Was able to sneak away this past week for some bird hunting with my brother in the SW part of the state – boy, did we have some fun, too!
Friday, Oct 28: (Scouting Day)
Actually we started this day with a little duck hunt, to get us ready for the wing-shooting ahead. We had a heckuva of a show on this clear morning as ducks swarmed around us and the decoys – 20 minutes before shooting time. However, once legal time arrived a few shots were fired and the birds disappeared. So we picked up and headed west to do a little scouting for Saturday’s opener for pheasant and quail. After we stopped to stretch our legs and the 16 belonging to our 4-legged hunting buddies, we went to check out some of our preselected spots-on-the-map to see what they had to offer. We hadn’t gone more than a quarter mile when a good-sized group of pheasants exited a combined cornfield and landed in the very field we had just left – we took that as a good sign! We found more birds at other locations as they made their way to roosting areas from their evening meals. We headed off to supper with enough reason to be excited for opening day.
Saturday, Oct 29: (Opening Day)
Headed to the field pretty early on opening day as we were not sure what to expect in regards to hunter numbers. But we didn’t leave until after we had filled our bellies at the local Hunter Breakfast being served in a nearby community – I love these events. Our early arrival gave us a few minutes to get the last details organized, dogs prepped and listen to the cackling of several roosters in a field across from where we planning to start the season. This almost caused us to divert our attention from our original plans, but the group of birds we saw fly to roost in our intended field the night prior, kept us on task. Once we had enough light for target id, we began the walk with two of our springers, my young pup Pip and Gabe’s veteran Paige. Ten minutes into the field we ran into a scattered covey of bobwhite quail, which provided the first bird in the bag and several spent shells. Paige found our first rooster less than 10 minutes after, and the second a few minutes later – all in front of my brother who made good on both opportunities. We ended the field putting up at least 3 more roosters in range but added just one to the bag.
After harassing a passing flock of prairie chickens that landed on a nearby pasture hill, we switched dogs and picked our second field of the morning. We were hoping it was the location of all the cackling we heard earlier in the morning. Our walk through the area showed lots of promise with good amounts of sign suggesting this was a roosting area. Though, we didn’t run into a pile of birds we did manage to put another rooster into the bag and had two other birds bust wild. We decided this spot deserved more attention on an early morning endeavor.
Field 3 came just after 11:00 a.m. when it was decided a late lunch was preferred over an early one. We picked a field I had hunted last year with some success, but a good deal of the grass had been cut, leaving me a bit skeptical about what we might find there. A bit of “strategery” went into our hunting method for the field so we wouldn’t have to walk back to the vehicle with nothing to hunt. I dropped off my brother and his young springer, Dez, off at one end of the field and then drove around to another corner of the property to work my little french brittany, Carrot, towards a predetermined meeting point to the east. About half way there Carrot slams into a point – then moves a couple of feet and goes rock solid, frozen. I moved in to flush a prairie chicken and made an impressive shot, on my second attempt. A few minutes later she was birdy again and a rooster, unwilling to hold, took to the air – my final rooster went into the bag after a remarkable chase by the small dog. Once we met up with Gabe we heard his tale of putting up several roosters that alluded the gun, but hadn’t gone too far. So, as I headed back to get the vehicle Gabe and Dez went searching for one more bird. It didn’t take long and young Dez had notched her first rooster & retrieve – Gabe’s 3rd of the day.
After a lengthy lunch and a quick nap we headed to the final field of the day to stretch legs and make ready for tomorrow’s hunt. We hoped to run into a chicken or two as we had filled our limit of roosters already, but we were pleasantly surprised to run into a large covey of quail – of which we took a few birds from. We ended the day watching a flock of chickens sweeping back and forth across the horizon and listening to the cackles of nearby rooster pheasants.
The next few days proved to be filled with more birds & some great memory makers – we even had to make a run for more shotgun shells at one point. Oh, I should mention that all our hunts took place on lands open for you to hunt, as well as me. We made use of Wildlife Management Areas, Waterfowl Production Areas & Open Fields & Waters Land. Out entire trip was centered around the 2011 Public Access Atlas. Plans are already being formulated for a return visit in the weeks to come and you better believe I will have my copy of this amazing tool sitting beside me. The birds are there – where are you?