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Dr. Jeffrey L. Martin makes regular treks to his small farm in South Dakota with his father and springer spaniel, Molly.

Dr. Martin’s trophy rooster

Dr. Martin performs surgery to remove porcupine quills from Dr. O’Connor’s dog.

When he was growing up, Jeffrey L. Martin, M.D., circled two dates on the calendar every year: the opening days for hunting season for small game and deer.

“Growing up in rural Schuylkill County, hunting was a mainstay for most young boys,” he said. “It was a time to get together with family and friends.”

He, his father and uncles trained beagles for hunting rabbits and went to hunting camp in Bradford County. He always particularly enjoyed pheasant hunting.

Dr. Martin drifted away from hunting when he got busy with college, medical school, practice and a family of his own. About nine years ago, he returned to his boyhood hobby, which included training his first bird dog, a liver-and-white springer spaniel puppy named Molly.

“After my mom died of cancer at age 56, that was a turning point,” he said. “Life is short. You’ve got to do things now before it’s too late.”

Hunting also has been a way to reconnect with his father, who introduced him to hunting and fishing at a young age and now serves as his “wingman” on their adventures.

Dr. Martin, who practices at Hypertension Kidney Specialists and serves as LG Health Medical Director, IT Operations and Adoption, began hunting locally after training Molly. In the past, Lancaster’s extensive farmland provided ideal habitat for pheasants and other small game, but like most of the Eastern United States, agricultural practices have affected the natural habitat for pheasants.

“Pheasant hunting in Lancaster County isn’t what it used to be,” he said. “The opportunities here are scarce. The real opportunities are in the Midwest, particularly in South Dakota.”

Dr. Martin and his dad decided to be adventurous and trek to South Dakota shortly after his mother passed away. On their first few trips, they hunted on public land and stayed in a hotel. Then in 2011, Dr. Martin bought a small farm he named “The Rooster Retreat” (Male pheasants are called “roosters.”). 

“The property needed a lot of work and still does, but it gives a sense of satisfaction when you can fix, build or plant something of your own, even if it is 1,600 miles away,” he said.

Dr. Martin, his dad and Molly make the 26-hour drive to South Dakota several times a year. (When it’s his dad’s turn to drive, Dr. Martin works on IS topics and e-Health tasks on his laptop.)

They plant grain sorghum and sunflowers to enhance the habitat for pheasants and other wildlife. They also spend a lot of time working on the property, which included building and hanging barn doors for a large Quonset hut.

Dr. Martin and his father spend a lot of time working on the property, which includes building and hanging barn doors for a large Quonset hut.

Sorghum field

Mule deer

Antelope herd

Dr. Martin often invites friends, including Drs. Neil Greene and Rudy Rigano, to make the trip.

Dr. Martin and Dr. Tom O’Connor walk in the field.

“I’ve learned many new skills out of necessity, such as electrical, plumbing, farming and general construction,” Dr. Martin said.

He often invites friends to South Dakota, including Drs. Neil Greene, Tom O’Connor and Rudy Rigano. Many hunted when they were younger but then got busy with life. Dr. Martin’s son will make his first hunting trip to the farm this fall, along with their second springer spaniel, Penny.

Drs. Greene and Rigano take a ride in Dr. Martin’s wagon.

Dr. Rigano tests the ice.

“It’s not about the hunting,” Dr. Martin said. “It’s about the camaraderie and seeing different things,” which includes mule deer, antelope, coyotes and prairie dogs.

From mid-October to January, hunters may harvest up to three male pheasants a day (Females are off-limits.). Dr. Martin usually makes the meat into jerky, but he also uses it like chicken in soup, barbecue and other recipes.

He has one trophy pheasant, which his dog Molly flushed and landed in the water after being shot. She swam out 50 yards to retrieve it, then brought it back to him. 

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