001 Outdoor Adventures: Piedmont Upland Birds
By Patrick Ottenhoff — 52 Week Season
This site is all about finding a hunting and fishing experience for every week of the year, but I may have to expand the calendar for Ike Wright. “My operation runs a 13 month-a-year calendar,” jokes Ike, who owns and operates 001 Outdoor Adventures based out of Albemarle County, Virginia.
Ike cut his teeth growing up in the mountains of Wise County, Virginia and spent years guiding for black bears in the back woods of Maine. His main operation these days is guiding upland bird hunts on his property in the Piedmont of Virginia, including pheasant, chukar, and quail.
The hunts take place in the coldest months, but it’s a year-round operation for Ike. The food plots need to be planted, the timber managed, and of course those dogs aren’t going to train themselves. Just like a football coach spends endless hours studying for game day, the conditions for 001’s best hunts are laid months before.
When not chasing critters, Ike says what he really loves is training the next generation of hunters. He is Master Outdoor Hunter Education instructor and also has hosted Wounded Warriors for pheasant hunts through the Virginia Sportsman’s Foundation.
I caught up with Ike in late August while he had some time between setting up mineral licks for his whitetail and planting milo for late-winter food plots.
Below are my questions in bold, followed by his answers.
You’ve hunted up and down the East Coast. What would you call your “home turf”?
I was born in Wise County, Virginia, and went to Maine back in the late 60’s and 70’s. Maine was very undeveloped at the time and had an abundance of woods and outdoor opportunities, and I guided black bear for many years. Unfortunately, I had an injury that made it a bit more difficult to be in the backwoods, and with black bears you really need to be on your game and be ready to get up and go!
I’d say my home is right here in the Piedmont of Virginia, where we’ve had this few thousand acre piece of ground for about 20 years. My guide business here is pheasants, chukar, and quail. I’ve been very fortunate to spend a lot of time in a lot of places but this is home.
When’s the peak season for your operation?
My operation runs a 13 month-a-year calendar! We do a lot of habitat management. For example, we just planted 50 acres of milo and are finishing a mineral supplement for whitetail.
Going through the seasons, I’d say…
We plant a lot of warm season grasses, milo and long- and short Bluestem — anything to complete the nesting of quail and ground-nesting birds.
Being a steward of the land, I've learned to do a lot in late spring, around June, to avoid killing any fawns that might be in the field. The fawns — and also some baby rabbits — are going to be hidden in there so the mom can go out and eat. That fawn killed this spring could be the next Boone & Crocket club deer five years from now.
You’re doing everything you can this time of year to get the land ready for the winter. For deer, we’re planting food plots that will sustain them through the winter, into late January and February when there’s not much food around. We’re also doing a lot of antler enhancement to get ready for the rut, and locating does to know where the bucks may show up.
We don’t do a lot of early dove hunting and prefer to wait till it cools off a bit, but every now and then we get a good dove shoot. I don’t think the early bird gets the worm here — we like the conditions right.
The switch is on after the first frost. That’s when people in my circles — that’s when our senses become the highest. That's when we’re out of the gate, and by mid-fall it’s all hands on deck with the business. We’re in the full swing by mid November and there’s a lot to be doing, and it’s all outdoors. It’s a real juggling act!
Archery season kicks us off, and that’s one of my favorite traditions and especially with cooking up venison. We have all kinds of venison: cooked, canned, jerky, grilled, you name it. After archery, it’s muzzleloader, and then rifle — we do it all.
The upland shooting is picking up too, and the rut hits its peak. I’d say the peak around here, in southern Albemarle, peak rut comes as early as November 10th and generally hits by the 20th, depending of course on the season.
We’ll hunt birds all the way to March — the colder the better! There’s no such thing as too cold or too much snow. These dogs, they love it, just like us.
Any favorite parts of running the operation or favorite traditions?
The main thing that drives me is not really guiding but getting people outdoors, whether it’s for hunting or just getting people outdoors to enjoy God’s creation. I spent five years training to become a Master Outdoor Hunter Education instructor on top of at least a 15 year stretch of being a volunteer instructor, and am really big on teaching young people to appreciate hunting and the outdoors. I love starting off the season with two youth days, and we’ve also hosted hunts with the Wounded Warriors and really like to take care of our veterans.
One of my favorite traditions is also getting the family together during a hunt. When we have guests hunting pheasant, we always have a meal together, and my family collectively cooks for our guests. After lunch, those who want to go back out into the cold for the hunt do that, and anyone who wants to hang by the fire and chill can do that too.
Lastly, how did you come up with the name, 001 Outdoor Adventures?
Well it’s like a 007 kind of thing — if you have a license to kill, let’s hunt!