Tag Archives: Prairie Storm

My Perfect Day

Opening weekend of the 2012-2013 upland game season did not inspire an overwhelming degree of confidence.  There were truckloads of hunters, diminished cover and rare sightings of elusive pheasants.  That said, I covet the pursuit, and I don’t need guarantees to inspire me.

November 25, 2012 was my third day in the field.  It is two hundred and twenty one miles from my driveway in Parker, Colorado to my favorite walk-in-area in Phillips County.  To that point, it is necessary to pack the Ram 1500 the night before, and get motivated early the next morning.  At 4:45 am I grabbed my coffee, threw on my Cabela’s Activ-Lite™ Upland Jacket and loaded Pride into his special seat in the cab.

The ride was pleasantly uneventful with no precipitation, and a temperature around freezing.  As we moved into bird country, it became difficult to maintain the speed limit.  Every time I envisioned a flushing rooster, my right foot would get heavy.  Moving off pavement and onto a country road signified that we were closing in on my prime hunting spot.  The area is completely different than last year.  Hundreds of yards of deep CRP abutting freshly cut corn have been replaced by a conglomeration of shin-high grass, sage and tumbleweeds.  In addition, the corn was harvested months before, so the prime food source was scarce.

One gun and a dog can only cover so much territory, so our strategy would be to run the edge of the field and push to a corner.  There is a steep berm at the end of the field where pheasants sometimes gather.  Pride and I briskly walked the five hundred yards without any action.  I purposely slowed him down as we neared the ground’s edge.  As Pride made his way into the canal, a cotton tail bolted from under a log.  He actually gave chase until the rabbit scooted into an exposed pipe.  We continued our move north, and the cover began to thicken.  I became more acutely focused as action was anticipated.  Pride’s gait was expanding as he started to witness flushing birds at the end of the field.  Two hens followed by two roosters popped up at about one hundred and twenty yards.  My pace remained steady as I was hoping there were pheasants holding tight.  The tactic worked, as a hen bolted ten yards to my left, followed by a rooster ten yards in front of her.  One Prairie Storm shell from my Beretta A400 XPLOR Light immediately knocked the bird down to the ground.  Pride made a quick retrieve, and brought the elegant animal back to my feet.  I had already reached into my Badlands Birdvest to obtain another shell, which was subsequently inserted into the chamber.  Ten additional steps to the northwest produced three more flushes.  A rooster got up and flew low and fast to my rear.  Shot number one missed behind, shot number two grazed some feathers and shot number three folded the pheasant in half.  My heart was racing as I realized that my limit could come less than one hour into the day.  On full alert, I marched forward, scanning the cover for any movement.  When I realized that we were done, I loaded the game into my pack and headed back to the truck.

A feeling of calm overcame me as I realized that the long daytrip would not be remembered as a journey of missed opportunities.  It is easy to get down on yourself when you don’t execute; I was proud of what we just accomplished.

After taking some pictures and watering Pride, we made our way to other areas that have produced for me in the past.  In the middle of a large CRP field, we bumped into another hunter and his dog.  They had yet to see a bird, but were happy to hear of our success.  We quickly separated, and continued the search for our limit.  It was 10:30 a.m. and the day was getting warmer.  Pride is nine years old, and when the temperature hits fifty degrees, he slows down.  Consequently, I decided to visit a rancher, who allowed me to hunt his property two weeks before.  His only request of me was that I never return with a troop of hunters.  As a show of thanks, I picked up a case of beer for him.  My wife recognized their generosity by baking their family a batch of her delicious coconut cookies.  The rancher was off on a coyote hunt when I arrived at the property.  His son and I talked for a while before deciding to walk their CRP together.  He told me that pheasants sometimes gather near the cow pen in order to dine on some of the extra feed.  As we walked east, pheasants started to explode from the waist-high grass.  Most were escaping into the cut corn fields across the road, but a few flew deeper into the cover.  At about 25 yards, one bird made a fatal mistake.  The rooster turned towards the west, vigorously flying alongside a lone hen.  His speed distinguished himself, and my third shell found its mark, toppling the big male to the ground.  Pride was in the truck resting, so the rancher’s son brought his dog into the field to assist us in locating the downed bird.  We celebrated a bit before making our way back to their house.

After thanking the family, I navigated to the highway, and headed home.  A number of phone calls were placed to friends who would appreciate our accomplishment.  November 25, 2012 will always be remembered as a perfect day.

Equipment Used

Truck 2011 Ram 1500 Despite an unexpected blown tire on the last trip, the one year old truck operates nicely.  I will add 10 ply Hankook tires early in 2013.
Shotgun Beretta A400 XPLOR Light with Kick Off (12 gauge) The shotgun is perfect for me because I am confident when I mount it.  I added a modified Trulock choke that provides additional confidence.  The Kick Off technology absolutely softens the gun’s recoil.  While I like the look of a classic O/U, the extra shell of the semiautomatic has been useful.
Shells Federal Premium Prairie Storm Prairie Storm is expensive ammo, but worth its price when your opportunities are few and far between.  If you are going to invest the time and money in everything else, don’t cheap out on the final connection to the bird.
Jacket Cabela’s Activ-Lite™ Upland Jacket The jacket cuts the wind very well. This shell can be worn with layers and provide real warmth. The fabric has yet to get hung up on any nasty brush.
Shirt Columbia Men’s Upland Freezer™ Long Sleeve Shirt This shirt is very comfortable and has the right amount of blaze. The material is breathable, and can be worn as a layer or exposed on warmer days.  Unfortunately, the collar is unusually tight, as the shirt barley fits over my head.
Pants Columbia Men’s Full Flight Chukar™ Pant These are awesome upland pants.  Fits great around the waist and holds up well to cover.  If worn with long underwear, you can hunt in cold temperatures without issue.
Pack Badlands Birdvest Great functionality all over this pack.  The magnetic shell holders provide quick and easy access to ammo.  A hydration bladder is effortlessly accessed, and perfect for long walks in arid conditions.  There is plenty of room to   store additional terminal equipment.    The bird bag will hold your limit.  Elastic shell holders need to be tightened as a 12 gauge shells fall out easily.  I would add a deeper mesh pocket in order to hold a water bottle (for the dog).
Boots Men’s Irish Setter® King Toe Upland Boots These are amazing upland boots.  I never had time to break them in and it did not matter.  The boots felt great after walking three miles.
Dog Food Pro Plan Performance   Formula Pride seems to love it.  His energy level has been great since we started him on it 6 months ago.


My Perfect Day

My Perfect Day

The 2012 – 2013 Upland Season Begins

It was nine months and two days since I last raised my Beretta A400 Xplor Light at a wild Colorado pheasant.  That single shot found its mark, and closed a remarkable season for Pride and me.  During the three hour drive home, I fondly remembered our adventures, and wished the season could continue.  We had hunted hard, and enjoyed every minute in the field together.In May, I booked three motel rooms out east as some good friends wanted to join me on the initial foray into upland paradise.  The reports over the summer and into the fall were not positive.  The 2012 drought that had struck the Great Plaines had decimated both wheat and corn crops.  Landowners were suffering financially, and bird populations were not strong.  I read that the majority of pheasant chicks did not survive the multiple days of one hundred + degree heat.

Despite the forecast, the trip to the Eastern, Colorado was still met with great anticipation. Honestly and somewhat embarrassingly, I started packing my Dodge Ram 1500, one week before the trip was to begin.  I even constructed a detailed hunting checklist to ensure I did not forget anything during the preparation process.

Greg, Pride and I left at about seven am on Friday, November 9th.  We would take the two and one half hour journey to Phillips County in order to complete some necessary scouting.  I wanted to know if my favorite Walk-In Access (WIA) fields could be hunted.  As we entered bird country, and made our way down the initial country road, I noticed that my left rear tire was deflating quickly.  We pulled over at the closest open space to see the damage.  Greg took Pride for a quick walk so he could do his business.  Just as I got the local auto repair shop on the telephone, Pride darted toward the road and flushed ten or twelve birds.  The immediate signs of life mitigated the overwhelming anger felt from the blown tire.  Greg changed the tire, and we drove to town in order to determine my options.  We spent one hour at the shop, and told them we would be back at the end of the day to pay the repair bill.  As we continued the exploration process, we noticed that many of the WIAs had virtually zero cover.  Two additional hours of driving presented similar circumstances in alternative fields.  Honestly, I was starting to succumb to a bit of sportsman’s depression.  With about one hour of sunlight left in the day, we moved southeast towards town.  Without warning bunches of roosters started to make their way from the cut corn to whatever cover they could find.  The sight of greater than thirty birds buoyed our spirits, and produced some much needed confidence.

The alarm was set for 4:15 am as our objective was to get to a prime field one hour before our fellow hunters.  Opening day is a competitive situation for everyone who does not have  access to private land.  To that point, it was necessary to get in an advantageous position before shots could be fired.  The morning was cold, and a blanket of thick fog prohibited a rapid ride to the grounds.  Despite our lack of vision, the Garmin GPS took us right to the intended target.  Unfortunately, there were already five trucks pulled over, and the hunters had already started their march.  Without hesitation, I radioed to my buddies that we would make our way to our backup field.  It was a fifteen minute drive that we compressed to ten minutes given the circumstances.  The good news was there was only a single hunter on the north end of the field, so we moved two thousand yards south and unloaded.  Four dogs, six guns and sparse cover; if there were pheasants in the field, we should find them.

Greg, Pride and I took the right side, and the other hunters dispersed evenly to our left.  It did not take long to begin witnessing flushing birds.  Four roosters took flight between eighty and one hundred yards away from our blocking line.  As our paced quickened, Pride started to get hot.  His tail moved feverishly, and he began to dart from side to side.  I told myself to be patient, and not run after him as I felt the bird would double back, giving me an easier shot.  I was wrong; a big rooster jumped at the edge of the field and moved swiftly away from us.  Any attempt at taking the bird would have been a careless act, so I did not fire.  The crew moved to the end of the field, and I made a decision to take Pride down into a draw to determine if the bunched up tumble weeds would produce some action.  At the bottom of the draw, Pride got hot again.  He actually stopped on a hard point about twelve yards from me.  As the bird got up, I watched it fly twenty five feet to the west before pulling the trigger.  One shot of Prairie Storm FS Lead took the bird down immediately.  Pride made a flawless retrieve, and I loaded the young bird in my Badlands Birdvest.  This was the first time I had used this piece of equipment; I was impressed with the comfort, versatility and overall functionality of the pack.  I will do a comprehensive review the Badlands Birdvest in a future blog.

We hunted the rest of the morning with limited action.  It was obvious that other hunters had thoroughly scoured the territory earlier in the day.  After a very long lunch, the weather started to turn cold and icy.  Four of my friends made a decision to end their day and head to the bar.  Greg, Pride and I continued to pursue the intended quarry.  We know of a field that abuts private land so we decided to make the walk.  The land contained viable cover, and we were moving into a stiff wind.  As I carefully navigated down a steep slope a big rooster took flight at about thirty yards.  He actually banked left, angling towards my mounted barrel.  My first shot missed to his rear, so I steadied for a second attempt.  Number two missed as well, prompting me to pull the trigger for a third time to see if luck would overtake skill.  Not a chance; the unharmed bird glided easily over the adjacent hill.  My head dropped as I knew that opportunity would be the last of the day.

Day number two was cold and snowy.  The temperature had dropped to single digits, and four inches of the fluffy white stuff covered the ground.  As we moved down the highway at about 5 am, we witnessed wrecking crews pulling vehicles from undesirable positions off the road.  Predictably, many of the opening day hunters had gone home, or decided to enjoy the comfort of their warm motel bed.  Our secondary field was empty so we decided to hunt that area.  About one hundred yards into the walk, I noticed a pheasant footprint with a long slash behind it.  I told Greg that there could be a rooster on the move.  Pride quickly got birdy, and we expected immediate action.  The rooster got up at about twenty yards, and began to fly low and straight to the west.  Greg executed a perfect shot, and bagged his first ever wild pheasant (see picture).

After some picture taking, Greg and I headed north in order to investigate fields hunted hard the prior day.  The rest of the group became frustrated by the lack of action, and decided to head back to Parker.  We stopped at a rancher’s home in order to ask for access to his property.  He was heading out on a coyote hunt, and permitted us to hike through his CRP.  He had shot two birds the prior day, and told us not to expect much success.  We covered a lot of ground over the next hour, but never saw an animal despite the many tracks in the snow.  As we made our way to a group of newly planted trees, waves of pheasants started to take flight.  Despite my “Usain Bolt” effort, when we finally made it to the spruces, all of the birds had disappeared into adjacent land.  Feeling somewhat defeated, we thanked the rancher for his generosity, and started our trek back home.

The 2012-2013 upland game season is off to an inauspicious start.  There are birds to be bagged, and we need to be mentally prepared to work hard to find them.  Pride and I will venture east many times over the next three months.  We will require a bit of luck, and better shooting in order to experience success this year.

Greg, Pride and his first wild rooster.

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Put the Odds in Your Favor – Prepare Effectively

Pheasants Forever
Pheasants Forever

Despite the dismal forecast, I am eagerly awaiting opening day of the 2012 – 2013 Colorado pheasant season.  If the notion that preparation is the key to success, then spending the requisite time planning my first two days in the field is critical to flawless execution.  To that point, the following is my upland hunting checklist:

Core Equipment

  • Shotgun (if possible, bring a back up)
    • Beretta A400 XPLOR Light (12 gauge)
    • Beretta AL391 Urika 2 (12 gauge)
  • Shotgun shells
    • Prairie Storm FS Lead #5 (early season)
    • Prairie Storm FS Steel #4 (late season)
  • Shotgun choke
    • Trulock Precision Hunter (Modified)
  • GPS
  • Multi-tool and/or knife
    • Leatherman Skeletool


  • Upland hunting vest, jacket and/or pack
    • Columbia Men’s Upland Freezer™ Long Sleeve Shirt
    • Cabela’s Activ-Lite™ Upland Jacket
    • Badlands Birdvest Pack
  • Jeans with chaps or upland hunting pants
    • Cabela’s Dry-Plus® Performance™ Upland Chaps
    • Orvis Pointer Brand Bibs
  • Warm hat
    • Under Armour Fleece Beanie
  • Long underwear
    • Under Armour Baselayer
  • Thermal socks
    • Smartwool® OTC Extra-Heavyweight Hunting Socks
  • Hunting boots
    • Danner Upland Hunter Covey Boots (10”)
    • Irish Setter DSS King Toe (10”)
  • Gloves
    • Columbia® Omni-Heat® Horicon Marsh™ Gloves

Dog Gear

  • Dog collar (training and Identification)
    • Sportdog FieldTrainer® 400
    • Cabela’s Identification Collar
  • Dog food
    • Purina ProPlan Performance Formula
  • Dog emergency kit (with EMT Gel)
    • Sporting Dog First Aid Kit
  • Dog treats
    • Zukes
  • Dog boots
    • Cabela’s Deluxe Hunting Booties
  • Energy boost tablets
    • Rehydrate by Rehydrate
  • Dog crate
    • Ruff Tough Large Kennel
  • Vehicle protection/dog bed
    • Mud River 2 Barrel Utility Mat
  • Super glue (split nails)
  • Dog water jug/bowl/bottle
  • Leash

Additional Equipment

  • Two way radio
    • Midland GXT1050VP4 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio
  • Camera and/or video recorder
  • Small game license
  • Land map (current)
  • Cooler (ice, drinks, food, birds)
  • Batteries (GPS)
  • Duct tape (ensures dog booties stay on)
  • Flat tire filler
  • Head lamp (helps at dawn and dusk)
  • Trash bags (pack game, store trash)
  • Bungee cord/straps (keeps everything in the truck)
  • Cell phone/two way radio charge cords
  • Ice
  • Back up vehicle key (mounted via a magnet box outside of the truck)

May you limit out every time out this year.  If you don’t, savor the pursuit!


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My 2011-2012 Season Comes to an End

My wife and I went to see The Grey Saturday night (1/28/12).  Unfortunately, I had a bad case of the chills during the movie, and quickly realized I was getting sick.  Sunday would be my final day in the field, and I began to worry that I would not be able to make it.

The alarm did not need to go off at 3:50 am because I was already awake.  The nasty chest cold had set in, but the motivation of the final day of upland hunting had me energized.  Pride and I picked up my friend Greg at 4:45 and we headed 200 miles East in my Ram 1500.  This was Greg’s second time hunting wild roosters, and he was visibly hooked after our initial walk in the very first field two weeks before.

The weather was not promising for bird hunting.   An online search illustrated a morning temperature in the upper twenties, with a high in the mid sixties.  We could not control the weather, but we could set a strategy that made the best use of our time given the unseasonably warm conditions.

Upon arriving in bird country at about 7:30 am, we found a large CRP field where we would start our day.  The wind was blowing at about 10 mph from the West as we moved North at a determined pace.  The field was lush with great cover but it was huge.  Two guns, one dog does not seem overly threatening to the wily cock bird that runs for long distances before taking flight.  As we lumbered through the grass, the cold air hit my congested lungs causing me to start to cough.  Due to a lack of sleep, my mind was a bit hazy and the eyes could not focus well.  To that point, I mounted and remounted my Beretta A400 XPLOR Light three or four times in an attempt to get my head and body aligned.

As we approached a lone tree in the field we turned back toward the road.  The wind was quartering from the West so we decided to walk East in order to move the dog back into the stiffing breeze.  Pride was running well and he started to range to my right.  As he circled behind me, I saw him make a quick cut away from my position; nose down and tail up.  The rooster jumped at about 25 yards and started to fly low, fast and towards the North.  I spun around quickly but did not set my feet properly.  Three rounds later, I watched the unscathed bird disappear over the adjacent hill.  When you hunt public land you may only get one shot a day so you have to be ready and precise.  I reloaded with a bit of anger and disappointment.  Pride did his job but I did not deliver on our intended results.  As we continued the walk towards the road, Pride ran hard to my right again and started to zigzag.  I readied myself and the pheasant jumped.  Unfortunately, it was a hen.  Eight trucks with a crew of hunters and dogs pulled up to the field.  They surveyed the land for 15 minutes as we walked East.  The hunters were going to deploy a blocking technique so they went to the North end of the field to drop 1/2 the party off.  As Greg and I continued to move through the thick CRP, we heard shots intermediately from a distance, and we knew the other hunters were finding birds.

It was 9:30 am and the day was starting to warm.  Greg, Pride and I loaded up and moved Northeast to a field that had produced all season for me.  This walk would start Pride right into the wind and move through a long and deep draw.  At the end of the field there was cut corn and a massive amount of tumble weeds.  The 1,000 yard stroll produced no action, but the deep cover was still ahead.  I told Greg to position himself above Pride as he worked the deeper cover.  As Pride entered the end of the draw, he suddenly darted in my direction and a hen flushed inches from my feet.  I was excited as we had not yet hit the seemingly great stretch of land in front of us.  Pride ran ahead with purpose and I shouted to Greg to quicken his pace.  One hen with a large rooster flew out of the straw at about 100 yards, then two hens and a rooster jumped about 25 yards to my right.  I fired and missed then fired again but the bird kept flying.  Greg fired but did not connect.  So I fired my last round and hit the mark.  Pride executed a perfect retrieve and we continued to push forward.  There were additional hens found but no roosters.

Two weeks before, Greg and I had found a small stretch of land that produced a plethora of hens.  We decided to get to that spot and see if that field would once again hold birds.  Luckily the wind was blowing into our faces at about a 20 mph clip.  There was no doubt that pheasants were present as Pride moved quickly toward the edge of the CRP where mounds of straw abutted cut corn.  We jogged behind him as he would eventually locate the quarry.  As Greg and I approached the mounds of straw, four hens jumped and flew left while almost simultaneously, four other hens flew right.  Eight birds all within 15 feet and not one rooster to be had.  After a half a dozen “no bird” cries, Pride started to dive into the deep, dry grass and more birds started to fly.  The hens flew close but the roosters were moving just out of gun range.  As we moved North paralleling the edge of the field, we finally got to raise our shotguns and fire at color.  Unfortunately, the shots never connected.  Despite seeing 30+ birds, we never delivered the proper shot.  While we were disappointed in the lack of results, seeing all of those pheasants in a small vicinity was really exciting.

Greg and I drove on throughout the early afternoon, stopping at different types of fields along the way.  We saw more birds, but once again the roosters stayed out of range.  Realizing that time was of the essence we tried to locate smaller patches of land that could be hunted quickly.  The windows were down in my truck, and we drove at a slow pace in order to not spook birds moving from feed to cover.  We closed in on a small tract of land that distinguished itself by its bright color and height versus the surrounding area.  Greg asked if we should pull over and I replied without real conviction.  I stopped the truck in order to make a decision, and suddenly heard a cackle from within the grass.  Greg, Pride and I slowly and quietly exited the vehicle.  We surrounded the patch of cover and sent Pride in.  The slow, short walk did not excite Pride, and I wondered if the rooster had run quickly away from us.  Then the sound of a pheasant taking flight caused my head, body and shotgun to turn to the right.  I knocked the bird down at 17 yards with one round of Prairie Storm FS Steel (#4).

As we made our way back to the truck my focus turned to Greg, and how we would produce one more opportunity for him to get his first wild bird.  We did see more roosters but the right shot alluded us.

As the sun set over the Eastern Plains toward the Rocky Mountains, we made our way back to I-76.  Pride and I took seven trips during the 2011-2012 upland game season.  We walked many miles together on public land and shot 13 roosters.  The amazing experiences of my first year in the field are forever etched in my mind.  Next fall cannot come soon enough.

Last Day of the 2011-2012 Season
Last Day of the 2011-2012 Season

Flying Solo

I enjoy spending time alone. You have time to think clearly about the goings on in your life. You’re allowed to make spontaneous, unilateral decisions and suffer only the recourse of your conscience. On December 28, 2011, I decided to take the day off from work and travel to Burlington, Colorado in order to hunt pheasant. Burlington opens up private land to hunters for a fee ($50 to $125).

I had talked to a few locals the night before in order to get an understanding of my options. The unanimous opinions were to head northeast of the town, and walk the CRP fields that abut the cut corn.

On every other trip this year, the early morning had birds moving from one type of habitat to the other. As I drove to my first CRP field, I was on the lookout for any type of pheasant activity that would allow me to set a strategy for the day. Unfortunately, I never saw a single bird.

My confidence was still high as I entered the first field. We walked about 3/4 of a mile into the wind and Pride never got birdy. After four fields and three hours of uneventful meandering, I decided to glass for cover instead of just blindly entering the field. After pulling up to the fifth CRP, I noticed a large grass draw next to corn about 1,000 yards from my truck. Pride and I took a direct line to the draw. The temperature was around 40 degrees; up from the low 20s earlier in the day. Pride does not react well to warmer temperatures, so I had to set a pace that would allow him to comfortably hunt the day. When we were 100 yards from the start of the draw, I told Pride to heal as I did not want to draw attention from unsuspecting roosters. Pride was starting to show signs that this piece of land might have the requisite quarry. He darted from right to left with his olfactory glands working feverishly. A quick final move to our left brought up a hen that was holding tight to the dense cover. After repeating the “no bird” call a few times, we continued our walk through the draw. As we neared a row of young spruces, Pride started to quickly move his tail from side to side. When his head got low, I mounted my Beretta as I anticipated an immediate flush. Sure enough another hen sprung up and flew high to my left. While I was disappointed, I was comforted to know that members of the species were present.

Pride and I hunted a few more fields but we were only able to find one additional hen. Realizing that I only had another 90 minutes of hunting, I started to make my way southwest towards I-70. I identified one last CRP field that was only 15 miles from the highway. The sun had started to set in the west as I pulled up to the eastern portion of the land. There were many access points to the property, but no habitat distinguished itself from another. I let Pride out of the kennel and we marched forward for our final stalk of the day. About 100 yards from the road, Pride got excited and darted ahead. I followed him staying within 20 yards of his rapidly moving tail. Without warning, three roosters took flight. One moved low and left, the other flew straight and the third banked to the right. I slowly mounted the Beretta and started to swing the barrel toward the bird that was heading north. Shot one ended up behind the bird. I composed myself and, with both eyes open, fired again. The pheasant tumbled then hit the ground about 30 yards from where I stood. I turned to my left hoping that one of the two other roosters was close. Unfortunately, I watched them both head over a hill about 150 yards from my position. After retrieving the bird for me, I watered Pride and we continued the march towards our daily limit. Pride got birdy one more time, but we could not locate the pheasant.

Pride, exhausted from the day in the field, collapsed next to the truck. After a nice meal he loaded up and we made our way back to the highway. What an amazing finish to a day of frustration. The adage of walking the extra mile for late season pheasants played itself out on December 28, 2011.



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