Tag Archives: HEVI Shot

The Birds are Back in Town

I envy hunters that tell me that they shot their first bird with their dad’s supervision at 12 years old. By contrast, I shot my first wild rooster in my early 40s, and did it without any guidance.  I remember the overwhelming excitement when I stepped into my first walk-in-area (WIA) on opening day 2011.  This was followed by an intense adrenaline rush when my dog Pride stopped in the middle of a CRP field, and a pheasant flushed from the high grass.  When he eventually returned the downed bird, I was transformed into an upland addict.

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2016 represents my 6th season pursuing wild birds.  I now consider myself a quasi-veteran bird hunter.  Though the intense emotions associated with each hunt have not changed, my years of experience in the field keeps me focused on the task at hand.  While my shooting and gun dog skills need constant refinement, the odds for a successful hunt have improved.

Our annual bird hunt took place at the end of November.  Regular precipitation in our region over the last 2 years set the stage for a promising upland season.  Echo, my 11-month-old Labrador Retriever, has been through weeks of gun dog training.  While she is young, Echo demonstrates all of the signs of a canine ready to do what she was bred to do.20161118_061647

Greg and I drove out to eastern Colorado during the early afternoon on November 14th.  The plan was to hunt a few public fields late that afternoon, then slowly migrate to the Lenz Family Farms with the rest of the guys on Friday.  The weather in the area was predicted to get nasty.  Temperatures would drop from the 50s to the upper 20s, and blizzard-like conditions would provide the first snow of the fall.  Echo and her brother, Whitley hunted until dusk.  We uncovered more than a few birds, but the snow/wind combination made visibility problematic.  To that point, we ended the hunt, and carefully navigated our way to the hotel.

Temperatures Friday morning were in the teens, and the sun glistened off the freshly fallen snow.  Greg, Bob, Oneal and I knew that birds would congregate around cover, and should be averse to flying.  We made our way to a WIA that Greg identified as a honey-hole years before.  As we neared the field, both trucks became lodged in the deep snow drifts covering the two track.  We spent 30 minutes trying to dig ourselves out, but could not make any headway.  Realizing that it would be a while before Oneal’s buddy could rescue us, the 4 of us walked to the public field just a few hundred yards from our position. 20161118_0743490

 

 

It did not take long before we witnessed birds flushing from the tall plum thickets situated around a cut corn field.  In an attempt to flank the fleeing birds, I ran to the southeastern side of the cover.  Perhaps that was a tactical error as the birds already emptied into the corn by the time I reached the edge of the field.  Greg and Bob took Whitley to the southeast, while Oneal, Echo and I worked our way northwest.  Roosters continue to explode from the adjacent shelter-belt, and I continued to miss them.  I am certain Echo was not thrilled with my underwhelming performance, yet she continued to hunt with determination.  As I neared a fallen juniper, Echo went on point.  Excited by her posture, I moved towards her, and a covey of bobwhite quail exploded just 10 feet from me.  I selected one bird and fired, but again failed to connect. Dejected but not deterred by my repeated misses, we made our way to the edge of a long, tree-lined draw.  Echo was working the bottom when two roosters busted at about 25 yards.  Tree limbs obstructed my shooting angle, but I managed to get one clean round off.  It was the most difficult shot of the day, and I actually connected!  Echo moved with purpose towards the downed bird 30 yards from my position.  We made our recovery, and took a moment to reflect on what just occurred.  Bob and I continued to uncover birds during the rest of the walk.  Unfortunately, we failed to capitalize on the opportunities presented.

Oneal’s buddy, Mark, r20161120_185901emoved both trucks with his tractor, and we eventually made our way to the next field.  The rest of the guys arrived throughout the day.  We hunted a bunch of private land, and managed to locate birds in every field.  The weekend at the Lenz Family Farms proved to be epic.  Pheasants and quail were abundant, and we were able to harvest our share.

My friends and I have done this trip for 5 years.  This season marked the first time we were able to witness large numbers of birds thriving in an ideal environment.  Hopefully, the weather continues to cooperate, and wildlife habitat preservation remains a priority.
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Video Highlights from the 2016 Pradera
Upland Hunt

Product

Comment

Pheasants Forever Colorado I will continue to get more involved in our local chapter.
Echo We love our puppy. Great at home and in the field.
SportDOG Upland Hunter 1875 Used the collar for years.  Rugged, effective and dependable.
MobileStrong Has become a must have product for me.  Evaluate it.
SoundGear I can hear birds get up many yards away + the protection.  Great!
HEVI-SHOT Average shooting will get the bird on the ground.  Lethal ammo.
OnXmaps Public or private land hunt, this is a great tool for all outdoorsmen.
Orvis ToughShell Jacket/Pants Best upland clothing I have ever worn.
Irish Setter DSS King Toe Boots After 3 years, still my favorite pair.
Benelli Ethos Expensive, but dependable and accurate. Archer not the bow.
Pelican™ Weapons Case Rifle or shotgun, this case provides protection and security.  A must for the traveling hunter.

 

Muzzleloader Pronghorn 2016

I take pride in making conservative, ethical shots.  Shots that result in quick, humane kills.  I have been fortunate to have taken all of my big game animals with a single bullet.  Tracking a wounded animal has not been necessary, and I am thankful for that.  I knew that when I won my CVA Optima V2 at this year’s Pheasants Forever dinner, there was a real risk of failure.  For years, I watched hunters on television kill all types of big game animals with a muzzleloader.  I now had the opportunity to hunt primitively.

Opening day of Colorado’s muzzleloader pronghorn season was September 21st.  Weeks before, my practice sessions with the rifle proved to be a challenge.  It took me forty-five minutes to get on paper, and another thirty minutes to establish a reasonable grouping.  To that point, when I arrived at the Ranch later in the afternoon on 9/21, I went straight to range in order to continue to get comfortable with iron sites.  Shooting from 100 yards, I put four within six inches of one another.  While I was not completely confident, I did not think additional practice time would produce incrementally better results.

The Blue Mill pasture is a favorite of mine.  While there is not a lot of cover, I am able to glass over a vast area from great vantage points.  My plan was simple; identify a shooter buck, determine his general direction, and go ambush him.  I felt I could execute a lethal shot within one hundred yards.  It did not take long to spot a really nice goat.  Glassing from three hundred yards, I spent about fifteen minutes looking at this rack to be certain he was worth pursuing.  Recognizing he was special, I started my stalk armed with one hundred grains of propellant along with a Powerbelt Aerolite bullet.  Almost immediately the buck spotted me, but he did not seem overly concerned.  There were a few females he was eyeing, and that kept his attention as I walked in his general direction.  When he dropped behind a knoll, I started running in order make up ground, and obtain a favorable position.  I glanced over the hill and saw his head down, casually feeding just seventy-five yards from my position.  My heart was beating rapidly but I remained composed.  There were about one hundred head of cattle just behind the pronghorn so I needed to wait until he cleared them.  As if it was scripted, he walked to my left and looked up at me.  My Optima V2 was already in the monopod, and I took aim.  The fiber optic site was centered on his left shoulder, and I squeezed the trigger.  

Unfortunately, the fifty caliber bullet sailed over his back.  Stunned that I did not connect, I watched the goat race to a position safely out of the reach of the muzzleloader.  As I made my way back to the truck, the buck cautiously made his way back to the lower section of the pasture.  I reloaded and ran towards him.  My rangefinder had him at 130 yards so I pulled the trigger.  Again, the bullet whizzed over his body.  Slightly dejected, I departed the pasture to see If I could find another animal.  I watched a few more bucks throughout the late afternoon but all were too immature to consider.

The plan on day two was to explore the eastern pastures of the Ranch.  It was seven in the morning, fifty degrees, and the sun was quickly warming the day.  I drove for miles, regularly pausing on the two tracks in order to peer into long draws.  Unfortunately, I did not see a single animal.  At about nine, I decided to head back to the Blue Mill to see if there was any activity.  As I motored west on the county road, I noticed a big buck with a single doe just one hundred and fifty yards off the road.  Startled by my presence, they completed a 180, and ran one hundred yards away from me.  Both animals stopped and looked back to assess the threat.  I backed my truck up until the pronghorn could not see me.  My loaded CVA was slung over my shoulder as I ran laterally in an attempt to impart a flanking strategy.  When I was six hundred yards from my truck, I slowly crept west toward the general direction of the animals.  Despite my efforts, they spotted me just as I spotted them.  Realizing I had to act quickly, I put the gun in the monopod and took aim.  Almost immediately I realized that the rear sites of the gun were gone.  I panicked as I knew I would not be able to kill this pronghorn or any other.  Once I got back to my truck I called Bob and told him about the situation.  As expected, he offered up multiple suggestions in order to solve my unfortunate predicament.  Luckily for me my friend Dave was heading to the Ranch, and he offered to let me use his muzzleloader.

Dave’s muzzleloader was shooting a bit high at one hundred yards.  It was almost four in the afternoon, so Tyler, Bob and I headed back to the Blue Mill.  It did not take long to locate a respectable goat feeding in and around some cows.  He did not startle when we approached him from two hundred and fifty yards away.  I was able to get to around one hundred yards before he started to trot away from us.  When he turned to look back, I took the shot.  Unfortunately, my bullet was off the mark, striking him in the leg.  The injured buck ran for a long distance before collapsing.  While I was certainly proud that I had harvested the pronghorn, I was disappointed in my inability to execute correctly.

If I am fortunate to draw another muzzleloader 2016-pronghorntag, I will put in even more time on the range.  Shooting with iron sights is difficult, and situational practice is a necessity.

 

Equipment Comment
MuzzleloaderCVA Optima V2 Easy to shoot and clean; great gun
Binoculars – Styrka S7 10 x42 Great optics for a reasonable price
Pants – Lolo Upland Briar Comfortable, tough but expensive
Electronic Ear Protection – SoundGear A must for all hunters who want to protect their ears
Truck Storage – MobileStrong Keeps hunters organized
Mapping – onXmaps Highly effective mapping software for your GPS

 

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

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.
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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.