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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
South Dakota’s pheasant season opens next weekend. The bird outlook is dramatically improved over last year, but still below the 10 year average. We missed the September seasons because of family commitments so this next weekend is the beginning of our season.
Above are the favorite loads, Federal Premium 6s. This is almost $200 worth of shot shells, but I am not complaining! At least there are shells to buy.
We put Tex on birds the other day.
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.
Here at the Birdhunter significant effort is expended to produce the mediocre level of writing that you see in this blog. We are alright with that because the point here is the photography. But if you want to read great bird hunting stories written by fellows who know how to write then checkout this terrific e-book from the guys over at the Mouthful of Feathers blog. It is well worth the $5 and can be bought HERE.
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.
Here are some random pictures from this year’s hunts in the Dakotas.
This a genuine North Dakota farm truck.
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.
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.
A great old truck with great old hunters!
This year we had the great fortune to hunt the opening day of the Texas dove season.
The only thing worse on a hunt than a snake-bit dog would be a face full of #6 shot. This morning Tex attended a “snake avoidance” event. We hope to hunt in Arizona soon and that state is chock full of Rattlesnakes. This training may save Tex’s life someday. This is a Bullsnake. Looks like a Rattlesnake, acts like a Rattlesnake, smells like a Rattlesnake but his bite is harmless. The perfect surrogate to train a dog to stay away. Continue reading