Written By Claire Fortenberry and Skyler Zunk
Welcome to Primland Resort! After a scenic Virginia country drive to Patrick County, we were greeted with gorgeous views of the resort and expansive surrounding hills. Primland Resort is a 12,000-acre estate in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains with exquisitely managed wildlife, habitat, and activities. Featuring fine dining, relaxing spa packages, manicured golf courses, trail rides on horseback, guided hunting and fishing excursions, and other outdoor sporting adventures, Primland Resort has rich opportunities for all outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy in utmost luxury.
On a chilly President’s Day weekend, we set out to experience the unique and time-honored tradition of a driven pheasant shoot. A European sporting event fit for nobility, Primland Resort is one of the few areas in the United States to host these shoots and maintain the longstanding traditions of the sport. This was to be our first experience of driven pheasant shooting, and we were excited for the opportunity without a trip across the pond. Before the shoot, however, we had the chance to explore and experience much of what the resort has to offer. For the amenities, the people, and the shooting, we know we will be back.
Every aspect of the stay featured attention to detail, quality of service, and opportunities to make lasting memories. Upon arriving to a beautifully appointed clifftop cottage, we were welcomed with a note and refreshment plate and set off for a leisurely walk through the rolling golf course to admire the mountain views. The sunset over the Blue Ridge was spectacular, and we finished off our stroll with a sighting of a large whitetail deer herd. In the evening, we dined at the signature Elements restaurant which featured unique menu choices, an exceptional wine list, and gourmet game meat. The food–from fried quail to pumpkin soup to beef tartare to elk–was prepared in a manner that can only be described as impeccable.
Saturday morning began with full-body yoga in the main lodge’s celestial observatory, which provides a unique view of the surrounding landscape. The expertly led session was followed with a green smoothie and breakfast back at Elements. The rest of the morning provided an environment of relaxation and appreciation for the natural world surrounding – we admired the view, watched the birds, and enjoyed good books in the comfortable lounge. One could easily spend a day with binoculars watching the mountain life, but in preparation for the driven pheasant shoot the following morning, we decided to dust off the over under on Primland’s sporting clays course.
After browsing through the signature Orvis shop and sporting center, the two of us took on the course through the woods. The scenic route provided every variety of fun, unique, and challenging shots, including from different stands and through varied topography. There were several families participating in the upland hunt, which takes place in the properties’ beautiful fields. Driving back to the resort, we spotted three turkey toms – a testament to the quality and management of the resort’s habitat and a temptation of Primland hunts to come.
In line with our sporting afternoon, we made a stop for cocktails in the tobacco barn hosting a Garden and Gun Club happy hour. We became acquainted with a couple who flew out to Virginia specifically for this driven shoot; they travel the world in search of quality driven shooting experiences. They shared the history, culture, and tips of the trade with us and emphasized that only a select few operations in the United States replicate the European tradition well and accurately. Primland Resort’s attention to detail and convenience in Virginia made it an ideal destination for them, and as we would learn, many other enthusiasts from across the country.
We also met another couple who spent the evening with us sharing hunting stories and love of the outdoors. They joined us for dinner at Stables Saloon, the former horse stables building, where we enjoyed a family-style barbeque charcuterie board, fellowship of a shared passion, and lively dancing to the bluegrass band. We finished out the evening at the 19th pub in the resort, where the staff went out of their way to be helpful, friendly, and welcoming. Upon reflection of the day, from yoga, to comradery, to fine dining, to competing with sporting clays, to appreciation of nature, to new friends, and more, it held the precise ingredients of combined activities and relaxation to build a perfect day.
The Primland Resort Food
The Primland European Shoot
Sunday morning, we were thrilled that the time had come for us to experience the unique shoot. The driven pheasant shoot consists of a series of “drives” spread out across a vast acreage. At each drive, there are a line of eight shooting places, or “pegs”, whereby each shooter stands in their assigned peg at the bottom of the woods, accompanied by their gun handlers. All participants and staff on the shoot dress in traditional sporting attire of tweeds, jackets, ties, and boots. Each drive is held in a different location, where “beaters” walk through the woods towards the shooters, causing the birds to take wing. The birds fly over the tops of the trees and right over the shooters, rapidly and by the hundreds. This system allows only a few seconds to take aim and shoot the birds, providing a fast paced, heart pumping, and adrenaline filled shoot. After each drive, the birds are counted, and it is determined approximately how many more drives there are to come to reach the day’s limit. Our targets were the three hundred birds of the day, shared among the eight pegs and over several drives. We were to share a peg, alternating the shooter after each drive, and joined the other seven shooters, beginning by drawing our peg number from a blind shotshell draw. Our first drive began in the middle of a hill, with forest to the front and back. The horn blew, the beaters started, and, the moment we had all been waiting for, the drive began. After a tense minute of waiting, anticipation hanging in the air, the first birds started flying over. As a rule, the shooter should only shoot if the blue sky is behind the bird; otherwise, there is a safety risk to the beaters from shooting too low below the tree line. This leaves a small window to shoot, and the pheasants fly right in the peg’s vicinity, often falling at the shooter’s feet. Our gun handler was kept busy reloading one gun while the second was fired rapidly and trading shotguns before another pheasant appeared in shooting position. Each shooter shot as many birds as possible until the horn sounded again, and we moved to the next drive location.
After we each had the opportunity to shoot on a drive, we stopped for the traditional mid-morning gathering called “elevenses”. We learned of the other hunters’ travels around the world and their dedication to this particular niche hunting culture, all while enjoying light refreshments. The shoot organizers laid out the beautiful birds we had shot from the morning and counted our harvest, determining we were approximately halfway done with the shoot.
Our third drive was in a small field between two wood lines, and it was fascinating to watch the pheasants fly in the trees as the beaters approached and as we waited for them to cross the line into the blue sky. It is also unique to experience the different peg locations along the shooting line, as each provides a different shooting opportunity, different quantities of birds, and different flight patterns to follow. Our best drive was the fourth with a well-positioned peg where the birds flew in perfect pattern and range. It seemed like every shot was a hit. This peg totaled 14 confirmed hits, which may have been a record for the group. Although it is almost as enjoyable to be an observer during the shoot as it is to be the one pulling the trigger, there is no better feeling than taking down a pheasant in one shot, over and over again!
After lunch, the bird count was reconciled and they generously allowed us one more short drive. We ended the day with 330 birds, with 48 from our shared peg! The Primland Resort staff once again went above and beyond by breasting and packing our birds and pulling the best feathers as our trophies. A fantastic morning; it was certainly a thrilling pursuit just as it had been described–utterly addicting. This shoot offers both the perfect starting place for those interested in learning about the culture and skillset and the seasoned hunter; all while providing the accessibility of location close to home. The driven pheasant shoot at Primland Resort represents the true sporting lifestyle, with particular attention to history, style, hunting ethics, and time-honored tradition.
The end of the hunt unfortunately brought our treat of a weekend at Primland Resort to an end. We said our goodbyes to the staff, who exhibited the utmost kindness and indulgence all weekend. We were fortunate to experience one of their several signature weekends, the driven pheasant shoot; other quality hunts include guided turkey, whitetail deer, and upland hunting. There is truly something for everyone, in every weather forecast, and at any time in the year. Whether celebrating a special event or enjoying an earned vacation, Primland Resort is the perfect destination for every adventure seeker. One thing is for certain – we cannot wait to return!