Jim Niemiec's Blog

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020
42nd SHOT Show opens with 2,600 exhibitors

Ringnecks flush strong at Lone Pine Pheasant Club
It was a good feeling to be heading up Hwy. 395 on the way up to the Lone Pine Pheasant Club after a couple of years of not hunting this well-established upland game bird hunting club. The shadows were closing in on the Alabama Hills as we pulled into a dog friendly motel.

Sean Ponso, co-owner of the Lone Pine Pheasant Club, (760) 876-4590, had invited Western Outdoor News to come up and hunt pheasant again, after the club took a sabbatical last year. After an early morning hot breakfast, the drive into the Alabama Hills was very picturesque as the clubs’ hunting fields were lit up by the morning sun with the backdrop being the majestic High Sierra mountain range and towering Mt. Whitney.

picturesquePICTURESQUE ALABAMA HILLS AND EASTERN SIERRA — Upland game bird hunters can enjoy great terrain and scenery when hunting the Lone Pine Pheasant Club. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

It was a brisk morning with the temperature holding at just above freezing, which would make for ideal scenting conditions for the hunt. Ponso met us in the parking area and invited us into the hunt lodge to enjoy the warmth of a wood burning fireplace and sip on freshly brewed coffee. It was nice to be able to chat with Ponso and catch up on what has been happening at the club over the past couple of years while we waited for two other upland game bird hunters to arrive.

“The club had a year of rest, but all weathered well thanks to some timely rain provided by Mother Nature. All of our hunting fields have excellent cover with a mix of wild grass, oats, native sage brush, bunches of rose bushes, along with a mixture of cottonwoods and tules. There is plenty of water on the ranch to sustain our fields and offer up plenty of drinking water for gun dogs. The stock of ringneck pheasant that we have this season are hard-flushing birds that come from Bishop, which makes them ideally suited for this altitude and our high desert terrain,” said Ponso.

Long time WON subscriber (since 1959) and Lone Pine Pheasant Club member Hudson DeCray of Bishop and his hunting partner John Armstrong of Reno arrived and we exchanged old remembrances of Western Outdoor News founder Burt Twilegar, the editors, contributors and the many fine stories published over more than a half-century.

Ponso interrupted the pleasant conversation, and said, “It’s warming up a little outside and best we head out to our assigned fields before the pheasant get too restless. With the moisture on the ground the dogs should have plenty of scent to lock in on. You will have time to finish your remembrances after lunch while sharing some home-made soup, tortilla chips and salsa and a refreshing drink.”

My yellow Lab Sierra remembered almost too well past upland game bird hunts at the Lone Pine Pheasant Club. Even after running around the hunt lodge with Ponso’s black Lab Luna, she was full of it as we headed down into field No. 1 with its great mix of game bird cover. While most all of this upper field is pretty level, following a gun dog at this altitude (slightly over 3,700 feet above sea level) makes for a challenging hunt. Sierra ran through the calf-high grass and headed for taller stands of sage and rose bushes, recalling from past hunts where the birds were likely to be.

CLASSIC LONE PINE PHEASANT HUNT —WON staff writer Jim Niemiec, his wife Toni and their yellow Lab Sierra had a great time hunting the Lone Pine Pheasant Club. PHOTO COURTESY SEAN PONSO

Trying to catch up to my Lab didn’t quite work out on that first long tailed rooster that exploded from cover just outside of 20 ga. No. 7 steel shotgun range. Ponso’s comment was that we’d just finish hunting downslope and try to pick up that pheasant on the way back to the hunt lodge.

Finally, Sierra started slowing down and spent more time on being a semi-trained pointing Labrador retriever, thus allowing my wife Toni to take good photos of dog work, points and being in position to catch a flushing ringneck in the air. Ponso had asked his bird man Mark to put out 6 pheasant for our hunt and Sierra flushed 7 birds during that morning’s hunt, including one holdover ringneck from a previous release.

The Lone Pine Pheasant Club is a small hunting club that has been developed exclusively for the hunter who wants to avoid the large commercial operations and enjoy an informal, truly natural hunting experience. According to Ponso, his club hunts on one of the most beautiful working cattle ranches in California. This ranch welcomes hunters and recognizes the importance of good relations between ranching, the community and sportsmen.

Normally, the club is open three days a week, Friday thru Sunday. However, the club will open any day of the week for groups of six or more hunters, who can then enjoy the exclusive use of the entire club. All hunts begin at the clubhouse lodge at 8:00 a.m. and the afternoon hunt starts at 1:00 p.m. There is an RV parking area adjacent to the clubhouse and bird processing and packaging is available for birds taken home.

WON might suggest that those booking a hunt at the Lone Pine Pheasant Club that they check with Ponso on other hunting options in the lower Owens River Valley, where ducks, native Valley quail and fishing are available. Advance reservations are required when hunting this club and Ponso offers assistance with booking a motel or nearby campground arrangements for hunting guests. To find out more about this upland game bird club log on to their website at lonepinepheasantclub.com.

AFTER THE HUNT — WON’s Jim Niemiec, his Lab Sierra and Lone Pine Pheasant Club owner Sean Ponso show off the morning’s harvest of ringneck pheasant in front of the hunt lodge. WON PHOTO BY TONI NIEMIEC

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