Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Does your Sunday Small Group do this?

I got back from the Dakotas just in time for Sunday service.  "Hey, how was the hunt?", "Pretty good, but pretty cold at times. Lots of very nice folks up there.  Man, they gotta be tough!" "Well, we've been thinking.....".  The next thing you know, Rusty has 100 birds and 700 acres and we are meeting at the cabin one Saturday morning.  My dogs, fresh off a two week hunt, are more than ready and I rotate through them all morning and in to the afternoon.  By and large, the shooting was abysmal, including mine, but the dog work was awesome and, at then end of the day, we harvested a bunch of birds.  It was a great way to get outside and acknowledge that God made men (and women) as the apex predator.  And, he made men flinty hard to be leaders and conquerors, and doers- strong in his Word and in defense of their families.  It seemed a far cry, out there, from the amorphous wimps we are told by our modern society we need to be.   We had fellowship only the hunt could foster and, best of all, we had a boatload of fun!  When you give thanks tomorrow, ask yourself, "Who am I thanking?"  I think you know who I'll be talking to. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to get heat and cooling to the back...quick and easy!

After last week's 8 deg temps and 30 kt winds in ND, I pondered a way to get some heat back to my bird dogs. I put a 26" bicycle tire between the sliding windows, inflated to seal the gaps. I closed the windows on the topp
er, turned up the heat in the cab and drove to workout. Like I hoped, the Venturi effect sucked air from the cabin back to, the topper..and the temp rose significantly in the 10 min drive to the weights and torture devices. So, I know it works, but how well and in what temps, etc.? Does it cool well enough in summer? Stay tuned.

Photo: Redneck solution.
After last week's 8 deg temps and 30 kt winds in ND, I pondered a way to get some heat back to my bird dogs. I put a 26" bicycle tire between the sliding windows, inflated to seal the gaps. I closed the windows on the topper, turned up the heat in the cab and drove to workout. Like I hoped, the Venturi effect sucked air from the cabin back to, the topper..and the temp rose significantly in the 10 min drive to the weights and torture devices.  So, I know it works, but how well and in what temps, etc.?  Does it cool well enough in summer?  Stay tuned.
Rear Cab Window and Front Topper Window Open

Friday, November 16, 2012


So, I'm sitting around eating breakfast in North Dakota one morning. I overhear, about two tables down, a group of hunters talking about how things are going. One guy says, "I don't know what happened to him. Last I saw, he was packing up to go home." It was generally acknowledged that this hunter's presence would be missed. So, I listened little more. Apparently, the guy let his dog out of the motel to go to the bathroom. It promptly ran out into the road and was killed. What were the odds that would happen way out here in West Bethlehem, North Dakota? Not real good....but, it happened!  Heck yeah, I would be packing up and going home, too. In fact, I would be devastated.

Here's my problem. After having my dogs accosted by someone else's dogs in the same motel, I am wondering, "what is so hard about putting your dog on a leash?"  And, I know this is going to really get me in hot water, it seems like Lab people are the worst. Now, I know that old Rufus is the best trained dog in the entire world. I know he would never chase a squirrel, or a duck, or a cat, or a ball, or anything else out into a roadway. And, I know he is smarter than all of Congress combined. But, I don't want to meet him at six in the morning when he runs right into me and my dog, who is on leash. Even if he only wants to play. And especially, if he wants to bow up and fight my male.

If you want your Labrador to be spread all over the interstate, feel free to let him out at rest stops without a leash. Just, please do not do it when I am there.

Now, before I start getting hate mail from all you Labrador owners out there, I hasten to add that, in fact, I do know at least one Labrador owner that leashes his dog. But, he drives a Prius.

I love labs.

Monday, November 12, 2012

End of an Era

More than 10, and maybe 15, years ago, we found ourselves down in Southwest North Dakota knocking on doors and asking to hunt pheasant. It was tough, since most of the land was posted. A few farmers did let us hunt, and it was spectacular. But, overall, the land was all tied up. This was the home of fee hunting. I will never begrudge a farmer for charging to hunt on his land. To my mind, if the farmer puts in food plots, the birds are a crop just like corn.

But, at the end of the day, we were tired, cold and a little frustrated. The next day, after the same thing, we went to New England and found the café in a bowling alley. It was warm, had good food, and we met a lot of nice people. In fact more than once we had invitations to hunt private land from people we ate lunch with. We met a lady who allowed us to stay in one of her rental houses, hunt land of farmers that she knew, for a very reasonable price. So began a tradition that stretched over at least 10 years."Bowling alley for lunch?" was the refrain after a few casts in the morning.

And now, here I am, looking at a closed up bowling alley. A for sale sign on the door and a forlorn look to the whole building. My friends tell me that there is a little drama involved here. Isn't there always?

We have the hottest economy in United States right here in North Dakota. Oil money and oil workers are everywhere. 3000 oil wells have been drilled. 30,000 total are expected. CRP land is vanishing. And, with it, the pheasant.

A local bird hunter told me,"Randy, be sure and come the next five years. After that, it may be the end of pheasant hunting around here." I hope not. I will miss the gravel roads, the ditches, the CRP, the rooster climbing into the sun, the retrieve by my dog, and, more than a little bit, the bowling alley.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hunting a North Dakota "Weather Event"

They don't even call them blizzards anymore. In North Dakota, they are called major winter weather events. With the right clothing and a good attitude, bad weather hunting can be very enjoyable. My LL Bean Hunting pants were waterproof, windproof, and very light. I did not even wear long underwear. My Orvis wool Elmer Fudd hat, or something like it, was absolutely mandatory. Wool and Gore-Tex about seven layers deep, constituted the upper body wear. The only weak point in my system Is my gloves. I wear Orvis deerskin hunting gloves. I don't like thicker gloves because they don't have the touch. I was right on the edge of being too cold on the fingers. In fact, I may have to change my gloves. I am still looking for a suitable pair for cold weather.

As far as the dogs are concerned, the weather really did not bother them at all. Even Ruby, who is the skinniest of them all and went through the ice into the creek, came up and hunted like a champ after that. I watched her closely and she was doing just fine. Another problem you may encounter, is keeping the dog water thawed out. I took care of that by putting the container inside the truck. If you're gone long enough it will freeze. But even at 8°, we had no problem.

I would not want to hunt in this weather daily. But the occasional storm provides a lot of opportunity. We found roosters clustered together in shelterbelts and in the cattails.

Friday, November 9, 2012

One of those great don't get many!

Cap and Ruby have one pinned down!
My two pups after a GREAT day!!
This rooster was huge! Cap is loving this! 

It was windy and cold and I wasn't real excited when we approached the tree line.  Over the years, I've walked this tree line probably 30 times or more.  It is situated perfectly with corn on one side and CRP on the other. Big tall trees seen for miles in the wheat and cut corn in North Dakota. A friend owns the farm, now retired, and told me, "Randy, there are lots of birds here.  Come on over!"  I learned subsequent to that, there were people hunting there the day before.  "Oh, great!", I thought, " They moved all the birds out of there.  Another 4 mile walk with the dogs..."

The wind was strong from the North, right down the center of the tree line.  Huge, old Cottonwoods and evergreens, maybe 4 rows of them.  We put Ace, my main gun, out with Ruby with the intentions of easing over to the end of the row and working straight up it.  This wasn't Ace's first time here.  Once the "first put out rodeo" was over, I checked my Astro and Ace was the treeline!  We hustled to him, entered the shade of the trees, saw him locked up and stepped toward him.  The rooster broke up and out, but Bobby's 20 ga. with Prairie Storm 3"/5's put him dead in the air, just as he cleared the alder row on the edge of the trees.  It was a beauty!  Ruby locked up, Ace backed (dutifully, but grudgingly) and 3 roosters took took off. I killed a tree and Bobby, again, dropped a bird for a retrieve.  We worked our way to the end of the treeline, with birds coming out the sides, too far ahead to shoot.  The dogs were not perfectly disciplined, but close enough I was pleased.  Heck, there were so many roosters running around, I wasn't all that disciplined, either! At the end of the row, Ace locked down and Ruby backed.  The birds went out away from me, right into the gun of Bobby.  I think he was a little surprised, but he let it get out a suitable distance and dropped it out in the cut corn.  Ace put it in my hand with a tip of the hat to the shooter- praise not easily earned from the experienced gun dog. 

After lunch, we put Cap, my 2 year old by Ace, down and Ruby, again.  We worked some smaller tree windbreaks with corn in between.  Very little cover and I was not hopeful.  Right out of the box, both dogs got birdy and slowed down, hunkered down, cat-creeped to some blown brush at the edge of the cut corn.  For a hundred yards, we pointed, released, pointed, released, backing, etc.  One after another, the pups took turns pointing and backing.  Finally, after a hundred yards of this, 4 roosters and 2 hens busted out for freedom.  I was the only one near and it was clear shooting in a target-rich environment.  And not one bird went down!  The sun got in my eyes, my alarm clock didn't go off, a dog ate my homework! I need more excuses!  I just missed.  Period.  Both dogs looked at was bad. 

Cap picked up the scent and worked some CRP.  Finally, he locked up and I kicked a big rooster out from a brush pile and put him in the bag.  Another treeline bird bit the dust, further up, after Ruby's fine work; and we headed for the truck, one bird short.  

I looked to my left and we walked and talked; Ruby was locked down in the grass along the trees!  As I approached her, a rooster jumped up, tried to fly, couldn't get airborne, and ran!  Ruby went after it, Cap joined the chase, I yelled,  "Dead bird, fetch it up!" and the merry chase was on.  At one point, Ruby got a mouthful of feathers, but the bird got away.  We worked up and down the trees, until Cap locked up and I walked over, saw the bird hunkered down, picked it up and dispatched it.  I don't know why it didn't fly, but it still put up a good fight. 

I still get chills thinking about yesterday.  Good companionship, good dogs, smart roosters.  Sweet.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's a small world....

Bobby, Joe, DAD, Pete and Tim- a nice bunch of hunting companions!

Right after I picked Bobby at the Bismarck airport, we began plotting our course through pheasant country.  I made a quick call to the the district game biologist and the local game management office.  They both agreed, the east side of the Missouri River from Bismarck to Mobridge, SD is an area with lots of pheasant.  So, we headed that way, looking for likely PLOTS land (Private Land Open To Sportsmen).  We noticed a huge piece, 8 sections, of land about halfway down the river and made for it.  I was hunting in South Dakota for a week at this point and immediately noticed the lack of hunters!  Down there, the birds are plentiful and so are the pickups towing dog trailers or toting dog boxes and Labradors. After one minor wrong turn requiring an almost insignificant amount of cross country travel, we pulled in to the area and my jaw dropped!  "This can't be the place", I said to Bobby.  This is the picture you would see if you looked up "pheasant habitat" in the dictionary.   Cut wheat, corn, ditches, brush, and tree lines alongside cut corn fields stretching for miles!  It made me nervous, but I drove the roads and found the markers and verified my location on the map.  

We put out on a ditch with water in it winding through cut corn with grass all along it.  My Cap dog did a great job, but we only produced a few hens.  At the end of the ditch, I leashed him up and we walked the road back to the truck.  I heard a truck coming and got off the road as a pickup with an orange hat and a pointer pulled up.  "Any luck" the driver asked as he pulled to a stop.  Not yet, but the day was young, we replied.  "Why don't you walk this treeline with us?  Our father, who's 90, is about halfway down blocking for us."  I looked over at a picture perfect situation.  "We did the first half about 20 minutes ago and pushed about 20 roosters out of there, but we don't have the manpower to do it right."  Sold!  Let's go! 

I left my dogs in the truck.  They are big runners and great on pheasant, but the combination of two different style dogs doesn't work too well sometimes.  And we were the guest here.  So, to a certain amount of caterwauling from the back of the "Beast of Birdin'", we loaded up and eased down to the treeline with two new friends and their dogs, a Brit, Lab and GSP.  It was a fun, few hundred yards. The dogs stayed close, with one minor exception, and the pudgy little Brit turned out to be a fine pheasant dog.  Bobby bagged two fat roosters and I managed to scare one in to submission- I think it died of a heart attack as I flung Prairie Storm lead at it.  Another of the group, Joe, got one that flew back over his head.  Unfortunately, he was a super shot and the bird was super close.  He field dressed that bird "on the wing".  

We reached the end of the row, met "Dad" and another hunter, and stood around for a bit and chatted.  It turns out, Dad (Don) grew up and lives in South Dakota, while the boys live in Alabama, and Missouri.  In fact, one of the guys looked pretty familiar to me.  He likes to run NSTRA in the Mo-Kan region and drives over to the Alabama Region, on occasion.  We knew many of the same guys and probably met at a trial or two as I trial mainly in the Georgia Region, but have been known to run my dogs in the Alabama Region.  They were a great group of guys, who didn't need to ask us to join them, but I'm glad they did!  

It really is a small world for the traveling bird hunter.  The nice thing, I noticed, is the willingness to help out and get to know other bird hunters along the way.  It really made our day to be invited along and we really appreciate them and their fine bird dogs.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Finishing up South Dakota

We left the farm and went west. North of Pierre and along the river, and a little east. There is some great public land along that area. Waterfowl production areas, hunter walk in areas, and state lands. All are huntable with just a license. There is a good population of pheasant in this area. Since hunting cannot begin before 10 in the morning, a good method is to do some scouting, find an area, and be there at 10 ready to go. Also, certain areas require steel shot. This time a year there are many hunters here. Just a little later when the hunters leave, the pressure reduces on the pheasant. Then, the pheasant come back out and seem more plentiful.

Monday, November 5, 2012

South Dakota Weather Perfect for Bird Dogs!

The "gang" in South Dakota...(l to r) Scott Haskell, Dillon and Jared Tanner, 

Glen Bahde, Bob Bertram, and Joey Haskell

Randy Schultz and Ruby

 Ace crossing the James River....again! On the way back from a "grand adventure". 

Dillon Tanner and a nice rooster in the snow!  Nice shot! 

We got up to an overcast day with the promise of rain by afternoon.  Afternoon came early today...around nine thirty.  Then the snow started.  If you are a bird hunter, a day with light snow and light breeze and birds in front of you, upwind, is a day to remember!  The pheasant held tight, deep in the cattails.  We got the young bucks to get in the middle and push them out, then the dogs took over and pointed them.  The day wore on with snow and some spitting rain.  I was absolutely dry the entire day. 

 I love my pants (please don't repeat that).  They are LL Bean brush pants, they are waterproof, windprood, with articulated knees, zippered pockets and roomy and very light!  They aren't cheap, but good stuff never is.  I wear Asolo hiking books- waterproof and tough, leather.  My Orvis waterproof, windproof shell over a wool sweater and turtleneck kept the core warm the entire time.  My Akubra rabbit-felt hat kept the rain off  with no leaks, which kind of surprised me, since most hats I've worn leak at one time or another- usually at the seams. 

Today looks cold and wet already, but the sun should peak out by noon (yeah, right!).  Stay tuned. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gunstock Work

Over the years, I've acquired several guns. Most are average, run-of-the-mill, every day guns. A few, however, are very nice. Two, in particular, I really like. Both are Ansley H Fox shotguns. A 16 gauge and a 20 gauge. The 20 gauge was purchased during a time in my life when I had no adult supervision. The 16 gauge was purchased during a similar time.  I enjoy them both, but neither was made for me. I am 6'3", 230 pounds. The 20 gauge, I know, was made for a smaller person over 100 years ago. Although the stock is beautiful, It has been repaired several times. And the forend is in need of repair. The 16 gauge stock is not in need of repair, but, it is more than 3 inches too short for me- perhaps more.

After a plea online on the "bird dogs and fly fishing" Facebook site, a member told me about a gunstock manufacturer in Missouri. Actually, several members joined in and I got the names of several people. I chose this particular company after making several phone calls. Set in the rolling hills south of Warsaw, Missouri, this 80-year-old company is somewhat hard to find. But after a few U-turns and one flyby, I managed to pull up to the shop door and meet Brian. I was very impressed. After a thorough tour, I left my two favorite shotguns behind! Two new gunstocks front to back, one from English Walnut and one from European Walnut, wood grains and patterns chosen by me, are on the way! I can't wait for the day I pick them up.

Stay tuned, and when I get the finished product, I will have pictures and names and addresses.
(top to bottom) Parker, A.H.Fox 20 ga., A H. Fox 16 ga.