Hastings Island Hunting Preserve
Hastings Island Hunting Preserve offers 4,700 acres of prime hunting fields filled with ring-neck pheasant and chukar. The combination of these two great game birds provides a great way for our members to hunt traditional pheasant from mid-September through mid March, and chukar from the beginning of fall until the end of May. Since the seasons overlap, many of our members enjoy a mixed hunt featuring both types of birds in the same day. Since chukar and pheasant are dramatically different in their habits, a mixed hunt can be both challenging and exciting.

Ring-neck pheasants were introduced to North America from Asia in the late 18th century. They have spread over much of the continent, especially in agricultural areas. Full grown males are approximately thirty-five inches long, weigh as much as three pounds and are very colorful. Females are light brown with small black spots, grow to approximately twenty-five inches and weigh up to two pounds. Males are easy to distinguish from the females due to their flashy colors, long tail feathers and distinguishing features, including a bright white ring around the neck. Males also have spurs (spiky protrusions on the heel of their foot) that help us determine their age. If the spur is small and round, the bird is probably less than a year old. If the spur is longer and more pointed, it is likely the bird is over a year old.

These birds thrive in open country where they nest under cover in grassy fields, creek beds and corn fields. They are most active in the early morning at first light. After feeding for a couple of hours, they usually find cover near their feeding area or at their roost. They feed again late in the day, then roost for the night. A moderately active bird, they do not generally travel much further than a half a mile away from their roost.

Chukar, on the other hand, are very active birds. They often travel as much as a mile a day. Originally from the Middle East, chukar have spread throughout the Western United States. Full grown males are approximately one foot in length and weigh one pound. Females are slightly smaller. Males and females are similarly colored and are distinguished from other species by a black band that passes through the eye, parallel black stripes along their sides and a gray breast. They can be found seeking the warmth of the sun in the early morning or along water sources later in the day.

Coveys of twenty to thirty birds are guarded by one bird perched higher than the group, scouting for predators. When alarmed, they generally run uphill, or flush downhill. The coveys generally do not stay together when they flush, so you should be able to get good shots at single birds rather than at the whole group.

The terrain includes flat low cover areas good for pointers and dog training, as well as ditches and waterways, a paradise for Labs. Spacious and scenic, Hastings Island Hunting Preserve provides members with a convenient, yet spectacular hunting, fishing and camping getaway on a private ranch, that is inaccessible to the general public.

Rental dogs are available at Hastings Island Hunting Preserve. Our rental dogs are professionally trained and AKC registered. We have hunting records to validate their field skills. The Club takes great pride in the quality and performance of our rental dogs. These field trained dogs are the reason behind many a great hunt for members over the years.

Junior hunters are encouraged to participate in our youth shoots. Every year, Hastings Island Hunting Preserve works with the Yolo County Pheasants Forever Junior Hunt Program to provide a number of hunts specifically designed for junior hunters. These hunts are limited to thirty youths, age fifteen or younger, with a valid California Junior Hunting License. Each participant is assigned a field guide, a dog handler and a trained hunting dog. The field guide and dog handler help each junior hunter learn safe, responsible and ethical hunting practices. During these events there are classes available on gun cleaning and safety in the field. Each junior hunter is also given an opportunity to develop their shooting skills at the trap range and their hunting skills with live pheasants in a controlled field. After each hunt, the Pheasants Forever volunteers provide a barbecue lunch.

Bird cleaning and smoking is available. Harvested birds can be cleaned by our staff on site. Prepaid bird cleaning is a wonderful convenience for our members. During hunting season, the Club offers smoked pheasants for exchange. The pheasants are smoked slowly, over alder wood, for a delicious and unique flavor. They are a great treat for family gatherings and parties.

Photos: Rusty Reniers