Tag Archives: SportDOG

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.

 

Muzzleloader Pronghorn 2016

I take pride in making conservative, ethical shots.  Shots that result in quick, humane kills.  I have been fortunate to have taken all of my big game animals with a single bullet.  Tracking a wounded animal has not been necessary, and I am thankful for that.  I knew that when I won my CVA Optima V2 at this year’s Pheasants Forever dinner, there was a real risk of failure.  For years, I watched hunters on television kill all types of big game animals with a muzzleloader.  I now had the opportunity to hunt primitively.

Opening day of Colorado’s muzzleloader pronghorn season was September 21st.  Weeks before, my practice sessions with the rifle proved to be a challenge.  It took me forty-five minutes to get on paper, and another thirty minutes to establish a reasonable grouping.  To that point, when I arrived at the Ranch later in the afternoon on 9/21, I went straight to range in order to continue to get comfortable with iron sites.  Shooting from 100 yards, I put four within six inches of one another.  While I was not completely confident, I did not think additional practice time would produce incrementally better results.

The Blue Mill pasture is a favorite of mine.  While there is not a lot of cover, I am able to glass over a vast area from great vantage points.  My plan was simple; identify a shooter buck, determine his general direction, and go ambush him.  I felt I could execute a lethal shot within one hundred yards.  It did not take long to spot a really nice goat.  Glassing from three hundred yards, I spent about fifteen minutes looking at this rack to be certain he was worth pursuing.  Recognizing he was special, I started my stalk armed with one hundred grains of propellant along with a Powerbelt Aerolite bullet.  Almost immediately the buck spotted me, but he did not seem overly concerned.  There were a few females he was eyeing, and that kept his attention as I walked in his general direction.  When he dropped behind a knoll, I started running in order make up ground, and obtain a favorable position.  I glanced over the hill and saw his head down, casually feeding just seventy-five yards from my position.  My heart was beating rapidly but I remained composed.  There were about one hundred head of cattle just behind the pronghorn so I needed to wait until he cleared them.  As if it was scripted, he walked to my left and looked up at me.  My Optima V2 was already in the monopod, and I took aim.  The fiber optic site was centered on his left shoulder, and I squeezed the trigger.  

Unfortunately, the fifty caliber bullet sailed over his back.  Stunned that I did not connect, I watched the goat race to a position safely out of the reach of the muzzleloader.  As I made my way back to the truck, the buck cautiously made his way back to the lower section of the pasture.  I reloaded and ran towards him.  My rangefinder had him at 130 yards so I pulled the trigger.  Again, the bullet whizzed over his body.  Slightly dejected, I departed the pasture to see If I could find another animal.  I watched a few more bucks throughout the late afternoon but all were too immature to consider.

The plan on day two was to explore the eastern pastures of the Ranch.  It was seven in the morning, fifty degrees, and the sun was quickly warming the day.  I drove for miles, regularly pausing on the two tracks in order to peer into long draws.  Unfortunately, I did not see a single animal.  At about nine, I decided to head back to the Blue Mill to see if there was any activity.  As I motored west on the county road, I noticed a big buck with a single doe just one hundred and fifty yards off the road.  Startled by my presence, they completed a 180, and ran one hundred yards away from me.  Both animals stopped and looked back to assess the threat.  I backed my truck up until the pronghorn could not see me.  My loaded CVA was slung over my shoulder as I ran laterally in an attempt to impart a flanking strategy.  When I was six hundred yards from my truck, I slowly crept west toward the general direction of the animals.  Despite my efforts, they spotted me just as I spotted them.  Realizing I had to act quickly, I put the gun in the monopod and took aim.  Almost immediately I realized that the rear sites of the gun were gone.  I panicked as I knew I would not be able to kill this pronghorn or any other.  Once I got back to my truck I called Bob and told him about the situation.  As expected, he offered up multiple suggestions in order to solve my unfortunate predicament.  Luckily for me my friend Dave was heading to the Ranch, and he offered to let me use his muzzleloader.

Dave’s muzzleloader was shooting a bit high at one hundred yards.  It was almost four in the afternoon, so Tyler, Bob and I headed back to the Blue Mill.  It did not take long to locate a respectable goat feeding in and around some cows.  He did not startle when we approached him from two hundred and fifty yards away.  I was able to get to around one hundred yards before he started to trot away from us.  When he turned to look back, I took the shot.  Unfortunately, my bullet was off the mark, striking him in the leg.  The injured buck ran for a long distance before collapsing.  While I was certainly proud that I had harvested the pronghorn, I was disappointed in my inability to execute correctly.

If I am fortunate to draw another muzzleloader 2016-pronghorntag, I will put in even more time on the range.  Shooting with iron sights is difficult, and situational practice is a necessity.

 

Equipment Comment
MuzzleloaderCVA Optima V2 Easy to shoot and clean; great gun
Binoculars – Styrka S7 10 x42 Great optics for a reasonable price
Pants – Lolo Upland Briar Comfortable, tough but expensive
Electronic Ear Protection – SoundGear A must for all hunters who want to protect their ears
Truck Storage – MobileStrong Keeps hunters organized
Mapping – onXmaps Highly effective mapping software for your GPS

 

Echo

The 2016 season represents my fifth year chasing wild birds in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.  My gundog partner, Pride, is now officially retired.  A seasoned birddog, we adopted him at seven years old.  Over the last five years, Pride taught me how to bird hunt.  He put up with my misses as well as located that late-day rooster to fill my limit or salvage the trip.  The formula was easy; I pointed him into the wind and he did the rest.  It was upsetting to see him slow down towards the conclusion of the 2014/2015 season. It was my first indication that Pride’s hunting career was coming to an end.  When cancer took part of his left front paw last summer, we knew that our time in the field would be limited.  He had a few successful jaunts over four trips last winter.  On December 31st 2015, with birds flying everywhere, he could not make the walk back to the truck.  I handed my shotgun to Jeremy, and then carried my friend back to the truck.  On that day, Pride stopped chasing birds.

Preparing for that moment, Jenny and I had been talking to different breeders throughout the fall.  I ended up speaking with a nice man in Yuma, Colorado.  Francis Owens and his wife, Teressa  own a breeding/training business called Advantage Pointing Labs.  Francis and I spoke multiple times during the season, and he invited me to hunt over his dogs.  While we had a tough day finding birds, it was obvious that his pups demonstrated everything we wanted in a pet and gundog.

Echo was born on December 13, 2015.  She is one of three females in a litter of twelve Labrador retrievers.  We took her home at ten weeks, and then returned her to Francis and Teressa  one month later for basic puppy training.  Admittedly, I am not yet confident in my ability to train a gundog.  With that in mind, I asked Francis to start Echo.  The plan was to do an initial introduction to birds at three months, then bring her back for obedience as well as more complex field work at five months.  My responsibility has been to educate myself on the how to reinforce the teachings.  SportDOG offers a variety of content that helps me understand how to work with Echo.  Additionally, Francis regularly posts YouTube videos demonstrating the specific techniques he utilizes with his dogs.  I observe then do my best to employ the methods during our practice time.

Echo is now seven months old.  She has a sweet disposition and a strong prey drive (video – Echo @ 7 months).  When the season opens in November we will be ready to patrol the same fields that Pride and I once scoured.  I look forward to our upcoming hunting adventures.

Echo Training at Quail Run

Echo @ 7m

A Late Season Colorado Pheasant Hunt

New Year’s Eve means two things at this point in my life; a vacation day and the eve of my oldest son’s birthday.  Gone are the days of big parties, a few too many cocktails and staying up all night.  To that point, I planned an early morning bird hunting trip to my favorite Walk in Areas in Eastern Colorado.  My lofty goal was to have my limit by early afternoon, and be back in time for a celebratory family dinner.  Jeremy, Kessler, Pride and I loaded up at five a.m. and hit the road.

Upon arriving at the first field at 8 a.m., we noticed tire tracks in the six inches of recently fallen snow.  After closer inspection, it looked as though the hunter only covered the northern part of the long CRP field the prior day.  We moved to the southern edge, and worked the dogs west.  Our thirty minute walk produced one hen that was sitting tight on the edge of a large corn field.  Disappointed that we did not see more birds, I made a phone call to a local rancher who allows me to hunt his property.  Ron recently moved into a new home, but he still has access to the land he leased for years.  He asked us not to hunt the northern switchgrass strips, as his cousins were coming out to hunt in January.  After thanking him profusely, we hastily made our way to the prime area.  Just to the north of the house, there is a one hundred and fifty yard shelterbelt that always has a few birds hiding within the junipers.  Leaving Pride in his crate, Jeremy, Kessler and I pinched the tree row from the east and west.  Weaving through the eight foot trees, we worked our way toward one another.  As I focused on the cover to my left, I heard a bird get up behind me then a successive shot.  The plan worked as Jeremy bagged the first rooster of the day.

Given the explicit direction of the rancher, we drove to the southern edge of the property and unloaded.  The cover is pristine; deep grass abutting corn.  Additionally, no one had hunted the land in over a month.  Leaving Pride in the truck, Jeremy, Kessler and I worked our way west keeping about twenty five yards between us.  Pheasant tracks became evident just off the county road.  I anticipated birds were running to evade their pursuers.   Without warning, dozens of pheasants started to flush wild.  My first instinct was to sprint to the action, but experience told me to be patient.  I was rewarded minutes later with a dozen birds jumping up within twenty five yards.  I selected a lone rooster moving into the cornfield and fired three unsuccessful shots.  Disappointed in my performance, I reloaded my Benelli Ethos and marched forward.  Cursing at my inability to execute, I tried to focus on immediate improvement.  Literally dozens of pheasants continued to get up about seventy five yards from our position.  Jeremy and I commented on the incredible scene taking place in front of us.  The bird population in Eastern Colorado is recovering, and it was now evident.  About three quarters of the way into the field I stopped.  A nervous hen flew into the cornfield followed by a lone rooster flying away to the west.  A single HEVI-SHOT round took him down, and Kessler made the retrieve.  With a bird in my Orvis Upland Sling Pack we worked our way to the far western edge of the field.  Realizing that we were pushing birds, I picked up my pace in order to ensure that our prey would not escape into the adjacent cornfield.  As I turned the corner, I saw a rooster sprinting back into the thick ironweed.  I yelled to Jeremy as the pheasant took flight.  He made a perfect swing, and downed the bird with one proficient shot.

We made a decision to walk back to the east, as we did not want to disturb the acreage close to headquarters.  It did not take long before a rooster jumped out of the tall grass and took flight.  My first shell missed to his left, but my follow up shot knocked the bird out of the air. We witnessed more pheasants taking flight, but none that encouraged a shot.

It was lunchtime, so we decided to visit friends in the area as we had Christmas gifts.

I am not certain that I will get out again this season.  Pride is officially retired.  He does not have the ability to navigate fields any longer.  I will miss watching him hunt.
image

English: A Pheasant at Castle Grant Pheasants ...

Video: Another Great Day Hunting Pheasants on the Eastern Plains of Colorado

 

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/

 

 

20131202-205146.jpg

20131202-205154.jpg

20131202-205203.jpg

20131202-205221.jpg

20131202-205231.jpg

Enhanced by Zemanta