SONOMA, CA – Among the surprises are the Bay Area Wing and Barrel Ranch in upscale Sonoma County, California.
Bay Area philosophy views guns and hunting as avatars of evil, cruelty, and lack of sophistication. Opposites exist in any hegemony, and that’s the niche inhabited by Darius Anderson, owner of Wing and Barrel Ranch. Anderson’s only concession to ruling sensibilities is how he characterizes the place. Turning it into a hunting and fishing club is not easy. Instead, it’s an outdoor lifestyle club.
Anderson, an avid sportsman and firearms enthusiast, founded the 1,000-acre facility largely to preserve Northern California’s legendary hunting heritage. These are the former playgrounds of Jack London, John Steinbeck and, occasionally, Zane Gray, the latter best known for his classic, “Riders of the Purple Sage”.
Ironically, another San Francisco institution has attached this name to the Bay Area counterculture. New Riders of the Purple Sage, along with the Byrds, Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers, blended Bakersfield Country and San Francisco psychedelia to create the stoner cowboy sound of the late 1960s and early 1960s. 1970. New Riders albums “Powerglide”, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/mar/20/wing-and-barrel-ranch-safeguards-hunting-heritage/”Gypsy Cowboy” and “The Adventures of Panama “Red” were major parts of my early soundtrack, ironically I came to Zane Gray through the band.
Wing and Barrel Ranch’s opulence is in tune with its rich surroundings, yet it manages to project accessibility. The wood and steel architecture is rustic and sturdy, but with a space that evokes the spirit of the West. The polished wood interior casts a saturated golden glow that stimulates relaxation and reflection.
Entering through the door you enter an atrium that leads to the gift shop. It contains a generous assortment of hunting apparel, including shirts, shooting vests, brush pants, and hats. There are belt buckles in a case near the register that cost $700 and up.
A few more steps take you into the gun room. It’s like King Tut’s Tomb, with a selection of shotguns that hits all the price points. Personally, I could really style myself with a high quality over/under 12 gauge Beretta that caught my eye. The $21,000 price tag kept my fingers at bay.
Upstairs is a smoking room with wall-to-wall humidors filled with fine cigars. The sweet aroma is intoxicating. Here you will find humidors once belonging to Fidel Castro and Babe Ruth.
Jack London is ubiquitous throughout the lodge, including a tattered boat flag inscribed with London. Darius Anderson is an expert on London and its works and often hosts Jack London presentations, featuring fine bourbon and fine California wines. It’s no surprise that some of California’s most renowned winemakers frequent the estate.
Wing and Barrel also offers ranges for skeet, trap, five-man and sport tops, as well as ranges for rifles and handguns.
My host David Anderson (no relation to Darius Anderson) from San Francisco said that every county once had shooting ranges, but California’s population has become urbanized, the culture has changed, and has adopted a collective anti-gun dogma and anti-hunting. One by one they shamed and pleaded the ranges out of existence.
Darius Anderson said he endured intense opposition from progressive opponents. He won through hard work and determination, and with the help of competent legal counsel. Of all the businesses he could devote his time and energy to, he took a stand with Wing and Barrel because he said he wanted to preserve a heritage that maintains a strong but abused base in the Bay Area.
This attitude is reflected in the sheer difficulty of obtaining a one- or two-day non-resident hunting license. In Arkansas, you can buy a hunting license almost anywhere, anytime. California makes this very difficult. The California Fish and Wildlife Department must have a non-resident hunter training certification number beforehand if you are trying to purchase a license online. Additionally, non-residents cannot purchase short-term hunting licenses online.
Luckily, I was able to purchase a hunting license at Wing and Barrel, then head out into the fields to hunt pheasants with David Anderson, who until recently was the US Attorney for the Northern District of California. His wife Kat Anderson, a member of the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Commission, graduated from Little Rock Central High in 1982 and my lifelong friend. She handled Susie, a phenomenal German Shorthaired Pointer who resides at the Wing and Barrel Ranch. A more appropriate name would be Hoover as she swept every foot of the field. She swayed back and forth, and when she locked herself on a bird, it was nifty to see.
I shot badly, but Dave Anderson held a clinic with his Beretta A400 autoloader. The teamwork was impressive. When Susie locked herself on a bird, Dave and I bracketed Susie in a way that would force the bird to fly away in the wind. On the climb, it should pivot to turn into the wind, suspending it momentarily and creating a fixed plane.
We ended our day on the porch of Wing and Barrel with a gourmet lunch that included a Wagyu cheeseburger with Swiss and all the trimmings for me, a hot pot patty for Dave, and gluten-free chicken tortilla soup for Kat. The vegetables and herbs used for the dishes on the five-star menu are grown on site.
From arrival to departure the experience was phenomenal.