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.
A beautiful cock and hen
What a difference a year makes . . . .
Our annual North Dakota pheasant hunt last year, sub-zero temps and blowing snow. Not so fun!
This year was sipping beer in short sleeved shirts! Much more fun!!
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 – this 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.
The excellent camouflage of the Sharptail grouse
At the end of September we had a super moon eclipse. A tripod, a cloudless night and a few rum and cokes produced these pictures.
Neither 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.
Tex loves to swim. If we let him, he would swim to Cuba, but thankfully he lives in Colorado and won’t get the chance to try! Merrick asked us to have an adventure and give an update on how he is doing on the Backcountry dog food so we picked a swim day.
May God continue to bless our great country!
American flag and cross in Aspen, Colorado.
We hope you all have a wonderful 4th!
This Robin’s nest with some fresh young ones is in our front yard. I think these chicks are days old.
The folks at Merrick asked if Tex would try their premium dog food. I occasionally get these types of requests and usually dismiss them but, since this is a really high quality product with great reviews, I thought we would give it a shot. Also, I noticed that the company is based in Hereford, Texas which is where my grandfather was born (1905), so I know good things can come out of Hereford! When Tex learned that this is the “game bird recipe”, he was very excited to try it.
Barbed wire fences are ubiquitous in most of the places we hunt. We try to keep the dogs away but occasionally one will bust through a fence, particularly if they think birds are on the other side. About all you can do is watch and hope everything turns out ok. Amazingly many times no harm is done, but sometimes it does not turn out so well . . .
It is hard to believe that Tex turns 3 years old today. Time has certainly flown by . . . all the more reason to hunt often and hunt hard! Hopefully we have a decade of hunting together in front of us.
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.
Here is Franchi’s 48 AL 20 gauge deluxe shotgun. We took this brand new gun out to the clays course to try it out. It is a light, slim, petite shotgun and was great fun to shoot. Even though it is light it feels solid and well built. It will be perfect for dove, quail, any preserve bird and I am sure it would kill wild pheasants as well. Being recoil operated (as opposed to gas operated) it reminds me of shooting the great Browning A-5.
This is a classy and elegant gun. Synthetics may be more practical and durable, but who doesn’t love the look and feel of walnut and steel (or aluminum)?
Here is Colt’s iconic Single Action Army. In production for one hundred and forty-two years, it is still made by Colt and still made in the USA. Nothing feels quite like it in hand, solid and superbly built. We love the click, click, click, click when you cock it. You should have one. This one is in .45 Long Colt, which is a pretty mild round and very fun to shoot.
With time to kill over the holiday, I worked on some gun photography. The challenge is managing light and reflection. This shot of a Spanish sidelock came out pretty good.
Taken with a Nikon D610, Nikkor 60mm f/2.8, 1.3 seconds, f/11, ISO 200
Tex wishes all you bird hunting and gun dog folks a very Happy Thanksgiving!
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.
There was some trepidation at getting out of the warm truck and braving the elements.
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 – just 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.
Tex on point.