Advice

Ty and Jesse,

I have learned valuable life lessons during my time on earth.  Many times those teachings have come at a personal price.  As I close in on my 50th birthday, I want to provide you guidance.  It should be expected that you will experience disappointment, frustration and anger during your lives.  My objective is to provide you the perspective of a seasoned human who happens to be your dad.

  • Love one another and remain good friends.
  • Work hard. The most successful people are generally the hardest workers.
  • Be humble. You will have successes in life. Recognize the help that you have received.
  • Own and operate a business. Cut your own path in life.
  • Don’t put yourself in a situation that will be hard to recover from.
  • Be respectful. Specifically, of women and authority.
  • Be empathetic. Never sit in judgement of others.
  • Always do your best. If you commit to something, do what it takes to be successful.
  • Never let the fear of failure undermine what you want to accomplish.
  • Beware of who you trust. Most people have good intentions.
  • Let people earn your friendship. Once they have done so, remain loyal.
  • Take a breath before you make a decision. Analysis does not always equate to paralysis.
  • Take it slow with the ladies. This will be hard but it is necessary.
  • When you financially make it, pretend like you haven’t.
  • Adequately prepare yourself for anything you deem important.
  • Never be afraid to ask for help.
  • Choose the right mentors.
  • Be disciplined in your life pursuits. There are many distractions.  Ignore the noise.
  • Apologize when you are wrong.
  • Help people who cannot help themselves.
  • Be charitable but cautious with your money.
  • Say, “please”, “thank you” and “you’re welcome” when appropriate.
  • Don’t idolize anyone.
  • Learn something new every day.
  • Don’t let your emotions dictate how you perform.
  • Take the time to enjoy what the world offers. Life moves fast.
  • Move around or through your adversaries.
  • Always believe in yourself and never quit.
Jesse (9) and Ty (11)
Jesse (9) and Ty (11)

Echo

The 2016 season represents my fifth year chasing wild birds in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.  My gundog partner, Pride, is now officially retired.  A seasoned birddog, we adopted him at seven years old.  Over the last five years, Pride taught me how to bird hunt.  He put up with my misses as well as located that late-day rooster to fill my limit or salvage the trip.  The formula was easy; I pointed him into the wind and he did the rest.  It was upsetting to see him slow down towards the conclusion of the 2014/2015 season. It was my first indication that Pride’s hunting career was coming to an end.  When cancer took part of his left front paw last summer, we knew that our time in the field would be limited.  He had a few successful jaunts over four trips last winter.  On December 31st 2015, with birds flying everywhere, he could not make the walk back to the truck.  I handed my shotgun to Jeremy, and then carried my friend back to the truck.  On that day, Pride stopped chasing birds.

Preparing for that moment, Jenny and I had been talking to different breeders throughout the fall.  I ended up speaking with a nice man in Yuma, Colorado.  Francis Owens and his wife, Teressa  own a breeding/training business called Advantage Pointing Labs.  Francis and I spoke multiple times during the season, and he invited me to hunt over his dogs.  While we had a tough day finding birds, it was obvious that his pups demonstrated everything we wanted in a pet and gundog.

Echo was born on December 13, 2015.  She is one of three females in a litter of twelve Labrador retrievers.  We took her home at ten weeks, and then returned her to Francis and Teressa  one month later for basic puppy training.  Admittedly, I am not yet confident in my ability to train a gundog.  With that in mind, I asked Francis to start Echo.  The plan was to do an initial introduction to birds at three months, then bring her back for obedience as well as more complex field work at five months.  My responsibility has been to educate myself on the how to reinforce the teachings.  SportDOG offers a variety of content that helps me understand how to work with Echo.  Additionally, Francis regularly posts YouTube videos demonstrating the specific techniques he utilizes with his dogs.  I observe then do my best to employ the methods during our practice time.

Echo is now seven months old.  She has a sweet disposition and a strong prey drive (video – Echo @ 7 months).  When the season opens in November we will be ready to patrol the same fields that Pride and I once scoured.  I look forward to our upcoming hunting adventures.

Echo Training at Quail Run

Echo @ 7m

One Big Fish

For the last seven years I make it a point to spend a few days chasing native rainbow trout in the North Platte River outside of Casper, Wyoming.  The fishery is special and cherished by the anglers that have made the area their second home.  During my first three years it was not uncommon to hook a dozen fish over twenty inches long.  In fact, the river always offered me an opportunity to do battle with at least one monster trout during my trip.  Over the last three years, the number of fish hooked remains astounding.  A seventy-five trout day is achievable and, at some level, expected.  The one thing missing, however, are the giant bows.

Family commitments required Chad and me to push our trip out three weeks as well as shorten it by two days. Our first morning proved to be successful as we experienced plenty of consistent action.  We figured out the feeding pattern, and employed a #14 red juju baetis along with a trailing #20 red zebra midge to secure many of the strikes.  As the afternoon evolved we made our way to a popular stretch that produced for us in the past.  The flow was down, limiting areas to fish.  Additionally, this section of the Platte has been discovered as the number of fisherman in the water has quadrupled.  As we waded into the current, we observed at least fifteen people manning desirable spots up river.  To that point, we were forced to fish a sub-optimal but available hole.  Maintaining the same flies on my nymphing rig, I made my initial cast into a darker, deeper seam.  Almost immediately my indicator plunged and I set the hook.  My line remained firm, so I stepped into deeper water to remove the apparent snag.  Suddenly, my line made an abrupt shift and rocketed away from me.  I could feel the weight of the fish and it was noticeably different.  Realizing I had hooked a big trout on a small midge, I positioned myself for what I anticipated would be a lengthy battle.  The bow remained low in the water column, and moved with purpose when I attempted to cut the distance between us.  There is an eddy on the far bank, and my initial thought was to try to coax the fish into the slower water.  My objective was to ensure the trout never got below me as I knew the small fly would not remain embedded in the fish’s jaw.  Fortunately, he continued to move up river which allowed me to slowly take back a portion of my fly line.  I removed my net from the magnetic clip and prepared to land the trout.  He was still energized and darted upstream evading my attempt to capture him.  I walked behind the fish and continued to reel.  Once my indicator neared my rod tip, I gently raised the fly rod.  The buck swam to the top and I netted him.  The twenty-two-inch fish was the largest I had landed in recent years.  Chad snapped some pictures then I returned him to the river.

I feel fortunate to have hooked and landed a North Platte leviathan.  The big fish are still around; you just have to get a bit lucky.

Visit Mark and his team at the Platte River Fly Shop.  They sell me the flies that are actually working.

Ross 2016 22 Bow

A Late Season Colorado Pheasant Hunt

New Year’s Eve means two things at this point in my life; a vacation day and the eve of my oldest son’s birthday.  Gone are the days of big parties, a few too many cocktails and staying up all night.  To that point, I planned an early morning bird hunting trip to my favorite Walk in Areas in Eastern Colorado.  My lofty goal was to have my limit by early afternoon, and be back in time for a celebratory family dinner.  Jeremy, Kessler, Pride and I loaded up at five a.m. and hit the road.

Upon arriving at the first field at 8 a.m., we noticed tire tracks in the six inches of recently fallen snow.  After closer inspection, it looked as though the hunter only covered the northern part of the long CRP field the prior day.  We moved to the southern edge, and worked the dogs west.  Our thirty minute walk produced one hen that was sitting tight on the edge of a large corn field.  Disappointed that we did not see more birds, I made a phone call to a local rancher who allows me to hunt his property.  Ron recently moved into a new home, but he still has access to the land he leased for years.  He asked us not to hunt the northern switchgrass strips, as his cousins were coming out to hunt in January.  After thanking him profusely, we hastily made our way to the prime area.  Just to the north of the house, there is a one hundred and fifty yard shelterbelt that always has a few birds hiding within the junipers.  Leaving Pride in his crate, Jeremy, Kessler and I pinched the tree row from the east and west.  Weaving through the eight foot trees, we worked our way toward one another.  As I focused on the cover to my left, I heard a bird get up behind me then a successive shot.  The plan worked as Jeremy bagged the first rooster of the day.

Given the explicit direction of the rancher, we drove to the southern edge of the property and unloaded.  The cover is pristine; deep grass abutting corn.  Additionally, no one had hunted the land in over a month.  Leaving Pride in the truck, Jeremy, Kessler and I worked our way west keeping about twenty five yards between us.  Pheasant tracks became evident just off the county road.  I anticipated birds were running to evade their pursuers.   Without warning, dozens of pheasants started to flush wild.  My first instinct was to sprint to the action, but experience told me to be patient.  I was rewarded minutes later with a dozen birds jumping up within twenty five yards.  I selected a lone rooster moving into the cornfield and fired three unsuccessful shots.  Disappointed in my performance, I reloaded my Benelli Ethos and marched forward.  Cursing at my inability to execute, I tried to focus on immediate improvement.  Literally dozens of pheasants continued to get up about seventy five yards from our position.  Jeremy and I commented on the incredible scene taking place in front of us.  The bird population in Eastern Colorado is recovering, and it was now evident.  About three quarters of the way into the field I stopped.  A nervous hen flew into the cornfield followed by a lone rooster flying away to the west.  A single HEVI-SHOT round took him down, and Kessler made the retrieve.  With a bird in my Orvis Upland Sling Pack we worked our way to the far western edge of the field.  Realizing that we were pushing birds, I picked up my pace in order to ensure that our prey would not escape into the adjacent cornfield.  As I turned the corner, I saw a rooster sprinting back into the thick ironweed.  I yelled to Jeremy as the pheasant took flight.  He made a perfect swing, and downed the bird with one proficient shot.

We made a decision to walk back to the east, as we did not want to disturb the acreage close to headquarters.  It did not take long before a rooster jumped out of the tall grass and took flight.  My first shell missed to his left, but my follow up shot knocked the bird out of the air. We witnessed more pheasants taking flight, but none that encouraged a shot.

It was lunchtime, so we decided to visit friends in the area as we had Christmas gifts.

I am not certain that I will get out again this season.  Pride is officially retired.  He does not have the ability to navigate fields any longer.  I will miss watching him hunt.
image

English: A Pheasant at Castle Grant Pheasants ...

Video: Another Great Day Hunting Pheasants on the Eastern Plains of Colorado

 

Pride Circa 2015

I did not anticipate that my 12.5-year-old lab, Pride, would make our annual upland hunting trip.  He was diagnosed with cancer in June, and had part of his left front paw amputated.  His gate after the surgery was noticeably awkward, and moderate running became strenuous.  As I attempted to get him prepared for the 2015 season, he tired quickly, and did not seem enthused when we threw the bumper.  As our trip neared, I was conflicted on what I should do.  I am fortunate to have buddies that own quality, hard-working gun dogs.  Hunting over them is a privilege. That said, the experience in the field is enhanced when you’re working in harmony with your own dog; a dog that skillfully corners a running rooster, a dog that locates a crippled bird in deep cover, and a dog that forgives you when you miss an easy shot.

On Wednesday evening I made the decision to bring Pride on the trip.  He would not hunt large fields, or be put in situations that would tax his mind and body.  Additionally, I brought all relevant medications to ensure that he remained comfortable during the journey.

Five of us arrived in the northeast corridor of Colorado at about nine am on Thursday, November 19th.  I am familiar with the Walk in Area (WIA) fields in this part of the state.  The drought that plagued this region over the prior three years made hunting challenging.  Bird populations decreased substantially as the habitat disappeared.  Thankfully, most of Colorado received adequate precipitation throughout 2015, and early season reports were promising.  I surveyed the land once I arrived at our first field.  The CRP was noticeably higher, and I hoped that would result in consistent action.

Hunting Pride in the first couple of fields was not an option.  The cover was too thick, and the walks were too long.  I made a call to a friend who is a landowner in this part of the state.  He gave us permission to hunt his property.  Our initial private field has a center pivot irrigation machine that abuts the county road.  Tall grass and tumble weeds sit below the drag hoses.  The deep cover parallels a large cornfield harvested weeks prior to our visit.  We manned each end of the agricultural equipment and worked towards the center.  Pride walked with determination and excitement as we executed the pinching technique.  His tail became noticeably active, and he picked up the pace, signifying there were pheasants present.  Unfortunately the first two roosters flushed wild and out of shotgun range.  A third rooster flew out of the cover thirty yards in front of me.  I took immediate aim then fired three quick rounds at the evasive bird.  Unfortunately, I did not connect, and was forced to yell “no bird” as Pride headed into the cut cornfield.  When the hunters met somewhere in the middle of the field, a final rooster flew, and it was quickly taken down by a flurry of skillful shots.

We made our way to another private section of land that always holds a large amount of pheasants.  It is critical to approach the long row of tall junipers from both the north and south.  We set up a blocker at the far west end in order to prevent birds from easily escaping.  There is a significant amount of cover throughout the shelterbelt that includes two large, deep pits.  Cornfields line both sides of the trees, which makes a quiet approach almost impossible.  As we moved through the area we noticed a pile of new shotgun shells, indicating that others had recently hunted the land.  Given the disappointing facts, three of the guys started to head back to the trucks.  Pride and I marched further west, still hoping that there were birds held up in a small patch of cover one hundred yards from the prime area.  As I approached the edge of the field the distinct sound of a pheasant taking flight caused me to turn one hundred and eighty degrees.  There were two roosters already in the air and moving in different directions.  I focused on the bird moving to my right and fired a HEVI-SHOT round from my Benelli Ethos 12 gauge.  The right wing of the pheasant was struck, but he successfully glided fifty yards into the middle of the cut cornfield.  Pride was already running, but his lack of speed undermined any ability to successfully mark the downed bird.  I ran right to the position where I believed the bird landed.  I asked Pride to hunt dead and positioned him into the wind.  For fifteen minutes, I watched him move carefully up and down the cornstalk rows.  Suddenly his turns tightened and his body lowered.  He stopped on point, staring intently at a pile of brush.  Watching with amazement, Jeremy and I waited for Pride to move.  He dove into the cover and grabbed the wounded bird.  I was elated at Pride’s performance.  He accomplished a feat I thought impossible given his age and medical condition.  We took pictures and I ended his day.  I could have headed back home as my trip was already a resounding success.

Eight of us enjoyed four great days in the field.  Successfully hunting both public and private land throughout Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas.  Pride continued to surprise me, finding birds in the nastiest cover.  Given his remarkable performance, we will hunt again this season.

Our First Field

Product Comment
Benelli Ethos (12 Gauge) I shot pretty well the entire trip.  The only birds I missed were my fault.  The gun performed flawlessly in some pretty cold weather.
HEVI-SHOT Pheasant Every bird I hit eventually died.  The load packs a serious punch.
SoundGear Bob and I wore our SoundGear hearing protection during the entire trip.  We love the sound amplification in conjunction with the protection.
Orvis Upland Sling Pack I was cautiously optimistic when I purchased this pack.  It performed very well in the field.  Comfortable and everything is easily accessible.
onXmaps Imperative on this trip. Needed to distinguish public from private land.  A must for all hunters and fisherman.
Irish Setter King Toe I LOVE these boots.  We walked 10 miles a day and my feet were so comfortable and warm.
Oakley Racing Jacket Would not hunt without these shades.  They perform very well in low light conditions.   The lenses are easily scratched so protect them with a case.
SportDOG UPLANDHUNTER 1875 The best e-collar in the market for upland hunters.
Sylmar Body & Paw Protection I recommend these products to all of my friends that own gun dogs.
Sitka Ballistic Beanie Awesome hat that keeps you warm.  Too warm when the air temperature crests 30 degrees.

 

 

Working Hard so I can Hunt, Fish and Golf