Tag Archives: Upland

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

My 2012-2013 Season Ends

My last hunting trip of the 2012-2013 pheasant season started out like any other journey to Eastern, Colorado; up at 4:00 am, out the door by 4:50 am and adjacent to my favorite field by 7:45 am. The temperature was sixteen degrees, and there was a subtle ten mph wind easing its way in from the northwest. The conditions were great, but I felt I was about forty five minutes behind schedule. My gut told me that the birds had already made their way into the corn fields where they could not be pursued. Pride and I quickly worked our way through the shin high CRP. I knew that if there were birds to be had, they would be holding tight in the deeper cover along the draw at the end of the field. Pride has often sought our quarry in this field, and he knows when to turn on his afterburners. Not dissimilar to our last trip, we moved quickly through the one hundred and fifty yards of brush but never encountered a bird. It was the second trip in a row that my honey hole failed to produce results.

The night before the trip, I phoned a rancher friend who had allowed Pride and me to hunt his land on three occasions during the season. For over two seasons, I never received a positive answer to my question “would it be possible to walk your land with my dog”. Honestly, I developed a complex as landowners repeatedly denied my requests to access their property. Unfortunately, my appeal to make a final tour of his prime real estate was denied. He emphasized the need to end the season early in order to give the birds a “break”. Nevertheless, I stopped by the house to drop off a case of bud light, and a personal thank you card addressed to the family.

Pride and I headed one half mile east then unloaded next to a large grass field that abutted corn. The snow that blanketed this field three weeks before was almost gone, and had unfortunately matted down the already sparse cover. We employed a zigzag pattern in order to cover ground, and perhaps confuse a running rooster. Pride did get hot as we marched towards the end of the field. When he slowed down and began to sniff in circles, I prepared myself for action. It took about thirty seconds, but a hen jumped up thirty yards in front of me. A few “no bird” calls had Pride ready to continue our walk west. Thirty minutes later we loaded up, and maneuvered to another favorite area about four miles southeast of our position. When I arrived at the field, there were already three trucks surrounding the area so I moved on. Pride and I spent the next hour covering an enormous field that did not show any signs of life. Disappointed but undeterred, we headed to town to fill up the Dodge Ram 1500, and get some food.

With a Monster Rehab energy drink and some jerky in hand, I stared at the map to determine our next move. Another hunter pulled into the market so I asked him how his day was going. He described an all too familiar story; working two dogs, he was able to get some birds in the air, but not close enough to attempt a shot. I asked him if he would like to hunt together to see if we could improve our odds. He responded with enthusiastic “yes”, so we began to collaborate on an afternoon strategy.

With a renewed focus, we drove further east towards some pivots that we hoped had not been mowed down. About five miles into the drive, Tom slowed and waived me up. He had noticed a one hundred yard row of evergreens in a walk in area just off the adjacent road. The plan was simple; I would drive to the east and work Pride west, and he would counter that with his two Brittany spaniels. I quickly made my way west, weaving between the fifteen foot evergreens. As Pride neared Gunner and Major, all dogs simultaneously turned quickly in the direction of the road. A rooster busted from the tree line, and flew straight back to the east. The tip of one tree prohibited me from executing an immediate shot, so I jumped forward and reset my position. My first shot from my Beretta A400 XPLR Light 12 gauge missed high, but the next shot knocked the bird down immediately. Pride ran furiously at the mortally wounded pheasant, and brought him to my hand. We thanked the dogs for their efforts, exchanged congratulations, and then continued on our way. The excitement level had suddenly intensified for all participants.

The next four pivots we hunted appeared amazing, but produced nothing. We hunted every inch of the dense CRP, hoping to move birds into the surrounding corn fields. Unfortunately, two miles of stalking produced only one startled hen. We continued our drive north towards Nebraska with the hope that the extra miles of driving would eventually pay off. We came across a unique walk in area that had knee-high grass surrounding a dense and long plum thicket. Tom, Gunner and Major took the right side of the trees, while Pride and I moved left. About half way through the walk south, Pride became birdy. Nose down and tail vigorously moving, he began to demonstrate signs of a pheasant in our presence. I readied for a shot but nothing happened. Tom and his dogs turned the corner around the plum thicket, and marched southeast. We both acknowledged that our dogs were in pursuit of moving prey, and the pace suddenly quickened. Pride moved to my right, and ran hard to the edge of the field. Tom was positioned about fifty yards to my right, and we expected the dogs were on a crafty cock bird. When Pride started to forcefully dig his nose in a clump of grass, a rooster jumped just inches from his head. As the bird took flight, all three dogs started their chase. The bird flew low which caused me to delay a shot as Major was in my field of vision. Tom, however, had a clear shot and knocked the bird out of the sky with his Winchester SX3 20 gauge.

It was now 4 pm, and we needed to quickly make our way to our last field of the day. The land that I had in mind always has birds moving from corn to cover as night approaches. As we drove up to the edge of the CRP, birds were already taking flight. We quickly piled out of the trucks, and jumped into the tall grass. The dogs were moving with determination as they obviously knew pheasants were sprinting away from us. After five hundred yards we turned back toward the west with the hope that some of the birds that we passed would hold tight. Unfortunately, these late season pheasants have been conditioned to outwit their pursuers. As the sun set, we watched the running birds take flight against the red sky. While we were disappointed that a shot never presented itself, the scene that unfolded in front of us was pretty awesome.

My 2012-2013 pheasant season appeared bleak at the outset. The drought that has savaged Colorado over the last 12 months was clearly visible to the not so discerning eye. Farmers, ranchers and landowners were all suffering, and so were the birds that depend on the habitat to survive. Hopefully, significant precipitation hits the region soon, and solves what is becoming an ever worsening problem. While the number of birds I harvested was far less than last year, I still had an amazing time. November cannot come soon enough.

Equipment Used in the Field

Shotgun

Beretta A400 XPLR Light 12 gauge, modified Trulock choke

I love this semiautomatic. I have a couple of fancy O/U’s, but they sit in the safe for a reason. This gun is light and reliable. I have had only two jams in three years. Unfortunately, it came in the midst of two amazing flushes. Cleaning the weapon is intimidating, but can be accomplished. This is will be my upland shotgun for a very long time.

Pack

Badlands’ Birdvest

Badlands is known for their big game packs and clothing. That said their upland pack is awesome. My favorite components are the two magnetic shell holders that sit on either side of the waist buckle. When it is cold, and you are scrambling to reload, these pouches provide quick access to the necessary ammunition. Badlands must redesign the elastic shell holder as twelve gauge shells fall out easily. I would also recommend deeper external webbing.

Jacket

Cabela’s Activ-Lite Upland Jacket

Comfortable jacket that can be used as a top layer on colder days. The jacket blocks the wind, while maintaining a loose fit.

Base Layer

Nike Pro Combat

I like wearing this product from Nike. The material really wicks away moisture and keeps you warm.

Boots

Irish Setter King Toe DSS 820

My best buy in 2011. These boots are comfortable, and can be worn in temperatures in the low single digits. I put a ton of miles on these boots and never suffered a blister or an injured foot.

Socks

Smartwool

These socks are so comfortable that I purchased 5 pair. My feet stay dry and warm.

Sunglasses

Oakley Scalpel

I am not an Oakley guy, but these are great shades. When it is bright or I am fishing, I wear the dark polarized lenses. When there is little sunlight, I put in the yellow lenses. Oakley’s are expensive, but my Scalpels have been a worthwhile investment.

Truck

Dodge Ram 1500 (2011)

The truck has operated flawlessly over the last 15 months. I did destroy two of my Goodyear tires, and had to make an unexpected investment in four new Hancook tires.

Gloves

Under Armour

Work very well when the temperature drops. I often debate putting them on as I want to maintain the proper feel of my shotgun.

Hat

Under Armour

I own five of these hats. Unfortunately, they get misshapen quickly and do not last. Sort of disappointing.

Camera

GoPro Hero 2

Of course I never had the camera on when I found birds. When it is turned on, the quality is great.

Dog (Pride)

Bred and trained by Gary Ruppel (Kiowa Creek Kennels)

Gary is the best in the business. He is a straightforward, kind and honest man. He also breeds/trains great dogs. What more could you want?

 

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Not a Chance

Late December brought on another cold. I had just recovered from a nasty flu bug, only to wake up on Christmas morning with many of the same symptoms that occurred earlier in the month. My condition was very disappointing as I planned on taking Thursday and Friday off for bird hunting in Eastern Colorado. Lots of water, plenty of Cold Eeze and a couple of DayQuil provided me the elixir for ensuring I would spend time in the field.

Despite the constant coughing, and leaky nose, I awakened at four am on December 28th to leave for the two day trip. The Dodge Ram 1500 was already packed, and sported four new Hancook DynaPro tires. On my last two trips, I tore up two of the Goodyears that came with the truck. The Hancooks were an unexpected and untimely investment made at Discount Tire. Greg met me in front of my house at five am with his truck as he planned on coming home that evening.

The two and three quarter hour drive had us entering bird country with five inches of fresh snow on the ground. The conditions were perfect; a five degree air temperature and a light westerly wind had Greg, Pride and me set up for pheasant hunting success. Driving down the first country road, we spotted thirty birds dancing through the unharvested corn. Two miles later, we entered my favorite field with the sole purpose to make it to the thickest cover situated one thousand yards from our trucks. We worked the edge of the CRP until we reached the berm where I hoped birds were holding tight. Pride is familiar with this land, and he worked feverishly to find a fresh scent. The deep snow drifts made moving to the key area slow and tiring. The effects of my cold were obvious as I struggled to catch my breath during the deliberate jog. Pride was obviously excited as he darted into the tumbleweeds. His speed allowed him to cover a lot of ground, and he looked in every nook that could possibly hold birds. Greg and I made our way west along both sides of the draw waiting for a rooster to take flight. It did not happen. In fact, the entire field did not produce anything of merit.

Although we were a bit disappointed, we knew that there were birds to be had if we hunted the right fields. Greg and I drove to some popular public spots where we encountered hunters who were already in pursuit. We drove slowly along the adjacent private land, and we witnessed more than fifty pheasants moving from the tree line to the corn fields. The temptation to pull over and hunt this area was real, but inappropriate, so we moved on.

Due to the lack of cover, the options were limited, so we decided to venture to the private land where we have permission to hunt. The rancher had planted two rows of evergreens that were situated just to the north of his house. Given the conditions, I felt there should be birds present as they would be seeking protection from the elements. Instead of entering the area from both sides, we decided to walk together from the east. Despite our stealth approach, the birds started to fly into the adjacent CRP before we closed the truck’s doors. We sprinted into the tree line only to see more birds jump too far away to get off a shot.

All of the pheasants that flew from the trees touched down in the rancher’s CRP just south of our position. The strategy became obvious; Greg would move southwest and I would take Pride five hundred yards to the south and hunt him into the wind. If we worked the area correctly, perhaps we could force the evasive roosters into the air. One thing that was clearly evident in this field, was that there were the fresh tracks of pheasants everywhere. There was no doubt that Pride smelled bird, as his head remained low and his tail moved swiftly from side to side. As we walked towards Greg, I anticipated we would see exploding birds. Disappointingly, it never happened. We hunted the rest of the field over the next forty five minutes, and never got a bird to fly. On a hunch, I told Greg we should once again hunt the tree line, as I saw two birds fly back into the cover minutes after we departed. This time, I dropped Greg off on the eastern side and I quietly made my way west. We moved in unison, trying to pinch the birds and force them into the air. I readied myself when I saw a hen sprint from a bush to the trees. Another hen surprised me when she took flight, and then another soon followed. A rooster flew straight up then banked a hard right towards Greg. I yelled “rooster” and heard Greg take a single shot from his Beretta Silver Pigeon. Two more hens darted from their hiding places, and flew less than twenty feet from my barrel. When I realized all of the birds had left the area, I made my way to Greg with the hope that he would have a downed rooster in his hand. Unfortunately, his shot had not found it’s mark, and we were still without the intended quarry.

We hunted for another two and a half hours before realizing that the sun was setting quickly. My rancher friend told me the name of the landowner who abutted his property. I called him with the hope that he would grant us permission to walk his fields. When I got him on the telephone, I introduced myself, and asked him the critical question. He responded with a resounding “no”. Disappointed, we drove from country road to country road trying to locate cover that we could hunt. After an exhausting and disappointing forty five minute walk through a WIA stacked with evergreens, we made our way back to the rancher’s land for one last effort before dark.

Greg and I walked the initial 100 yards into the CRP, and startled two hens that had hunkered down for the night.

Unfortunately, my cough became more intense and constricting as the day concluded. To that point, I made a decision that staying the night would not be prudent, so I made my way back home.

Ideal weather conditions do not always mean that an opportunity to shoot a bird will present itself. We were diligent in our effort, but luck was not on our side. Despite our lack of success, we encountered many birds that we will pursue aggressively at a later date.

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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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