Tag Archives: Pradera

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.

20161120_120251

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.
studio_20161124_090153img_20161121_205521

 

 

 

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.

 

On the Fritz

Cover of "Golf is Not a Game of Perfect"
Cover of Golf is Not a Game of Perfect
Cover of "Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental ...
Cover of Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game

It may be time for me to re-read Dr. Bob Rotella’s book “Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect”.  Perhaps the audio version of Joseph Parent’s “Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game” might be a timely listen.  Beyond an admittedly flawed swing, my confidence in my golf game is deteriorating.  It has become difficult for me to get the ball in the hole.  For the first time since I picked up the game in my early 20s, when I stand over a ball, doubt creeps into my mind.  These qualms do not frequently occur on the driving range; a place of refuge where I am reminded that I can actually get the ball airborne.  This perplexing paradox disturbs me as I realize that my poor performance emanates from my brain.  Forgetting angles and swing planes, a synapse breaks between the range and the first tee.

I have sought the expertise from teaching professionals, purchased additional training aids and read books.  I try to employ visualization when I practice, and frequently participate in rigorous exercise to ensure I am fit.  My opportunity to practice is limited due to work, my sons’ sports and life.  That said, my buddies have the same constraints, and their games have not been negatively impacted.

It is hard to admit that I am succumbing to mental weakness.  As an extremely competitive person, I have always taken pride in my ability to focus when necessary.  My golf swing has never been elegant, but I could get myself around a course in a respectable number of shots.  At times, those scores would be in the mid to upper 70s, and came at fortuitous times.  The pressure of the moment seemed to enhance my ability to deliver.  If I have to be brutally honest with myself, I would say that anxiety has undermined any opportunity to succeed.  As an example, I can execute a myriad of successful shots during a warm up session.  However, when I step to the tee box, my swing becomes short, fast and inaccurate.  Balls that flew straight, and in the vicinity of my intended target, now plunge to the ground nowhere near where I was aiming.  Instead of focusing on successfully hitting the next shot, I am quickly overtaken with a sense of confusion.  The constant in-round analysis of my poor swings leads to heightened tension and incremental uneasiness.  To that point, the opportunity to play well is diminished.

The most difficult about dealing with cerebral issues is that trying harder does not equate to improved performance.  I am not opposed to putting in the essential time, and making the required swing changes in order to improve.  What has me perplexed is how I am going to repair my confidence?  What are the tactics I need to employ to fix my brain?

This has been difficult to write as it exhumes an uncomfortable, personal weakness.  No competitor wants to admit they are not self-assured when confronted with a challenge.  You must believe you will succeed in order to have a chance at being effective.   My mindset will have to change if I want overcome this test of my resolve.

Bottom is where I was -Top is where I am. #hardtolookat
Bottom is where I was Top is where I am now. #hardtolookat

 

Back from the Brink

In 2011, I considered the game of golf to be a legitimate threat to my sanity (see – http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/?p=411).  Lessons, equipment changes and countless practice sessions did not provide relief.  My competitive intensity slowly diminished to the point where I actually questioned why I was even entering in club events.  On course turrets-like episodes became a regular occurrence.  I attempted to turn frustration into motivation, but the brain could not trick the body into execution.

Unfortunately, 2012 started where 2011 left off.   Many moving body parts, poor posture, utter confusion and a bad attitude lead to a new search for help.  To my great fortune, The Club at Pradera hired Matt Marino to be the assistant golf professional.  Matt is an energetic, engaging, positive individual whose personality is infectious.   His teaching methodology is simplistic by design, yet conveys the appropriate information that allows his student to be effective. Matt is not assumptive; he asked questions about my game, watched me swing, then challenged me to do what it would take to turn everything around.  Our first lesson ended with two drills that I would employ during every subsequent practice session (basement, bedroom and range).  Additional sessions reinforced critical fundamentals which allowed me to build on his prior teachings.  Our objectives were clear;

1. Install the correct set up, ball position and swing plane.

2. Maintain internal tranquility that will allow me to institute a functioning tempo.

3. Build back the confidence that I would need to once again have fun playing the sport.

It has not been easy, but we have managed to lower my handicap to a 6.3 index.  Matt and I will continue to work together in order to refine my ever evolving mechanics.  Perhaps radical changes can be made that will allow me to exceed my potential?  Either way, Matt Marino’s teachings have allowed me to once again smile on the golf course.  Matt is a special person, instructor and friend.

Matt Marino No Reference Drill

One Foot Drill – Matt Marino

Enhanced by Zemanta

When Golf Goes Bad

My Reality

One year ago, my handicap was a 7. Today it is a 12, and rapidly moving north. To provide some perspective, I have not been a 12 handicap in over 12 years. I generally float between a 7 and 10, with scores ranging from a 77 on a good day to an 84 on a bad day. For those of you who understand the handicap system, the type of meteoric rise that I am experiencing can only happen if your registered scores far exceeds the published handicap. This means I am not playing to a 12 – it just says that on my Colorado Golf Association GHIN card.

I am not certain where it all went wrong. In 2010, I played pretty well throughout the season. My accomplishments ranged from my first hole-in-one (May 31st, Colorado Golf Club, hole #6, 5 iron, 205 yards) to scoring in the low 70s on two occasions (including 6 birdies in one round). I do not possess an elegant or balanced swing, and generally succeed with a bit of guile and a decent short-game. For years I tried to improve my swing through lessons, practice, swing-aids and more practice. The results are mixed, but the effort and financial investment deserve an A+. In 2010 I was experiencing longer distances throughout all clubs in my bag. I attribute these advances to better equipment (TaylorMade Burner 1.0 Irons and a Ping G-15 Driver), more solid ball contact and of course more confidence.

Until recently, I have not regularly recorded my swing, due to the fact that I do not want to question why a swing as ghastly as mine can occasionally produce decent results. Through multiple lessons in 2011, I concluded that my club is so off plane that making any contact with the ball should be deemed a colossal success. At address, the body club and ball position look fine. As the club rotates back, my hands and shoulders suck the shaft/club head inside. At the top of the swing (which has become disturbingly short), the club face is closed and very flat. On the transition, the club maintains an inside position, while my right elbow flails aimlessly away from my body. For those non-golfers reading this piece, what I have described is not what you should do when attempting to compress a golf ball. The unfortunate result of this uncoordinated move has the golf ball snapping wildly left or ballooning to the right. On the rare occasion when the ball does fly straight, I have no idea what I did to execute the shot.

My Mind

Those who have the patience to play with me these days, tell me that my mind is “mush” and I should stop trying to be “mechanical” and just “swing the club”. Of course my mind is mush; I stand over every shot hoping to get the ball airborne and in the direction of the green. In conjunction with my lack of confidence, I have started to throw clubs and launch into bouts of uncontrollable swearing (turrets has not been diagnosed). Childish temper tantrums resulting from poor execution will not continue, but it sure feels pretty cathartic to toss a 9 iron farther than you have hit your ball. Unfortunately I am in the midst of a deep golf depression. Diagnosing golf depression is easy, here are the symptoms:
 • At the first sign of trouble during the round you say “here we go again”

• After your ball enters a hazard you strongly consider sending your club then the bag in after it

• You apologize to your partner more than 10 times in a round

• Your best friend asks you to play in a member/guest and you have to figure out a really good lie why you can’t join him

• You would rather watch TV with your wife than play golf with your buddies

• You fail to recognize how lucky you are to be outside playing golf with friends

My Pet Peeve

In the August issue of Golf Digest, the cover reads “Get More Distance”, “Pick up 17+ Yards with a New Driver Fitted for you…It gave our guy 44 yards – Wow”. The multiple articles in the magazine stress the importance of upgrading to new technology, and getting properly fitted for golf clubs. Obviously, it is advantageous to swing a club with the most appropriate shaft, loft and length. That said; please do not tell me that a custom fitting will result in a 23% increase in distance. I have played golf for just over 20 years, and there has been some improvement in my length over that timeframe. During a club fitting at a local retailer last year, the cocky sales rep told me that he could “get me hitting the driver 270+.” After cycling through a plethora of drivers, he insisted that a stiff shafted (stock) Ping G-15 was the answer. I told him that I felt more comfortable swinging the regular shafted G-15. “The numbers on the computer don’t lie”, he told with a smug voice. After two days on the range staring at hundreds of balls landing right of target, I returned the club to the store the following Monday. The regular shafted Ping G15 still remains in my bag and I hit it between 235 and 255 yards. If you are still playing the TaylorMade Bubble Burner, I guarantee you will pick up some distance when you upgrade to a club manufactured in the new millennium. As for Golf Digest, I will not be renewing my subscription in 2012.

My Plan

I admit to being anxious when I think about playing golf. I am even more apprehensive about committing to playing in a tournament with a partner; something that I relished not more than one year ago. I try to make it to the range two nights a week in a concerted attempt to try to pull off a golf-swing 180. These are not ball-beating sessions; there is whole-hearted attempt to incorporate professional instruction while mentally simulating game conditions. Yes I will continue to utilize swing aids (Tally MIND set, alignment sticks, Momentus, Swing Glove, Power Angle Pro) to try to put me in the right position and obtain the proper feel. I will also reengage my PGA teaching professional. Other than that, I am not certain what more I can do.

It is not my nature to sulk around looking for sympathy. My wife is praying for Divine Intervention as she is tired of looking at a face full of desperation and angst at the conclusion of every round. Eventually, I will construct a swing that produces the results I expect. Hopefully it is sooner rather than later.

http://qik.ly/CY9qeAetyBAvLzMcCnerQsU

Enhanced by Zemanta