Tag Archives: Intova

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.
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English: A Pheasant at Castle Grant Pheasants ...

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

 

Family Affair

For the third season in a row I was privileged to draw a buck pronghorn tag on the Cage Ranch.  This year would be a first for me as my oldest son, Ty, age ten, would accompany me on a big game hunt.  Ty is a soccer player, and adheres to an intense schedule that prohibits him from regularly participating in varied outdoor pursuits.  Ty’s weekend off from soccer commitments happened to coincide with opening day of pronghorn season.

I picked up Ty from school at 3:00 pm on Friday afternoon.  We talked hunting, and observed the numerous pronghorn family groups during the drive through the Eastern Plains.  Upon arriving at the Ranch, we decided to scout a few familiar pastures.  Ty and I patrolled an area just east of headquarters, and then headed to the west when we could not locate any goats.  As we drove the county road, we started to spot the white, tan and black animals grazing a few thousand feet off the road.  Ty had his own binoculars so I asked him to start looking for horns.  A setting sun prohibited optimal viewing, yet we were still able to observe six quality pronghorn bucks demonstrating seasonal rutting behavior.

Ty and I flipped between the Outdoor and Sportsman’s Channel while eating our dinner.    Each hunting show viewed heightened the level of excitement for the next day.  Bob arrived later in the evening, and Ty refused to hit the rack as he wanted to participate in the next day’s strategy conversation.  When his eyelids became too heavy it was time to get some sleep.

Dense fog moved in overnight, and provided an unwelcome start to Saturday morning.  This situation presented obvious challenges as our fast moving quarry would be difficult to spot.  Once the wind picked up at around 8:30 am, the fog started to lift.  Bob had spotted a nice buck running does in the Stacey Pasture earlier in the week.  We decided to hunt that terrain first.  As in prior years, we hiked our way to vantage points where we could stealthily glass unsuspecting animals.  Minutes into our drive, Bob stopped his truck on a two-track, and then slowly walked to the crest of an adjacent hill.  After glassing the area, he hurried back and announced that he saw the buck that he had found earlier in the week.  He was an absolute shooter, and we would pursue him.

We made our way a couple of miles south in order to establish an ambush point.  Bob spotted the speed goats moving in our general direction.  There were two bucks in the group, including one that was obviously mature.  With Ty trailing me, I worked my way into a position where I could see the animals.  Although I knew they had not noticed our presence, given their vision, it would not be long before they busted us.   I set my bipod down, and worked to pick the buck up in my scope.  Bob provided me a range of 270 yards, and I let out a breath.  Once I felt confident and calm, I squeezed the trigger.  The shot missed and the entire group started to run.  The big buck actually moved into a favorable position about 220 yards in front of me and stopped. Following Bob’s direction, I ran forward, took a solid position, chambered a round and squeezed the trigger.  Unharmed, the pronghorn turned to his left, and started to move with speed.  I regained my composure, and put the crosshairs between his shoulders.  Once comfortable, I squeezed the trigger for the third time.  Through my scope, I watched the buck crumble to the ground.

Hugs, smiles and high fives were abundant.  Bob congratulated me, and I thanked him for his expert tutelage. Ty was visibly excited.  He indicated that he is ready to go through Hunter Safety this next summer.   I look forward to helping Ty on his first hunt.

Bob and Ross Pronghorn Hunt 2015 (1) Bob and Ross Pronghorn Hunt 2015 (2)

2015 Video of the Pronghorn Hunt at the Cage Ranch

Gear Brand Comment
Knife Knives of Alaska –  Light Hunter Combo – Suregrip Gutted and butchered 2 goats with ease
Ear Protection SoundGear A must have for hunters
Clothing Under Armour Hunt Warm, breathable & durable
Boots Under Armour Speed Freak Light, tough & comfortable
Rifle  (.30-06) Tikka T3 Light Accurate & proven incredibly effective
Scope Bushnell Elite 4 x 12 works great
Binoculars Vortex Diamondback Solid optics – upgrade to the Viper HD
Round (168g) Barnes VOR-TX Precise and lethal
GPS Garmin with OnXmaps A must have for hunters who hunt public
Camera Intova High quality video
Bipod Bog-Pod Great – get the tripod for additional stability