By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Taber’s 13th annual Pheasant Festival will take place from Oct. 21–28, 2023.
Julie Landry-DeBoer, Senior Biologist with Alberta Conservation Association Lethbridge, says that the festival will kick off with the Novice Shoot on Oct. 21-22 and the event will be held within the M.D. of Taber at the Fincastle Conservation Site.
Among the various scheduled events includes the Novice Shoot, a registered event which was quickly filled by interested participants.
“We have a morning session and an afternoon session on both days,” Landry-DeBoer said. “We work closely with the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors Association and they come and they do the majority of the mentoring. There are some clay targets set up and the novice folks start on shooting at clean targets.”
Landry-DeBoer says that the Alberta Conservation Association provides all of the shotguns and ammunition, so nobody has to bring anything, and it is a safe and very controlled environment. The event, Landry-DeBoer says, also has have markers set down so that people that are just spectating cannot cross into shooting areas and shooters also shoot away from the crowd. After the novice shooters have practiced with clay targets, Landry-DeBoer says, they’ll move to a controlled, mentored shoot that include live pheasants provided by McFarland’s in Wisconsin.
“We have pheasants on site and they’re planted in the grass,” Landry-DeBoer said. “The novice get a chance to see if they can get a bird in flight. Then we show them how to butcher if they’re successful. So not everybody’s successful, but we hope that everybody gets at least a shot at a bird. And not necessarily everybody gets a bird, but it’s just an experience. People are learning how hunting pheasants might be if you were out walking and going for an actual hunt. So then we show ‘em how to butcher and then how to properly transport so that they’re following all hunting regulations. So to be very clear, everybody that comes and that is participating has to hold all their appropriate Alberta licensing requirements for hunting.”
Landry-DeBoer added there is a two-bird limit per person and the hunts take place either in the morning or afternoon, from sunrise to 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. to sundown. Additionally, Landry-DeBoer said, each party can only have up to four hunters on site per session. Once the novice shoot is over, the office will open for the Regular Pheasant Hunt which is scheduled from Oct. 23–28, 2023.
The pheasant festival also has evening events: From 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 23, the Town of Taber, will host a free lunch for the first 150 hunters at the Festival registration office at Taber Community Centre located at 4720 50 Street, Taber, Alberta.
On Oct. 23 at 7 p.m., Landry-DeBoer says, there is a ‘Game to Gourmet Culinary Tasting’ at the Heritage Inn, which is located at Tank 77; 4830 – 46 Avenue, in Taber which will feature tastings of pheasant dishes cooked by professional chefs. Tickets to this event are $25.
“We acquire frozen pheasants,” Landry-DeBoer said. “They’re sourced from McFarland’s, who is our partner in actually getting pheasants up into Canada from Wisconsin. It’s a wonderful event and has all kinds of dishes. Every year is slightly different, and they try to use all of the bird, so it’s really, really, really good.”
Beginning at 7:30 p.m., on Oct. 24, an event called ‘Pheasant Sausage-Making Evening’ will take place at the Taber Curling Club. Tickets are $35 which includes learning to make pheasant sausage, trying pheasant appetizers, as well as enjoying a chat with fellow wild-food enthusiasts, and learn from one of Alberta’s top outdoor writers, Brad Fenson, who is also a wild game chef and outdoorsman. This event is only open to a maximum of 30 people.
On Oct. 25, 2023, Landry-DeBoer says, is a special of $10.99 for 14 wings at the Heritage Inn along with free Scotch and conversation with the in-house Alberta Conservation Association’s expert beginning at 7 p.m.
Landry-Deboer says that the festival’s formal events end with a Taber Pheasant Festival Celebration Banquet and Silent Auction on Oct. 26, 2023 at the Taber Community Centre beginning with cocktails beginning at 5:30 and dinner beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets for the event are $60.
“We always have a banquet during the festival that celebrates the landowners that give us the opportunity to hunt on their land during the week because they don’t charge us for that,” Landry-DeBoer said. “They just offer up the opportunity for hunting.”
Landry says that the silent auction will include 4-H kids from both the Taber and Vauxhall areas doing presentations and selling some of the pheasants they’ve raised with the proceeds of the auctions going back to their local clubs.
“That’s something just extra to offer to be a good partner in conservation,” Landry-DeBoer said, adding, “we’re working with these kids and helping them out too. So it’s a really good blend.”
Tickets for the festival events are available at: https://www.ab-conservation.com/events/taber-pheasant-festival/events/.
Landry-Deboer says that there were many involved in making this event a success including a local volunteer planning committee from Taber: Tom Machacek, Leroy Holthe, Rosanne Horrocks, Anne Jensen, Amy Allred, Kim Broadbent, Allen Herbst, Jay Doolittle, Chantal Classen, and Rick Popadynetz.
“It’s really good for public relations and having people back in Taber hunting again, because Taber at one point used to be, you know, fairly envy of Taber to be fairly substantial place to hunt pheasant. So we’re just trying to bring that back a little bit and try to bring back the heritage of hunting again to the area.”