Although the regular bird hunting seasons have ended, hunters still have places to hunt. The various hunting clubs and preserves offer hunting for quail, pheasant and chukar.

Although the regular bird hunting seasons have ended, hunters still have places to hunt. The various hunting clubs and preserves offer hunting for quail, pheasant and chukar.

These preserves offer everything from guided hunts with dogs and overnight accommodations and meals to areas where you are on your own. In the latest edition of Black’s Shotgunner’s Guide, some 40 hunting preserves are listed in Missouri, dotted all across the state.

Last week, I visited one of these spots, Running Springs Hunting Preserve & Inn located near Everton. The owner/operator of the 300-acre farm is Bill Cork, a longtime hunter who started the hunting preserve 10 years ago.

“I learn something every day,” Cork said. “I had thought about having a hunting preserve for several years and in my travels across the country, I checked a lot of different preserves and wanted to make this a first-class place for hunters.”

Located 30 miles northwest of Springfield, Running Springs is a place where hunters can enjoy the finest released upland bird hunting for quail, pheasant and chukar.

“Our fields are planted specifically for bird hunting,” Cork said. “We are not an agricultural farm, nor do we raise livestock. This farm is completely dedicated to bird hunting and has the necessary habitat to make a hunt a memorable one.”

The hunting season at Running Springs runs from Sept. 15 through April 1. However, the farm is open all year and Cork said he has visitors that take advantage of the amenities during the other months.

“We have a lot of bikers who drop in for an overnight, and there is a three-stand clay target range that is powered by solar panels should anyone want to try their skill at hitting clay pigeons,” Cork said. “Our clubhouse is available for meetings and parties in the offseason. There is also a pistol-rifle-archery range available.”

Most hunting preserves have half-day and full-day hunt packages as well as memberships.

”We promise your experience at our farm will be enjoyable,” Cork said. “The bird hunt will be exciting and challenging. The grounds are kept neat and clean, our fields are conducive to good hunting and great flying birds. The clubhouse and its amenities are immaculate and comfortable. The three-stand clay range is challenging and our hospitality and customer service go beyond the norm. If a hunter can honestly say they had a bad hunt or poor experience at the farm, their hunt is free.”

Hunting clubs in Missouri are operated under rules set by the Missouri Conservation Department and offer extended seasons for quail, pheasant and chukar. Some of the clubs also offer hunting for mallards, turkey and Hungarian partridge.

As far as cost goes, it depends on how much hunting you want and the kind of  extras you’re looking for. Fees vary, but a day on a hunting preserve doesn’t have to cost more than a “free hunt,” and will take less time and you are sure of getting some action.

Like Running Springs, most clubs are run by people like Cork who know what quality hunting really is and they try to fill that bill.

Hunting preserves lack the uncertainty of “wild” hunting. That is the main reason they exist.

In wild hunting there are no guarantees, you head out and hope for the best. On a good hunting preserve, the hunter is assured of at least an opportunity to shoot game, but not guaranteed birds. He pays on the basis of either sporting opportunities to shoot at birds or on the number of birds released. If he misses, he pays anyway. Cork said if the hunter shoots more birds than he paid for, the extra birds are free.

Jim Nelson of Kansas City is an avid quail hunter and had one of his poorest seasons last year. But he wasn’t ready to give up, so he tried a hunting preserve for the first time last week.

“I was really surprised to find hunting conditions similar to the places I normally hunt,” Nelson said. “The fields had plenty of natural cover and the birds flew like wild birds. My old pointer worked just like he was in our normal hunting spots. I was surprised that the hunt went as well as it did. I expected it would cost me a small fortune. However, I think it was a lot less expensive that a wild hunt would have been. And by hunting the club, I knew I would see some action and I think my dog thought he was in bird dog heaven. Since the club will be open until April 1, I plan on getting some more hunts in before spring turkey season.

“Some 50 years ago, when I first started hunting, hunting preserves were few and far between. Wild birds were available and much of the state was rural. However, in more recent times the need for hunting preserves become more apparent. After my first hunt last week, I don’t know why I hadn’t tried it before. I set up a hunt for next month for me, my wife and two sons. I know they will enjoy it as much as I did.”

At Running Springs, Cork stresses gun safety. He has posted signs in locations around the farm that say “Think Gun Safety.” Before hunters take the field, they watch a six-minute video about gun safety. “You can’t be too safe while carrying a gun,” Cork said.

For more information on hunting at Running Springs, call Bill Cork at 417-535-2190 or visit the Web site at www.runningspringfarm.com.