Saturday, March 8, 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Yes. I said the "P" word. Right here on the family channel. We bird hunters can look at pictures like this and get excited about next year, this year, dogs we have, dogs we had, dogs, we want and dogs we wish we could afford. We see thickets with bobs and woods with Ruffs, ditches with Roosters, rock faces with red legged devils and sage brush with chuckling grouse. Dogs that work close and dogs that work the ridges, but always dogs that work as long as we let them and always want just a little bit more.
|By Bob Bertram|
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
We opened the back of the Beast and it became readily apparent the drought hit the area very hard! Still in the throes of a hot summer and little rain, the vegetation was only a distant memory of what it once was. We wondered if there were any birds to be had at all in the area.
Cap, Ruby, Ace and Bandit hunted hard and really did a good job with the little running birds! We actually started seeing quite a few coveys, to my surprise. This area did get some rain during the summer, at just the right time. We located a few of these "drinkers" hidden in the local terrain by the local conservation group and also several cow tanks and water holes- many more of those. Wherever there is water, we found tracks and birds.
The sandy soil, rolling hills, shin-oak, sunflowers, grass, sand spurs and pump jacks all made up the local scenery in the South East Corner of New Mexico. The birds are the Cotton Tops, The Scalies, The Blue Quail. They run like the wind. Until the don't. And then they hold like a dream for your dog! A busted up covey is as much fun as any bird in the county and a gray blur erupting out of a shin-oak, grassy spot in front of your dog's nose is a challenging shot- even without the 30 mph wind and blowing sand. We moved 8 coveys on the nastiest weather day we were there. I have to hope for another wet spring and summer here. When the birds are plentiful in New Mexico, it's a quail hunters paradise.
Monday, February 3, 2014
I was contacted by the nice folks at Upland Sportsman (http://uplandsportsman.com/) a few months ago and asked to try out their hunting sling. At the time, I really didn't think it would be for me, but agreed to give it a shot (no pun intended here). One thing led to another and I took it on my latest hunting trip to NE, OK, AZ and NM. Shown are some pictures my friend took of me while we were preparing to hunt for Bobwhites in Oklahoma.
One of my concerns was for the gun and if the sling would mar the gunstock. In fact, I'm shown with the sling attached to my 101 year old A.H. Fox 20 ga.. I can guarantee you it would come no where near that gun if there was any chance the gunstock would be marred, at all. I feel very good about using the sling with my shotguns.
Walking with the sling is easy. The weight of the shotgun is carried on the butt and is transferred to the shoulders making long treks much easier. Throwing the gun up for the shot is very easy and none of the webbing gets in the way at all. I am very pleased with the fact it mounting of the gun is very quick and easy. In fact, you don't even think of the gun, at all. The boot on the gunstock did not interfere with my shooting nor did I find it a hindrance to the sight picture.
To be the perfect accessory, I'm wondering if there is a way to have a quick attachment for the barrel to the body to have both hands free- for work with the dogs, or climbing over obstacles, etc. Hunting with the sling, with dogs, many times necessitates the use of both hands. It would be great to be able to clip the barrel to the chest, say, just for a short time, use both hands, and then continue on. I see the use of the sling most adaptable to field trials or to hunting without dogs. It is a great product, well made and thought out. I think there are many hunters and field trialers who would be able to use this sling.
My recommendation for those looking for this type of product is an unqualified BUY. It is adaptable to left handed (me) or right handed shooters with orange or camo colors.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
We moved from the cactus and crushed lava rock down to the southern border with Mexico and in to an altitude band of 4000-5800'. There we found the rarest of the quail in the United States, Mearns Quail. It so happens, this was a tremendous year for the birds. Through the grapevine of kindred bird hunters, we heard the population was up and, if we wanted to find a few, now was the time.
Through friends of friends (of friends..) we found a retired military pilot living in the area who, it seems, prides himself on hunting this bird above all others. He's an expert concerning them and his dogs (Brits) are top-notch and are Mearns-finding machines. Aside from the fact that he's 69 years old and walked us in to the ground, he was a real pleasure to hunt with and a fount of knowledge about the birds.
Terry (right), a quail biologist himself, and Wally take a look at what the birds have been eating. This is an effort to learn what to look for when stumbling along, gasping for air, following these two. Hopefully, if I see some of this type of seed, I'll get them to stop long enough, under the guise of looking for some feeding birds, to catch my breath and grab a drink of water!
My dog, Bandit, found the water trough quickly enough. It was in the 70's the day we hunted. We learned from the "old guys", if you have enough time, the best time to hunt is from sunup for a few hours and for a few hours prior to sun down. The humidity increases enough to help the dogs scent the birds.
Bandit pointed a covey along the way and we managed to drop a few birds. These quail are bigger than the Gambels or Blue Quail....and they eat just fine.
You would think with coloration like this, they would be easy to spot in the brown grass. Not so! I'm here to tell you, one can be absolutely LOOKING for these birds and walk right in to a covey unexpectedly. They are perfectly camouflaged!
Along the way, we found some interesting things. This is a water hole that comes right out of a rock. Ace, my Brit, is coming out after getting a drink. Interestingly, human tracks lead in to the waterhole and the trash around the area indicated perhaps human visitors were common here. We were VERY close to the border and Border Patrol trucks were a common sight.
This is a part of Arizona I did not know existed. Very nice. The view makes for a pleasant hunt!
Monday, January 20, 2014
The drive from Oklahoma to Arizona is worth the ticket price! I loved every minute. Beautiful scenery and good road kept the trip interesting and was good for the dogs, as well. Smooth roads keep them rested.
Gambels country that we hunt has bed described as land where everything either pokes, stings or bites you. I'm here to confirm that is correct. However, add it is hot(or cold) and dry as a bone and the dirt is volcanic ash that is like running on sandpaper. Over time, it will wear down dog pads leading to worn spots and limping hunters. Local dogs can overcome this with toughened pads, but out of towners, like mine, no matter how well prepared, will need boots and some real care and attention to assure their feet don't become a problem.
Remember to hydrate yourself, too. It's amazing how much water you can lose and not feel it. If I'm not careful to hydrate well, I'll wake up in the middle of the night craving water, with cramping quads, rolling out of bed holding my leg, usually my right one, and cussing my stupidity for not drinking more water.
Ruby did some excellent work on singles north of Globe, Arizona. I was so impressed with her this day. Great find and retrieve in very difficult conditions.
Here's my Cap. He's got the covey nailed and is swearing they are "Right there, Boss!" They were, indeed, right there and we had some fine shooting for a while until they managed to escape.
At the end of the day, we really hated to leave Gambels country, but the Mearns were calling.
We headed farther south, at times only a mile to so north of the border, and went after the most elusive of the North American Quail- Mearns, or Harlequin quail.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
EXACTLY halfway between Chicago and Los Angeles, on old Route 66 (the same one you get your kicks on) is the little town of Adrian, TX. It's a wide spot on the road that used to have a decent cafe, now closed. I know exactly halfway because there is a line painted on the road that says just that.
Also, all around town, these signs appear in yards, on trees, on buildings. I have no idea who, where or what. Years ago, when I hunted near here (Blue Quail, gobs of them in a good year on a private 32,000 AC. a friend owns) the cafe owner had some information, but my brain memory is full. That particular set of facts got dumped. So, I made up stuff in my head, nine of which is true.
One thing I truly love about flyover country is that there are still individuals out there. We still have some divergent thinkers, thank God for that! One lives or lived here. I wonder what his (I do think it is a him) story is? Actually, the true story would never live up to the one I've made up anyway. This little wide spot in the road, with no cafe or gas station, has some interesting thinking winding throughout the dirt streets.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
We heard parts of Oklahoma had the rains this year. A quick call to the DNR confirmed the rainfall rumor and the possibility of a triple hatch! That was the good news. The bad news is that the bird numbers were down so far, it will take several years to get back to the "normal" years of the past. It mattered not to this bird hunted. After Nebraska, to Oklahoma we went. Cooper WMA is where we started. Thousands of acres managed for quail with feed, cover and water, it is a habitat paradise for the bobwhite.
Unfortunately, the weather turned warn on us. We did find one covey in the morning.....in the safety zone...rats! Then we found 5 singles scattered out throughout the day, throughout the WMA. Go figure why they weren't in coveys. Got me.
Lunch on the tailgate was sumptuous, nutritious(?), and cheap. The perfect birdhunter's lunch.
Friday, January 10, 2014
Champ and Ace have them pinned down
Scott got one of my puppies, by Ace, and I delivered him, El J, in November. While I was there, we went out and hunted a little bit. His Brittanies are very nice, well conditioned, well mannered in the field and a pleasure to hunt behind.
Ace on the retrieve.
I managed to invite myself back a few months later...."Hey, Scott, I'm passing by your place in a few weeks, how about we take the dogs out a bust a few roosters?" I got there on the heels of the worst arctic blast in 20 years and it was still pretty cold. But the skies had cleared and we set out with our dogs to find some late season survivors. These are the tough, smart ones.
Scott holding a fine specimen of a harvested rooster.
Champ makes a nice retrieve.
They did lead us on a merry chase a few times, I'll concede. In the end, the dog noses and experience put us in a position to harvest some birds.
It was a cold one. To be sure!
Scott doesn't miss many!
Ace and me and the harvest.
Today the forecast is for snow/rain mix and 10 mph wind from the south. Perfect.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
While roading the "big dogs", I like to take the puppies on a loop around the pasture, as well. Here is a short clip I made last week when the pups were 4 months old. I leave in a few days for another hunting trip to AZ and NM. Unfortunately for these little guys, they are just a bit too young for me to take them along. Next year, they will be the stars!
|Photo by Nancy Whitehead|
Sunday, December 29, 2013
We worked this old rooster through the CRP for about a hundred yards or so. Ace would catch him up against the edge and I would rush over expecting him to flush, but he would sneak off into the thick stuff again. Over and over, the experienced dog and the cagey rooster matched wits. The wind was directly into the our face. It was about forty degrees and a little humid. The deck was stacked against the bird today. I just held the camera and watched the scene play out. Over the past 20+ years and 5+ dogs and 200+ roosters, each and every one is special.
|Photo by Nancy Whitehead|
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
I really like the saying, or prayer, I saw painted on a stone. It read, "Lord, let me be the man my bird dog thinks I am." Yep. I'd settle for that.
Take time out from the madness and grab that dog, load up and go for a walk or short hunt. Be sure and pause to really watch him and see the effort he puts in to pleasing you. I thank God he gave us these marvelous animals. Perhaps, it was to demonstrate how he would like us to look at Him?
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
I just finished two days of 10 braces of National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Association runs. I'm worn out and about $600 lighter in the wallet. I did have a good time and my two Brittanys, Cap and Ruby, did very well, although not well enough to place. I'm pleased with both of them, and I don't see any flaws that can't be fixed with some patient reminding in the training field at home. Here's the rub. I'm constantly reminded, and I've been doing this over 20 years, the transition from the field to NSTRA is not instantaneous. In fact, some dogs cannot make that transition. I can spot that problem early on and not expect that particular dog to perform at that level, but, by and large, I expect all my dogs to gain their championship in NSTRA. The dog shown below, Bo, had no problem at all and was great at both.
|Bo and Me Winning the 2001 Quail Unlimited National Championships- last bird, last brace, last day.|
I find myself asking, "Why am I here, waiting to run a 30 minute brace, when I could be in Idaho, or Montana, or North Dakota?" Then, I ask myself, "Why are any of these trialers here?" Obviously, the vast majority of them have jobs during the week that pay the bills, put kids through school and food on the table. I'm sure their spousal unit is much appreciative when payday rolls around and my brace-mate has managed to get to work on time throughout the week and not drive off in to the sunset in search of South Dakota pheasant or New Mexico Scaled Quail! So field trialing, AKC or NSTRA or UFTA or whatever, is a great way to play with your dog and still keep a foot in the modern world.
|Bo and Me sitting next to Coon Creek in AZ|
My wife made the comment to me the other day, "You are so happy in the pictures I see of you taken when you are hunting!". I never thought of it. I guess I am. How could one NOT be happy when the big decision of the day is where to open the dog box and which dog starts the day. The number two big decision is, Where do we eat lunch?