Feature Article: Woodland Hunt Club

Pheasant hunting at Woodland’s Hunt Club

BY RON BALLANTI/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Feb 07, 2018

IMPERIAL — I love to begin the New Year with some good, old-fashioned fieldwork. Particularly when the field in question is filled with knee-high alfalfa and the work involves blasting a few pheasants out of the sky with one of my client’s new shotguns.

So it was that I recently found myself on the grounds of Woodland’s Hunt Club in Imperial, California on a bright, unseasonably warm January morning. I was joined by my son Greg, outdoor writer and longtime friend Jim Hendricks, and Tom Raftican of The Sportfishing Conservancy, ready to enjoy some challenging shooting while testing out the new Impala Plus shotgun line from my client, Dickinson Arms. As the head of a small marketing agency specializing in outdoor-related manufacturers, it’s ab­solutely vital to experience the products you’re pitching in real-world situations. It’s also a great excuse for having fun and calling it “work.”

woodlandshuntclubWOODLAND’S HUNT CLUB owner Mendel Woodland displays one of the beautiful roosters downed with a Dickinson Impala Plus 12-gauge semi-auto.

Dickinson Arms marketing director David Thiele set us up with some new semi-automatic Impala Plus shotguns with 28-inch barrels and synthetic stocks tricked out from butt to muzzle in Shadow Grass camouflage. We wanted to knock the rust off our shooting skills before the hunt, so club owner Mendel Woodland was kind enough to set us up with a box of clays and a thrower. After warming up with some early a.m. target shooting, it was time to hit the field.

Mendel and his guide Jose introduced us to the ones who would be doing the true work this day — a crew of exuberant German shorthair pointers named Duchess, Gunner, Stewy and Roady. This is the fourth hunt I’ve done with Mendel, and watching his pointers do their thing is one of the biggest draws. They are amazing animals and as impeccably trained and well conditioned as any Olympic athlete.

We rotated them in and out and hunted throughout the morning with one, two and eventually three dogs as the birds spread out and got harder to find and flush. “Our goal is to make the experience at our ranch as close as possible to a wild bird hunt,” said Woodland. “Clients who’ve hunted elsewhere tell us that the biggest difference is our huge fields and the expanse of deep cover the birds have to hide in,” he added.

Even though we knew there were 24 birds in our field, dogs and hunters alike worked their butts off to find them — as it should be. Early on, each crossing of the 50-acre field resulted in two or three birds bursting out of the cover. My son Greg bagged a nifty double on two shots. Just as he dropped a nice rooster that had flushed out ahead of him, another bird headed for the sky 180 degrees behind his back. Wheeling on the noise and seeing that he had a clear shot, he dropped that one, too.

mendelwoodlandMENDEL WOODLAND, LEFT, Tom Raftican and Jim Hendricks pose on the edge of one of the ranch’s huge alfalfa fields.

We worked throughout the morning and into the early afternoon, each of us bagging our fair share of beautiful pheasants. As the day wore on, we expanded our search into an adjacent field, and were able to flush out a couple more birds for our efforts. We called it a day after five hours of hunting with just a few quick water breaks. We ended up with 17 pheasants, the majority of them big, colorful roosters with long tail feathers. We only missed one bird that we shot at, so we were certainly pleased with the results.

As a private game reserve operating on thousands of acres in the Imperial Valley, Wood­land’s Hunt Club offers a variety of hunting options for eight months of the year. These range from day hunts and multiple bird cards to single and family memberships offering unlimited hunting days. Their season starts Sept. 1 with dove hunting, and from mid-October to April 15, the club offers upland bird hunting for pheasant, chukar and quail. They also offer spring and fall turkey hunts.

They offer a variety of adventures for hunters of all ages and experience levels. Woodland said that half of his clients bring their own hunting dogs, but for groups like ours, the club can arrange for dogs and handlers. “I would say that out of 500 day hunters, typically 200 or 250 of them will come back as return customers,” said Woodland. This certainly speaks well to the success of the hunts they do, as well as the quality of the experience.

We ended the day tired, sore and satisfied — always the sign of a great outdoor adventure. Bringing home some excellent game birds for the table was a welcomed bonus. Spending a long morning with the new Dickinson Impala Plus gave me a new sense of appreciation for this quality inertia-action semi-auto. I was particularly impressed with its lightness and ease of handling. The ported barrel was a nice touch that minimized recoil and muzzle rise when shooting both 12-gauge target loads and #6 pheasant loads.

To learn more about the various bird hunts offered through Woodland’s Hunt Club, visit their website at, or call Mendel Woodland at (626) 255-1422.

JIM HENDRICKS BRINGS down a hen with a Dickinson Impala Plus, as Gunner and Duchess give chase.

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