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High birds are the quintessential expression of the wing shooting art, demanding mental discipline, masterful technique, specialized equipment and humility. The high curling bird is the most difficult game bird shot and one great shot is more rewarding than a dozen straight-aways. This recognition drenched my mind as I stepped into the shooter’s cage to begin a European-style pheasant shoot at Oak Creek Sporting Clays Club in Brainard, Nebraska. Oak Creek is a full-service shooting club, boasting two sporting clays courses, skeet, trap and a rifle/handgun range.


It was a perfect morning to uncase the shotgun and prepare for a luscious dinner. The weather was temperate, the sky a pale blue slab dotted with cotton-candy clouds. The meticulously orchestrated shoot featured ten shooting stations arranged in a circle of a quarter mile in diameter with a tower in the center from which the birds would be released. About twenty guns attended the event. Each shooter or pair of guns shot for ten minutes at each station and then, at the sounding of the traditional hunter’s horn, rotated to the next, giving each participant the benefits of the best positions.


Thick stands of sixty-foot hardwood and pine trees obscured the release of the birds, which did not become visible until high overhead. While some pheasant flew low like missiles, most pheasant went high, some to cloud-tickling altitudes. The birds were challenging, with perhaps fifty percent flying past the guns unscathed.


Birds were immediately retrieved by ardent dogs, leaping through brush and foliage like porpoises over waves, their tails wagging like a musician’s metronome. In my gorgeous Beretta SO 3 EEL I shot Fiocchi Golden Pheasant loads with number 6 shot. A well-place shot dropped the bird like an anchor. Closing my eyes and opening my imagination, visions of the great Edwardian shoots at Elveden, Holkham and Sandringham flooded my mind. This European format event was set up by Terry Kriz, an owner of the club and a wonderful man who has become a dear friend. Oak Creek did this shoot right.


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Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer and writer in Denver, Colorado. See his book The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. Available at