Tag Archives: Pheasant Hunting

Something to Remind You

On February second my wonderful gun dog Pride, passed on.  He was thirteen and one half years old, and his health was deteriorating.  We were fortunate to adopt Pride at seven years old, after his original owner lost a long battle with cancer.  His personality was unique for a seasoned gun dog.  In the field, Pride demonstrated all of the characteristics of an accomplished bird hunter.  He could locate evasive roosters, and retrieve downed birds out of the thickest cover.  At home, Pride was quiet and reserved. He loved to be loved, and that was obvious by the way he responded to our family.

The most special moment in my hunting life occurred during my first ever pheasant opener in 2011. In our initial field, Pride located a half dozen roosters, and I missed every shot. I had pheasant fever, and my confidence was shaken.  In the early afternoon, hunting became difficult when temperatures hit the lower sixties, and the wind blew at twenty miles per hour.  We were walking a public CRP field just northeast of Holyoke, Colorado.  About two thirds of the way into the quarter section of native grass, Pride stopped on a hard point.  He was not a pointing lab, but his posture was unmistakable.  Realizing that a pheasant was present, I started to make my way over to my focused dog.  The bird must have started to run right as Pride suddenly moved left. When Pride shuffled, the rooster took flight.  I shouldered my A400 and fired. The bird tumbled from the sky, and fell over a nearby hill.  Pride was already in a full sprint when the rooster landed in the waist-high grass.  Almost immediately, I began to second guess my shot.  Was that a rooster or hen?  Did I make a lethal shot?  My anxiousness disappeared when I saw Pride running towards me with the colorful bird in his mouth.  I just shot my first wild pheasant.

Thank you Pride.  Thank you for teaching me how to be a bird hunter.  Thank you for your patience, love and kindness.  Thank you for being my partner in many amazing adventures.  Rest in peace my man.

Something to Remind You

The Wave; Country Style

I was born and raised about 30 minutes north of Boston, Massachusetts. I am a native New Englander, and proud of it.  We live a fast, competitive and intense lifestyle in the Northeast.  Once one earns their driver’s license, emotions become amplified.  People treat their commute as a race. If you’re dissatisfied with the speed in the left lane, you flash your headlights at the driver in front of you.  If that car doesn’t move, you tailgate them.  If the tailgate proves to be ineffective, you bolt across multiple lanes, only to cut back to the left lane in order to get ahead of the original driver.  As you bolt by the person lollygagging in the left lane, you raise your middle finger in order to demonstrate your anger.  The gesture usually results in a continued confrontation of flipping each other off for miles down the road.

When we moved to Colorado just over 8 years ago, the pace of play slowed. When I started hunting, things really changed. As I drive east, people wave at you. It is a subtle move with the left hand, but noticeable.  At first, I was perplexed by the gesture.  Did the person misidentify me as a friend? Do I wave back even though they have the wrong guy?  It took a few trips to realize that these are people just being kind.  I am not certain where the geographical line is in the State, but when I cross it, things change.  I have adopted the motion, and now wave at every truck that passes me.  Waving at another person I don’t know makes me feel good, so I will continue doing it.

Video

More Fun in Bird Country

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

 

Our Last Hunt?

Pride is on the back nine of his hunting life.  He is over ten years old, and has recently demonstrated signs of slowing down in the field.  Despite keeping him in good condition, the grind associated with hunting wild birds pushes him to his physical limits.  At day’s end, he is beyond exhausted, and the body aches are obvious. 

The 2013 – 2014 upland season in eastern, Colorado has been challenging.  The bird population is significantly down from just two years ago.  That said you’re not going to experience success sitting on your couch.  In addition, given Pride’s advanced age, who knows how many trips are left for us?  So when the alarm went off at 3:40 am, I was motivated to make my way two and a half hours east to my favorite grounds in Phillips County.

During my drive, I checked the forecast for the day ahead.  Forty degrees and a steady fifty mile per hour northwest wind were not ideal hunting conditions. 

As I approached our first field, the excitement started to build.  The area is a favorite of mine, but had yet to produce this season.  We made the forty minute walk, but never saw a single sign of a pheasant.  I texted my rancher friend and asked if we could hunt his land.  With permission granted, Pride and I drove the five miles to the property.  The strong winds made our strategy clear; point Pride into the wind and see if we could surprise some birds.  I directed Pride to a series of trees that line the north side of the land.  It did not take long for him to get birdy.  The first hen jumped up about ten yards in front of us, followed by three more ladies.  While we did not find our intended target, the action did get the blood pumping. 

We made our way across the road where the CRP is thick.  A large cornfield neighbors the tall grass, so I decided we would bisect the land and hunt the relevant corners.  As we made our way west toward the corn, I gripped my Beretta a bit tighter as I thought we could see some action.  Pride started to move with purpose as we walked the berm separating the CRP from the corn.  As his pace quickened, I worked myself into position.  The rooster exploded about fifteen yards in front of me, and immediately absorbed the power of the wind.  Although he was close, I was not prepared for the absolute speed, and missed on my first two shots.  HEVI-Shot shell number three clipped his right wing, and the pheasant tumbled to the ground. 

Pride and I enjoyed a water break before making our way to a Walk in Area (WIA) just to our east.  The field has great cover, and feed is accessible on all four sides.  The ferocious wind kicked up significant dust storms, and that made the pursuit challenging.   About half way down the tree line, Pride changed direction, and bounded to my right.  A hen made her way through the tumbleweeds, and stood motionless for about five seconds before flying into the cornfield.  A few “no bird” calls had us back on course marching west.  Pride started to quickly cover ground, signaling birds were on the move.  As I picked up my pace, two hens exploded less than ten yards away from me.  Consciously, I slowed down with the hope that a rooster was being coy.   Within seconds of making the decision to decelerate, a rooster busted from his concealed position just out of my range.  After one futile shot, the colorful bird caught a massive tailwind, and accelerated into the mid-afternoon sun.  Immediately, I second guessed my strategy.

I took Pride southeast in order to better position us to hunt the last corner of the CRP.  During our walk I noticed that my dog was favoring his left rear leg.  I removed some sandburs from his paws, but he continued to limp.  As we approached the corner of the field, Pride started to get birdy.  He circled the field’s edge for almost five minutes before a hen took off into the adjacent cornfield.  Realizing that Pride was either injured or drained, I decided to head back to the truck.

On our way home, I wondered if this could have been our last hunt together.  The bond that Pride and I have developed over the last three and one half years is strong.  Hopefully we have more adventures ahead.    

Video: Pride doing what he does best.

 

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