rich,” he says with a laugh.

Nowadays, one of White’s trained dogs can go for as much as $10,000 to $20,000.

“It takes a long time and a lot of patience and a lot of hard work,” he says about dog training. Yet even professionally trained dogs should be showered with affection, he believes. “The more you pet them and the more you love them,” he says, “the more they’ll think of you and the more you’ll think of them. It doesn’t hurt to spoil them.”

Open Season

In addition to game birds, other popular winter hunting in Tennessee includes deer (Nov. 17, 2012-Jan. 6, 2013), turkey (March 30-May 12, 2013), quail (Nov. 3, 2012-Feb. 28, 2013), dove (Dec. 19, 2012-Jan. 15, 2013), and raccoon/opossum (Sept. 21, 2012-Feb. 28, 2013). Rules and regulations vary by region. For a list of hunting seasons and events, as well as details about licensing, wildlife management areas and shooting preserves, check www.tnwildlife.org. To learn more about Meadow Brook, visit www.meadowbrookgamefarm.com.

1 Comment

  1. Nancy Watson

    December 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    My husband looking to deer hunt. How much do u charge?

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