THE WILDLIFE RANCH

The Brownsville Times, Brownsville Oregon

Best gamebird hunting in Oregon is close to home

By Mandy Cole

 

A little over three miles up Upper Calapooia Rd, south of Holley, is the entrance to some of the best upland gamebird hunting in the state. Wildlife Ranch, owned and operated by George and Jo Dern, is a 150-acre wildlife habitat managed as a hunting preserve. “We manage the whole ranch for wildlife species, timber, indigenous plants and animals, and for pheasant hunting,” says George. It took George and Jo years to return the property to the healthy, diversified acreage it is today. “The land was a mess when we bought it….huge piles of downed trees, blackberries, damaged soil…. it wasn’t well taken care of. We have worked extremely hard since 1994 to bring it back to where it supports a variety of native plants and animals and also provides good cover for the pheasants,” he says.

 

From the first of August to the end of March each year, George and Jo and guide Jeff Lebow provide hunters a range of experiences: non-guided hunts for single hunters, all-day hunts for 2-4 hunters, a European hunt package where 200 birds are released for 10 hunters from a hidden tower, and hunters’ clays. Most popular is the half-day non-guided field hunt where hunters get the whole beautiful ranch to themselves. Some hunters bring their own dogs, but dogs are available on request. “Most of our hunters are urban entrepreneurs who need some time and a wild environment to relax in. It’s hard to raise a bird dog in the city so we’re happy to provide ours,” says George. Customers come from Roseburg to Portland, Spain to Japan. “We take very good care of our hunters so the vast majority of our customers are repeats. Some of our hunters have been coming here since we opened in the early 90s and they have become good friends.”

 

Pheasants, first introduced in Oregon in the early 1900s, thrived in the Willamette Valley during those early years when farming practices were different than now. Gamebird habitat is disappearing because today’s farming methods have greatly reduced the brushy cover needed by the birds for shelter, food, and nesting. Every bird I release is a trophy bird,” says George. “Plus we have developed the best habitat for the birds; we have continuous heavy cover. You’ve got to hunt to finds our birds.” There are only 15-20 active hunting preserves in Oregon today. “Pheasants can run and they can fly. Preserve hunting is quality hunting,” says George.

George and wife Jo were both raised in Wyoming so rural Linn County feels like home. “I was raised on a cattle ranch, but we only ate wild meat, “says George, “It was my job to hunt for food.” George’s long history of hunting and familiarity with guns serves him well now. “We always have gun safety lessons for new hunters; we take gun safety very, very seriously. With novices we start them on clays to tune them up a little bit.” As the end of the season rolls around, George reserves the last day, March 31, for himself and his dogs Ellie and Tripper. “My dogs love to hunt and there’s no finer place than this ranch to be on an afternoon in early spring. Our pheasants are big, beautiful, and tough to find. It’s heaven,” he says.

 

For more information on hunting at Wildlife Ranch,

call George or Jo at 541.405.2275.

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