Tag Archives: Sport-DOG

Our Last Hunt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: Pride doing what he does best.


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I have known legendary gun dog trainer, Gary Ruppel, for almost four years.  My beloved birddog, Pride, comes from his kennel.  When my family was considering adopting Pride in 2010, it was Gary who interviewed us to make certain it was a good match. The man is confident, opinionated, talented, kind, and loyal.  It takes time to earn Gary’s trust and friendship.  It takes even more time to earn the opportunity to hunt with him.

In mid-December, Gary and I were chatting on the telephone about our recent adventures.  I told him that Pride (now 10) was starting to slow down, and he and I should try to get into the field before the 2013 season ends.  I had never hunted with Gary, and I felt that it was finally the right time.  I have evolved into a veteran wingshooter who respects the quarry, the land, and my fellow hunters.  Gary agreed to go, and he suggested we head out after Christmas. 

Our plan, on December 30th, would be to hunt scaled quail on both private and public land outside of Hugo, Colorado.  I had never encountered a covey of quail in numerous upland trips throughout Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.  To that point, I was excited to pursue the unfamiliar game bird.  Pride would team with Gary’s two English Pointers, Captain and Ashley, who are quail hunting machines. 

During several big game hunts over the last couple of years on the Cage Ranch, I had observed multiple coveys of scalies moving about the property.  With permission from Bob, we started our morning patrolling the different pastures where we thought birds would hold up.  It would be important to locate the game before the day warmed, and diluted the scent of the small animals.  We walked several areas where the cover is thick, and paralleled a food source.  The dogs worked each section of land thoroughly, but never showed any signs of enthusiasm.  As we slowly drove the ranch, Gary would get out of the truck to inspect the one day old snow blanketing parts of the land.  He scouted for the distinctive tracks that would indicate the presence of quail.  

Driving west, we approached a group of cottonwoods adjacent to the road.  As we neared the trees, I pointed to a three grey birds scampering away from our truck.  Gary exclaimed “scalies” and told me to get out.  As I hurried across the road, I loaded my Beretta, and Gary let out the dogs.  The pointers instantly winded the birds and gave chase.  I scanned the earth beneath the trees when suddenly two horned owls took off from their positions in the branches.  The movement startled the camouflaged quail who soared from their concealed location.  I shouldered my shotgun and fired at a single speedy bird that toppled to the ground.  I looked to my right and observed Captain and Ashley on point about fifty yards to the west of the trees.  Gary told me to make my way to him, as the covey was on the move.  Several birds exploded from the knee-high grass, and Gary shot two with his 20 gauge Winchester.  I remained in my position as Gary brought the dogs around.  We estimated that there were over twenty quail in the covey, and some had already fled to our north.  Moving with purpose and determination, Captain and Ashely located additional birds.  One quail jetted from my right at about thirty yards, and I shot him dead.  My execution prompted a sincere congratulations from Gary.  Admittedly, that felt pretty good.  Before continuing our hunt, Gary asked how many birds we had taken.  We counted seven and decided to stop shooting.  Captain and Ashley were still in hot pursuit, so we lowered our shotguns and admired their elegant skills.  We tried a few other areas before heading back home just after lunch. 

As a passionate and improving hunter, I appreciate the time Gary spends teaching me the nuances of the sport.   The sage advice has, and continues to impact my success in the field.  I look forward to spending more time with my friend.




Sport-DOG Upland Hunter 1875

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

HEVI-Shot   Pheasant

Number 4 shot is   overkill for quail.  Unfortunately, I   forgot to pack my number 6 shot.  Birds   went down, and went down hard.

Uplanders Warehouse

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/shot/

Hankook Dynapro ATM

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/shot/

SportDOG Nutrition

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/shot/

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/

Cabela’s Active Lite Jacket

See http://www.huntfishgolfwork.com/page/2/

Irish Setter Upland DSS King Toe Hunting Boots

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




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