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Feature Article: Holiday Roosters

Holiday Roosters

BY DURWOOD HOLLIS/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Jan 12, 2018

Enjoy Midwestern-style pheasant hunting, just a short drive to Imperial County

sometimescraftySOMETIMES CRAFTY ROOSTERS flush wild and that’s when things can get really interesting. PHOTOS BY DURWOOD HOLLS

IMPERIAL — Giving a holiday gift to yourself is somewhere between therapeutic necessity and psychological insanity. You probably don’t need it, but feel like you can’t live without it! For me, any activity that involves the outdoors, a shotgun and a few like-minded companions is such a gift. With that concept in mind, a holiday pheasant hunt became a reality. Since South Dakota is too far to go on short notice (not to speak of the added expense of air transport) and other distant locations even more problematic, there is one place where experience has proven the gaudy birds to be in abundance and the cover absolutely perfect for a safe and successful hunt the agricultural lands in the state’s southern desert. A quick telephone call to friend and hunt master Mendel Woodland and a date was secured for a hunt at his club location near El Centro.

Having arranged the companionship of a few other grizzled old codgers, together we departed for the three-hour trip south from the greater Los Angeles basin. Arriving mid-morning, we met up with Mendel a few miles west of Westmorland, California. The fields here are a mix of alfalfa, Sudan grass, sugar beets and Milo maize, suburb feed and cover for pheasant. For several seasons, Mendel has made arrangements with various local land owners for private hunting access to their various properties. And enhancing the native pheasant population with planted birds has given rise to a popular operation that rivals the best of mid-West pheasant hunting, with twice the birds at half the cost.

“Years ago the pheasant hunting in the valley was outstanding, but a change in crop development negatively impacted the birds. When the pheasant population plummeted, interest in hunting the birds also diminished. Even though there’s still a remnant population, hunting for wild birds isn’t the same. Since my hunters only harvest about 70 percent of the pheasants that are released, we have made a significant contribution to native population. And every year we see an increasing number of birds living in the wild and reproducing on their own. All of that means that you’re apt to have a crack at wild birds or two in addition to those we actually plant,” Mendel said.

pheasanthuntingoffersPHEASANT HUNTING OFFERS a stunning combination of classic dog work and challenging shooting.

We were assigned to a sprawling field of uncut alfalfa for our morning hunt. Needless to say, my little Brittany Spaniel was straining at her travel crate door and ready to hit the field. With shell vests on and shotguns loaded we stepped off into the reality of the hunt. It didn’t take long for the dog to make game and come to a rigid point. However, the crafty rooster slipped away and took flight farther away than anticipated. While the shot stretched my scattergun ability, the long-tailed bird went down in a hail of feathers. After the retrieve, the dog was back at work again sorting out the nuances of pheasant scent. Over and over again, the canine nose ferreted out hidden birds. While there were lots of challenging shots, along with several misses, before noon everyone had a least a bird or two in the bag.

After a hour or so break in the action, which provided a needed rest for both dog and hunters, we were back in field for another go at the birds. When we finally called it a day, the bird count was somewhat more than that which was actually planted. Obviously, we had taken a couple birds left over from a previous hunt, or ran into some resident pheasants. Since we were hunting under the auspices of a license pheasant club, no matter whether planted or wild, all of the birds were legally taken.

I’ve hunted for an entire weekend both in the California central valley, as well as other locations throughout the West in search of wild pheasant, to call it good if only a couple of roosters were taken. Here in the Imperial Valley, just a short distance from home, everyone in our partly was able to score on at least two or three birds in just the space of a few hours. In my book, that’s a “win-win” situation. Since the season on licensed clubs extends well into March, you also can have the type of experience with a rather modest outlay of funds. For more information, telephone Mendell Woodland at: (626) 255-1422, or go to on the Web to see videos of pheasant hunting action at Woodland’s Hunt Club.

nothingismoreNOTHING IS MORE exciting than an explosive “in your face” flush of a cackling rooster pheasants.