When I was growing up in East Medford, I always looked forward to Autumn, not for the cooler days and changing leaves but for the opportunity to hunt the wild Rogue Valley Pheasant.
The field across the street from my house was filled with Pheasant, quail, and even an occasional duck sitting on one of the Pear orchard ponds.
Typically I would wake up long before I had to be at the bus stop, and sit on the porch looking out over the fields. As the sky lightened with the coming dawn I’d hear the crow of Pheasant. I’d decide the area I’d hunt based on where I thought the crowing Pheasant was sitting. Then i’d grab my excited labrador and head out into the field with my 12 gauge on my shoulder.
Most mornings I wouldn’t come up with a Pheasant, but it was mostly because my untrained labrador would jump the thing so far out that the range was too much. Or the Pheasant would lead us on such a wild run through the brambles that by the time it jumped I’d be so out of breath I couldn’t hold the gun steady and I’d miss. That’s right, I’m blaming it on the dog.
Now that field and orchard are gone, replaced with tract housing and mini-malls. Also gone are the Pheasant that used to inhabit the area.
Pheasant hunting was never great in the Rogue Valley, but it was good enough to keep me interested. Now, however there simply aren’t any wild Pheasant left. There’s nowhere for them to nest and feed and do the things Pheasant do, now there are people in those areas.
I was lamenting this sad passing because yesterday I went out to Denman Wildlife Area and hunted planted Pheasant.
Denman does a good job of stocking the fields with pen raised Pheasant, but it’s not the same as hunting wild Pheasant.
Wild Pheasant vs. Pen Raised Pheasant
Wild Pheasant are tough. They’re main defense against hunters and predators is to run, run, run. I used to hunt in sneakers just because I knew boots would slow me down too much.
I remember following my wildly birdy dog through thick brambles and bushes for hundreds of yards before finally getting the damned bird to fly, and then it was usually an unshootable hen.
But the other day, hunting Denman’s planted Pheasant with my trained dog, was easy. My labrador got mildly birdy, followed a scent trail for maybe 10 yards then jumped an emaciated rooster. They’re all roosters, they don’t plant hens.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad there’s any hunting at all in the Rogue Valley, but I sure do miss the wild runs I used to do chasing after those robust athletic birds.
Another huge difference between the wild and pen raised Pheasant, is how they smell. When gutting wild Pheasant the smell can be terrible…their shit really stinks. But pen raised? You can stuff your nose right up there and not get a scent. That’s probably why the dog doesn’t get nearly as birdy.
I’ll still hunt Denman, it’s my only Rogue Valley option, but I’ll have to travel elsewhere if I want to introduce my kids to “Real” Pheasant hunting.