I spent a pleasant day playing hookie last week at a shooting preserve in New Jersey of all places. The so-called Garden State gets a lot of flack for the picturesque and aromatic industrial zones along the New Jersey Turnpike; those hideous stretches of development, which include refineries, an airport, at least one prison and an Ikea, are what most people think of when Jersey comes to mind.

Uglier still are the draconian gun laws under which New Jersey residents must suffer in order to buy and use firearms.

But we are here to praise Caesar, not bury him.

Despite these drawbacks, there is actually a lot of very appealing natural beauty in New Jersey—pockets of seashore, farmland and woods all with a very rural-like feel.

It was at one such place I got to spend the day with a couple of friends at the Bent Creek Upland Hunting Preserve, shooting put-and-take pheasants over some wonderful pointers.

Some might pooh-pooh planted birds and, given the choice, any bird hunter worth his blood-stained game vest will choose wild game over the raised variety every time. But wild bird seasons are short and for a day of socializing, shooting and marveling at the always impressive (to me at any rate) ability of dogs to find birds with their noses, I’ll never turn down an opportunity to shoot these planters.

As an added bonus, the pheasant cooks up especially well and whets my appetite for their wild cousins I plan to chase this fall.

—John Snow