A Great American Shooting – Upland Hunting Safari
There are many great places to shoot and hunt throughout the USA, and I’ve been fortunate to have had a chance to experience many great places in the western, Midwestern and east coast areas. But there is an area in Colorado that offers shooters and hunters a rather unique experience to have the best of both worlds and some very grand places loaded with sights and shots with a camera or shotgun that will last you a life time.
In all my travels around the world, and there still places on my bucket list to check off, Kessler Canyon in CO just makes all past experiences in the western United States seem rather common. There is no other place like Kessler Canyon in the U.S.; Grey Cliffs Ranch in MT, the Flintner Ranch in WY, the Paws Up Ranch in MT, Twin Creek Ranch, MT, Castle Valley Outdoors, UT and The Broadmoor in CO are all outstanding places to stay, shoot, hunt, and experience; and each offer different and unique experiences and grand memories that would last forever.
But even before you arrive at Kessler Canyon proper, you see and realize this is going to be much more than anything you’ve ever experienced in the past. As you drive in the entrance way of the property your greeted by steel panels of Indian petroglyphs on high obelisk columns. As you proceed down the road you are greeted by a marriage of nature’s art and manmade art in the form of a herd of giant bronze horses galloping across your path in the canyon. Further down the road there are two fighting bronze stallions that are also lit up at night. As you approach the main lodge you’ll be impressed by the structure and its size and the beauty of it, especially at night. You’ll find bronze figures of all types of wild life surrounding the main lodge area. But then you’ll also realize there are real deer, elk, turkey and pheasant mixed in with the bronze figures. They are very easy to photograph and used to humans. There is also have fly fishing in the lake in front of the main lodge.
Once you enter the building you’re immediately overwhelmed by the beauty of the never ending collection of fine art covering the walls and floor space. You’ll be spending a night or two in a man’s home that houses one of his passions, fine art. The art is from all over the world but a good portion of it is from Africa and the U.S.
Dining there is like no other experience either. The food is world class, the wine selections are excellent and every meal will be memorable, especially dinner. When the chef wraps up things in the kitchen he magically becomes the entertainment, Black Mamba. There were about a dozen or more of us at dinner that night and after a few songs/tunes he had every last person there from 76 to 30 dancing on the dining room floor and having a wild time. Suddenly a woman who disappeared, reappeared with her fiddle and now we had a duo, and it even became more fun. I was laughing so much that night, I ached from it.
Some people come there to do nothing but get away from it all, other’s come there to hike, ride horses, bike ride, fly fishing, or ATV up the mountain trails. Many people come there for big game hunting. They have the finest, largest covered and heated and also lighted for night eight stand, yes, eight stand with thirteen traps, and by the time you read this, become fifteen traps shooting facility for clay target shooting. One of the new targets will be a high sixty yard crosser. Very challenging and loads of fun for all. We first shot it in the afternoon and I was shooting a 12 gauge and missed a fair amount of targets. There are some hard presentations there. The next time we shot it was at night with football stadium lights lighting the area. I decided to shoot it with a 28 gauge as that is what I planned to use for hunting the next day. It was totally different. It was total blackness out there except for the targets while they were in flight. Even the black bottoms of falling targets were highly visible against the darkness because of the light. It made you really focus on the targets like never before. With the 28 gauge I ran the singles and the 26 report pair and only missed three of the falling targets in the 26 true pair as we were shooting them later so they were falling a little faster when we could shoot them. It was a very interesting learning experience on how much better your eyes can focus without a busy background. Lessons are available.
The upland bird hunting is world class with pheasant, chucker and quail available and wild turkey when in season. I’ve never hunted with such finely trained dogs and never had so much fun upland bird hunting. It was like we were in a gun fight and the four of us put down 34 birds in one and a half hours. Not a bad mornings work. Leaving is difficult, because I didn’t want to leave. The wildlife also made it difficult as about every mile there was another big buck to photograph or another flock of wild turkey to shoot at; with a camera of course.
World class, yes! The best of the best? Yes! It’s like no other place I’ve ever visited in the west and has filled me with sights and memories that will last as long as I do. If you don’t do it, you lose.
The next place, Black Canyon Wing and Clays is not far from Grand Junction, CO in Delta, and is more like your typical shooting and hunting facility. It’s a day facility without any lodging but it does have dining facilities and a pro shop. They have a nice five stand and a wobble trap off the rear deck of the main lodge for warming up prior to hunting. They have a large variety of hunting fields with pheasant and chucker available; seven areas, with different types of cover surrounding the lodge facility which is located on a large plain west of the mountains and Grand Mesa. It makes a great place to get ready for the main shooting and hunting coming up for the rest of the week. We’ll have a chance to shoot some clay targets, have lunch there the first day and have a half day hunt and then continue to our next destination.
The North Rim Hunt Club is located not far from Hotchkiss and has over 6,000 acres available for upland hunting with pheasant, chucker and quail available. They have a variety of terrain and cover, but the high grass areas close to grain fields seem to be the most productive. On my first day, I had 13 pheasant and chucker in one hour and they were all head shot with a 28 gauge. My shotshells of choice were Winchester hunting loads and they proved to do an excellent job.
Only one chucker had one pellet in his left breast. The typical hunter will shoot from 10 to 17 birds in a half day hunt. It’s also where we’ll have lunch each day provided by the Smith Fork Ranch. The lodging and meals will be provided by the Smith Fork Ranch which is located a couple of miles from the hunting grounds. It offers fantastic views of the West Elk Mountains. It’s a very nice recently remodeled and restored luxury historic ranch that will leave you filled with grand memories of the trip. They will fill you with gourmet food and let you select from over 400 wines (bar tab not included in price at SFR) to complement your meals and create memorable moments. The ranch is filled with a warm ambience and artifacts that make you feel there is no reason to ever leave. It’s the perfect place to spend some relaxing moments after a hard day’s hunt. There aren’t many places like the Smith Fork Ranch and it will be a place you will long remember along with the fantastic hunting. They have just installed a very nice five stand operation that will let you have some fun and challenge you at the same time. The package includes shooting up to 400 rounds on their new five stand at your convenience with all ammo for shooting and hunting at all destinations included for this trip.
This package can be changed and customized to fit your specific requirements and the duration of time spent at any of the destinations can be changed prior to booking the trip. It’s ideally designed to handle four to six shooters, but larger groups can be accommodated. The package includes pick up at the Grand Junction Airport, motel lodging in Grand Junction and transportation to the different shooting and hunting areas. All meals, lodging and ammunition are included, tips are not. If you are shooting something other than a 12 gauge, arrangements must be made when booking the trip for using another gauge of ammunition which would be an additional charge for some sub gauges, or you could bring your own. All inquirers should be directed to: ITI Shooting, 5045 Brennan Bend, Idaho Falls, ID 83401, 208-523-1545, firstname.lastname@example.org
A typical trip would be; Arrive on Saturday at Grand Junction (there is a Cabela’s in GJ), night in motel, Sunday go to Black Canyon late morning, shoot clays, lunch and bird hunt. Depart late afternoon to Smith Fork Ranch and hunt, Monday, Tuesday, and depart Wednesday afternoon for Kessler Canyon. Hunt Kessler Canyon Thursday, Friday and depart Kessler Canyon on Saturday morning for flight home. October and November are prime months for the adventure and experience of a lifetime. You should book early as they fill up pretty quickly.