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Europe Pheasant Hunting

Aerial view of the castle Hattonchatel Chateau.

Despite the extinction scares of the 1960s and 70s, Pheasant Hunting is an increasingly popular sport in the US. Indeed, it is so popular that one might think that Pheasant Hunting might find its roots in US history.

In fact Pheasants were only introduced to North America in 1845AD after wealthy American sporting men became familiar with the practice of hunting Pheasants in Europe. Furthermore, the bird only became common enough to shoot at the turn of the 20th century.

A certain L. Hubbard Junior, a journalist for the New York Times at the time, blamed this rather long settling time on the 'irresponsibility of small boys' – though it had much more to do with the commonality of hunting amongst the rural population of North America at the time, who saw all game as fair game.

The millennia old practice of hunting the bird actually started off when the bird, indigenous to Asia, was introduced to Europe in the 10th century AD. It quickly became a much anticipated part of the luxurious lives of European Monarchs, accompanying their taste for fine food, wine and music.

The French city of Nancy in winter time.

As such, Pheasant Hunting in Europe is not simply a sport, it is the perpetuation of a long and rich heritage. In Europe, it is customary at the end of a day's hunt to return to the Manor to sit in front of an open fire drinking fine wine, smoking cigars and relishing in the success of ones techniques. Of course, such joviality can only take place on a stomach filled with the delights of European cooking, accompanied by the very best game from the days hunt.

French food is one of the highlights of Europe's rich culinary heritage. Richly seasoned with herbs and spices using only the most refined techniques, the experience of eating what can only be described as the utmost in culinary excellence after a long days hunt is not something to forget.

It is not just the history of European and North American Pheasant Hunting which differ. The actual practice of Pheasant Hunting is also rather different. Pheasant Hunting is legal across all of Western Europe, with very little in the way of restrictions allowing for a far more liberating experience.

One can choose between the glorious Ritz Resorts Chateau, Hattonchatel, of the Champagne and Alsace regions of France and the Skrøbelev Estate on the outskirts of the coastal city of Rudkøbing in Denmark, for instance, with no fear of disappointment from legal restrictions. Similarly, the difference in equipment is quite marked.

View over the valley from the castle gardens.

Though in the North American upland hunt, the preferred equipment is a 20 or 28mm double-barrelled shotgun, in Europe, there is a much greater variety in the guns used (though this choice is, of course, up to the hunter himself). This is the result of the diversity of weather and terrain in European rough shoots.

A hunter can expect to find himself in undisturbed terrain, filled with ancient trees, going up and down paths mapped out by hunters hundreds of years before, or going off into areas untouched for decades.

The most significant difference between European and North American shoots lies in the breeding of the bird and intensity of the hunt. In North America, hunted pheasants are quite often live wild in the upland areas, despite being the descendants of the partially domesticated common Pheasant first released in Europe in the 10th century AD.

A European style shoot (also known as a driven shoot) in North America will see Pheasants, bred to be hunted, released while the hunters shoot from their posts. There are several 'drives' whilst the pigeons are beat out of the bushes.

The Danish city of Rudkøbing.

The shooter has to stand on his 'peg' (a post assigned specifically to him) and shoot. Because there are so many Pheasants being driven at any one time, the shooter has a very small window in which to shoot down his bird. In Europe itself, there's a magic to this particular type of shoot.

The number of Pheasants bagged depends on the skill of the hunter – on his vision and quick thinking. American visitors and expatriates are keen to sing the praises of the European shoot – both because of the atmosphere involved and the shoots themselves.

One of the most glorious things about hunts in Europe is the chance to experience the culture of such wonderfully historical places as Rudkøbing in Denmark and the Champagne regions of France.

The entrance of the Skrøbelev Estate in Denmark.

Not only does one get to partake in the preservation in a tradition of Kings, but you can live like a King (or Queen) too. The French Chateau, mentioned previously, Hattonchateau, is a Gothic style castle filled with period features that was built in the 9th century AD, shortly before the advent of the Pheasant in Europe. It is 33km from Metz, known as the 'City of Lights' because of the way the lights bring out the architectural beauty of the city at night.

The aforementioned Skrøbelev Estate in Denmark (birth place of Carl Nielsen and world renowned Danish Design) is an estate within the confines of which lie many historical buildings. One need only venture 3km to find the beautiful city of Rudkøbing.

It would not be difficult to discover a plethora of coastal towns, villages and hamlets in which one could become acquainted with the legendary Danish attitude – laid back, friendly and happy to help.

Guest suite at the Skrøbelev Estate in Denmark.

Despite the excitement of the hunt, the heritage and and the richness, European Pheasant Hunting, like its North American counterpart, has not been without its scares. In the early 17th century AD, the pastime of Europe's royalty was threatened when the bird disappeared altogether from the British Isles. Fortunately, it was soon reintroduced and the sport was quickly revived.

A few centuries later in 1927, Pheasant Hunting enjoyed its climax in Britain when King George the Fifth contributed over 1000 birds to a bag of over 3000 in only 6 days, setting a challenge which is yet to be met on either side of the pond! Where better to give King George a run for his money than the birthplace of the driven hunt?

To find out more about the estate and castle mentioned in this article, please visit