Central Oregon Pheasant Hunting

When PTO field staff member Matt Thomsen called me to about pheasant hunting in Central Oregon, I immediately began counting down the days until we left. The last time that I had hunted for birds (other than turkey and the occasional grouse) was over ten years earlier. Back then I had traveled to the Steens Mountains in eastern Oregon to hunt chukar with J.D. Gore and his son, but that’s another story.

Matt hooked us up with Crafty’s Quail Farm and Hunting Preserve, where we would be hunting with owner James Crafton on their 640 acre preserve outside of Madras, Oregon. Crafty’s offers wild released, pen-raised birds, which are raised in native habitat covered flight pens. The pens are designed to teach the birds to live and act just like wild birds. This makes for some exciting bird hunting.

Joining us on this trip would be Matt’s dad, Gary, Matt’s friend, Scott, as well as Scott’s son and two of his friends from school.

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After a three-hour drive from Springfield, Oregon, we met up with Scott and the boys at the preserve around 8:30 A.M. After a few minutes of chatting in the brisk morning air, James pulled up and quick introductions were made, he checked our licenses, and then we followed James further into the preserve where we would park the trucks. While not your typical base camp, the central location would give us (and the dogs) a place to rest between hunts.

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Accompanying James were about 8 well-trained pointers, which would be switched throughout the day.

After loading our shotguns, we spread out in search of birds. Prior to us arriving, James had already released about 15 birds throughout the preserve. We learned that hens will usually stay put, while roosters will run up the hill in search of the hens.

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It didn’t take long before the dogs had found a bird, and one of the boys took aim and connected on the first pheasant of the day.

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Throughout the morning James continued working the dogs in their relentless pursuit of birds, which had all of us at the ready at all times.

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Mid-morning we had about 10 birds already, so we stopped for a quick break, and then we were at it again.

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 Shortly after returning from the break, Matt took this nice rooster.

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Out of all of us, I think that the boys had the best day. In the morning the boys took the most birds, mostly because they were willing to run up and down the hills more that the rest of us. Matt and I switched between hunting and filming throughout the day, which allowed us to take several birds each.

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Scott and Gary rounded things out, with Gary connecting with several birds near the top of the preserve late in the day, including these that allowed me to capture a couple of amazing shots on camera.

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If you decide to bring your own dogs when hunting upland game bird, make sure that they have plenty of water. Between the hot, dry desert and plenty of running around, it doesn’t take long before the dogs show signs of tiring. Fortunately for us, Crafty’s has several water holes spread throughout the preserve, making for a bunch of happy dogs.

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After a successful day, we headed back towards the trucks to see how we fared.

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When the day was done we had about 32 birds on the ground, a couple more than James had put out for us. Apparently we stumbled upon a few birds from a previous hunt, which escaped other hunters unharmed.

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Pheasant hunting is definitely something that I would do again. After waterfowl season was over, this was a great way to spend a day with friends before spring bear, turkey, and salmon season starts.

I highly recommend Crafty’s Quail Farm and Hunting Preserve, which you can learn about in our Hunting Guides and Outfitters section on our Web site. In addition to the Madras preserve, they also operate an 812 acred preserve in Mayville, Oregon. With friendly and knowledgeable guides, well-trained dogs, and terrain that won’t wear you out, you’ll enjoy every minute of the hunt. You’re also welcome to bring your own dogs.

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