- Associated Press - Sunday, October 30, 2016

REGENT, N.D. (AP) - A pheasant fee-hunting company in Regent has proved that working cooperatively can last for the long haul.

The Cannonball Co. started in 1992 with the idea that by throwing their acres together and marketing packaged hunts, landowners could be rewarded for creating better habitat and get out from under managing hunting demand from their farmyards and phones, The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2fdwEhw ) reported.

The concept is celebrating its 25th year and manager Nicole Haase said it’s looking like this will be another strong year for the company, with total hunts - measured by days hunting per individual - will meet last year’s total of 1,992 with slightly more than 5,000 birds killed.

That’s not the all-time high, but it’s a solid benchmark and a considerable move from the 247 hunts booked that first year of business.

“People come back because of the product they’re getting. There’s good hunting, and the people in the community become like family,” she said. “A lot of them walk in and book for next year right away.”

The company published a commemorative anniversary book in which founder Louis Witte explains it wasn’t a smooth start and the idea split the community between those against fee hunting and those who wanted to give the idea a chance.

An early group put together a plan for landowners, including lodging, fees, guides and a marketing strategy, formed an incorporation and established shareholders and investors. Then, they took the idea to the field.

Today, 62 landowners provide access to 45,000 acres and the company offers 21 guides, 32 hunting dogs and eight lodging providers. A deluxe hunt with guides, dogs, lodging, meals, bird cleaning and ammunition is $550 a day. A basic package with guide, dog and lodging is $400 a day.

“It is certain that the hunters return year after year (about 90 percent) for the birds. But they also come back because of the people,” Witte said.

Mike Allegretti, from California, is in his 19th year of returning to the Cannonball Co. for fall pheasant hunting. He said it’s about the experience, not the bird count, though zero success might not make the trip worthwhile.

“We try to keep this a secret. It’s exceptional - the accommodations, the food, the people - you can’t compare it to anything. For us, it’s not about just killing birds; that’s almost secondary. It’s a great value,” Allegretti said.

Wayne Strand, of south Regent, has had land in the company since the startup.

“It works out good. If I want it for my own use, I just let them know. The guides keep track of what tracts of land they hunt and how many birds are taken,” said Strand, who is paid about $35 per bird. “That’s more than fair. It’s probably around $5,000 for a good year, and we usually take a trip with that. It’s nice to have a little extra money.”

He prefers having the company manage the hunting rather than dealing with it himself.

“Before this, I would have 10 cars out in the yard,” he said.

Morgan Kouba has land in the company, too, and, while most is crop land, he does have a nice area around a stock dugout where birds typically congregate, though not so much this year. He said he’s going to invest in some tree plantings there to improve habitat.

“I hope to make it a hot spot again,” he said.

Doug Bolte is a guide and also a landowner in the company. In his best year, hunters killed 700 birds on his acreage, which resulted in a nice check. But he also puts a lot of that money back into his land, spending a couple thousand on food plots to sustain pheasants and deer.

Bolte, 65, works with a 3-year-old German short-hair named C.J.

“I’ll go as long as the dog goes,” he said, though that’s certainly not the anticipated lifespan of the Cannonball Co. “It’s very possible the company will go another 25 years.”

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com


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