Tag Archives: Pheasant

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.

 

Another Shot

Our initial trek to Eastern Colorado did not produce positive results.  Cover was thin and birds were scare.   We witnessed only a half a dozen birds (one rooster) situated in both walk-in-areas (WIA) and prime private land.  The hunting chat rooms underscored the challenges associated with the 2013-2014 upland season.  Some people found birds, but most struggled.  Not unlike past years, crowds diminish after the first couple of weeks.  To that point, I set up our men’s three day hunting trip for the third weekend of the season.

Four of us headed out to Northeast Colorado on Friday morning.  My favorite field has CRP that abuts freshly cut corn on three of the four sides.  As we neared what I would deem the most productive section of land, I split the group so we could begin to pinch the most dense cover.  Deep snow drifts made it difficult for the dogs to get to the bottom of the draw.  Otis and Pride ran quickly through the hundred yards of prime territory, and the hunters moved into advantageous positions.  Unfortunately, there was not a bird present.  I sent a quick text to a rancher friend of mine, and asked him if we could hunt his property.  He responded positively so we headed north to his house. 

While we were enjoying a vacation day, my friend was hard at work.  I asked him if he needed assistance.  He refused, acknowledging our desire to hunt, as well as his need to get an important project accomplished.  I convinced him that the hunting could wait, and that we would like to help.  The rancher explained that his cows needed to be moved to a new pasture.  We set up an electric fence, emptied and moved water troughs, and then we took the cows from one field to another.  Dave, Jeff, Bob and I actually had a good time completing our tasks.  The time was 3:15 pm, and we had about ninety minutes of hunting time available. 

Just to the north of the residence there is a bit of CRP that extends through a fifty yard tree line.  I told Dave and Jeff to enter the eastern part of the field quietly, and we would start our walk from the west.  As Bob and I drove by the tree row, we spotted two roosters walking into the tall grass.  Soon after piling out, Pride became immediately birdy and darted ahead of us.  As we approached the trees, a hen jumped in front of Jeff.  I yelled to be ready as there were at least two colored birds in our presence.  Pride took a sharp left and moved toward the fence line, so I shouldered my Beretta in hopes that the running bird would rise.  The roosters did eventually take flight; just sixty yards out of our range. 

I took the group into the adjacent CRP strips and formulated a plan.  Dave, Jeff and Otis would sneak to the east and begin to slowly walk to Bob and me.  As the four hunters came within twenty yards of one another I asked everyone to pause.  As we stood motionless, deciding on our next move, a rooster busted from the deep cover.  He flew west then banked a hard left moving toward the south.  Shots rang out as the mortally wounded bird glided seventy five yards before plummeting to earth.  Our dogs marked the downed bird and headed to fetch him.  The first bird of the trip was in the bag, and the last bit of the day’s sun settled in the west.

Day two was cold (nine degrees) and had us patrolling uncharted territory; northwest Nebraska.  Navigating the maps we eventually found the available CRP fields, but there was no sign of birds.  Four hours of hunting, and no opportunities had us heading back into town for some lunch.  We asked the locals for any recommendations, but mum was the word of the day.  As we were leaving, a friendly waitress suggested we try some areas just north of our position.  The first CRP field looked similar to the others, but had some unique structure abutting it.  We piled out quietly, and surrounded the area.  Otis darted up the center, obviously excited by something.  I started to run behind him as my instincts indicated potential action.   Without warning, a hen followed by a large number of pheasants, flushed from the tall grass.  I selected the first rooster and fired.  Unscathed he banked a hard left and moved away from my position.  Fortunately, a second rooster jumped up, and a single HEVI-Shot Pheasant shell downed him immediately.  Birds were still exploding from their position at the edge of the cover, but no rooster was close enough for another shot. 

The next WIA seemed to be untouched as the snow had no visible markings around it.   As we slowed down next to the field, a dozen birds exploded from the pit adjacent to the road.  The guys piled out of the trucks, and moved through the ditch in order to obtain a solid, legal shooting position.  More birds poured out, and headed away from the road.  I heard some shots but I stayed in the truck.  Despite the furious action, no pheasants were taken from the field.  We hunted multiple public areas the rest of the day, but were only able to push up a single hen. 

Day three’s plan would be to visit a few familiar Colorado fields, and hunt them until about ten am.  The first WIA is lined with rocky mountain junipers as well as plum trees.   The area had been hunted in previous days as there were boot tracks everywhere.  We marched the dogs into the wind, and bumped a coyote toward the end of the tree line.  Realizing that the predator would have moved any birds out of that area, we headed back to the trucks.  Our next field was minutes away, and had a few mounds of spilled corn around the contiguous road.  We managed to jump one hen on our walk west.  The wind was blowing from the south at twenty MPH, so we pointed the dogs into the wind and continued the hike.  Otis started to weave quickly on the field’s western edge.  I decided it was best to hasten my pace and keep up with him.  The fifty yard run culminated with two hens flying out of the corner of the field.  Otis’ young nose was on and he was not stopping.  For the first time on the trip, pheasant tracks marked the two-day old snow.  I watched Bob on my left as Pride was getting birdy in front of him.  Otis rocketed east then took a hard right, and moved a rooster out of his concealed position.  Bob and I fired at once, and the bird tumbled to the ground.  We decided to continue our hike toward the east; a mistake, given hindsight.  Almost immediately, Otis and Pride started to sprint after evading birds, and we attempted to keep up.  As we neared the center of the field we witnessed two sets of four pheasants fly across the road.  Admittedly, I make a tactical error.  I should have worked back to the road, and blocked for Jeff, Dave and Bob.  We piled into the trucks, and headed to our final field of the day.  Another forty five minute walk resulted in Pride taking me to the edge of a cornfield where he startled a hen hunkered down in the adjacent ditch.

After a big breakfast, we make our way back to Parker.  Despite the conditions, the second trip was really enjoyable.  I have great friends that stay positive and hunt hard.  While the bird sightings were rare, we managed to execute a few times when opportunities were presented.  There are eight weeks left in the season.  We will look for a significant weather change then head back east to give it another go.

Reviews

Product

Review

Sport-DOG   Upland Hunter 1875

http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/unlucky-lucky/

HEVI-Shot   Pheasant

Six shots, three   pheasants down. I have not had to make an extremely long shot yet (40   yards+).  That said, I am confident of   the lethal, knockdown power of the shell.

Uplanders Warehouse

Visit the site   and get all you need in upland products.   

Hankook   Dynapro ATM

Another 670 miles   of tough driving in 2.5 days.  These   are great tires.

SportDOG Nutrition

SportDOG C9   nutrition keeps Pride in the field.  He   is 10 years old and continues to work all day, every day.  I am absolutely committed to these   supplements. 

Beretta A400 XPLR Light, 12 gauge

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/my-2012-2013-season-ends/

Badlands Birdvest

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/my-2012-2013-season-ends/

Garmin Oregon 450T GPS

 

Hunting GPS Maps

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/bobs-day/

Ram 1500

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/bobs-day/

Columbia Upland   Freezer Long Sleeve Shirt

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/my-2012-2013-season-ends/

Columbia Full   Flight Chukar Pant

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/my-2012-2013-season-ends/

Irish Setter   Upland DSS King Toe Hunting Boots

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/my-2012-2013-season-ends/

 

 

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Unlucky but Lucky

November 9, 2013 was opening day of upland season in Colorado.  Admittedly, I started dreaming of this day when I closed the season in late January.  As fall approached, I began active preparation for the two and one half month season.  My lab, Pride, is ten years old and he needs to evolve into shape slowly.  We frequently toss a bumper in the early morning and late afternoon when the day is cool.  It is important that my gun dog is ready to endure long, hard days prowling public lands. 

My boys had basketball and soccer games on Saturday, so we decided to leave late in the afternoon in order to hunt on Sunday.  Opening weekend is busy, and the fields get crowded early.  In addition, the drought that has plagued the west over the last two years has caused a significant reduction in habitat that pheasants need in order to survive.  To that point, the numbers of birds across the region have seen a precipitous decline since 2011.  Greg and I decided to stay and hunt just across the border in Nebraska.  The walk-in-areas are limited, but we determined the crowds would not be a factor as their season was two weeks old. 

A rancher friend of mine told me that his family was going to attend the Pheasants Forever dinner in Holyoke and invited us to join them.  Pheasants Forever is an organization dedicated to the conservation of pheasants and other game birds.  Monies raised from these events support multiple initiatives including youth programs and habitat improvement.  These dinners are a great time to fraternize with other hunters who share the same passion for the outdoors.  Coincidentally, Greg spotted a man with whom he had gone dove hunting in September.  Mike and Art had hunted that day on private land, but they were only able to flush ten hens.  We asked if we could join them in the morning, and add three additional dogs to the pursuit.  They were open to the idea and we set a plan.

When Greg and I pulled into the motel we spoke to some hunters who were arriving from the field.  Along with harvesting four nice roosters, they filled three turkey tags.  Unfortunately, the hunters described difficult conditions, and emphasized the need to be efficient.  Sleep was non-existent as 5 am approached.  I had been posting questions on pheasant chat sites since 2:10 am, and I could not fall back asleep. 

At around 5:30 am we grabbed coffee, donuts and refueled the truck.  Greg and I would stop at the first walk in area, and let Pride do his business and take a run.  He actually got birdy when we approached the end of the CRP.  I hoped we would catch a couple of oblivious roosters prior to heading to feed in the corn fields.  Unfortunately, no birds showed themselves, so we loaded up in order to meet the rest of our crew.  Dave and Scott arrived with their dogs, Bogey and Otis.  Both dogs had been through extensive gun dog training with Gary Ruppel of Kiowa Creek Kennels.  The pups were ready to get on wild birds.

At about 7:30 am, we make our way into some dense CRP.  Spread out about one hundred and fifty yards wide, we worked the dogs into a quartering wind.  The group walked for hours, but a rooster never jumped.  Toward the end of the long trek, Pride and Bogey started to get excited.  The abutting country road was close, so an escaping bird would have to fly eventually.   Bogey went on point about 15 yards behind me, and a hen busted into the air.  While it was not the right gender, the action provided the dogs and hunters some much needed adrenaline.  Over the next couple of hours we managed to flush two additional hens. 

Hunting was hard and the day was getting warmer.  We made a joint decision to navigate the shelter belts on the property.  Blockers were deployed just inside the adjacent road in order to take down any evading roosters.  We collectively moved east with the four dogs.  I took Pride through the tree rows, but never saw him get hot.  We piled into Mike’s truck and moved to the next tree line.  The dogs worked through the dense foliage and they were obviously on a bird.  As we neared the edge, I heard Greg yell “rooster” and successive shots rang out.  With my gun pointed into the air I started to furiously look around.  I spotted the unscathed colored bird flying east, far out of my range. 

Mike and Art decided to head home as the early afternoon approached.  Dave, Greg, Scot and I made our way to a local restaurant to have some lunch.  The dogs needed a break, and we needed to refuel.  There are some public walk in areas just east of where we were staying in Nebraska.  I was told that the cover was thick and held birds.  It took about 35 minutes to make it to the field.  The temperature was in the 60s, and the wind was blowing at 15 mph from the west. Given the boundaries around the CRP, we had to walk with the breeze at our backs; a major disadvantage for the labs.  The cover was heavy, and difficult to maneuverer.   I bumped a nice eight point whitetail as I crested the first of two hills.   We covered every inch of the land but could not get a bird into the air.  Frustrated, Dave and Scott decided to head home.  Greg and I decided to hunt our way west with the hope that we would witness birds flying from corn to cover.  My Garmin GPS has every field that I have had success programmed into its database.  The setting sun provided enough light so that we could easily survey the land.  Unfortunately, we did not see one pheasant.  It was the first time over the last three years that I had not witnessed birds as the day closed.  Discouraged, we made our way to the highway and headed home. 

Upon immediate reflection, we realized that despite the absence of our quarry, we enjoyed our time in the field.  Spending time with friends and our dogs is always fun!

I will hunt hard over the coming months.  Hopefully, Pride and I will stumble across some birds.

Reviews – Prior upland product reviews can be found in archived articles

Product

Review

Sport-DOG Upland Hunter 1875

Awesome electronic dog collar.  All of the necessary features and functions. Easily programed for immediate effectiveness in the field.  There are great YouTube videos explaining each component of the collar.  Since my introduction to upland hunting, I have only used SportDOG collars.  My friends have recently invested in SportDOG collars for their new gundogs. We are all extremely satisfied with our SportDOG collars.

HEVI-Shot Pheasant

If the pheasant load is as effective as the duck load, I will ultimately be successful.  That said, I need to see a rooster in order to test my theory. 

Uplanders Warehouse

If you want to research and purchase the latest upland hunting equipment, visit this site.  Uplanders Warehouse offers a plethora of high end products at a competitive price. 

Hankook Dynapro ATM

So far so good.  I have put these tires through some tough terrain over the last year. No issue to date!  I purchased   the 10 ply tires.

SportDOG Nutrition  

I have used the SportDOG C9 nutrition products for almost one year.  My gundog and family dog have positively responded to the Hip/Joint, Hydration and Performance Vitamin products.  My dogs are old and these supplements have helped them adjust to their age.

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My 2012-2013 Season Ends

My last hunting trip of the 2012-2013 pheasant season started out like any other journey to Eastern, Colorado; up at 4:00 am, out the door by 4:50 am and adjacent to my favorite field by 7:45 am. The temperature was sixteen degrees, and there was a subtle ten mph wind easing its way in from the northwest. The conditions were great, but I felt I was about forty five minutes behind schedule. My gut told me that the birds had already made their way into the corn fields where they could not be pursued. Pride and I quickly worked our way through the shin high CRP. I knew that if there were birds to be had, they would be holding tight in the deeper cover along the draw at the end of the field. Pride has often sought our quarry in this field, and he knows when to turn on his afterburners. Not dissimilar to our last trip, we moved quickly through the one hundred and fifty yards of brush but never encountered a bird. It was the second trip in a row that my honey hole failed to produce results.

The night before the trip, I phoned a rancher friend who had allowed Pride and me to hunt his land on three occasions during the season. For over two seasons, I never received a positive answer to my question “would it be possible to walk your land with my dog”. Honestly, I developed a complex as landowners repeatedly denied my requests to access their property. Unfortunately, my appeal to make a final tour of his prime real estate was denied. He emphasized the need to end the season early in order to give the birds a “break”. Nevertheless, I stopped by the house to drop off a case of bud light, and a personal thank you card addressed to the family.

Pride and I headed one half mile east then unloaded next to a large grass field that abutted corn. The snow that blanketed this field three weeks before was almost gone, and had unfortunately matted down the already sparse cover. We employed a zigzag pattern in order to cover ground, and perhaps confuse a running rooster. Pride did get hot as we marched towards the end of the field. When he slowed down and began to sniff in circles, I prepared myself for action. It took about thirty seconds, but a hen jumped up thirty yards in front of me. A few “no bird” calls had Pride ready to continue our walk west. Thirty minutes later we loaded up, and maneuvered to another favorite area about four miles southeast of our position. When I arrived at the field, there were already three trucks surrounding the area so I moved on. Pride and I spent the next hour covering an enormous field that did not show any signs of life. Disappointed but undeterred, we headed to town to fill up the Dodge Ram 1500, and get some food.

With a Monster Rehab energy drink and some jerky in hand, I stared at the map to determine our next move. Another hunter pulled into the market so I asked him how his day was going. He described an all too familiar story; working two dogs, he was able to get some birds in the air, but not close enough to attempt a shot. I asked him if he would like to hunt together to see if we could improve our odds. He responded with enthusiastic “yes”, so we began to collaborate on an afternoon strategy.

With a renewed focus, we drove further east towards some pivots that we hoped had not been mowed down. About five miles into the drive, Tom slowed and waived me up. He had noticed a one hundred yard row of evergreens in a walk in area just off the adjacent road. The plan was simple; I would drive to the east and work Pride west, and he would counter that with his two Brittany spaniels. I quickly made my way west, weaving between the fifteen foot evergreens. As Pride neared Gunner and Major, all dogs simultaneously turned quickly in the direction of the road. A rooster busted from the tree line, and flew straight back to the east. The tip of one tree prohibited me from executing an immediate shot, so I jumped forward and reset my position. My first shot from my Beretta A400 XPLR Light 12 gauge missed high, but the next shot knocked the bird down immediately. Pride ran furiously at the mortally wounded pheasant, and brought him to my hand. We thanked the dogs for their efforts, exchanged congratulations, and then continued on our way. The excitement level had suddenly intensified for all participants.

The next four pivots we hunted appeared amazing, but produced nothing. We hunted every inch of the dense CRP, hoping to move birds into the surrounding corn fields. Unfortunately, two miles of stalking produced only one startled hen. We continued our drive north towards Nebraska with the hope that the extra miles of driving would eventually pay off. We came across a unique walk in area that had knee-high grass surrounding a dense and long plum thicket. Tom, Gunner and Major took the right side of the trees, while Pride and I moved left. About half way through the walk south, Pride became birdy. Nose down and tail vigorously moving, he began to demonstrate signs of a pheasant in our presence. I readied for a shot but nothing happened. Tom and his dogs turned the corner around the plum thicket, and marched southeast. We both acknowledged that our dogs were in pursuit of moving prey, and the pace suddenly quickened. Pride moved to my right, and ran hard to the edge of the field. Tom was positioned about fifty yards to my right, and we expected the dogs were on a crafty cock bird. When Pride started to forcefully dig his nose in a clump of grass, a rooster jumped just inches from his head. As the bird took flight, all three dogs started their chase. The bird flew low which caused me to delay a shot as Major was in my field of vision. Tom, however, had a clear shot and knocked the bird out of the sky with his Winchester SX3 20 gauge.

It was now 4 pm, and we needed to quickly make our way to our last field of the day. The land that I had in mind always has birds moving from corn to cover as night approaches. As we drove up to the edge of the CRP, birds were already taking flight. We quickly piled out of the trucks, and jumped into the tall grass. The dogs were moving with determination as they obviously knew pheasants were sprinting away from us. After five hundred yards we turned back toward the west with the hope that some of the birds that we passed would hold tight. Unfortunately, these late season pheasants have been conditioned to outwit their pursuers. As the sun set, we watched the running birds take flight against the red sky. While we were disappointed that a shot never presented itself, the scene that unfolded in front of us was pretty awesome.

My 2012-2013 pheasant season appeared bleak at the outset. The drought that has savaged Colorado over the last 12 months was clearly visible to the not so discerning eye. Farmers, ranchers and landowners were all suffering, and so were the birds that depend on the habitat to survive. Hopefully, significant precipitation hits the region soon, and solves what is becoming an ever worsening problem. While the number of birds I harvested was far less than last year, I still had an amazing time. November cannot come soon enough.

Equipment Used in the Field

Shotgun

Beretta A400 XPLR Light 12 gauge, modified Trulock choke

I love this semiautomatic. I have a couple of fancy O/U’s, but they sit in the safe for a reason. This gun is light and reliable. I have had only two jams in three years. Unfortunately, it came in the midst of two amazing flushes. Cleaning the weapon is intimidating, but can be accomplished. This is will be my upland shotgun for a very long time.

Pack

Badlands’ Birdvest

Badlands is known for their big game packs and clothing. That said their upland pack is awesome. My favorite components are the two magnetic shell holders that sit on either side of the waist buckle. When it is cold, and you are scrambling to reload, these pouches provide quick access to the necessary ammunition. Badlands must redesign the elastic shell holder as twelve gauge shells fall out easily. I would also recommend deeper external webbing.

Jacket

Cabela’s Activ-Lite Upland Jacket

Comfortable jacket that can be used as a top layer on colder days. The jacket blocks the wind, while maintaining a loose fit.

Base Layer

Nike Pro Combat

I like wearing this product from Nike. The material really wicks away moisture and keeps you warm.

Boots

Irish Setter King Toe DSS 820

My best buy in 2011. These boots are comfortable, and can be worn in temperatures in the low single digits. I put a ton of miles on these boots and never suffered a blister or an injured foot.

Socks

Smartwool

These socks are so comfortable that I purchased 5 pair. My feet stay dry and warm.

Sunglasses

Oakley Scalpel

I am not an Oakley guy, but these are great shades. When it is bright or I am fishing, I wear the dark polarized lenses. When there is little sunlight, I put in the yellow lenses. Oakley’s are expensive, but my Scalpels have been a worthwhile investment.

Truck

Dodge Ram 1500 (2011)

The truck has operated flawlessly over the last 15 months. I did destroy two of my Goodyear tires, and had to make an unexpected investment in four new Hancook tires.

Gloves

Under Armour

Work very well when the temperature drops. I often debate putting them on as I want to maintain the proper feel of my shotgun.

Hat

Under Armour

I own five of these hats. Unfortunately, they get misshapen quickly and do not last. Sort of disappointing.

Camera

GoPro Hero 2

Of course I never had the camera on when I found birds. When it is turned on, the quality is great.

Dog (Pride)

Bred and trained by Gary Ruppel (Kiowa Creek Kennels)

Gary is the best in the business. He is a straightforward, kind and honest man. He also breeds/trains great dogs. What more could you want?

 

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Not a Chance

Late December brought on another cold. I had just recovered from a nasty flu bug, only to wake up on Christmas morning with many of the same symptoms that occurred earlier in the month. My condition was very disappointing as I planned on taking Thursday and Friday off for bird hunting in Eastern Colorado. Lots of water, plenty of Cold Eeze and a couple of DayQuil provided me the elixir for ensuring I would spend time in the field.

Despite the constant coughing, and leaky nose, I awakened at four am on December 28th to leave for the two day trip. The Dodge Ram 1500 was already packed, and sported four new Hancook DynaPro tires. On my last two trips, I tore up two of the Goodyears that came with the truck. The Hancooks were an unexpected and untimely investment made at Discount Tire. Greg met me in front of my house at five am with his truck as he planned on coming home that evening.

The two and three quarter hour drive had us entering bird country with five inches of fresh snow on the ground. The conditions were perfect; a five degree air temperature and a light westerly wind had Greg, Pride and me set up for pheasant hunting success. Driving down the first country road, we spotted thirty birds dancing through the unharvested corn. Two miles later, we entered my favorite field with the sole purpose to make it to the thickest cover situated one thousand yards from our trucks. We worked the edge of the CRP until we reached the berm where I hoped birds were holding tight. Pride is familiar with this land, and he worked feverishly to find a fresh scent. The deep snow drifts made moving to the key area slow and tiring. The effects of my cold were obvious as I struggled to catch my breath during the deliberate jog. Pride was obviously excited as he darted into the tumbleweeds. His speed allowed him to cover a lot of ground, and he looked in every nook that could possibly hold birds. Greg and I made our way west along both sides of the draw waiting for a rooster to take flight. It did not happen. In fact, the entire field did not produce anything of merit.

Although we were a bit disappointed, we knew that there were birds to be had if we hunted the right fields. Greg and I drove to some popular public spots where we encountered hunters who were already in pursuit. We drove slowly along the adjacent private land, and we witnessed more than fifty pheasants moving from the tree line to the corn fields. The temptation to pull over and hunt this area was real, but inappropriate, so we moved on.

Due to the lack of cover, the options were limited, so we decided to venture to the private land where we have permission to hunt. The rancher had planted two rows of evergreens that were situated just to the north of his house. Given the conditions, I felt there should be birds present as they would be seeking protection from the elements. Instead of entering the area from both sides, we decided to walk together from the east. Despite our stealth approach, the birds started to fly into the adjacent CRP before we closed the truck’s doors. We sprinted into the tree line only to see more birds jump too far away to get off a shot.

All of the pheasants that flew from the trees touched down in the rancher’s CRP just south of our position. The strategy became obvious; Greg would move southwest and I would take Pride five hundred yards to the south and hunt him into the wind. If we worked the area correctly, perhaps we could force the evasive roosters into the air. One thing that was clearly evident in this field, was that there were the fresh tracks of pheasants everywhere. There was no doubt that Pride smelled bird, as his head remained low and his tail moved swiftly from side to side. As we walked towards Greg, I anticipated we would see exploding birds. Disappointingly, it never happened. We hunted the rest of the field over the next forty five minutes, and never got a bird to fly. On a hunch, I told Greg we should once again hunt the tree line, as I saw two birds fly back into the cover minutes after we departed. This time, I dropped Greg off on the eastern side and I quietly made my way west. We moved in unison, trying to pinch the birds and force them into the air. I readied myself when I saw a hen sprint from a bush to the trees. Another hen surprised me when she took flight, and then another soon followed. A rooster flew straight up then banked a hard right towards Greg. I yelled “rooster” and heard Greg take a single shot from his Beretta Silver Pigeon. Two more hens darted from their hiding places, and flew less than twenty feet from my barrel. When I realized all of the birds had left the area, I made my way to Greg with the hope that he would have a downed rooster in his hand. Unfortunately, his shot had not found it’s mark, and we were still without the intended quarry.

We hunted for another two and a half hours before realizing that the sun was setting quickly. My rancher friend told me the name of the landowner who abutted his property. I called him with the hope that he would grant us permission to walk his fields. When I got him on the telephone, I introduced myself, and asked him the critical question. He responded with a resounding “no”. Disappointed, we drove from country road to country road trying to locate cover that we could hunt. After an exhausting and disappointing forty five minute walk through a WIA stacked with evergreens, we made our way back to the rancher’s land for one last effort before dark.

Greg and I walked the initial 100 yards into the CRP, and startled two hens that had hunkered down for the night.

Unfortunately, my cough became more intense and constricting as the day concluded. To that point, I made a decision that staying the night would not be prudent, so I made my way back home.

Ideal weather conditions do not always mean that an opportunity to shoot a bird will present itself. We were diligent in our effort, but luck was not on our side. Despite our lack of success, we encountered many birds that we will pursue aggressively at a later date.

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