Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Two Weeks: Part IV, the Southwest

With a couple days to burn between Christmas and New Year's, and nice weather on the horizon I decided to explore a part of the state I had yet to hunt this season, and target a bird I had yet to pursue, ever. I'd hunt quail in some notably different terrain, as well as the lesser prairie chicken. So, after sleeping in I pointed the truck down I-35 and headed to the southwest part of Kansas. The forecast for the next two days was for highs in the mid-50's, a nice breeze, and plenty of sun.

Usually the dogs ride under the topper in their crates, but this time they got to ride in the cab. I enjoyed the company, and kids waved from minivans while navigating all the red lights through Wichita. Having a dog riding shotgun is also nice when you're trying to drive and eat a Chipotle burrito; clean up crew.

That evening I ran both dogs for an hour or so at a familiar spot and found two coveys of quail, and a few pheasants. The big birds always managed to keep a cedar between the dangerous end of my shotgun and their escape. Here's a look at the terrain, shallow rolling hills, cedars, prairie grass, and thick plum thickets here and there.

The weather was actually a bit hotter than forecast, highs in the low 60's. They went through 2 liters of water quickly so we didn't get to hunt as long as I would have liked. But, we found some birds for our effort.

When my dogs are young and still hunting close I make it a point to make them hunt the thick stuff, especially for quail. While running the edges is important, sometimes coveys will hunker down in the middle of a large thicket, so the dog needs to hunt those. I guess this time Ike wanted payback, so he pointed, and made me crash my way through the thicket to put up the birds. But, upon doing so they weren't there. Maybe they had run, but he found them in some grass a short ways away. I still think he did it on purpose.

I always find myself taking pictures of roosts. I don't know why bird hunters do this, because they're essentially pictures of...well...poop. But I've seen it before and I'll probably continue to do it myself. I found this one just after Ike pointed that covey. If I find a roost in the field, I might take some extra time to thoroughly work the area, because the quail are probably close.

This exact tactic paid off for me later the next day. First I saw this (probably the largest quail roost I've ever seen)...

And then I saw this...Ike with another find.

And now on a single...

Next, lesser prairie chickens.

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