Preparing for small game, duck season at Orvis Hill Country

Recreation

FAIRFIELD, Pa. – Who’s ever turned down a round of shooting clays?

If you know someone who has, I doubt they’d do it again when given the chance to knock some out of the sky at the Orvis Hill Country shooting grounds in Fairfield. Orvis provides a beautiful 15-round shooting experience that mimics what you see on waterfowl and small game hunts – quick overhead shooting interlaced with bouncing “rabbit” clays that zip down a path in front of you. Plus, the rules are what you see in goose season, a three-shell limit.

Patrick Vega takes aim at one of the shooting stations at Orvis Hill Country Shooting Grounds in Fairfield, Pa.

Patrick Vega, whom you might recognize from my story about getting skunked in Cearfoss (or if you’re a friend or family member, my girlfriend’s father), introduced me to the course. We packed up his pump-action 12-gauge Browning shotguns, hit the road and pulled into the grounds around 1 p.m. We met our guide, Danny Stockslager, a longtime friend of Vega, and hopped in the side-by-side that resembled more of a golf cart than a UTV.

Upon our arrival at the first station, I broke back into one of my favorite activities as if I had shot the day prior. In reality, I hadn’t gone clay shooting since I was in middle or high school and even then it was over a hillside at a family friend’s farm in Washburn, W.Va., Vega and I each missed one of our three shots, not horrible for the first round, and continued our hike through the course.

Stockslager, a calm-mannered guy from Cascade, Md., told us of his elk hunting journeys out west between stations and shared his thoughts about how the sport has evolved.

“Back about (20-30 years) ago, if you accidentally cut your leg while skinning an animal, you were going to die in the mountains,” he said laughing, “but nowadays (technology has advanced) so that doesn’t happen.”

Danny Stockslager prepares to launch a clay from his blind at Orvis Hill Country. Stockslager is an elk hunter and guide, as well as a member of the Orvis shooting grounds team. Additionally, he owns a European mount business out of Cascade, Md.

He explained the different packages folks can purchase for extended hunts, from primitive cook-your-own camping trips to the most boujee package that includes a personal chef.

Stockslager is also a master at fixing European mounts for trophies. A trophy holder can bring him one that’s been cleaned and bleached, or he’ll do it himself. Those interested can reach him at Quirauk Mountain Skull Works, or by calling (301) 331-6916.

After the final station, a free-firing, 18-shell madhouse, Vega and I hit the road ready for more waterfowl hunting in the coming months.

Maryland waterfowl seasons

The first round of Maryland duck season opened on Oct. 12 and closed Oct. 19, while the second stanza runs from Nov. 16-29, and the final portion runs from Dec. 16-Jan. 31, 2020. Sea duck season opening day is Nov. 2 and runs until Jan. 10, 2020.

Migratory goose season runs from Dec. 20-Jan. 4, 2020, and reopens 10 days later and runs to Jan. 31. Late resident goose season opens for six days in November (23rd-29th) and reopens Dec. 16-March 10,2020. Another portion of the goose season – snow goose – runs from Oct. 1-Nov. 29, and Dec. 16-Jan. 31, 2020. Finally, Brant season runs just over a month from Dec. 28-Jan. 31, 2020.

Other bird seasons, such as Mourning Doves, Rails and Woodcock, can be found at https://dnr.maryland.gov/huntersguide/Documents/Hunting_Seasons_Calendar.pdf.

West Virginia waterfowl seasons

Duck season in the Mountain State is a three-way split – first running from Oct. 1-14. It reoopens from Nov. 11-16, and the final stage is slated for Dec. 23-Jan. 31, 2020. Coot season is the same timeframe, while Gallinules is a two-way split (Oct. 1-12 and Dec. 2-Jan. 26). It is illegal to hunt cuddy (elder), whistling, mottled and harlequin ducks in West Virginia.

Early goose season is long gone, closing Sept. 14, but the main three-way split season opens Nov. 11-16 and Dec. 9-Jan. 31. The first portion ran from Oct.1-19. Snow goose season is the same time frame as Canada goose. Brant season opens in the new year, running from Jan. 2-31.

For full times and regulations, go to https://www.wvdnr.gov/hunting/Regs1920/Migratory%20bird%20regulations%20(protected)%20073019.pdf.

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