So far, this hunting season has been fun but a bit challenging! A near birdless hunt in Wyoming, some preserve hunts thrown in for fun and then slim pickings on Kansas public land. We had high hopes for the Kansas hunt because the talk was that this could be a good year. The local biologist proclaimed that we would see “a covey of bob-whites per hour”. I knew that was optimistic but having the local state-employed biologist make that pronouncement seemed a pretty good omen. One expert we ran into at the local Kansas donut shop said it was back to “pre-drought bird counts” and that too sounded like a good thing. Not to get melodramatic but 10+ hours of hunting through some of the most perfect habitat imaginable yielded a mere 2 coveys of quail. Two sweet bobs were taken, enough for a small appetizer. Anyway, we hunt with a terrific group of guys and always have a great time but the bird tide has got to turn. And I am sure it will! We have some great hunts on the calendar and this season is far from over. I did get some good photog and below are the pics . . .
Tex has his game face on!
This year, the fall colors in Colorado were spectacular and lasted a bit longer than usual. The dry, cool fall days promoted rich colors that lasted weeks instead of days as we sometime see when it is wet and windy. Most of these pictures were taken outside of Aspen, Colorado on a drive down Castle Creek Road. With this beautiful color, it really doesn’t matter what kind of camera equipment you have. You only need to worry about the light and composition. I hope you enjoy these shots!
We enjoyed a beautiful Saturday morning at the sporting clays field. The Nikon D850 was set to a shutter speed of 1/2000 to try to capture the moment of truth.
My favorite Son-in-law, Kyle, and I went to Wyoming to hunt Hungarian Partridge, Chukar Partridge and Sage Grouse. First, you should know that the birds in Wyoming are WAY down. Three and a half days of hunting, 20+ miles of hiking and plenty of road hunting and we saw zero Huns, zero Chukar and only a few Sage Grouse. We were checked by a Wyoming game officer and he confirmed that this is a pretty dismal year for bird hunting. Not quite what I expected given that all the great plains states are no longer in a drought but the game officer thinks that these things go in cycles. I hope he is right and we look forward to better hunting in the future. Despite these depressing statistics, we had a terrific hunt. Kyle is a new bird hunter – he has not yet enjoyed a game rich hunt and he was elated when we succeeded on sage grouse. It was time well spent and a great hunt in all the categories that matter!
There is nothing like a Modelo Especial after a 4 hour hike of futility!
I have had a great time mixing photography with bird hunting on this blog over the past 10 years or so. Now I am adding woodworking to the mix by making hardwood frames to produce complete, framed “art”.
Check out Novak Image & Frame by clicking HERE.
See examples of the finished work below:
One of the benefits of being a double gun enthusiast is that often my friends ask me to clean their dirty bird guns! One of those fine fellows asked me to clean up his nice old Auguste Francotte boxlock. This grand old gun was made in Liege, Belgium, I would guess in the 1920’s.
Here is some trivia – the bore diameter of a 12 gauge shotgun is derived by taking a pound of lead, making 12 balls exactly the same size and measuring the diameter of one of those balls. For a 12 gauge that measures to be about .729 of an inch. Here is the formula if you want to do the math:
If you make 28 balls out of a pound of lead then the diameter of a single ball measures about .55 of an inch. The 28 gauge, being 3/4 the size of a 12 gauge, yields a petite game gun that is a delight to shoot. I am no 28 gauge expert but so far, if I do what I am supposed to do, this little gun busts targets and kills birds as well as a 12 gauge – given that I shoot at things within range (say 30 yards?). Of course putting an additional 25% (or more) lead in the air with a 12 gauge gives the shooter more range and a better chance to hit the target! A lighter gun can be a challenge to shoot well but this little gun is a pleasure to carry in the field.
Here is an Armas Garbi 101 in 28 Gauge.
Texas quail are by FAR our favorite bird to hunt! We had the pleasure of spending 3 days with West Texas Quail Outfitters hunting near Alpine, Texas. Chasing scaled quail in the shadow of the Davis mountains on crisp west Texas days is about as good as upland bird hunting gets. The guides, Ryan and Josh, are hard working guys and did all they could to put us in the right places. They were an absolute pleasure to hunt with.
But know that hunting wild birds means that bird counts are at the whim of the cycles of mother nature . This year finding birds at times was a challenge and required covering a lot of ground to hit the coveys. It reminds you that every bird is indeed a gift from God.
Last year, our guide called to say that the bird counts were down and the hunting might not be so good. We went anyway and had a terrific hunt! This year the guide called again and said “hey, seriously, this year is going to suck” and advised that we skip again but we still went. After all, these bird hunts are much more than hunting birds. . . right? You know . . . camaraderie, communing with nature, getting away from accountability for a while, riding in pickup trucks with shotguns, hunting-camp cuisine, etc. We were pushing our luck! This year, we were rewarded with a dastardly cold hunt and the lowest bird count in our 20 years of chasing roosters. All part of the game though. The great hunts are appreciated because of the tough times endured. This was definitely not the worst and we are glad we went. Everyone is looking forward to a future of more birds and less frostbite! Of course, bird dog Tex has no idea what I am whining about. He had a terrific time!
I don’t keep the links on the “Links” page as up to date as I should. I ran through them and was sad to see that more than a few have been dormant for a couple of years. Here is the roll call for the dearly departed . . .
- Adventures of a GSP Hunting Dog, last post was September 7, 2016
- Red Legg’ed Devils, last post was Novemeber 11, 2016
- Sometimes Far Afield, last post was July 4, 2017
- The Mallard of Discontent, last post was May 16, 2016
- Uplandish, last post was April 25, 2016
- Wingshot, last post was January 30, 2016 (too bad, this guy is a great writer!)
- Find the Beauty, last post was February 7, 2017
There is a sort of pressure to keep it going and I understand that one may just be done with it. I hope all is well with them!
On the bright side, there are some new players out there. One superb site is this one . . . The Project Upland. This site has it all! Articles, pod casts, videos and even their own magazine (which I have subscribed to). There is a ton of quality content, so much so I hope they can keep it up. This effort is part of Northwood Collective, an “outdoor creative agency”, so this is much more than some moron randomly posting crap on the internet . . . . you know . . . like the Birdhunter. You should check it out.
I think the links are good now. You should look at them, a lot of good stuff in there!
Here are some pics from our hunt on the rolling prairie a few weeks ago. This is a good year for Hungarian Partridge. Not the covey counts you find on Texas quail but enough to keep our interest and make this a great hunt. I am thankful that we live in proximity to such beautiful, wild country!
The Hungarian Partridge is a fast flying covey bird. They don’t hold as well for a point like quail or pheasant but when they flush it is some fast shooting. Beautiful bird!
The bird hunting season is upon us and most have already hit the fields but I was forced to spend the first of September on vacation in Boston. Sometimes sacrifices are necessary to keep the peace in the marriage! Check out this quaint street . . .
This is Acorn Street, one of the most photographed in the country. Boston is an awesome city and we had a terrific time. Highly recommended!
Then off to another world – our favorite western state in search of sage grouse. This was our first time in an area that holds more sage grouse than anywhere else in the country. Even though, this land is vast and we of course had to learn first where they weren’t before we stumbled into where they were.
Tex on a staunch point, happy that the slow days of summer are over.
It was a great hunting season! Not as many birds as we would have liked but Tex’s knees performed well and we are ready to take on the next 5 years or so. The bird hunting is over for a while and we look forward to the wonderful Colorado summer and Sunday afternoons at the dog park!
Tex went to southern Colorado yesterday to find a quail or two. The quail were sparse but the cactus were not! Here are some pictures from the day.
Solid point on a cholla cactus.
We spent some of December looking for quail on public land. Hunting public land can be challenging because of . . . well . . . the public. But birds are there if you are willing to work to find them and the price is right! Here are some of the pictures of that effort . . .
A bird in hand.
The forecast was that this hunt would suck. Because of a drought and tough winter and summer, the bird counts were down by 60%. We discovered this when the outfitter, Cannonball Company, called to ask if we wanted to skip the year and try again in 2018! I must say the folks at Cannonball are first rate. They made sure we knew what kind of hunt to expect and were ready to accommodate if we chose to do something else. Half of our usual hunting party did just that and spent the weekend on the couch at home. Before the hunt, the weather outlook predicted highs in the mid-30s with high winds. There was ample reason to skip this hunt!
Despite the dismal predictions, the 5 hunters who chose to make the hunt were treated to one of our best hunts yet. The hunting was certainly more challenging but, out of a possible 45 bird limit, the group harvested 41 birds. We could have nailed the other four had we wanted to. 🙂 The weather on day one was cold and windy. The other two days the wind died down and we had near perfect sunny days in the 40s and 50s. Having to work for our birds kept us in the field longer than usual and we all enjoyed that, especially the dogs. You never know what is going to happen on a hunt and this year persistence and a bit of blind faith paid us handsome dividends.
After a dove hunt in Texas and a long walk in a Wyoming prairie, we thought it would be fun to hit the local hunting preserve before the next season opens. Another reason to get on “bought” birds is that after those two out-of-state hunting trips I have yet to fire my gun! I can understand tough bird hunting in Wyoming, but no dove in Texas?!?! The bird forecast for the upcoming pheasant season in North Dakota is dismal as well, so this interlude was good for the dogs to be reminded what game birds smell like.
Appreciation of the good things in life is intensified by contrast. These lean seasons give us reason to appreciate the seasons of abundance. So far this is a year of paying dues, hoping that we will be rewarded for our persistence. Happily we are old enough and wise enough to understand that the joy of the hunt is not a carcass count. The real satisfaction of bird hunting comes from the time afield with our friends and our dogs . . . but a covey flush every now and then would be nice!
Tex on a serious point!
Those fortunate enough to live in one of the western great plains states have access to the massive tracts of public BLM land (managed by the Bureau of Land Management). Last weekend we took bird dog Tex there to try out his new knees. During the past year, he blew out his two back knees and had TPLO surgery on both to put him back together. This nasty, invasive surgery is a big deal and I was anxious to see if he could hold up to a full day of heavy duty hunting.
The magnitude of this vast land is hard to grasp. It is a bad place to loose your keys.
Tex takes a swim in a Texas stock pond during our annual dove hunt. The still morning gave us a pool of glass, reflecting a very happy puppy.
Colorado weather is awesome. This weekend was in the 80s, we wore shorts to the Rockies baseball game but last weekend we had a foot of snow! We took English Setter Oak out on that snowy Sunday for a spin on some chukars.