Friday, September 30, 2016

Photo Calendar

Click the link to find out more about and/or order the BDFF Photo Calendar!

This is a definite "Buy"! A great Christmas gift for the birdhunter or fly fisher who is impossible to find a gift for.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sharps and Huns!

 It took long enough!  A desk-bound, city dweller will tell you the time it takes to get from April to September is the same, no matter what. I disagree!  It stretches out like infinity to the bird hunter.  Three lifetimes it takes to endure those five months! Throw in some heat, a dash of humidity, a sprinkling of responsibilities and you have one grumpy, old man.  


The nasty summer was filled with planning.  Routes, motels, camping sites, bird numbers, friends to visit, dogs to prepare, guns, shells, nutrition.  All the stuff that needed attention, but really didn't.  I'm amazed to find that, when the day arrives, I invariable end up throwing what I think is important in the back seat with guns and dogs and head out.  But, all the planning made the waiting bearable. 

Field Trial in Great Falls, MT.  

I towed the camper (above) and, frankly, I was thrilled with the entire evolution. Other than a minor inconvenience finding a suitable hookup, it was a perfect setup for me and the dogs. In one small Montana town, I called the Chamber of Commerce and found the names of three small parks, all suitable for my needs, for $10-$12/night.  I'll tow the camper again to Arizona and NM this season.  As long as diesel is cheap, there is a $75 penalty, in fuel, to tow 1000 miles. Figuring a 2000 mile (one way) hunt, I'd need to find suitable motels for $300 or less for the trip to make up for the fuel difference.  Of course, figuring the cost of the camper amortized over the length of ownership, and insurance, etc., will jack that up to $400 for the two weeks.  It  seems the motels are now charging at least $50/night now (with some notable exceptions).  For 14 nights, that's at least $700 in motels! So, for now, it makes economic sense to take the camper.  Besides, I just like it. 

Pointer backing Cap.

Cap returning the favor!
Before the Great Falls trial, I stopped in Eastern Montana for the Opening Day.  I met a friend there and we hunted for two days.  We couldn't hunt past noon, either day, due to the heat.  It reached 90 degrees by 11 or 12, so we drove and scouted.  The first day, the birds were cooperative and we had some good dogwork on Sharptails and Huns. The second day, we went to a different area and never moved a bird, even though the habitat was perfect!  I subsequently found out about the summer hailstorm that moved through the area, damaging homes, barns and towns.  It was postulated that the hail may have hurt the bird population.  I believe it.  
A double on Huns. Cap had them pinned.  
After the trial, I struck out on my own for a week or so.  I hunted about 50 miles north of Great Falls, hitting BMA and Open Fields areas, with some notable success.  However, there is a lot of pheasant planting by the state going on in these areas and, while I'm not averse to popping a ditch chicken occasionally, in season, the season was not open and I didn't need any running birds for my pups at this point.  So, after a day or so, operating out of Conrad, MT, we pulled up stakes and moved to a more Sharptail and Hun friendly area.  Before we left Conrad, I noticed these fenced enclosures around the area and asked a few locals what they were.  "Oh, those are old missile silos.  They're all filled in with rock and gravel, now.  We've tried to buy the land, but they won't even talk to us.  They have generators and everything down there, just buried it all and walked away!"  I had to chuckle.  No one was worried about the fact that a nuclear bomb was targeted at the mound 200 yards from the house, just upset they wasted all that good equipment!  The ever-practical American Farmer.  

Command Center

We hit the mother-lode for the Sharps and Huns.  Five days of hunting areas with no other hunters in sight.  Of course, we were, literally, 1000 miles from nowhere, but it was perfect.  Vast stretches of public land, alfalfa fields, cut wheat and lentils bordering grassy hills.  Miles and miles of easy walking.  Once, driving along, I noticed a thick alfalfa field alongside the road with a border of grassy hills along the other side.  Sharps in the alfalfa and Huns on the hillside, I thought.  I put Shack (Brit/M) on the ground and we went at them.  He locked down several times and I just knew those birds were there. We covered the field and went to the side hills and still didn't find them!  As we were heading back to the truck, Shack went up over the side hills and stayed up there. I eased up over the top, just to see.  I came upon the largest alfalfa field I've ever seen in my life!  Easily a section, probably more.  Laughing, I called Shack in and we went back to the truck.  We were both tired by then.  I marked the spot for future exploration and would have liked at least  another dog, if not another hunter, with me to cover that expanse of perfect food and cover.
Cap has some Sharps.

Pearl retrieving a Hun.

Prairie art.

Shack and Cap have a large covey of Sharps pinned.

Homestead Cabin.

 I met up with a friend from the area and we hunted for a day.  I enjoyed his male Brit, who had a lot of heart and a great nose.  We moved quite a few birds that day- a tonic for the soul, no doubt.

Me and Thomas

Shack and some Sharps.
Hunting in the this area would be impossible without good maps, gps, etc. and the knowledge of how to read them.  In fact, here is the border between Canada and the US.  Just because there's not a physical fence, both countries indeed frown on cross border hunting. I asked.

The line.

A road crossing checkpoint.

 After a few weeks on the road, I was awakened, one 28 degree morning, with the dreaded, "It's time to head back, cowboy!" call from the Boss back home.  I took two and half days of steady driving, with a breakfast at the Norske Nook in Osseo, WI thrown in, but we hit the 99 degree heat in Chattanooga and knew we were back in the September South.  Images of Pearl locked on a covey of Huns as another covey flushed behind her in the wheat, she turned to look, and her pointed covey flushed in front! (I just couldn't get upset with that!).  Shack locked up on Sharps, Cap working perfectly on Sharps in the Alfalfa, and Ruby methodically finding and pointing covey after covey of Huns one afternoon.  All these images were drifting through my head as I unpacked The Beast and readied everything for October!  Planning and more planning......right up until I throw what I think I'll need in the back of the truck....

Ruby and Cap

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Brief Respite in the Summer Heat

I know, I know.  This blog is about bird dogs and bird hunting!  I have so many friends who are accomplished fly fishers, when not pursuing their bird dogs, and they convinced me to give the genteel sport of fly fishing a try.  My (long-suffering) wife wanted to give it a try, as well, so off we went, inviting ourselves in to people's lives, favorite fishing holes, and, sometimes, homes.   

Bird dogs and bird hunting
BJ, Gary Bauer, Randy on the Madison

Our first stop was to see Gary and Martha Bauer, in western Montana.  Both are accomplished fly fishers and Gary is a bird hunter with excellent Gordon Setters.   Martha opened her home to us and Gary took us to the Madison River, near Yellowstone.  We floated the River in his drift boat two separate days, with Gary gently helping us with casting, teaching us fish biology, river lore, entymology (bug stuff), equipment history, river reading and fishing courtesy and protocol.  Back at the ranch, after she came in from a different river, Martha, who's pretty well known on the river for some big fish, slapped together a gourmet meal!  At first we were somewhat overwhelmed, but slowly it started to make sense.  After all, Gary and Martha had been fly fishing for many years.  We began to see that every little nuance had a reason behind it. Far from being a stuffy sport, this was a great way to spend a day (or lifetime) outside on a river.   A friend mentioned to me a tidbit which rings true every day, "Trout don't live in ugly places."  

bird dogs and bird hunting
BJ and Gary T.

We, regretfully, said our goodbyes to Gary and Martha and crossed through Yellowstone Park to Wyoming. We met up with another bird-hunting friend, also a fly fishing expert.  Gary Thompson, from Sheridan, WY.  We encamped in the Big Horn mountains (well, glamping, really, in our 27' camper) and Gary met us each morning to take us to a different stream or river in the area. Once again, we learned so much about the fish, bugs, flies, history, courtesy and protocol while fishing in an exceptionally beautiful setting! Gary and Leslie came up one afternoon and cooked dinner for us over the coals using cast iron pots!  My mouth still waters thinking about the roast pork, vegetables and trimmings. 

bird dogs and bird hunting
Snake River Cutthroat

Being a redneck from Georgia, it took a me a while to embrace the idea that people would spend a significant amount of money to catch a huge fish, take a picture of it and gently put it back!  How weird is that?  But, once Gary B. and Gary T. explained the reasoning, it made perfect sense and we both accepted and endorsed the idea.  In West Yellowstone, a park entrance town, we met with Dick Greene, owner of Bud Lilliy's Fly Shop, another bird dog man when he's not on the river or in his world-famous store. I could spend hours in there, looking and coveting. I gaze at fly rods (don't call them "poles", apparently) with the same affection as fine shotgun!

bird dogs and bird hunting
The one that got away!

When, finally, we turned East and South and headed back to Georgia, we felt a lot better about the mystical art of fly fishing for big (and small) fish using dry flies, nymphs, streamers, etc. We gained friends and cemented friendships and counted ourselves lucky to know such good people!  We saw moose, bison, Grizzlies, elk, deer, Eagles, and the all-important Caddis and Salmon Flies. We bought and carried bear spray- and it was no joke. BJ and I had some true experts take us down some "bucket list" rivers.  We will be forever thankful to all of them. 

bird dogs and bird hunting
Dutch Oven cooking!

(I discovered, after spending two days fishing with him, that Gary Thompson is a registered Montana Fly Fishing Guide and also a Wyoming fly fishing guide. I may have the terms mixed up and I had to pull it out of him, but he's an amazing resource for Wyoming fly fishing as well as fishing the Big Horn River. ( (303) 324-5767 or  

bird dogs and bird hunting
Madison River Drift Boat

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hunting Food on the Road!

When I travel, I occasionally stumble across fantastic cafes, restaurants and other eateries.  One,I've mentioned before, deserves another mention, just because it never changes and it is consistently exceptional. The Norske Nook in Osseo, WI (off I-94 south of Eau Claire).

Homemade pies, bakery and an outstanding menu served by really nice folks make this a mandatory stop for The Beast. 

FYI:  After an omelette, with Rye toast, orders arrived to bring home Harvest Apple, Sour Cream Raisin, and Snickers Caramel pies.  Good stuff!