Category Archives: Bird Hunts

A Not So Down Year in North Dakota

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. ūüôā¬† 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.

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Preserve Bird Interlude

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!

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BLM Bird Hunt

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.

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The magnitude of this vast land is hard to grasp. It is a bad place to loose your keys.

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Snowy Spring Preserve Hunt

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.

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Another Great ND Hunt!

Another year of great weather! This makes two in a row. We have been hunting ND pheasants for 15 years and this annual event is like a dear old friend. We can’t wait to get back every year and are always a bit sad when the hunt is over. This is one of those things that you know, at some point, will come to an end so we savor every minute, every bird, every point, every step in the field and every moment of comradery¬†with our friends and fellow hunters. As we grow older, the hunt is¬†cherished simply because we are here, in the vast openness of North Dakota – away from the grind, away from the responsibility, away from the noise. This time afield, immersed in God’s creation, is our connection with what is real and what matters. I hope you enjoy these pictures from a perfect hunt.

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A picture perfect lay-up.

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Rocky Mountain Roosters

The real hunting is over for now but we are fortunate to have some very nice preserves or hunt clubs on the Colorado front range. Kiowa Creek, The Bluffs, Quail Run are all great venues, but this weekend we tried Rocky Mountain Roosters . This is a great way to extend the season and get the dogs a little more time in the field.

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Wild Quail . . . Finally!

The biblical drought that tormented¬†the western quail country for the past decade has subsided for now. The moisture provided the basic life elements (water, plants and bugs) allowing the quail to return¬†to areas where they seemingly were gone forever. This is a wonderful testimony to nature’s amazing ability to recover when given a chance. We took advantage of the bird rebound with an end of season hunt.

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A beautiful cock and hen

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Fair Weather Pheasant Hunt

What a difference a year makes . . . .

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Our annual North Dakota pheasant hunt last year, sub-zero temps and blowing snow. Not so fun!

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This year was sipping beer in short sleeved shirts! Much more fun!!

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Western Sharptails

Hunting grouse and partridge on the vast plains of the west distills bird hunting to its base elements. . . persistence, stamina, skill and luck. No planted birds, no limiting out in an hour, no horse drawn buggy, no easy walk through a food plot Рthis is hiking for miles, wearing the dogs out, sweating the finish off your shotgun and putting your boots to the test while looking for the needle in the haystack. The hope is that when you find that needle fatigue does not rob you of the ability to wing shoot a fast flushing bird that is a bit farther out than you like. This is hunting for the die hard bird hunter.

But there is a peaceful joy in hunting limitless land. The dogs run unfettered, you seldom see another hunter and your only responsibly is to follow your dogs and perform when the opportunity presents itself. If you keep at it you will find them¬†and when you do it is because you paid your dues. . . . you didn’t buy it, you earned it.

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The excellent camouflage of the Sharptail grouse

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Montana Sharptails

DSC_5340Neither Tex or I had ever set foot in Montana until this trip so we were excited about hunting a new state. We made it¬†up to the Hi-Line area near Hinsdale in search of sharptail grouse, hungarian partridge and hopefully some sage grouse.¬†“Hi-Line” refers¬†to rail line that runs through the area. It is the northernmost rail line in the country and is only¬†42 miles south of Canada.

We ran into birds every day, but not nearly as many as we expected especially given the great weather this year and rosy bird hunting forecasts. Maybe we need to realign our expectations when chasing grouse on the Great Plains!  All things considered we had a great time. A terrific bunch of guys, nice  weather (but a bit too warm), and an impressive amount of open country for the dogs to hunt and run made this worth the 13 hour drive from Denver.

One thing about these prairie birds, once they have been hunted it is tough to get close to them. They vacate quickly and typically leave no one behind. We found sage grouse by glassing the country with binoculars. That was a first for me and I was amazed that we spotted them.

These vast, empty plains are quite beautiful and you have to respect the folks who call this home.
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Colorado Walk-In Area Bird Hunting

Yesterday was a picture perfect day to visit one of Colorado’s many walk-in hunting areas. Colorado does a nice job trying to provide hunting opportunities and has enrolled about 215,000 acres in this program that allows hunters to access private land at no cost. In addition to free hunting we had perfect weather – highs in the mid-40’s, partly cloudy with a slight breeze.

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North Dakota Deep Freeze

Historically, we have pretty decent weather on our hunts but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Our North Dakota hunt was at the apex of an epic winter blast from Canada. Only one of the four days had high temps that flirted with double digits. On that day we traded a few degrees for 30 – 40 mph wind and blowing snow. Despite the brutal cold we still had a great hunt. We took our limit of birds each day, no worry of the dogs overheating (only worrying about them freezing to death) and because we were ready and well dressed, we were over all pretty comfortable.

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There was some trepidation at getting out of the warm truck and braving the elements.

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Western Bird Hunt

Lots of boot leather and tireless dogs found us four species of birds on a weekend hunt out west. Hungarian Partridge, Chukar, Blue Grouse and Sharptail Grouse all found their way into our game bags. This is big country, a sea of rolling grass and sage, and I was surprised with our success at finding birds. This is bird hunting in its purest form. No guide, no released birds, no food plots Рjust birds where God put them. You have to work hard, but when you find them and connect it is hugely rewarding for both the hunter and dog.

The dramatic, vast country made for some terrific photographic opportunities.

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A Hot Time in South Dakota

The bird counts were way up over last year but so was the temperature. We had terrific weather with blue skies and temps pushing into the low 80’s. The unseasonably warm weather was great for the hunters, but pretty hard on the dogs. We had to keep a close watch on them to be sure they did not overheat.

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Some Dog on Bird Action

We put Tex on birds the other day.

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Missouri Turkey

We went to northern Missouri to hunt Eastern Turkeys last weekend. The weather was near perfect but the turkeys were not as plentiful as in years past and those that we did find were not very cooperative. Though not as successful as we would have liked, it was a very good time. The folks in Missouri are about as nice as you will find.

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Locating gobblers.

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A Day with the Kids

We took the boys on a preserve Chukar hunt yesterday. Colder and windier than we expected but the light was terrific and everyone had a great time.

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Random Shots From the Dakotas

Here are some random pictures from this year’s hunts in the Dakotas.

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This a genuine North Dakota farm truck.

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2013 North Dakota Pheasant Hunt

This year we enjoyed 2 great hunts in the Dakotas. This 2nd hunt is our standing hunt with Cannonball Company out of Regent, North Dakota. We always have a terrific time with these fine folks.

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South Dakota Pheasant

Tex and I took advantage of an invite to the opening weekend in South Dakota. We had the pleasure of joining a terrific group of guys from Michigan on their annual pheasant hunt. Some of these fellows have been hunting together for 30 plus years and a number of these guys have grown up making the annual pilgrimage to Pierre for the big hunt. We enjoyed a classic wild bird hunt of the best sort.

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A great old truck with great old hunters!

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