By John Kruse
THE WASHINGTON OUTDOORS REPORT
PRIVATE RANCH PHEASANTS
As far as I’m concerned, there are few things more enjoyable in life than watching a dog catch the scent of a pheasant, track that bird down and then watching that rooster explode out of the brush into the air in front of you. As for knocking the bird down? That’s a big bonus too, though I struggled in that regard during my recent trip to the Cooke Canyon Hunt Club near Ellensburg. I went to this hunting club at the invitation of member Mike Carey, the man behind Northwest Fishing Reports TV and the NWFR Reel Life magazine. Also with us was well known writer and editor Jason Brooks. He spent the morning following the two of us and Mike’s springer spaniel, Duke, with his camera from flush to flush, laughing merrily every time I shot holes into the sky.
The Cooke Canyon Hunt Club is a non-profit club north of Ellensburg with 1,000 acres to hunt. Doug and Alice Burnett are the affable owners and they are assisted by several friendly employees who will plant pheasant or chukar you pay for in a designated 80 to 100 acre-plot you and your party will exclusively hunt. This is nice because you are not competing with other hunters like you often do hunting on public land or state pheasant release sites. The birds come in packages of either five roosters, seven hens or seven chukar though you can add on to those packages with more birds if you choose too. A dog is required and many of the hunters here, including Mike, use the hunting club as a way of training their dogs to be better hunters before taking them to places where they’ll hunt wild pheasants during the regular season. Steel shot is also required and if you don’t have a dog, you can hire a guide with a dog so that you can hone your shooting and hunting skills.
There are real advantages to private ranch pheasant hunting, especially in Washington State where wild pheasant populations cratered due to habitat loss and changing farming practices. Whereas you might walk several miles with your dog and maybe flush a pheasant on public land, here you are assured of several flushes at close range during a hunt that usually lasts two or three hours.
The terrain at Cooke Canyon is good too. It’s not a big open flat field. Instead, where we hunted, there was a of different types of brush for the birds to hide in and for you to navigate through as well as a creek and two draws separated by a ridgeline. Much to my surprise, we actually covered close to three miles hunting back and forth behind the dog. Another big advantage to private ranch hunting in Washington is that you can go after pheasants both before and after the regular hunting season which runs from mid-October thru mid-January in Eastern Washington. At the private hunting preserves, the season starts September 1st and continues until March 31st.
I am happy to report that despite my shooting woes we did end up hitting a couple of birds during our morning hunt. I had to leave after that but Jason and Mike went out for an afternoon shoot after lunch where there was a lot more hitting than missing and several tasty pheasant ended up going home for supper.
If you are looking for a Central or Eastern Washington pheasant hunting opportunity on a private ranch near you here are a few options:
Cooke Canyon Hunt Club – Ellensburg – www.cookecanyon.com – Tel. 509- 933-1372 Hidden Ranch Outfitters – Coulee City – www.hiddenranchoutfitters.com – Tel. 509-681-0218 Miller Ranch – Cheney – www.millerranch.com – Tel. 509-990-6575 Double Barrel Ranch – Rockford – www.uplandbirdranch.com – Tel. 509-270-5518 Limits Game Farm – Mesa – www.limitsgamefarm.com – Tel. 509 265-4578 Private ranch pheasants. Don’t turn up your nose at this opportunity. If you enjoy hunting pheasant this can be a productive training experience for your dog as well as a fun day for you and your friends.
John Kruse – www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com
1. The author in the act of missing a flying rooster – Courtesy Jason Brooks 2. Mike Carey and Duke with a pheasant – Courtesy Jason Brooks