Monday, November 2, 2009

The Initiation

The first day started off a little rough. I had done a ton of research on areas that would likely hold birds. I studied satellite imagery of many plots of state land, BMA's, and BLM land. I identified plenty of places to turn a dog loose with good chances of finding birds. However, we quickly learned that there is no substitute for boots on the ground. Most of the places had been overgrazed to varying degrees. Even most of the BMA's didn't look good, especially in comparison to the adjacent private lands that weren't open to public hunting. But if we drove enough we'd find a spot that looked worth the effort.

The first spot was a small patch, maybe only 40 acres of prairie grass bordered on two sides by wheat fields and nestled below some sage-covered hills. Ted astutely observed that this piece was probably too small to bother grazing, and that's why it escaped the bovine lawnmowers. As Ike and Dottie raced through the knee-high grass we noticed an old farmhouse over a shallow hill which pretty much sealed the deal for me: I was sure there were birds here. Very quickly Ike made a strong cast to the right and established point--the kind with his rump in the air and his nose to the ground. Two small relocations sent a single hun zooming away and Ike with a question mark hoving above his head. Eh, I can't fault him. First hun he's smelled in a year, and mistakes happen.

We swept beyond the imploded house and along the edge where the prairie grass meets sage hills. Just about to the end Ike went on point, cornering birds between himself and a sharp rise in the terrain. I fumbled my zippered pocket for my camera to document Ike's first find. I decided that taking pictures would assure one of several possibilities: 1) Ike was pointing a badger or a skunk or some other off-game, 2) birds would flush before I was ready, or 3) I would miss an easy shot.

Well, it turns out it wouldn't take a camera to guarantee possibility number three. Ted and I calmly approached Ike and Ted gently whoa'd Dottie into honoring, as I'm sure it was tough for her to see Ike through the grass. Before I was ready birds were in the air, screeching, and hauling ass. I remember seeing legs and wings, and being completely taken by surprise. I shot twice; maybe I picked out a bird, maybe I didn't. I'm sure I scared them pretty well as they rocketed over the sage hill. "Quail on steroids" might be an understatement. Ted, on the other hand, began the best shooting performance I've seen. I think he only missed once the entire trip. Anyway, Ted bagged hun number one and we unsuccessfully tried to locate the covey over the ridge. No matter, it was a great start to a memorable trip. As we were driving out we met a few bird hunters up from Livingston looking for pheasants. Apparently we are nuts for having driven all the way from Kansas "just for huns." Oh well, I've been called worse.

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