Monday, January 5, 2009

Two Weeks: No Work, Lots of Play, Part I

Today is the first day I've reported for duty since December 19th. Frankly, I'm both sad and excited to be back; it's nice to catch up on the blogs I read, and the general happenings in the world. Alas, this is not a business or current events blog, so I'll get to the bird hunting directly.

The past month or more has been bittersweet; it seems that for every extraordinary event something happens to bring me back to reality. On Thanksgiving morning I stumbled across a real gem, a piece of public ground holding pheasant, quail, and chickens. In just more than an hour Ike had finds on two coveys of quail and one covey of about 30 chickens. I only managed three or four quail, and the chickens flushed with the camera in my hands. Still, a great find close to a place where I spend a lot of personal time.

The next day I was invited to hunt some ground in western Kansas with my neighbor and his in-law's family. The land is owned by two brothers and is farmed by the region's Pheasants Forever Chapter president. So, needless to say the policies and farming practies utilized on these lands are favorable to game birds and bird hunting. There's plenty of CRP with standing milo strips, buffers along crop edges, and even strips of CRP running along the terraces in wheat stubble fields. It was a great hunt, with a couple inches of our first snow on the ground. Birds were holding unbelievably tight and they were plentiful. I always get nervous running my dogs in front of folks, especially in "walk and block" situations, because they are bigger going and will freely relocate on running pheasants, which inevitably results in a bumped bird or two. But Sage completely exceeded my expectations, and we shot many roosters over him, several I could have caught with my hands as they were buried in the thick, snow-ladden CRP.

On the second day, after the family headed out of town, I was given the run of the place and we took advantage. Sage quickly put a rooster and two quail in my gamebag and it was Ike's turn. We hunted the wheat stubble field with the strips along the terraces. I could see him running along the edge several hundred yards ahead of me when he started the point and relocate dance that can only mean running pheasants. He'd trot along the edge low and then stop, his body and tail would rise with the scent until he stood tall, and I could see his mouth and nose trying to chew and taste the birds. Then he'd break and creep low with the tail sweeping back and forth like a windshield wiper, and he'd pause again. Eventually Ike stopped and stood long enough for me to close the distance, all the while thinking "this is it." I saw one bird make a run for it into the stubble and I put him up. I pulled the trigger as he sailed right to left and a second bird flushed right in front of Ike, who will often stand through the flush. The first bird crumpled in air and I swung on the second with the remaining barrel. I managed to break a wing and knew we were in for a chase when he langed legs down and head up in the stubble. Ike has never been a stellar retriever, but he will surprise on occasion. Imagine my shock when he flew past me, first bird in mouth, and completely linebacker'd the second bird. It was my first pointed double on pheasants, something I hope I never forget.

With three pheasants and two quail in the bag before noon, I decided to relocate to another part of the state to attempt something I have never done before; quail, pheasant, and chickens all in the same day. When I got there I noticed my Tri-Tronics transmitter and Garmin Astro were missing. I emptied the truck and they were nowhere to be found. Reluctantly I put Sage and Ike down. They were tired anyway, and I didn't think I'd lose them in the open country. A few minutes into the hunt Ike went over a hill towards a milo field and remained gone for a few minutes. As I was doubling back hoping to find him on point a covey of quail sailed lazily over my head and landed in the pasture. And shortly behind them was Ike. I like to think he pointed and held them for some time, they got nervous and ran off and then flew into the pasture. Sage gave me some great singles work, and it was the quickest four quail of my life. Of course, shooting quail in sparse pasture ground is a lot easier than plum thickets, hedge rows, or mesquite country. But we were here for chickens, so I pulled the dogs off the quail and we hunted on. Ike ranged and pointed several chickens that never let me get close enough. Then I saw some birds coming back from feeding to roost. We crept to the area and Ike pointed a bird that again flushed out of range. Ike stood through the flush as I approached and a second bird flushed, and I had my trifecta. A brilliant mature male. I didn't have a limit of anything, but I'll remember it as one of the best days.

EDIT: I forgot to metion that I drove the two hours back to where I was last hunting and I found my transmitter and GPS along the side of the road where we ended. They must have fallen out of the truck while I was loading up.


mdmnm said...

Congrats on a couple of fantastic days!

Jon Uhart said...

Thanks. Now if I hadn't lost my camera! Arrrgggg!