Cottle Branch Preserve

 A new season has begun here in North Carolina. Even if some don’t count it as the season because it is only open on preserves right now. We have another few weeks until the wild bird season opens here in North Carolina. To me hunting at a preserve is a great way to get your dog into birds knock the rust off the shooting and just have a great time with friends in the field.

 Another first for this year is the opening of a new preserve in Eastern North Carolina. This is pretty exciting for me because it is very close to where I live. The place is Cottle Branch Preserve and it is now open for its inaugural season.

Cottle Branch is the result of a man’s love of bird dogs and a family that is willing to give people in this area a place to hunt and run their dogs. The owner is Greg Pittman and he has been running field trials and hunting birds in the Carolina area for years. He like me is a fan of the shaggy dogs, better known as Setters to those not familiar with the term.

 As you arrive, you turn in off the road into the preserve which is 109 acres of Cut Corn,Milo, Millet and Timber. Following the dirt road that divides the corn from the bird cover you arrive at the small cabin that is the center of the preserve. Here there is a nice wrap around porch to sit on at the end of the day and talk bird dogs and the hunt. The cabin while small has a restroom and a few chairs to take a load off for a break in the middle of your hunt.

The preserve has dogs that can guide you or you can bring your own. The latter is what we did for this hunt.

 After being greeted by the host and taking the time to take care of the formalities, the birds are put out around the property. My hunting partner and I head to the trucks to get the dogs and ourselves ready to go.

The birds are planted and we are given the go ahead from Greg and we release the dogs. We head out in the direction that one bird flushed wild while being planted. We get to the area and Hattie the GSP goes on point. We get a flush but the bird goes into a tree. My partner gets the bird to flush from the tree and I take the shot and the bird ends up getting away. First hunt of the year and the rust needs to be shaken off. Sounds like a good reason to me.

 We change directions and start moving down the field and the dogs start to stretch it out a little and enjoy the cover and the room to run. We separate from each other to put some space between us and cover more ground. After a few minutes my boy Cash gives us a point and I move in for the flush. This bird goes up and I fire twice and the bird goes down and I get my first retrieve of the year. This is rewarding that our training has paid off and that he has retained what he has been taught to do.

This leads us to continue in the field and find a few more birds. We were told by the owner that there was a reintroduced covey on the property and they might be at the end of the field. So as we are working our way down the field the two dogs go on point. My friend moves in and notices that it is a covey of birds. He moves up and we each take a bird from the covey.

A lengthy search and I find my bird without much help from the dog as he wanted to go in a different direction. Sometimes these things happen. My partner and the dogs go into the low area between the fields. We get a point on a bird and it flushes but there was no shot however we see where it goes down. We decide to mark where that bird was and to come back on it later. We continue up the hill into the next field and Hattie gives a nice point and my partner moves in for the flush.

As he moves in for the flush the bird moves and the dog has to relocate. At this time Hattie relocates and Cash comes in to honor the point and squeezes the bird between the two dogs. This is pretty exciting because I never had him in a position to honor another dog and he actually handled it better than I expected.

The bird flushes, the shot rings out and is missed. We see where the bird lands. We move around the point of the treeline to another portion of the field and we get a point. The bird flies over the field instead of the woods and down he goes and in the bag.

We work our way towards the cabin to get the one bird that we marked earlier and then to the trucks to water the dogs and take a break so we can get after it again.

The pattern that we have developed of finding birds and getting some decent shots and retrieves continues after the break. We find 17 birds out of the 20 that we put out. This result and the performance of the dogs made for a great first hunt of the year. Two of these birds for full disclosure were from the covey of birds and not ones that were put out for our hunt.

 We finish the day and get back to the cabin for gratuitous pictures of dogs with birds and guns.

 After getting the dogs watered and put up we have some nice conversation about the hunt and hunts gone by.

For a preserve that is in its first year and having to make repairs because of damage to the cover by Hurricane Florence this place is a good time. The cover is easy to move through, the birds are good fliers and the owner is knowledgeable and passionate about what he is doing. I wouldn’t try a large group to hunt here because I believe it would get crowded quickly. However for a few friends getting together to spend the day hunting I highly recommend Cottle Branch preserve.

2 Replies to “Cottle Branch Preserve”

  1. We enjoyed having you and kyle. We love to hear feedback so we can strive to improve as we grow. We plan to add on more fields and mow the brush on about 20 more acres this year. We enjoy the sport and love to see others enjoying spending time with their dogs. We know how much time goes into a nice dog. We are glad we can furnish a place to hunt because we understand how limited these places are becoming. Thanks again

    1. I have thoroughly enjoyed my two hunts at Cottle Branch. The hospitality and the quality of the hunt make it fantastic. I look forward to the improvements and watching the preserve grow over the years. Thank you for hosting a couple of great hunts.

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