Sunday, September 19, 2010

Opening day musings, and getting LOST!

Well, it's finally here. The day I'd been waiting for since December of last year.  I double checked all the gear, checked the weather forecast, and gassed up the rig. All signs pointed to a wonderful start to the most joyous bird season imaginable. Joining me was my neighbor Ryan, just 23 years of age, but with the legs and stamina to match the most hearty veteran of the aspen jungles.
My last years opener was something to write home about. I had a limit of 5 birds by 9 am. It was simply crazy. I ran into three family groups of at least 7 birds a piece and it was over before I knew it. I thought it was a perfectly good idea to go to the same spot after having such great success last season. We arrived very early as I knew others would be vying for this trail.
WE strapped up, put the beeper color Dottie, and headed down. I could even sense a different determination in her at this moment, like she knew we weren't hunting "pigeons."
After covering about a a half a mile, Dottie locked up on a old Raspberry bush, and i motioned for Ryan to head, three birds exploded out offering Ryan his first shot at a wild bird. I was just impressed he actually got a shot off. All three kept on their merry way, and Ryan said "WOW, those things are fast!"
We covered that once VERY productive cover for the next hour and only managed to put up one more bird? Frankly I was shocked, especially compared to last year. The thoughts of dread entered my mind , Did the spring hatch not make it? Are we truly going from feast to famine in one year?
I decided to pull up from that entire area, and take a ride 45 minutes east. i was hoping the Spring rains were less effective there, and they were. We put up another 12 or so, in about 15 minutes, Ryan making the SMART decision not to take the shot on an EASY going away bird, because he thought it was to close to Dottie, I was very proud of this first time hunter.
This was a cover that I've hunted no less than 40 times over the past 5 years. no GPS needed (as mine is stuck in Idaho in a buddies hunting gear box).
SOMEHOW we got completely turned around in this cover , crossed a swamp, a different road, and I knew we were in trouble. My first thought was " his mother is going to kill me, NOBODY knows what area we were in, and HOW in the hell did this happen?
I explored another game trail that lead to a highpoint, and left Ryan below the hill within earshot and told him to NOT move, no matter what. I got to the top of the hill and found a lake. A LAKE? I've looked at plenty of topo on this area, and don't remember a lake? WTF?
We kept our wits, sat down for a second and left some landmarks, (including my hat pointed in a certain direction), used the sun, and a few spent shells to mark places we could come back to in exploring our way back. I ran into an old trappers cabin. I was already planning on using as a backup plan for shelter , had we not found our way back. I really thought we were in trouble, and this was the WRONG place to get lost, no roads for miles found our way out to another piece of grouse nirvana. The fact we ended up with zero for the day didn't matter. We had a large cheeseburger, a new cover, and the experience of truly being lost and working our way out of it, a very valuable lesson.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Doves, smiles, and one proud dad.

Its a treat when you get to experience a young hunters first bird. I was part of that rare occurrence today when my good friend and hunting partner Randy and his two boys along with my own father decided this morning was going to be a father/son dove hunt.
Wyatt is participating in the "mentor" program in Wisconsin, which requires a full time guardian remain gunless to watch and observe children under 12 in their first hunt. I had lukewarm feelings regarding this new program as I thought in was just to young to allow a loaded firearm in the hands of a child.  I now believe that their are some people that can do just fine with this program, Wyatt being one of them.
He was extremely careful regarding his own safety, and the safety of others during this exciting time in a young mans life. The exciting part was watching his eyes after seeing the first bird he shot at go down in a puff of feathers. He is an extremely cerebral, even keeled, and regimented child (just like his father), but even I could see the smile inside of this proud young man. It was a just a treat to see his confidence erupt on more birds, and to see him start to swing the gun naturally with each passing shot.
His loyal partner in crime and younger brother Ben got into the action holding up our BIG PRIZE pigeon in which they made no bones about turning into some BBQ wings on the grill.
It was a special day with my father also, seeing him on HIS first dove hunt, and him enjoying "live sporting clays", as he calls this new endeavour. So many smiles, burnt powder, great retrieves, and memories made. Man, life is good.