Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Barbed Wire

Here's a pic of my dog Cap.  He's sleeping off the effects of sedation from the vet.  It seems that yesterday, while exercising along side my Kawasaki Mule, he decided to take a short cut through a barbed wire fence.  He hit that thing full stride right in the mouth.  He cut his tongue and broke some middle teeth.  Blood everywhere! The tongue heals amazingly fast, but the two teeth were just chips and had to be removed before they became infected. Actually, he'll be fine and won't miss the teeth at all- they weren't his canines nor molars.  I hope the little knot head learned something from this!

Friday, December 23, 2011

I am approached, on occasion, by vendors asking me to try their product.  I like to try different things and usually agree.  This time I was asked to shoot the Federal Target Load 9 shot. Normally, 9 shot is too small for me to hunt with and about the only application I would use it for is a field trial.  I don't shoot skeet or trap.  In the National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Association (NSTRA) format, the dog points the bird and then the handler shoots the bird for the retrieve.  We almost always use pen-raised quail for the trials as they are easy to get and are relatively cheap.  In addition, they are not very tough birds and will normally drop pretty easily for light loads and small shot. Since you can pack more induvidual shot in to a shell the smaller they are, it makes sense that the smallest shot would improve your odds of hitting the target. 

I took these shells to a 2 day trial with my 3 dogs.  Added all together, I entered the field 12 times over the weekend and had plenty of opportunity to shoot pen-raised quail.  I found that 90% of the time, the hit bird would drop on the first shot and be dead when it hit the ground.  However,  about 10% of the time, I would hit the bird and feathers would fly, but the bird would continue on, either to drop later or continue on out of the area.  My conclusion is, that for my type of field trial,  the 9 shot, light load shell may not be the best.  Probably an 8 or 7 1/2 (largest allowed) would be more suitable for NSTRA to ensure a dropped bird for points.  I have nothing against the reliablility of the shell- I had no misfires.  I will not use the 9 shot again in NSTRA.  Perhaps shooting skeet would be more to the style of the shell.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Do you hunt with a GPS? An Astro, or Nuvi?

I do.  And, I'm finding more and more uses for the units. 

(However, and this is BIG, I NEVER hit the fields, bird hunting, without a standard Mark 1 Mod 0 Compass!  I always know my initial direction and always keep my "situational awareness" up and operating, in other words, I know the direction I'm hunting and I know where my truck is and any other significant feature.  I like to be able to point to the truck at any given moment and if, at any time, I don't have that awareness, I stop and get my head wrapped around where I am and how to get home!)

All that being said, I just downloaded the BLM and Public lands maps for WA/OR/ID.  We will be heading out there mid-January to hunt Chukar and Valley Quail.  Of course, part of the draw of the mountain west is the bountiful public lands available for hunting.  In the past, ordering the maps was an important part of hunting in the west.  It still is, but these GPS applications make it much easier to keep track of where you are and what land is available to hunt.

I used a website called to find and order my maps.  I downloaded them and loaded them in to my Astro and Nuvi.  In addition to ID, I have Montana, New Mexico, Minnesota, South Dakota and Kansas in my GPS units.  It's great to be working dogs along a bottom and be able to see the map right on the unit telling me I have another mile of BLM land to go!  Or to be able to drive around on the caleche roads down in New Mexico and have my Nuvi show me BLM land or School land as I drive along and look for birds.

I highly recommend updating your units with these maps as you hunt throughout the United States.  I also highly recommend you become proficient with a compass.  You know what they call a hunter that relies on his GPS?  Lost.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Working Dogs

Bo, at 14, still has it! Cap shows his intensity and Ruby is trying to tell me where they are. While I enjoy bird hunting most of all, taking the dogs out for a little brush up on manners is fun, too. All this yard work will pay off in the long run. Whether it is on the trial field, or in the coulees and wheat fields, these dogs will remember the pasture and what they were taught.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Introduction to the lifetime sport!

Rhys and me.

It was a pleasure to be able to introduce a new hunter to the sport.  Rhys, my prospective son-in-law,  a native of Wales, has been very interested in shooting sports and hunting in general.  He is an archer and competes in Archery for the University of Florida.  A natural extension of that is a progression to shotguns, pistols and rifles.  One day, he asked if I would show him how to shoot a shotgun.  Things progressed and I found him a good buy on a Browning Citori Upland Special 20 ga. He was thrilled, and started shooting trap and skeet down at college. 

Last month, I was drawn by lottery to hunt at DiLane plantation in eastern Georgia.  This is an 8000+ ac. Quail Plantation managed by the state of Georgia for quail habitat.  It seemed like a perfect time to introduce Rhys the fine art of quail hunting in Georgia. 

We arrived at the check-in station around 7 a.m. and picked up our permission form and eased out to where we decided to put out.  It took a little time to get the dogs and gear and guns ready to go, but after a few minutes we gathered to discuss the plan.  We talked about shooting safety, especially over the dogs and around other people, how to move over the ground, approaching pointing dogs, gun safety and a lot of small stuff that makes hunting a lot more fun. This wasn’t the first time we’d talked about this stuff, but it was a perfect time to refresh the information. 
Ace Pointed

It was about 40 degrees under clear skies and promised to warm up to about 70 degrees in the afternoon.  We put the dogs out a started around some perfect habitat.  The dogs worked great and before long we settled in to a routine.  We heard some shooting a few hundred yards away, across a small tree stand and marked that covey off our list as we moved in to a pecan grove.  After about an hour of working around some brushy fields, we again heard more shooting in a different area, but still about 300 yards way- another covey off the list!   We eased in to a pecan grove and worked through that in to some tall pines.  Suddenly, I heard the familiar wurr of wings and an exclamation from Rhys! Simultaneously, I looked through the pines a saw Ace on point ahead of me.  Rhys was to my right and Ace was pointed ahead of me.  I worked the area in front of Ace with no success, turned him loose, and went over to Rhys to find out what happened.  It seems Rhys stepped right in to the covey!  Birds went up all around him!  They flushed directly to and over our third man on the hunt, Glen.  Rhys wisely chose not to shoot.  He did mark the birds down and we eased on over to that area only to discover the birds had flown on to adjoining private land!  Those little buzz bombs knew exactly what they were doing- no doubt. With that little bit of excitement behind us, we moved on to a different area. 

Looking for the covey
The day warmed up and we swapped out dogs to keep them fresh as we moved around the area.  Unfortunately, ALL the area looked good with good food, cover and water- great habitat for the quail.  We heard more shooting around the area and we worked the edges of fields and through the tall pine stands, etc.  The dogs did a wonderful job!  It was a good time for them, too.  Unfortunately, we never did get a shot at the wild birds, but the benefits of this hunt were not in the killed birds.  Rhys got a chance to see how the overall hunt works, habitat, working closely with dogs and other hunters.  We had a great lunch in the field, cooked by Glen.  And, we had hours of talking about hunting in general and bird hunting in particular. 
Chow time in the field!

I always maintain I’ve never had a bad day in the field, and this one was no exception.  We had good dog work, we saw some birds and Rhys had a covey rise right under his feet(!), we ate in the field and talked hunting all day long.  It doesn’t get any better than that! 

I thanked the GA DNR for the opportunity to hunt, via the feedback form, and I’d like to thank for sponsoring Rhys on this hunt.  The future of our sport hinges on bringing new “blood” in.  Take some time and take a young person hunting!
Long Day in the field

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Typical fall day on North Dakota prairie
North Dakota, this year, was beautiful! Sometimes, one gets lucky with a camera and captures a shot like the one above.  As I travel over the country, I often wonder about those that don't get a chance to see all this.  Most of them are perfectly content to stay where they are and see the beauty in their own hometown and area, and that's fine by me.  One of the reasons I like to travel and hunt is to see new country, meet new people, hunt new habitat and terrain.  I think if we stay with what we know, that's all we will ever know.  Tied in with the idea of traveling and hunting around the country, is my concern for the future of the sport.  Where are the young guys, the kids, the women, the boys and girls? Of course, I know that my hobo-hunter lifestyle is pretty exclusive- after all, having the time, inclination and where-with-all to travel and hunt is not something you see in young marrieds or middle aged men and women who have jobs and careers.  So, I'm not advocating my kind of hunting, but I am strongly pushing for introducing young people to the sport.  I am all for showing young people where meat comes from and how it gets to the table.  I am a huge proponent of explaining, through action, that we are the top of the food chain and we harvest not only grains and fruits a vegetables, but, also, meat.
My pup, Bandit, and his limit of Sharptail Grouse.

My little niche, of course, is in the harvesting of game birds and using the genetic make-up of bird dogs to facilitate that. Granted, I lean more toward the dog aspect, and, in fact, I'm not much of a meat eater, but the sport is valid and deserves to be promoted and preserved.
The Old Ball and Chain and her first bird on a covey rise!

To do that, we need to take someone hunting and make it the most pleasant  and pleasing experience we can.  We need to show them the effort that goes in to harvesting game birds- the respect shown to the birds, the land and the dogs. The traditions of hunting with bird dogs, the unwritten rules, the courtesies.  I'm convinced once they are introduced properly, many will become lifelong proponents of our great sport and, who knows, maybe they will grow up to be a hobo-hunter, too.
My pup, Gritz, and her first Woodcock.

Tomorrow, I have the opportunity to take a young man hunting quail.  He's eager  and ready to go!  He's completed the Hunter Safety Course, he shoots well and he likes to hear about not only the how's of bird hunting, but also the why's.  (Full Disclosure: He's my future son-in-law.  Perhaps that contributes to his eagerness?)  Sponsored by, we will hunt quail tomorrow on an 8000 ac. plantation owned by the State of Georgia and managed exclusively for Bobwhite Quail.  I am looking forward to hunting a full day with the young man (perhaps imparting a little wisdom) on land that looks like it did back when the huge quail plantations were all over Georgia. 

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chukar and Valley Quail, Anyone?

We have a "group" on Facebook (yes, even I am on Facebook) called Bird Dogs and Fly Fishing.  At this time of the year, 95% of the discussions are about bird dogs and hunting.  We see some great pictures and hear a lot of stories.  Most of the seasons are closing at the end of December.  Every year, it seems like a rushing train coming straight at me- The Seasons Are Ending!  Every year, I look around for a place to hunt one last time, a place to turn loose the dogs and walk to the horizon.  The clever way I am linking the two thoughts is through the information shared on Facebook.  I'm learning about parts of the country whose seasons extend beyond the traditional 1 January closing.  Arizona, NM, Utah, California, Oregon to name a few.  Not only that, these places (some anyway) haven't been decimated by the drought that is destroying the bird populations in the heartland.  Through friends met in the group, I'm able to get ideas about where to go in January, or even February.  This season, my February is loaded up, but January is looking pretty good.  Since I'm still in pretty good shape and the dogs are doing well and in very good shape, I'm pondering a Chukar hunt out west.  Hopefully, I'll be able to chronicle a two week odyssey fairly soon....

Now, if I can only get The Old Ball and Chain's permission slip. Sometimes, a "kitchen pass" is worth it's weight in gold! Hey, Christmas is right around the corner.....

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I've been working the pups and even the main dog (Ace) on a few items that are required in field trial competition. Things like a staunch back (honoring a point) and intensity on point (no creeping) and sharp retrieves.  Normally, a bird dog and get away with a little of all of the above in field work.  In field trials, the dog is scored quite a bit on style.  At least it is style with a purpose, so I don't complain too much about it.  It won't hurt them in the field hunting, either.  This weekend is a big trial in Pavo, GA at my fiend's house.  He grew up on one of those huge private quail plantations down there and I always like listening to his stories about hunting  and training dogs, etc.  Sure was a different kind of life!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The field trial went OK.  Cap, my 18 month old, found three birds and made three solid finds and retrieves.  He handled well, listened to me, was bold and ran hard, too.  No complaints.....well, the backing thing kind of got us us a little.  I've never really pushed that to this point and will lock that in after I finish some other minor procedures unique to field trials.  All in all, I am very pleased with him!
My little girl, Ruby, did very well, too.  An argument could be made she did better, with a larger field and stiffer competition.  She, too, found 3 birds and made three fine retrieves.  She never had an opportunity to back.  Neither of these dogs have been on the a field trial field before and adjusted quickly and well. Ruby kind of slowed down after the first 2 birds, thinking, I guess, that it was time to head to the barn- lol!  But, I encouraged her to head on out and she picked it up and found another bird in the last few minutes. 

All in all, a very nice day.  This Saturday, we head back to Alabama for another few runs.  This time, my main boy, Ace, will be running, too.  It should be a good day again.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tomorrow, my puppies are being thrown to the wolves. Since I have some "between trips" time on my hands, they (Ruby/F/Brit and Cap/M/Brit) are entered in a NSTRA trial. Poor guys, they are entered in Open division. (Never did like the "amateur" category- figure my dogs can run with the big boys from the git-go.) I'll be sure to apologize in advance to my bracemate, in the blind, "Take it easy on my little puppy, if you would! I'm not sure she'll even point, back or stay in the county. You say these are quail? Humm, we've worked some pigeons. Well, good luck!" (I do love the book, "The Art of War”.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review- Prairie Storm Shotgun Ammunition

Although I usually give lip service to hunting ammunition, it's difficult for me to get excited about it.  Until now. Over the years, I've learned that pheasant require a much different shell than other upland game birds. When I was a novice, I showed up with 20 ga. 2 3/4" 71/2's.  Sadly, I knocked down a lot of birds, but 80% were runners- a broken wing the main injury.  That is no way to treat a gamebird.  I moved in to larger shot- 4's and 5's- and, finally, to the 3" magnum shell.  By now, 75% are dead when they hit the ground and 1 in 4 are runners.  This last trip, I needed shells and came across the Prairie Storm, shown above.  $20 a box!  You've got to be kidding me! The guy in the gas station (yes, gas station in North Dakota) told me he sells out as fast as he can get them in.  The only reason he had these left was because it was 20 ga. ammo!  They appear to be an improvement on the standard shell, with two types of shot in each shell- hard round shot and, additionally, some bladed shot (round, with a ridge around the equator). 

I will tell you what my observations were.  Over the same dogs, shooting the same distances, same shot size, with the same guns, 95% of the birds were dead when they hit.  Since I'm not a statistician, I don't have written records, but I do have non-scientific, old man, bird hunter, I-know-what-I-see fact.  These shells knock the snot out of pheasant and are worth every penny you spend to get them.  These are a BUY. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Kids and Me

End of the Rainbow

My Top Dog Ace and Me

I'm already in withdrawal.  That's the problem with an addiction, you can never get enough.  I'm extremely thankful for my circumstances and the time I have available to be able to hunt all over the country- believe me.  November and December are difficult months to plan a hunt, with all the Holidays. 

I even drew a quota hunt on one of the Wildlife Management areas here in Georgia- managed exclusively for quail- and I don't want to miss that one! That will be one day for 3 people on 9000 acres that was originally an exclusive private hunting plantation.  Hopefully, I'll be able to take my daughter's fiance, who's never hunted before, and introduce him to this wonderful passion of mine.  ( is sponsoring an "Introduce a New Hunter" program). 

Next hunt should be Kansas!  The reports from New Mexico and dismal- and I hate that.  I really like hunting that harsh, dry terrain.  Maybe they will get the Spring rains they need and there will be a bumper crop of Blues next year....

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Buffoonery in the Grouse Woods

The day was promising.  It was 25 degrees, clear with light wind.  I'd scouted the area the day before and knew the trail and likely habitat I would find, even though I was a newbie to this part of the National Forest.  My main dog, Ace, was itching to go but that, my good friends, was not a good thing.  Ace is a Brittany- a big running, fast, smart, bold, confident Brittany.  I knew there was a good chance he would take to the woods like he did the North Dakota plains we'd left just two days before.  Out on the prairie, I would turn him out, turn on the Garmin and wait for the pager to go off- Ace would be on point with some pheasant pinned down in the CRP grass awaiting my arrival with the shotgun.  It's worked hundreds of times over the 6 1/2 years we hunted together. The rooster may run, but he was usually close when I got there and the flush, shot and loading the big bird in the game bag was routine.  The grouse woods require a much more patient dog, just as smart, but slower working, cautious....a thinker.  Good grouse dogs are a rarity and a treasure to be hoarded and protected.  Boldness, while an asset in hunting quail, Pheasant, Sharptails and Huns, is a detriment hunting Ruffs.  So, I had a talk with the boy and it was like telling the quarterback to not kiss the Prom Queen- he rolled his eyes as if to say, "Pops, I know what I'm doing here!  Just unhook the lead and I'll show you some grouse hunting!".  With not a little trepidation, I let him go, loaded my gun, marked the truck, took a compass heading, looked up....and he was gone!  Before I had time to walk 100 yds up the trail, I looked at the Garmin and that knot head was 650 yds in to the woods.....and accelerating!  I just kept walking the trail and occasionally pulled the GPS in map mode to watch his track.  Before long, he swung around and came loping up the trail with a grin (and a little lipstick on his collar) and attitude to match.  I grabbed him, "counselled" him once more, and turned him loose.  Another 400+ yd. cast.  By now, I knew the friendly, hand around the shoulder technique would not work, so I pulled another trick from the bag......Tritronics.  I got his attention with some electronic counselling and, after a few remedial sessions, the big guy saw the light (perhaps literally).  And became the quintessential grouse dog. (Be it known to all my PETA followers, I never exceeded a 3.  Actually, if you are a member of PETA, I really don't give a whit what you think.  You're an idiot.)  We continued the hunt for the illusive Ruffed Grouse, with a now functional man-dog team.  And we were rewarded with a very good day in the woods.  We stuck to the Aspen thickets and edges of clearings.  Ace locked down several birds that were shootable and I did my thing over my dog.   I sprayed lead at several birds and was occasionally rewarded with the "thump" of the a bird hitting the forest floor. 

One bird was a challenge I will never forget.  As often happens, the most memorable times come when you least expect them.  Ace locked up in some very thick Aspens.  He was only 40 yds. away and I was on him quickly.  As grouse often do, this boy waited until I was behind a shrub and flushed from over my head- out of the trees!  I twisted and shot, missed and watched him jink his way though the trees.  I immediately headed after him (ignoring the smirk from my canine) telling Ace, "Easy, boy, bird in here!"  We reached the area I saw him go down, and Ace started a circular search- he was birdy and a little frustrated and not getting the full scent. I relaxed a little and looked back to the spot of the initial flush and double checked my location.  I was in the correct spot.  So, I watched Ace work it out and pondered birds and flushes and bird hunting and Prom Queens.  For no particular reason, I looked up and saw Mr. Grouse sitting on an Aspen limb not 20 ft. away! (I will be honest and admit for a split second, I thought about popping him right there.  But restrained myself for some reason having to do with fair chase, etc.)  I took a step and stomped and yelled and he launched himself off the branch....directly at my head!  I ducked and turned and shot twice at the retreating gray blur.  I twisted so fast and hard I overshot and had to look back over my shoulder to get his heading.  I literally screwed myself in to the ground!  This time, I called to Ace and started out on the heading of the retreating grouse,  into a stand of planted pines that were perhaps 60' tall.  Once again, I reached the area and let Ace do his thing.  Once again, he was frustrated.  I stood and listened to the breeze in the pines, and the quiet....and in the way back of my consciousness, I heard a little flurry.  Just the faintest of sounds- almost unrecognizable.  I looked up and down, unfocused my eyes and scanned the trees for movement, or sound, or anything.  Nothing but the pines and breeze and soft needles underfoot.  Just then I noticed the tiniest, little feather floating down not 3 feet from my nose.  I checked the light wind and realized that scoundrel had been in the tree right in front of me, perhaps ten feet over my head.  That sound I almost heard was him launching off to safety.  I laughed and tipped my hat to the old boy.  I hope he lives long and sires many more just like him.  Surely, he was a worthy opponent. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I had to swing by Minnesota and have another shot at the Ruffed Grouse! Earlier in the year, I was here for a week and didn't do that well. Although, I really enjoyed the area, the people and the hunting, I wasn't all that successful. This time, I had some pre-mission intelligence and went straight to a hotspot. Deer season opens in 2 days. Most of the trails that permit it have been driven by hunters on ATVs. The birds will not hang out long alongside the trails with that traffic. As long as I can find some trails not over run with ATVs, I think I will be successful.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It's a great time when my lovely wife wants to come up and see what I do on these hunting trips! We had a good day today and the weather even cooperated with lows in the 30's and highs in the 60's, little wind. Tomorrow, however, is supposed to be brutal- windy and possible snow, sleet and highs 40 or less.
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Sunday, October 30, 2011

North Dakota

Lots of birds up here, even though they are saying the bird numbers are down 60%.
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Tritronics Classic 70 G3 EXP- It don't wurk good wit' no antenna, Bubba!

For some reason, the antenna on my Tritronics Classic 70 G3 EXP disappeared.  I admit it had been some time since I checked the security of the antenna.  WARNING!  When you are in the field, it is a bad time to lose an antenna, with no back up. My options at this point are: I can order one from Tritronics and get it 2 days later or drive to Bismarck (240 mile roundtrip) to purchase another one.  Two mistakes I made: one is not checking the security of any antenna I have, pre-hunt or every day.  Second, I should have extra antennas on board for the eventually of loss or damage to one.  Actually, I did have an extra....last year in MN, I sat on a rock and heard a "crunch".  It was the antenna on the TT which had been dangling from a secure holder on my belt!  Oops! But, I had a backup antenna in the truck and all was well. Do you think I would order another set?  Of course not.....   I have double backup antennas for my Garmin... and today I will get another Tritronics antenna at Scheels, in Bismarck, when I go to get my wife at the airport.  Dude, it's cheap insurance.  Do not go in the field with out extras of everything- any part that can break, wear out, or get lost..
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Randy and Ace in ND with limit of Pheasant

Another great day. The pups are hunting like experienced dogs and  Ace is his usual business-as-usual self.  The weather is perfect with lows in the 20's and highs in 50's.  Tomorrow, my wife shows up to monitor the situation!  I sure do hope the weather stays good and we get in to plenty of birds- the pressure! 

Georgia Boy Limits in North Dakota

We worked hard all morning and finally hit the jackpot. Lots of birds and some great dog work from my top dog! It was the "perfect storm" of all the variables coming together- weather, birds and experienced dog. Bobby is one fantastic shot, too. There weren't too many of the ditch chickens that flew out from under his gun. Pretty much, when I saw a rooster get up in front of him, I mentally was putting it in the vest already. 

North Dakota and chasing Pheasant

That's Bobby Ferris (top picture) and Ace and me in the lower picture. This was the first day on the ground in Southwest North Dakota. the birds were hit very hard by the Spring weather- wet and cold. Estimates are a 60% die off. That's is probably true, based on what we are seeing. However, the birds are still available, with a good dog or two. It took us most of the day to harvest our 6 roosters, and we are seeing a lot of young birds from a second hatch. One very pleasant surprise (for a dog man) is the hunting performance of one of my young dogs, Cap! What a joy to watch and hunt over. He's bold, quick and thorough. When he points, it is intense and staunch. He listens and I can see the wheels turning as he looks for cover and thinks things through. I used to worry that he was too quick on the draw, that he was too bold. Now, even at 16 months, I see a little thread of thoughtfulness in him. If his development is parallel to his half-brother, Bandit, he will develop in to a wonderful bird dog. My wife would like me to say that Cap is HER dog and I am only borrowing him. I must admit he is the only dog that will "sit for a treat" in my kennels (WW III almost came about when I saw her asking him to sit with the house dogs for a bone!). Obviously, he isn't hurt by that at all- perhaps he's even more attuned to me because of it.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

American Made Ford Hunt Truck

Next pic at 300,000 miles!
40 degrees and rain. Can't wait to put a dog on the ground!  Not long now- maybe 2 hours.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the road again

The very best time to drive in Atlanta.  By the time the sun comes up, I will be close to Nashville.

Roosters, let me introduce Ace, Cap, Ruby and mister A. H. Fox.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mr. Rooster and I have a date!

Two young dogs and one experienced campaigner and I will tackle however many birds are left in the SW North Dakota wheat fields.  Reports vary from, "More than I've ever seen!" to "Walked all day and moved 2 roosters." I suspect I'll find the middle ground.  My pups are ready for the running demons- they've been on Sharptails, Huns and Ruffs the past year.  These birds won't mess them up now.  I would like to just watch their faces when the big rooster comes out of the grass, but dropping the thing is more important right now.  Travel day tomorrow and Wednesday.  By sunrise Thursday, Mountain Time, you can mentally watch me turn a pair of Brits loose, shoulder the old 20 ga. and step off in to the grass for another adventure with my buddies.......

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The $200 Shotgun

The Old Ball and Chain
Her First Quail on a Covey Rise

We have a little family secret down here.  And since this is just between us, I'll share it. 

It seems that sometime in the distant past, I may, or may not, have mentioned to my wife, that although I do have several shotguns they are all inexpensive.  In fact, the story goes, none of my guns cost more than $200, so she says I told her.  While neither confirming nor denying said statement was made, I do admit I was guilty for allowing the misunderstanding to exist.  Over the years, as shotguns were acquired, I assured my lovely bride that I would never pay more for them than the usual amount.  And, so, life blissfully carried on.   Until the fateful day, in my barn, during a field trial.  It was cold and raining so several of my bird dog friends were warming themselves by the fire and talking about all things bird hunting.  BJ joined us for a bit. She usually holds her own in these meetings regaling the audience with stories of my adventures with my various dogs.  Laughter and good natured ribbing was the name of the game, with everyone chipping in to tell an anecdote about their favorite dog or hunt.  Conversation got around to shotguns and who just bought what, the various makes and models and quality thereof.  Finally, someone happened to spy the gun I'd set aside as I came in from my brace and asked if that was the old A.H.Fox and why would I use it in such bad weather.  I explained I did like to shoot the gun, and I would probably spend quite a while cleaning and oiling after the day was over.  Another friend opined that he would never allow a gun like that to get wet, and so on.  I happened to glance at my wife and noticed a puzzled look on her face.  Warning flags shot up all over (Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!).  Uh, oh!  But then, BJ smiled and announced that it was no big deal, since "..none of Randy's guns cost more than $200 anyway.".   (At this point in the tale, you could hear the wind blowing dust in the empty street and the hawk screech high overhead.)  Mouths opened, jaws dropped and men froze in place.  After a long, quiet moment....... "Absolutely! Yes! Uh huh! Yep, that's right, BJ!" was heard throughout the barn.  Then, slowly, the laughter started and I heard several of my "friends" explaining to BJ the book value of a few of my $200 guns. It was generally acknowledged that I was dog meat for the rest of the year, I would never see the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota, Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, or New Mexico again (or, at least, during my natural lifetime)! She laughed and enjoyed my discomfort for a while and then gracefully bowed out to head back to the house.  Always a class act, she gave me big kiss and said she needed to get going.  "It's a long drive to Atlanta, honey, and you don't mind if I do a little shopping, do you? Oh, and I promise not to get anything that costs more than $200!  Honest!"

There is a lesson in there, somewhere, but I just don't see it.......

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A few wrap-up photos from the MT/MN Hunt

That's Cap and me in the top two photos.  The top one celebrates his first Hungarian Partridge- notice it was taken after the sun set- during the gloaming.  The flash really set off the Wing Works reflective straps.  The second shot is  getting ready to go to the MN grouse woods- a whole 'nother set of parameters for little Cap.  Last is Terry and some Ruffs they harvested after a good day in MN last week.  I, personally, didn't see that many birds, but pictures don't lie (at least these don't).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gear that WORKS!

I evaluate gear and have two new, short youtube videos describing the WingWorks Vest and Turtleskin Snake Chaps.  There is no polish here- just a bird hunter telling it like it is.

WingWorks Vest video

Turtleskin Snake Chaps

Monday, September 26, 2011

Next Trip- Pheasant in North Dakota and South Dakota

This is Ace with the limit of three roosters in North Dakota.  For the past, lets see, 15 years at least, I've been hunting North Dakota for pheasant.  While they don't have the statewide name that South Dakota has, where I've been going has at least the number of birds!  Over the years, I've gravitated to the area around Mott and Hettinger.  The public land is plentiful and the birds are like rats.  My friends up there constantly complain about the broken headlights and windshields from these colorful ditch-chickens.  Numbers up or numbers down, it makes no difference.  For some reason, this corner of North Dakota holds the birds.  Now, I do not hunt line abreast with a lab walking in front of me.  I  use pointing dogs and usually just little old me working a field.  I do just fine.  The PLOTS land in the area is great!  Most of the private land is posted and you must ask permission to hunt.  There is a lot of fee hunting in the area, so a sweet little area will probably be off limits- unless it is PLOTS (Private Land Open to Sportsmen).  Housing may be a problem now, too.  since the discovery of the Baaken oil field under this part of North Dakota, Montana and Canada (Google it), there is a housing shortage- be sure to call ahead to motels.  Good luck!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hunt Wrap-Up

I finally made it home after 1 1/2 days on the road. Funny, how it seems so much shorter going than coming. Even after stopping at the Norske Nook in Osseo, WI (on I-94), it was still an ordeal. Part of the problem was knowing I was going back in to eighty and ninety degree heat! Since the third day in Montana, the weather was perfect- low humidity and cool temps. In Minnesota, the high overcast and cool temps made for perfect scenting and easy walking.

In retrospect, Montana was great fun and a lot of work. I don't shy away from walking as far as needed to find birds, and MT put that attitude to the test. I never did calculate the total distance walked, but it was pretty close to ten miles per day- perhaps much more than that. An interesting note: I did use my Astro to track my dog's running distance and noted they usually cover five times the distance that I walk. No wonder they are lean and mean by the end of a two week jaunt!

The top picture is of me and Ace. The bottom is of Bob and three of his four dogs- a Spinone, Sophie, Pudelpointer, Razz, and Gordon Setter, Tink. Not shown is his GWP "Ug".

Minnesota was beautiful. The people are absolutely friendly and the grouse woods are vast and flat. Unfortunately, we didn't find a whole lot of birds. The cover was still on the trees, so, when the dogs pointed a bird not right on the trail, it was very hard to get close enough to the dog quickly to get a shot! Many times, I would be pushing through alder and aspen only to hear the flush and see a brown blur through the trees.

All in all, it was a very successful trip. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The dogs got worked on all manner of game birds and the pups had several points and retrieves. No one got hurt or shot or lost or aggravated. I am thankful that I have the health and opportunity to do this.
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