Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Bird Hunter's Thoughts: Review- Prairie Storm Shotgun Ammunition

A Bird Hunter's Thoughts: Review- Prairie Storm Shotgun Ammunition

I guess it's time to re-visit this article.  It's just as valid now as then.(click link above)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hunting Vest- An Update on Wing Works Vest

Chukar Hunting with Wing Works vest.

Robert with Bandit, Idaho 2012
Here is the short and sweet.  This vest is the best one I've seen, bar none, for long casts in the field.  It puts the weight on the hips (and shoulders), has lots of room for shells, sweaters, cameras, Astro's, transmitters, licenses, etc.  A back pouch for a sandwich, two huge water bottles, a camera pouch fitted to the one of the straps, orange reflective straps and orange on the back give this vest tremendous capability.  Shown above is my dog, Cap, and me on a Chukar hunt in Idaho last February.  Note that I've taken my jacket off and tied it to a convenient strap (just for that purpose).  You can see the chest connector strap in the picture, too, which keeps the shoulder straps in place.  It is apparent to me a lot of thought through a lot of miles on the ground has gone into this vest. My initial evaluation:  

If you are going to be jumping in and out of the hunting-mobile all day, a simple strap vest may be more appropriate. It takes more than 2-3 seconds while hoofing it after the dog to get this vest on and tight.  In fact, I carry my old Filson strap vest in my truck vault just for those days. 
Here you can see the reflective shoulder straps!

North Dakota November 2011

Wing Works has been busy dreaming up cool options for the vest.  I invested in the reflective straps (shown above) that glow bright white when hit with light at night.  Also, I bought a special carrier for my Garmin ASTRO handheld which attaches via a snap to my waist belt.  That way, I keep it our of my shell pocket for protection and ease of use.  I recently added a camera pouch that I attached to my right shoulder strap (I shoot left-handed) to have my camera immediately available. It works great for small, digital cameras.  (I meant to ask him about one to fit my iPhone 5, since I use that for pics now.) There are other nice-to-have items listed on the website. (

The only down side to this vest is actually a plus.  It is sturdy, strong and takes a beating; and, therefore, it is not light.  To my mind, I would rather carry a few more ounces and have the strength.  In my opinion, this is a must buy for the serious bird hunter.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

As close to hunting ....

When I am not hunting, I like to take my dogs and put them in field trials. NSTRA The National Shoot to Retrieve Association Is my field trial of choice. Over the last 20 years now, I've made some really good friends in the organization. It is a great way for the family to spend an afternoon, exercise the dog and get that little hunting fix.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Three Kinds of Love

Hey!  You OK?
Cap meets Valley Quail in Idaho

You know, I look through pictures posted by proud hunters and handlers and I realize, over the years, I've had basically three kinds of dogs. Some are rock solid. They do the job, day in and day out. They don't run off, they turn when I whistle and they don't hog the bed. Some are just on the "ragged edge of control". God invented the Garmin for these boys. They are 40# of bird finding machine with no tolerance for any other dog being on the ground. If they aren't hunting, pointing and retrieving, they are thinking about it. They wouldn't give a soggy rat for a spot on the bed. And then, there is the third kind. They make me smile! They do it all with a grace and panache that reminds me of the beautiful  prom queen, valedictorian, athlete that all the boys love and the girls hate. These dogs are 100% "go" in the field, but always have time to check in. They are fast, quick, thorough and smart. And they live to please me; I swear, a frown from me is like I beat them. When they hit the bed, they try to burrow under my arm and get just as close as they can.

I love them all, but they are different.....and I do like to smile.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Three Dogs From Last Week

Sometimes, when you see a picture, you have to smile! Here are three of mine. Ace and a Hun from a huge covey he locked down. Cap and three Huns we worked hard for. Ruby looking at the Hun she just retrieved after pointing a covey at the top of the mountain.
Ace and a Hun from a 30 bird covey rise! 
Cap and his three Huns we worked hard for.
Ruby and her Hun

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another Memory from the Idaho Trip

The last day of the hunt, an incident occurred that I thought was pretty neat. As you can see by the two photos, we were hunting some steep hills.  What you can't see from the pics is the Snake River.  Basically, the hill drops directly into the Snake, with just enough flat for a road.  Bandit (top), Ace and I (bottom) were hunting a covey of Valley Quail in this area. We'd already been in the mountains and chased Huns all morning and had to pass this spot on the way back to the motel.  I knew Ace and Bandit needed one more run, they were up (in the rotation) and they would be sitting for a few days on the ride home.  We'd just finished working a huge covey of Huns and I wanted to try the hillsides, for some unknown reason. As I walked along the slopes, the dogs ran from top to bottom, pointing, backing and doing some pretty neat dog stuff.  The problem was: the slope was curving around a hill.  When a bird got up, even over a point, I had to know exactly where my dogs were before I shot.  I had visions of a dog popping up around the curve of the slope just as I pulled the trigger! The result was no shooting, even though we had lots of bird action.  Finally, my pager went off and I saw Ace locked up on a large bush at the very bottom of the hill, just above the river.  I knew if I went down there, I would not be climbing back up that hill.  But, he was adamant, so I started down to him. I walked off the side as I approached the bush (and Ace) and looked for Bandit, just as his pager beeped, too. He wasn't anywhere near Ace or me, so I looked up-hill.  There he was, front legs locked, facing head down, 30 yards up that steep slope....backing Ace.  Wow!  The picture will always be in my head.  I grabbed for my camera and started walking around the bush to get a shot, but Ace took that as permission to re-locate on the bush.  Bandit saw Ace move and came down to join him.  I never got the a camera.  I do have it in my head.  Ten years from now, I may have occasion to recount that scene.  Perhaps, it will be in a blinding snowstorm by then and not the heat of the actual day.  And perhaps, I'll shoot a double when the quail come out of that bush.  No matter what embellishments may be attached, the snapshot of Ace pointing and Bandit backing on that steep slope will be with me forever. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Burned-in Memories

Cap and Sharptail Retrieve
On my two day, 2400 mile drive home, I had a lot of time to reflect on the trip. A few things really stand out and will be remembered forever.  Even now, I remember selected incidents from trips taken 20 years ago.  For example, I remember an occasion on my first "traveling wingshooter" trip, back in the day.  We loaded up our dogs and, with little preparation other that hearing quail were abundant in Kansas, we drove all night to hunt Kansas Quail.  We had our dogs in boxes in the back of the truck and stars in our eyes about all the coveys we'd find.  This was back in the '90's, and I wasn't the shy retiring type I am now.  Our plan was simple.  We would find good land and knock on the nearest door and ask permission. Part A was easy, Part B proved more problematic, but only because we had a hard time finding people to ask.  It seems, in that part of Kansas, when the crops are in, the farmers go to Arizona for the winter! As drunks and fools are sometimes protected, we ended up getting invited to prime land and we shot a lot of birds and I was hooked....I've been traveling and hunting birds since. One thing I remember isn't all the birds or the finds. I remember one morning so foggy we literally had to drive just a few miles per hour.  I was riding, so I rolled the window down and stared intently in to the Cottonwood hedgerows along the road.....and counted coveys! One stretch of road, somewhere around Pratt, I counted 5 coveys of 15+ birds hunkered down in the trees while driving a half mile.  I also remember knocking on the door of the nearest farmhouse and the kind lady informing us we had permission to hunt, but "don't shoot my pet covey near the barn."  A good day, that one.

Cap on the First Point in the alfalfa
Bob's Pudelpointer had great finds and retrieves!

Many things are still fresh from this trip.  Even my 62 year old, worn out, teen in the '60's brain can remember stuff this fresh.  But one day will be especially memorable, I know.  My friend, Bob, and I hunted a farm in Eastern Montana one day.  Our other friends hunted there earlier and also in previous years and the place holds a lot of birds.  We got there and drove several miles through fields and hills and mountains (not a small place) to "the spot".  By then, it was hot, (80's) and the birds knew we were there- heck, they were sitting on the barbed wire watching us pull up.  Remember, these birds had been shot over and at, and they didn't hang around long.  The results were a long walk and worn out dogs.  By then, it was noon and we drove in to the little town and had some lunch and gave each other a pep talk.  We decided to wait until late afternoon and get fresh dogs and run them through a big flat alfalfa field, which took up a whole section.  I put my 2 year old Brit on the ground, Cap. A young dog, he's seen a lot of territory.  He missed the first trip his first year only because he was 5 months old.  He made the next 7 trips.  Not expecting much, we worked around the trucks for a bit, watered the dogs again, and headed out in to the alfalfa. We crossed a field of cut wheat and volunteer trash grass along a stream as the dogs kept up a pretty good pattern ahead of us.  At the edge of the alfalfa, I remember thinking, "You know, it's 35 miles back to the motel and we've been out here all day with nothing in the bag, and it's hot, and my legs are sore, and waa, waa, waa....!" Right then, the pager in the Garmin interrupted my pity party....Cap had jumped the creek and made it 20yds in to the alfalfa and locked up!  "Oh, hello!"  The next half hour was point, back, shoot, retrieve as we both worked our dogs and had one of those afternoons when it all went right.  Even the bird I wounded, we found later!  Eight birds in the bag and some very fine dog work.  It was a mile back to the truck lugging the birds and trying to outrun a thunderstorm moving in from the northwest...amazingly, my legs didn't ache a bit....go figure!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Last day. Best day.

We started north in the mountains. Temp was 45 and wind was west at 10-15 kts. When we got on top, driving over lava rock, I was on the lookout for Chukar. I saw one feeding and put Ace out to find the covey. The single flushed and flew to Europe. Ace locked down two times but we came up dry, so we headed to the truck. They say the first time you hunt Chukar is for sport; the second time is for revenge. True.

We moved further into the mountains and stopped by a stream. Ruby was up, so we headed out across the stream and up the hill. Working to the top and on the way back down, Ruby locked up in some shrubs. I kicked around and 30 yds downhill 15 Huns got up. 14 reached the top as Ruby made a fine retrieve. About 40 yds from the truck she pointed again and all but one bird made it out of there. 2 in the bag.

I put Cap on the ground and climbed the other side. On the way back down, Cap located a single , made a good retrieve and we had 3 in the bag.

I drove back to a spot on the Snake and put Bandit and Ace on the ground.
They took off like at a field trial, the old man and the boy. 5 min later, Ace had a large covey of Huns pointed and made a great retrieve to hand.

For a last day it was wonderful. It must be time to go home. I'm broke, worn out, one dog is limping, one has the runs, one is in heat but all are still ready to go. It's been a great trip to Idaho!

How do they do it?

After we got back from the mountain excursion and ate some quail and sharptail, I stopped by an old honey hole near the reservoir. About an hour before dark. Right out of the truck, Bandit pointed and the quail got up and flew to private land. I got the dogs back and moved a little further in the area. As I walked by a shrub downwind of the dogs and me, the whole bush exploded! Must've been 25 birds in this covey. And they flew over a small tree line and set down! Very cool. We combed that area for 20 min and didn't get anything but a point where they landed. Off to another part of the area and Bandit had another covey. But, this one was in cover so thick, I could only hear the flush! Probably 40 quail on the area and we walked away with nothing!!!
Cap pointed and Bandit backing

Into the Owyhees.

After an unproductive  morning cast with the young males, I headed to the mountains to find a stream in the harsh foothills- looking for chukar and quail. The drive in took over an hour on the washboard roads. I found a stream and an interesting old cabin, but no birds. It was over 90 degrees ! Let me tell you, the land is harsh, but amazingly beautiful! The top picture shows the old F-250 parked at the bottom of steep, cut road down to the creek (at the trees). I was thinking the entire time walking around..."I hope the truck cranks up!  It will take me quite a while to hike out in this heat- even though I am prepared." Thankfully, the 2001 7.3 diesel purred like only a diesel can and got me out of there. I know there were Chukar there.  I'll be back.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lunch in the field.

I've always wanted to sit down and dine on fresh game in the field. As luck would have it, wallyworld has disposable one-time use grills. Pretty nice!!

I hate to tell you this but....

That is not the way you want your wife to start a conversation with you when you are on a hunting trip. Apparently, I got a speeding ticket while traveling through Iowa. An electronic ticket arrived in the mail with attached glossy photos that look strikingly like my truck. This is so wrong. I never had a chance to talk my, explain my side, or ask the deputy if he was a bird hunter, or even show cleavage and wear my short black skirt! Hey,this is America! Oh we'll...

The dogs are my two pups from different litters. As sometimes happens, they work great together. The long dirt road is heading to the mountains for Chukar and more quail.The fence is the "end of the road"...I think.  I'm not sure, because private land is not shown on my chart, but I'm always cautious and turn around and head back.

What's up with this heat?

It really messes with our dogs, which seriously harshes my mental state. Tomorrow the high is 64.

Next stop is to the foothills of the Owyhees for Valley Quail and Chukar.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Snake River Quail

Love hunting the Snake. Lots of quail and some Huns mixed in. Still warm in the afternoon, but a serious cool down on the way. I had some great dog work out of my main dog Ace today. Nothing beats 7 years of hunting trips to make a dog wise in the field. It's a joy to watch.