My 2011-2012 Season Comes to an End

My wife and I went to see The Grey Saturday night (1/28/12).  Unfortunately, I had a bad case of the chills during the movie, and quickly realized I was getting sick.  Sunday would be my final day in the field, and I began to worry that I would not be able to make it.

The alarm did not need to go off at 3:50 am because I was already awake.  The nasty chest cold had set in, but the motivation of the final day of upland hunting had me energized.  Pride and I picked up my friend Greg at 4:45 and we headed 200 miles East in my Ram 1500.  This was Greg’s second time hunting wild roosters, and he was visibly hooked after our initial walk in the very first field two weeks before.

The weather was not promising for bird hunting.   An online search illustrated a morning temperature in the upper twenties, with a high in the mid sixties.  We could not control the weather, but we could set a strategy that made the best use of our time given the unseasonably warm conditions.

Upon arriving in bird country at about 7:30 am, we found a large CRP field where we would start our day.  The wind was blowing at about 10 mph from the West as we moved North at a determined pace.  The field was lush with great cover but it was huge.  Two guns, one dog does not seem overly threatening to the wily cock bird that runs for long distances before taking flight.  As we lumbered through the grass, the cold air hit my congested lungs causing me to start to cough.  Due to a lack of sleep, my mind was a bit hazy and the eyes could not focus well.  To that point, I mounted and remounted my Beretta A400 XPLOR Light three or four times in an attempt to get my head and body aligned.

As we approached a lone tree in the field we turned back toward the road.  The wind was quartering from the West so we decided to walk East in order to move the dog back into the stiffing breeze.  Pride was running well and he started to range to my right.  As he circled behind me, I saw him make a quick cut away from my position; nose down and tail up.  The rooster jumped at about 25 yards and started to fly low, fast and towards the North.  I spun around quickly but did not set my feet properly.  Three rounds later, I watched the unscathed bird disappear over the adjacent hill.  When you hunt public land you may only get one shot a day so you have to be ready and precise.  I reloaded with a bit of anger and disappointment.  Pride did his job but I did not deliver on our intended results.  As we continued the walk towards the road, Pride ran hard to my right again and started to zigzag.  I readied myself and the pheasant jumped.  Unfortunately, it was a hen.  Eight trucks with a crew of hunters and dogs pulled up to the field.  They surveyed the land for 15 minutes as we walked East.  The hunters were going to deploy a blocking technique so they went to the North end of the field to drop 1/2 the party off.  As Greg and I continued to move through the thick CRP, we heard shots intermediately from a distance, and we knew the other hunters were finding birds.

It was 9:30 am and the day was starting to warm.  Greg, Pride and I loaded up and moved Northeast to a field that had produced all season for me.  This walk would start Pride right into the wind and move through a long and deep draw.  At the end of the field there was cut corn and a massive amount of tumble weeds.  The 1,000 yard stroll produced no action, but the deep cover was still ahead.  I told Greg to position himself above Pride as he worked the deeper cover.  As Pride entered the end of the draw, he suddenly darted in my direction and a hen flushed inches from my feet.  I was excited as we had not yet hit the seemingly great stretch of land in front of us.  Pride ran ahead with purpose and I shouted to Greg to quicken his pace.  One hen with a large rooster flew out of the straw at about 100 yards, then two hens and a rooster jumped about 25 yards to my right.  I fired and missed then fired again but the bird kept flying.  Greg fired but did not connect.  So I fired my last round and hit the mark.  Pride executed a perfect retrieve and we continued to push forward.  There were additional hens found but no roosters.

Two weeks before, Greg and I had found a small stretch of land that produced a plethora of hens.  We decided to get to that spot and see if that field would once again hold birds.  Luckily the wind was blowing into our faces at about a 20 mph clip.  There was no doubt that pheasants were present as Pride moved quickly toward the edge of the CRP where mounds of straw abutted cut corn.  We jogged behind him as he would eventually locate the quarry.  As Greg and I approached the mounds of straw, four hens jumped and flew left while almost simultaneously, four other hens flew right.  Eight birds all within 15 feet and not one rooster to be had.  After a half a dozen “no bird” cries, Pride started to dive into the deep, dry grass and more birds started to fly.  The hens flew close but the roosters were moving just out of gun range.  As we moved North paralleling the edge of the field, we finally got to raise our shotguns and fire at color.  Unfortunately, the shots never connected.  Despite seeing 30+ birds, we never delivered the proper shot.  While we were disappointed in the lack of results, seeing all of those pheasants in a small vicinity was really exciting.

Greg and I drove on throughout the early afternoon, stopping at different types of fields along the way.  We saw more birds, but once again the roosters stayed out of range.  Realizing that time was of the essence we tried to locate smaller patches of land that could be hunted quickly.  The windows were down in my truck, and we drove at a slow pace in order to not spook birds moving from feed to cover.  We closed in on a small tract of land that distinguished itself by its bright color and height versus the surrounding area.  Greg asked if we should pull over and I replied without real conviction.  I stopped the truck in order to make a decision, and suddenly heard a cackle from within the grass.  Greg, Pride and I slowly and quietly exited the vehicle.  We surrounded the patch of cover and sent Pride in.  The slow, short walk did not excite Pride, and I wondered if the rooster had run quickly away from us.  Then the sound of a pheasant taking flight caused my head, body and shotgun to turn to the right.  I knocked the bird down at 17 yards with one round of Prairie Storm FS Steel (#4).

As we made our way back to the truck my focus turned to Greg, and how we would produce one more opportunity for him to get his first wild bird.  We did see more roosters but the right shot alluded us.

As the sun set over the Eastern Plains toward the Rocky Mountains, we made our way back to I-76.  Pride and I took seven trips during the 2011-2012 upland game season.  We walked many miles together on public land and shot 13 roosters.  The amazing experiences of my first year in the field are forever etched in my mind.  Next fall cannot come soon enough.

Last Day of the 2011-2012 Season
Last Day of the 2011-2012 Season

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