Faisanderie des Collines

It was a bright sunny morning when I met up with Mario Lamoureux, Yogi and Yoko.

The latter two are Lamoureux’s energetic Béarnaise mountain dogs. Together, we set off on a tour of Faisanderie des Collines (“Pheasants of the Hills” for those who don’t speak French).

Lamoureux is a third-generation pheasant breeder, and his love for the birds came across early on our walking tour that took us through a landscape whitened by three inches of snow. Like his father before him, the hardy Quebecer takes pride in his collection of birds kept in fenced-in shelters scattered over 15 hectares just north of Gatineau in Cantley.

Before you hear the word “pheasant” and head for your gun rack and bird dog, you’d better know that Lamoureux’s pheasants are not your ordinary ringnecks. Many of his nearly 30 species are aristocrats and rarities, and some come with a hefty price tag.

On my tour, I saw some spectacularly colored birds. The Impeyan, for instance, has a luminescent blue torso with a brilliantly golden tail. Temminck’s Tragopan has a multicolored head of blue, rust, black and orange with a reddish-brown body speckled with gray, while its cousin, the Satyr Tragopan, has a black head, a bright red chest and a brown-and-gray speckled body.

Another of my favorites, the Yellow Golden, certainly lives up to its name with its bright array or feathers. Oddly, Lamoureux’s priciest bird, the Cabot Tragopan, sells for around $1,000 but is rather drab in comparison with its brown and beige coloration.

As in many other bird species, it’s the male of the pheasant world that gets the wows for dandified plumage, with the females seemingly content to live with their faded, less exciting tints.

Customarily, Lamoureux overwinters pairs of breeding birds, then raises the young for sale in the fall following their spring hatching. To supplement his income, he conducts year-round, 75-minute tours that include a look at most of the pheasant aviaries, hatching facilities, gift shop and enclosures for turkeys, pigeons, peacocks and other poultry.

The trek takes place over a kilometer-long mountain trail.

Just a short drive away, the charming town of Chelsea has a variety of shops worth exploring, starting with the Galerie Old Chelsea, an art gallery housed in a more than 100-year-old house. The shop sells the work of 42 artists living within a 100-kilometer radius. Up the street, the Old Chelsea Slipcover Co. is run by Manon LeBlanc, who makes customized covers for furniture while also selling jewelry, hats, gloves, quilts and garden ornaments.

Across the street from the rustic St. Stephen’s Church (check out its unusual and ornate steeple), Olivier Savonnarie is stocked with homemade soaps, body lotions, shampoos and more. Near the crest of the street, Bougie Doogy Candle Co. is a purveyor of hand-crafted candles, using only the highest grade paraffin, along with a mix of leather goods, pottery and hand-painted scarves.

Just off the town’s main street, the Gatineau Park Visitors Center has information on the area’s cross-country ski, hiking and snowshoe trails. Two annual “Snowshoeing Under the Stars” events held in January and February.

A bit out of town, the Chelsea Smokehouse is a gourmet delight with a smoked fish deli case full of salmon, sturgeon, Arctic char, trout, mussels, scallops, shrimp and mackerel, as well as a nice collection of cheeses and smoked meats.

Still hungry? Just up the road, Les Fougeres has an interesting array of gourmet foods in its smart, sophisticated shop and adjacent upscale restaurant with an exciting French-inspired menu.


Faisanderie des Collines

•The cost to tour Faisanderie des Collines is $7.50, $6 for children (3 to 16) and seniors 55 and older. A number of picnic tables on the grounds are available for post tour lunch or dinner. For more information or reservations, call (819) 671-1974.

•To view Lamoureux’s pheasant collection online, log on to www.faisansdescollines.com.

•For information on other nearby attractions, call (800) 595-2137 or visit www.outaouaisgetaways.com.

•For a place to dine, Café Soup’Herbe, 168 Old Chelsea Street in Chelsea, is a cozy vegetarian restaurant with a country-style decor and a menu that includes tasty vegetarian soups, pizzas, creative wraps, organic coffee and home made desserts. Call (819) 827-7687.

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