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Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Quail numbers are up but birds are scattered

Hunt clubs offer up great options
Upland game bird hunting clubs have come a long way in providing outstanding gunning for pheasant, chukar, turkey and a variety of quail over the course of the last quarter of a century. Years ago, just a stubble field of dried native grass would suffice as good enough cover to hide penned raised birds but hunters were asking for more difficult terrain to hunt over… much like that found when hunting native birds.

Not only were hunters in search of better field conditions, but they also wanted to hunt game birds that would either hold tight to the point of a good gun dog, or flush wildly from cover being pushed out by a flushing Lab.

There have been many good bird hunting clubs in Southern California over the years and Northern California still has it’s classic clubs like Raahauge’s and the Red Bank Quail and Ale gun clubs. Unfortunately, due to a number of environmental and other issues, many Southland clubs have closed up. Latest on the list of fine clubs forced to close was Raahauge’s Pheasant Club in Norco, which for over a half of a century offered up excellent wing shooting for thousands of upland game bird hunters.

Last year the Four Winds Pheasant Club, (310) 370-2238, near Lakeview provided pheasant hunting for large and private groups. Owner Sam Elder has pheasant again this year for groups and special event shoots for those looking to hunt his fields. In addition to hunting ringnecks, there are a couple of open duck hunting blinds for lease.

Antelope Valley Sportsman’s Club — of which most of its prime habitat fell victim to a recent wild fire — is for sale and likely not to offer much in the way of unattached hunting access this fall. Other clubs that had unique bird hunting with ideal habitat and had to close prematurely were the Palomar Hunt Club in Santa Ysabel, the So Cal Hunting Club up in Kern County, along with the Four Seasons Hunting Club located in the Tehachapi Mountains.

Fortunately, there are still some excellent upland game bird clubs in full operation with flight pens loaded with hard flushing ringneck pheasant, tight hold chukar, at least three different species of quail and some exotics.

The newest upland game bird club, which just opened up for hunting this month, is Oak Stone Outfitters California Upland Game Bird Hunts, (805) 472-2266, under the expert field management of wildlife biologist Ryan Piltz. Western Outdoor News had an opportunity to meet up with Piltz at the Beach Cities DU event last week to find out what this new hunting club will offer.

“For the first time, Oak Stone Outfitters will be incorporating upland game bird hunts to our repertoire. Native California valley quail are scattered in abundance throughout our leased hunting properties providing a unique chance to hunt this elusive bird. Recent scouting reports are showing average covey sizes of 75 birds with some exceeding 150. Right now, there is a special “high flyer” discount being offered for a limited time. All our upland game bird hunts include lodging, meals, guides and good gun dogs,” said Piltz.

Piltz went on to add, “In addition to our native quail hunts we have opened up a 100-acre upland game bird club at our Paso Robles location just a few minutes away from Sky Rose lodge. The rolling grasslands are ideal for hunting pheasant and chukar and will offer up some amazing wing shooting. Cover is a mix of shrubs, weeds and native grasses offering prime field conditions for upland game bird hunting. Group size can vary between two guns up to 12 shooters and our package is all inclusive of lodging, meals, guides and dog. The season for club hunts only start on Oct. 13 and continue through Feb. 3, 2019.

One of the premier upland game bird hunting clubs in California is the Lone Pine Pheasant Club, under the expert game management of Sean and Denny Ponso, (760) 876-4590, and has a long tradition of offering up excellent ringneck pheasant and chukar hunting. This club is located in the beautiful Alabama Hill country of Lone Pine under the shadows of Mt. Whitney.

For years, Western Outdoor News has made this hunt club one it’s featured hunts during the fall season and often mixed hunting released birds with a nearby hunt for native California valley quail and jump shooting puddle ducks on the lower Owens River. The upper ranch portion of the Lone Pine Pheasant Club consists of over 700 acres of native grasses, willows and rose bushes, which offer memorable hunting experiences for both scatter gunners and their gun dogs. Not only does this club offer excellent game bird cover, but there are many springs, small creeks and stock ponds that provide ample water for working dogs and stands of cottonwood that provide plenty of shade.

Lone Pine Pheasant Club normally operates four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, however, they will open any day of the week to groups of 8 or more shooters who would then have the exclusiveness of the entire club and its amenities. Hunters traditionally gather at the hunt lodge, adjacent to the upper hunting field of the club, for finalizing a day’s hunt and enjoying hot coffee before heading out to a pre-assigned hunting field. At this time, dogs are also attended to and arrangements can be made for a guide and good hunting dog. After a morning hunt, shooters can opt to return to the hunt lodge for lunch and have their birds cleaned and packaged for the drive home.

Afternoon hunts usually begin around 1 p.m., but hunters are welcome to stay all day. Advance reservations are required when opting to hunt the Lone Pine Pheasant Club and the motto of the club is “We are a small club developed exclusively for the hunter who wants to avoid the large commercial operations and enjoy an informal, truly natural hunting experience.”

Hunting parties should consider spending at least 1 1/2 days hunting this club to maximize it being a great hunt. Overnight accommodations should be made at the Best Western Plus Frontier Motel, 760) 876-5571, which is not only dog friendly, but this very clean motel serves up a great early morning hot breakfast to get any hunt day off to a good start.

The High Desert Gun Club, (661) 724-1218, located within the 270,000 acres of the famed Tejon Ranch, is considered by many wing shooters to be the premier upland game bird hunting club in Southern California. Offering a mix of native cover; consisting of native sage, grass and seed crops, the terrain is excellent habitat for a variety of upland game birds. In addition to having lots of easy hunting in little valleys and on sloping hillsides, the club has a warm hunt lodge where meals can be served as an all-day hunting experience option.

The High Dessert Gun Club is basically a private membership club, but the club does allow unattached hunters to hunt one time as a non-member in order to get a feel for how well the club hunts and its prime upland game bird potential. All hunters are required to shoot over well-trained gun dogs and handlers and gun dogs are available upon request for any hunt. Lead free ammunition (non-toxic shot) is required and all harvested birds are processed and packaged as part of the cost of a hunt.

Last fall, the V1 Ranch, (760) 782-3000, located on Palomar Mountain, opened up its vast 5,000-acre working ranch to upland game bird hunting in a setting within the highest peaks in San Diego County. The terrain features wooded forests, abundant mountain meadows and other ideal habitat for upland game birds. This new club sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet and specializes in custom upland game bird hunts featuring a variety of game birds and unique hunts over working gun dogs with expert handlers or driven bird hunts.

All hunts at the V1 Ranch are guided and there are luxurious accommodations available, along with chef crafted meals and wine parings with organic and locally sourced ingredients. This unique hunting club offers custom day hunts by advance reservations and there are a limited number of memberships available for those who are looking to enjoying a long season of upland game bird hunting. In addition to offering gun safety courses the ranch also has pond fishing.

One club that offers pretty good pheasant hunting is the California Pheasant Hunting Club, (626) 255-1422, located in the vast farming fields to the south of El Centro and is under the management of Mendel Woodland. This club shoots ringnecks mainly over alfalfa fields but there are also drainage ditches filled with a lot of thick native cover that can hold native pheasants and some Gambel’s quail on hunts covering some 2,500 acres. The hunting season for this club opens in mid-October and runs through April.

Each hunting field at the California Pheasant Hunting Club range in size from 40 to 80 acres and can accommodate a number of shooters. The goal of this club is to ensure that a hunter(s) has a safe and exciting wild pheasant hunting experience.

For and update and additional information on the status of the Antelope Valley Sportsman’s Club, call (661) 724-1291.

mexicalipheasantMEXICALI AN UPLAND GAME BIRD DESTINATION — Many hunters head to Mexicali to hunt with Arturo Malo, owner of BajaHunting, as an option to club style hunting. This hunt lodge offers great upland bird hunting and some of the best native pheasant hunting in North America. Pictured with outfitter Malo is WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec. WON PHOTO BY Dr. BROOK NIEMIEC

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