Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Extend your upland game bird hunting season
|LAKEVIEW — Upland game bird season will come to an end in just a couple of weeks for native birds, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's time to put your shotgun away in the gun safe. Licensed pheasant clubs will be hunting released pheasant, chukar and quail into the early spring allowing bird shooters an extended season and more time in the field with their gun dog.
The Four Winds Pheasant Club is less than a hour's drive from most anywhere in the Southland and offers up ideal upland game bird habitat. Native cover is just about knee high on the club and recent rains have really triggered the growth of winter wheat that will be huntable in just a couple of weeks. The birds that are released on this club are strong flyers, they flush well from cover and are excellent for working a sporting dog. "This year fields have been disked in rows making for an ideal hunting environment and a chance for wing shooters to really work a field right," said Sam Elder, owner of Four Winds Pheasant Club.
Western Outdoor News headed out to the Four Winds club for a combo duck and upland game bird shoot last week. Elder has a series of dairy ponds on property adjacent to the pheasant fields and these ponds lie under a regularly used flyway and loafing area in the valley where the old San Jacinto River used to flow through. It was one of those clear days when ducks just weren't flying, but a few small puddle ducks were harvested by some of the hunters who stuck it out that morning.
Elder greeted his hunting groups at the hunt shack, then talked about gun safety before releasing hunt parties to assigned fields. Birds were awaiting hunters, but the services of the bird man, who would put birds in the field and then optionally flag their location, made it a lot easier on a hunter and dog, especially if a hunter was interested in training a new pup. Hunters can also opt to hire a dog handler for a morning or full day shoot if they don't have their own dog. Elder strongly urges hunters to have a dog in the field with them to make for a fine wing shoot and to improve on the number of birds harvested.
The Four Winds Pheasant Club is one of the more established shooting clubs in Southern California and shoots on over 250 acres of mixed natural wheat and oats with wild grasses and ideal ground cover thrown in. The heavy rains that soaked the region prior to Christmas already have enhanced cover and winter wheat is greening up the entire valley. The club offers a number of options when selecting a day in the field with both daily shoots being available along with seasonal memberships.
WON caught up with Jeff McVey of Newport Beach who was introducing his daughter Morgan and Ariona Johnson to upland game bird hunting. While Morgan had been shooting trap and sporting clays it would be Ariona's first venture afield.
"This club offers excellent cover, strong flying birds and an opportunity to enjoy a good hunting experience. We will be hunting over pointing and flushing dogs to enhance the sport of upland game bird hunting. These two young ladies will be doing most all the shooting, as I will just be the back-up gun," said McVey.
The lasses did well on their first couple of walks through knee high cover shooting a mix of long tailed pheasant, chukar and bobwhite quail.
The club will host a Bird Dog Challenge the third Saturday of February that will be open to all members of the DBC. There will a wide range of divisions that hunters can enter in a venue where competition is scored not judged. Divisions include: Top Open Single Division for 1 hunter and 1 dog timed over 20 minutes in the field, the Open Double Division for 2 hunters and one dog timed, the Amateur Hunter Division and a Puppy Division. According to Elder any division with 20 pointers or 20 flushers will be sanctioned as a Majors Event. Points will be awarded on the bases of number of birds flushed to flight, harvested, for the retrieve, remaining minutes of the hunt, partial retrieves and 10 points for each unused shell (2 shells allowed for each released bird). For pointers only a participant can lose 10 points for a trapped bird. For information on participating in the Bird Dog Challenge log on to their web site
The Four Winds Pheasant Club will offer upland game bird hunting through the end of May. Hunters are asked to show up before 8 a.m. and hunting is offered only to those making advance reservations. Rules of the clubs are for basic hunter safety for all with no shot larger than 7.5 loads permitted, hunters must wear a blaze orange vest or hat, shooting glasses are highly recommended and a hunting license is required. During the off season members can hunt for ground squirrels and the club also offers a special package for opening of dove season. There are currently a couple of spots open in duck blinds for next season. For more information on the Four Winds Pheasant Club call 310-370-2238 or log on their web site at pheasantclub.com.
GETTING YOUNG WOMEN STARTED ON BIRD HUNTING — Morgan McVey of Newport Beach and Ariona Johnson of Ventura enjoyed a good day of upland game bird hunting at the 4 Winds Pheasant Club with Morgan's father Jeff and a little help from the flushing lab Jake. Introducing new hunters to field shooting at clubs is a great way to get them to become confident and established wing shooters. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC