Tag Archives: Pheasants4Ever

Rookie

Hunting is difficult. For people who were not born into a hunting family, or had a mentor early in life, there are many challenges associated with taking up the sport. Despite the fact that I started hunting in my 40s, I have been able to learn quickly because of patient and thoughtful friends. It is now time to pay it forward.

DJ and I met freshmen year of high school, and became great friends. We don’t get to spend much time together as he lives in Florida with his family.  Our lives have fundamentally changed over the last 35 years, but our bond has never lapsed.  Over the last couple of years, DJ has expressed a real interest in hunting.  To that point, I invited him to spend a few days with Echo and me pursuing birds in the eastern plains of Colorado.

Even the most veteran of upland hunters will tell you that it is hard to kill a pheasant.  Wild roosters are wily, and they know how to avoid predators.  No matter how stealthy you are, pheasants seem to detect your presence just seconds before you are able to raise your weapon.  Not dissimilar to golf, if you’re slightly off the mark that day, poor shooting will undermine your success.  If you factor in DJ’s novice shotgun skills, and the warm, windy conditions, the odds of him harvesting a cock during our trip was low.

The first field of the day proved to be exactly what we needed to start our hunt.  The initial walk in area (WIA) had 10 birds hunkered down in the tumble weeds next to a corn field.  Echo easily found them, but we did not get a shot at a rooster.  Despite our failure to take a bird, DJ got to feel the excitement associated with flushing pheasants.  Our adrenaline was pumping and I hoped we would have another encounter before the end of the day. As we approached the next WIA, we watched from a distance, three roosters eating gravel off the road.  We hid the truck behind haybales that were adjacent to the field, and told Echo to hunt it up.  She took advantage of a strong northwest wind as we approached the grass-covered irrigation equipment.  It did not take long before Echo picked up the scent of the birds.  I told DJ to position himself on the northern side of the cover.  The first rooster busted from his position, and I shot him at 20 yards.  More roosters followed, but DJ did not feel comfortable with his shooting options.  With a bird in my pack we kept moving west, allowing Echo to venture in and out of the dense CRP.  As we neared the end of the quarter section, Echo became birdy.  Just as I told DJ to be ready, a rooster busted from his position on the northern side of the irrigation apparatus.  The 20-mph wind hit the bird’s plumage, and he started to sail south.  I heard DJ take a shot, and saw the load impact the rooster’s right side, sending the bird into a downward tumble.  I hollered to the heavens as I knew DJ had just taken his first ever wild pheasant! Echo retrieved the downed rooster, and delivered it to DJ.  I congratulated my friend as we both realized that our objective had been accomplished.

I was not a bird hunter when DJ and I met years ago.  In fact, I did not pursue game until my early 40s. I was thrilled to share my passion for the uplands with my friend.  I can confidently say that he will be back.

Video – Our Pheasant Hunt in Eastern, Colorado

Echo – Season 2

I listen to veteran wing-shooters talk about that one dog they own or owned that is special.   They describe a dog that instinctively works in harmony with them.  Beyond locating and retrieving evasive birds, the dog understands how to put their partner in a position for a successful shot.

This is my 7th year in the field, and Echo is my second gundog.  We adopted our first gundog, Pride, when his original owner passed away. He was 7, and had already spent many days in the field.  Pride’s initial reaction when I tried to hunt with him was to run to the truck.  His bond with Dick was obvious, and it took time to build trust with him. Pride and I had 4 great hunting seasons together, and he seemed to always salvage a difficult hunt by locating a deceptive rooster as the day was ending.

Echo is my first gundog that we are raising as a puppy. 2016 was our first season together, and she performed admirably from the start.  She was not even one, when I shot my first wild pheasant over her.  We spent many days in the field last year, and in all types of conditions.  The one characteristic that I noticed from day one, is that she always looks to see where I am positioned. She never catches a scent, and takes off in a futile chase to locate a running rooster. Echo  is a quick study and intuitively hunts within my shooting range.  She seems to understand my limitations, and works to get me a makeable shot.  Echo possess an accurate nose, incredible speed, and a high prey drive.   She will hunt from dawn to dusk with a never-quit attitude.

I don’t have enough experience to confidently state that Echo is a once in a lifetime gundog.  That said, she is proving to be everything I want in a hunting companion.

Video of Our Second Upland Trip of the 2017 – 2018 Season

Living Life

In just about 10 months, I will turn 50 years old.  While my personal demise does not preoccupy my daily thoughts, it is hard to avoid the reality of the situation.  If I am lucky, I have 25 to 30 years left on the planet.  That being the case, I have a lot that I want to accomplish in a short period of time.  In no specific order, here are some of the things that I will do before the lights go out.  If possible, I would like to experience many of these quests with my wife and 2 sons.

  • Learn to Play a Guitar – As a lifelong metalhead, I have and continue to admire the musical abilities of Tony Iommi, Randy Rhodes, Eddie Van Halen and Darrell Abbott. On July 29th, I will take a guitar lesson from Kyle Shutt.  Kyle is a founding member of the band, The Sword.  He is a talented and accomplished artist who kindly agreed to mentor me.  I am not sure if I can learn to play the guitar, but I am going to try. 

 

 

 

  • Own and Operate a Company – I have been an employee for almost 30 years. I appreciate the majority of my employers, and the opportunities they have provided me. That said, I want to own my own company.  It does not matter what type of company.  My years of business experience, coupled with a desire to collaborate with focused and committed people, will ensure the success of this company.  It is only a matter of time before I discover the right opportunity.
  • Hunt a Bull Elk – When I think of hunting the Western half of the United States, the first animal that I think of is an elk. I want to put my evolving predator skills to the test, and challenge myself both mentally and physically.  The good news is that I live in a Colorado where elk run wild.  Admittedly, this hunt intimidates me given my inexperience, and the intense planning & preparation involved.  It would be ideal if I could recruit a veteran big game hunter like Randy Newberg, Nate Simmons or Steven Rinella to provide me their professional insight.  If I am unable to convince a seasoned veteran to assist me, I will figure it out on my own.  Ty (12) is ready to complete his hunter safety course, and Jesse (10) is less than 2 years away.  They will make fine hunting partners sometime soon.
  • Fly Fish New Zealand – I want to catch big, native trout in a majestic environment. Videos I watch validate that those who fly fish New Zealand have opportunities to engage monster fish.  I am told that these fish don’t receive consistent pressure, and they are not shy when it comes to attacking a fly.  In addition to working on my casting proficiency, I will begin to train Ty and Jesse on fly fishing basics.  They already have the angling bug, it is now time to evolve our skills.
  • Hunt Pheasants in South Dakota – My favorite activity in life is bird hunting. If there is a mecca for upland hunters, it is the state of South Dakota.  Friends have told me that the birds are so thick, it can be difficult to pick a rooster out to shoot. Echo, my gundog, is 18 months old.  She and I enjoyed many adventures during her first year in the field.  Echo and I are ready for the 8-hour ride to rooster paradise.
  • Golf Ireland (again) – Back in 2000, some friends and I golfed the east coast of Ireland. We had the time of our lives.  The landscape is incredible, the people are kind and the courses are historic.  It is time to go back, and do it again with a true appreciation for the experience.  To do the trip with my sons and wife would make it ideal.
  • Write a Book – I need to figure out the general subject matter, then go for it. It would be great if the book was commercially successful, but that is not my motivation.  I want it to be good, and I cannot continue to procrastinate.  Tim Ferriss says to write “two crappy pages a day”.  That does not seem insurmountable.
  • Offer Help – I try to lead a selfless, generous and empathetic life. That said, when I do the occasional candid self-evaluation, I realize that I don’t do enough for others.  Of course, I try to extend myself for family and friends.  That is generally easy because I love the person that I am helping.  What I am talking about is being proactively available to strangers.  Actually, assisting people I don’t know.  I am passionate about upland hunting.  Despite my relative newness to the sport, I am 100% engaged.  There are many people that dream about walking a grassy field, alongside a bird dog, with a chance to mount a shotgun at a cackling rooster.  Many of those people might never get that opportunity. Perhaps I can be the person that will introduce them to an unforgettable moment.

As time progresses, I will hopefully minimize this list.  When inspired, I will add ambitious life objectives to it. When I accomplish a feat, I will opine on it in writing.  Completing this article commits me to the journey.  Let’s go!

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 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.