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Midwinter Hunt

In zero weather Californians bag pheasants and quail on a uniquely privileged preserve

For most of the nation's outdoorsmen, a picture like the one above at this point would be just a souvenir of a happy 1958-59 hunting season. For San Francisco Lumberman Stanwood Murphy and his guests, however, it is heartening evidence that the best of the season is right now, even if—as pictures on the following pages show—the weather may at times be inclement. For this is the time of year when Murphy's 4,000-acre Flying M Ranch near Yerington, Nevada offers hunting that most sportsmen only dream of. Because it is part of a Nevada game management program, the ranch has a six-month-long bird-shooting season which runs from early fall to the end of February. During this period, the Flying M is a unique private hunting preserve, heavily populated with deer and richly stocked with pheasants, valley quail and chukar partridge. On any winter day Murphy and his friends have only to walk a few feet in any direction to flush a game bird from beneath the sagebrush.

Actually, the Flying M was conceived and developed for a dual purpose: along with its fine hunting, it is also a working ranch which supports 700 head of whiteface and 300 head of Santa Gertrudis cattle. Murphy believes he has the largest herd of Santa Gertrudis west of Texas, and he and his wife are particularly proud of the work they have done in developing the herd. "We're both crazy about the cattle," Murphy says, "and we both like to hunt. I guess our reasons for buying the ranch were divided along these lines about fifty-fifty. Before we bought the ranch, we didn't have any place of our own to hunt pheasants."

Today this is no longer a problem. Almost every weekend during the hunting season the Murphys pile themselves and their friends into a DC-3 for the hour-and-five-minute flight from San Francisco. It is only a short walk from the Flying M's 4,500-foot landing strip to the ranch's five-bedroom main house with its adjacent bunk-house, cookhouse and manager's quarters. Usually the Murphys bring along such longtime shooting companions as Movie Producer Hal Roach, Restaurateur Vic Bergeron, Retired Navy Captain Clayton McCauley and their wives. Sometimes they hunt all day; at other times, a morning or an afternoon of tramping through near-zero temperatures is enough for even the hardiest members of the group. "Besides," Murphy adds, "at the Flying M, a hunter doesn't need any more than a few hours in any kind of weather to bag his share of birds."

Successful hunting party, (from left) Mr. and Mrs. Stanwood Murphy, Mr. and Mrs. Vic Bergeron, and Captain and Mrs. Clayton McCauley pose before DC-3 with field dogs and one-day bag of game birds.

Looking out across his snow-swept Nevada land, Flying M Ranch Owner Murphy waits with Mrs. Vic Bergeron for other hunters

Braving storm that unexpectedly blanketed the ranch with snow, Vic Bergeron (left) of San Francisco, founder of famed Trader Vic restaurants, and movie magnate Hal Roach trudge along frosted trail

Resting with their dogs, hunters (from left) Mrs. Stanwood Murphy, Mrs. Vic Bergeron, Hal Roach and Clayton C. McCauley discuss strategy for pheasant shoot on the Flying M Ranch

Swinging on fast-rising bird, Trader Vic, a first-rate wing shot, fires at pheasant bumped up by Weimaraners from a tangle of snow-covered brush in 4000-acre Nevada mountain preserve

Smiling after day's hunt, Vic clutches pheasant and leans on walking stick used to beat the thicket for birds