Old Fashioned Pheasants
by Bob Hendricks
(According to Bob McDonald who secure permission to run this article,
it ran in December 2002 issue of MidWest Outdoors magazine)
When Bob McDonald invited me to hunt pheasants with he and Larry Ladowski
the only thing that came to my mind is when and where? Bob had been working
his Vizsla Cooper on birds and wanted to log some more hunts under coop's
collar as well as give us all a chance to shoot one of the most challenging
and rewarding game birds around.
Bob had set the hunt up at Brestal's Point and Flush hunt club in Waterman
Illinois. I enjoyed the farmland drive out to Brestal's far away from
the hustle and bustle of my daily routine. I was reminded that there is
still open farm country not all that far from home.
Driving into Brestal's driveway one can plainly see that this hunt club
has it all. There is a clubhouse complete with one of the finest chefs
one could ever want. Brad Hasman is known for his fine home cooked meals
and I had the opportunity to eat a fine supper consisting of his Caribou
meatloaf. Let's just say I ate slightly more than one portion and leave
it at that.
I was greeted by owner and operator Harold Brestal. Harold is a very outgoing
person and eager to please all of the hunters who frequent the club which
on any given day could be from a member of the Bears to an old hook and
bullet writer like me. Harold asked if I would like a tour of the place
before Bob and Larry arrived.
He showed me the lodge where the guests can stay overnight. The lodge
will sleep from six to eight people easily and I dare say more if one
wanted to. There is a complete kitchen as well as bedrooms tastefully
done for the sportsman in mind complete with some beautiful waterfowl
mounts. I could feel right at home there and then some.
Harold showed me the picking house where the birds are cleaned, and then
out to the private 18 acre lake where seven and eight pound bass are not
all that uncommon. In fact this lake is one of the few private lakes where
there is actually a thriving population of walleye who even spawn in the
lake. Harold said 45 were caught on one outing, and that there are some
cats in the lake that have been know to straighten hooks. Any member can
take advantage of full use of the lake.
I enjoyed our tour bus that was a John Deere Gator six wheeler. The weather
was crisp but the drive through the property with all of its fall colors
was something out of a tour guidebook on must see places.
We went back to the main lodge and I enjoyed salted peanuts and fresh
buttered popcorn as Harold told me a little about the club. He has been
in full time operation a little over seven years, but this is the first
time he is offering memberships to the public. He will not run more than
one hunt a day, and when it comes to personal service I think Harold wrote
the book on it. Everyone from the coach of the Bears to guys like me all
get equal and special treatment. Harold believes your hunt should be personal
and unique and has taken care of every detail to ensure this.
The upland portion of the hunt club is 100 acres of various terrains.
The thing I like is you encounter everything you would encounter pheasant
hunting in years long gone where housing developments now stand. This
is natural hunting conditions. IT is not a turkey shoot, but challenging
in every aspect. The fields consist of some being grain sorghum, while
others are Japanese Millet wheat, and other places are long grasses with
trees interspersed in between ending in an area of heavy evergreen giving
one the feeling that they are hunting in a natural environment unspoiled
I was watching outdoor videos and relaxing in the recliner when Bob and
Larry showed up ready to do some serious bird hunting. After greetings
we called Cooper and John Yocum our guide brought his black lab Sam, and
we headed for our first field. This particular field was heavier cover
but not to worry Harold had walkways mowed for easy walking. Coop was
getting birdy and Sam was wagging his tail like a helicopter blade, a
sign we soon learned that indicted scent. My Ruger Red label double stack
felt good in my arms. IT had been a long time between summer and this
first right of passage of fall. The trees were a splendid blend of yellows
and oranges with yet a hint of greenery around. Coop's on point Bob said
and John gave Sam the command to hold. We walked in and Larry Ladowski
folded a big rooster in the wink of a bird dog's eye. Larry was using
my Winchester Pump model 1300 and handled it like he had been shooting
with it all his life. Coop was all eyes and ears as he watched Sam retrieve
the big fat rooster to John We congratulated Larry on his shot and walked
on in anticipation.
Sam flushed a nice fat hen and I puffed her in a ball of feathers that
spells only one thing, roast pheasant. The great thing about a hunt club
is that hens are fair game and boy they can be really tasty on the dinner
table. The guys all congratulated me and I modestly said thank you, feeling
a bit glorious inside. There is nothing quite so satisfying as a well
placed shot, and nothing more disappointing than a full blown miss, and
of course there are those lucky shots which one is crazy to ever admit
to luck. None the less we had birds in the bag.
Cooper the 18 month old Vizsla had my attention because I had never hunted
behind one of these dogs, in fact I had never seen one in the field. They
actually were used by Hungarian royalty and brought back here during World
War II by soldiers. The young dog worked his heart out as the four year
old black lab Sam worked the magic that seems to come so easy to him.
We were heading through some millet when the lab stopped on a dime. Get
ready I heard someone say and a big rooster complete with a tail feather
to die for was up and at it like a ballistic missile. Larry swung around
in an instant and fired once but the bird was having no part of it, so
he fired again and knocked the bird down at range I would have never believed.
I congratulated Larry, but true to Larry's nature he took no boast simply
saying he got lucky. Lucky or not it was a gold medal shot. Incidentally
he was using my Ruger Red label on that one. Sometimes I swear the gun
shoots itself, but well balanced shotguns are that way. If you are comfortable
with one it will serve you faithfully until death do you part.
Harold radioed John and said it was time for a break. John led us back
to the break house that sits out in a tree shaded area overlooking the
lake. When we got there we were welcomed with ice cold sodas, hot coffee,
and a huge cheese, cracker and sausage tray. It felt good to sit down
and talk hunting while we enjoyed the finer foods of life. I think I could
live on cheese and crackers and the sausage well that was the crowning
adornment to this feast fit for royalty.
After resting our feet and stuffing a couple of more Remington Nitro #6
in my Red label we headed back out on our continuing adventure. We were
approaching an area that looked birdy and sure enough Coop went on a perfect
point. IT was Bob Mc Donald's turn this time and turn he did when he pivoted
to knock down a huge rooster that Coop had sniffed out. High fives were
in order as I stuffed the big bird in Bob's hunting vest.
We decided the next fields needed a little more savvy to hunt so we chose
blockers and walked the fields. The first field seemed to consist of some
pretty wary birds as they were running ahead of us, and the dogs were
zig zagging trying hard to stay on them. We all knew what this meant.
IT would soon be explosion time when they reached the sight of the blocker.
Guns ready we inched slowly forward and as if a cluster bomb of pheasants
had exploded hens and roosters came up out of nowhere in all directions.
There were some misses but enough hits to up the bird count substantially.
This is another great thing about a hunt club there are no limits.
John took Sam in and brought Luke an eight year old veteran black lab
out. The older dog was smart and he knew exactly what trick any wary old
rooster was trying to pull as soon as the old bird tried it. I always
enjoy watching the dogs work. IT is an art form, a sort of rhythmic poetry
and watching the young Vizsla in contrast to the older Luke was like seeing
the eagerness of youth coupled with the knowledge of age both making a
fine wine when combined. This was worth the hunt in itself.
We did very well that day shooting 18 nice fat pheasants which Harold
and John breast out for the trip back home. The dogs were tired, and John
showed me the collar that he uses to work the labs with. It is a Dogtra
1200 and instead of shocking the dog it simply sends a vibration to the
dog's neck. John says that this is not nearly as punishing as a shock
collar on the dog. Whatever it was the labs performed flawlessly. Young
Cooper showed me what a Vizsla was made out of and I was impressed. This
is not a dog you would expect to see in a bird field but let me tell you
they have a great nose, and pointing instincts all making for a great
We sat in the lodge and talked for awhile after the hunt enjoying cold
sodas and fresh popcorn. My feet felt surprisingly good. I had chosen
this day to break in a new pair of Danner High Country insulated boots.
They were very comfortable and needed no breaking in right out of the
box. I decided they would hunt with me again.
Harold explained that his customers are not a guest but friends, and as
such each is treated like family. He is not in the business for the quick
buck, but to maintain a loyal line of repeat customers. This is why he
refuses to have more than one group of hunters per day. This coming from
a former L.A. Police officer along with his buddy John Yocum who was also
an L.A. police officer and Harold's patrol partner before the two of them
came back to where Harold grew up and started the Point and Flush hunt
club. Harold and John clearly love what they do along with guides Rich
Mitchell and five star chef Brad Hasman. If its fast flying birds you
want, in a setting that reminds one of twenty plus years ago along with
some good old down home hospitality and service you can't go wrong with
Brestal's Point and Flush hunt club. If you would like more info on this
great hunting opportunity you can call Brestal's at 815-264-3810.
You'll find old fashioned pheasant hunting the way it ought to be!
I have included a recipe for pheasants that I think you will all enjoy.
Since I am not a cook and only know how to shoot the birds this recipe
comes from my wife Kathy. Here is the recipe for Kathy's Wild Rice Pheasant.
Start out with a casserole dish
One box of wild rice with seasoning included
One can of cream of mushroom soup
Put the rice in the bottom of the casserole dish
Lay the cut pheasant on top of the rice
Mix one can of soup with one can of water and pour over pheasant
Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about an hour or a little more (check