Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanks R.G.S.

As some of you have read from a prior posts on here, i was part of the stars being aligned, and also waiting for lightning to strike my gun, as i was part of a rare "triple" on ruffs this season.
The Ruffed Grouse society has a club, in which you have to be a member to qualify, but none the less have to sign an affidavit to say you shoot two simultaneous birds in the air at the same time, also a witness. They keep track and then you are listed in their all time records.
Besides this nice little plaque certificate, they also send you a silver pin with two birds on it.
it was a much nicer award than i thought it would be, and it was free!
Anyway, not much to see here, but i thought some of you might enjoy seeing what they actually send you, its quite nice!

Monday, November 21, 2011

I-DA-HOpe I can go back!

I have been hearing what a great upland and waterfowl state Idaho is for at least a few years, from the one time CA resident and my best insurance provider R. Crosby. he liked it so much, he uprooted his family and moved there.
Right from the get go the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. the first day met us with a snowstorm and icy roads. we had tried to hunt the area just on the border or Oregon, and the famous "Hells Canyon."
It didn't take long for us cut a Chukar track, but as usual, the terrain was just ridiculous that these hell chickens dwell in. The rock,shoals, and 80 degree incline combined with a layer of ice and snow, made it nearly impossible for this flat lander to keep his feet and become a member of the under forty hip fracture club. I knew I would have to save some energy and didn't want to burn out within the first hour of the hunt, so i urged Ryan who had been chasing big game through these mountains for the past couple of months to continue on a brief quest to track them down.
He ended up flushing two of them , but no shots were offered. i didn't feel so bad as I watched him come down the hill and fall keyster first onto the slippery grade all with a big smile on his face.
We thought we would drop a little lower and try for what was usually a sizable Hun population at a little flatter and less snow accumulated hillside.
It looked perfect, offering enough rock for hiding spots, and plenty of what we call cheat grass here in the Midwest.
We worked the fabulous looking draws and rock outcroppings for a couple of hours, but it just didn't seem in the cards today. On the bright side, I think I'm evolving as a hunter. I flew halfway across the US, it was 11 o clock, I hadn't flushed a bird , but I could stop gazing at what I was surrounded by. I can honestly say I had never felt so minute, so alive, and  so aware of my surroundings. It was a cathartic feeling, that few to many city dwellers every get the chance to experience.
The next day found Ryan and I heading to the fabled Snake river. I knew I was in for a treat just from the variety of birds and and lack of competition that I was used to here on the ever popular Green Bay. Wading across waist deep current at high levels is always a challenge, but it was SO neat to see Decoy, (Ryan's dog) use strategy in the angles he swam at  downed birds. he's one heck of a gritty dog, not sure I've seen  one more willing to withstand the elements. It wasn't long before we had drake mallards, wigeon, (as pictured) gadwall, among others finishing to our spread of only 11 decoys. If I lived here, it would hard to ever go to work with the ample opportunities of game around every corner.
Tired from the previous two days, to much 44north vodka, (which is fabulous and made from Idaho potatoes) and my well worn body that has been at it hard since mid September, we decided to chase some roosters and quail around his house. we had a few chances at both, but were to busy jaw japing, watching sunsets, or capturing the shots of the trip with my camera. Oddly enough, I didn't care. I hadn't harvested one upland bird on this entire trip, but I did shoot something that  knew would be much more important. I managed to have the perfect light, the perfect backdrop, and capture the perfect moment between two partners that Ryan will cherish for the rest of his life. I was lucky enough for someone to catch a shot similar last year, right before I lost Kwik. the bond between a man and his first real bird dog is like steel. It's the strongest, hardest, and one day coldest thing there ever is, BUT shots like this will always bring a smile, and admiration for the owner, forever. A toast To DECOY!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A snowy, uneventful, ending to the best season ever

What a year.
From the vast ebbs and flows of too windy to hunt, to the extreme heat in the middle of October, this was a year of extremes. So it shouldn't have come as a surprise that a cold, snowy morning met us on our closing weekend of "grouse camp." We usually end camp a week earlier, but thought It might be nice to be able to hunt a weekend longer, i can now say that we probably wont do that again next season.
We always thought "snow hunting" would be a lot of fun, i can now attest, I prefer no snow, none at all. the grouse seem to go and hide in places i have yet to figure out, but I can be sure its not tag elders, lowland pine, swamp, etc, because we worked all those things on Saturday.
Not one single flush made itself known to us this day, but that was OK. we were simply exhausted after working three straight productive covers and letting nothing but snow down the back of our necks Dottie was freezing, chaffed, and beat from the long season that she just wasn't willing to give up on.

We had 50 flush days, got into a nice flight of woodcock, Shot extremely well, and enjoyed each stroll just a little more this year. Maybe it was maturity? Maybe it wasn't? One thing is for sure, i feel a threshold was crossed this year. Dottie made her place in my grouse history as the best pointer I've had. I did end up hunting by myself this season more than years past, which i thought I would hate, but it was quite the contrary.
A closing of another Wisconsin grouse year, lets hope the cycle can remain steady for one more season.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Doodle Dandy

It was the last weekend of our Woodcock season, and they are my trusted partners favorite bird, so I felt a little pressure to take advantage of the nice November weather we had been having, and go to the ONE spot that if there are doodles around, it will produce. Joining us this day was Bob's son Christopher, "esquire" for his first hunt after the long bill.  It didn't take long for Dottie to get birdy, I have no doubt she was trailing running grouse from her pointing style, and the amount of point and stalk instances that were occurring. Then came the staunch, low bodied curl that usually means Woodcock. A quick tramp around a ten foot area resulted in a quick brown feathered friend in the gamebag, then it turned into The shooting gallery that it usually is.
Christopher sporting his 28 gauge and a much quicker gun mount that his father connected on his first with a great shot and big smiles!
After we had three quick birds in the bag, we thought we'd leave some for the sports in Louisiana, and decided to move on to some more productive (or so we thought) grouse covers.  Some of which had produced double digit flushes in small area just two weeks prior.
It just wasn't in the cards today for ole ruff. I'm not sure if someone had just worked some of these areas just before we got here? If the winds or weather changes had put them into the thicker pines? Or, the birds were simply running so much, that we couldn't keep up with them. We saw a couple, but nothing like the weeks before.
I found out later, that a close friend of mine was having the same exact issue in the same general area, and had actually witnessed birds running in the aspen away from his dog on numerous occasions that morning.
After a quick of Chicago style hot dogs and Italian beefs at the "Green Shack", our bodies were nourished and legs rested. Trying to think of a place that had entirely different cover that what we had previously been working, bob and I realized we weren't so far from one of those places, "Kwiks last trail".
I have this cover described in a much earlier post, but it includes a beaver pond, swamp, aspen, pretty much everything on the planet, but its a good half mile walk through unproductive cover to get through it.
About half way to the good stuff, Dottie slams on point, so serious that I KNEW a bird was near, but WHERE? this was a terrible area for classic grouse cover?
As I'm looking around a grouse bursts out a pine/ dogwood cover and Bob connected with is little 28 ga of Turkish origin.
I cried enough on this trail last year, but inside I was crying again. Kwik came through again, like he always did, even Bob mentioned that he knew he was looking down on us and made sure we got one on his trail, he would have it no other way.
After working the entire cover and putting up a few more birds offering no shots, we started our venture back. Dot jumped into the thickest patch of tag alders I've seen in years. it was going to take me five minutes to get where she was, but she was unrelenting, so i had to jump in. Half way into it a red phase offered me a small window between two large pines, I fired two quick shots and it miraculously fell. A great day shared between Friend, Father, and Son.