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Recent entries

Jeff
JEFF
IDLEMAN

Cockleburs

The Next Step

Mon, November 26, 2012

rooster head

The beauty of a cock pheasant is always amazing. It never gets old.

Went out in a very dense fog the day before Thanksgiving.  A friend had drawn a free upland permit for Manito but a little DNR harvest results research revealed that zero birds had been killed there last year.  Quite a long drive for a walk. 

We decided to hunt an area near El Paso that had some birds on opening day.  Made it to the field shortly after legal shooting hours but the fog was still what they call a “shutdown fog” in the barge business and didn’t really let up by the time we quit around 10 a.m.  To illustrate, a harrier flushed out of the grass 20 yards ahead of us and disappeared in about two wingbeats.

Mr. Drysdale had his two springers and we did a pretty good job of covering the filter strips that were available.  Dogs got birdy several times and we found roost sign but nothing popped out of the best-looking cover.  We then hunted to the north and the dogs started circling and acting birdy.  Finally, a rooster flushed near Mr. D. and headed across the ditch.  He folded on the second shot and, after a brief refresher course on the meaning of the “back” command, Libby brought him to hand. We saw two hens at a small final bit of cover and that was it for the day.

Probably the best memory was having the chance to visit with Roger Thomas, long-time hunting buddy.  During the slow drive in the fog Roger described why he enjoyed hunting.  The time outside, the unexpected things you always wind up seeing, the thrill of having your scouting and preparation pay off. 

One thing he said that really struck a chord is that upland hunting is different from most other forms of hunting in that there is always the excitement of what the “next step” might bring.  Deer hunting, goose hunting, turkey hunting – you will spend most of your time in a blind or stand.  The world will go by as you sit still.

In upland hunting, you have to stay in motion and there is always the complete unknown about what comes next.  You might walk for hours in great cover with perfect conditions and see nothing.  You might take your first steps into a miserable looking field and have birds bouncing everywhere.  Couple that with the thrill of seeing and hearing birds flush and you have a pretty good explanation of why I still keep trying even though the odds of shooting a pheasant seem to go down every year.  Sure the time outside, watching the dogs work, the beauty of the birds and the challenges of finding them are important.  But it still needs the added anticipation of never knowing what that next step might bring.

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Thrill of the Chase

Mon, November 19, 2012

sunset

Beautiful contrails over Belva Deere WMA in Iowa.

First day of a 3-day pheasant hunting trip in southeast Iowa.  Sunny weather, beautiful cover, 3 springers working well and we’re 5 minutes out of the truck.  Dogs start getting birdy in a weedy corner.  We move together and let the dogs work it out.  Suddenly, a rooster erupts less than 20’ from me, towers above Mr. Drysdale then heads out.  I let him get a little distance then drop him with one shot.

OK, shooting story over.  That was all the shooting we did the entire trip. We hunted areas we had hunted in the past and found birds.  Not like NW Iowa but 4.5 hours closer to home.  This year, the cover looked great, no spent shells or boot prints from previous hunters, we found lots of milo, soybeans and standing corn.  Kudos to Iowa DNR for good habitat management. However, the pheasants just aren’t there. 

We met a farmer near Hayesville Bend who said there were only 2 roosters in the entire 537-acre area (it felt like he had given them nicknames.)

So, was the trip a bust? Not at all.  Mr. Drysdale and his dad Terry were great companions.  Mr. D’s new dog Maggie is the fastest, most agile springer I’ve ever seen.  It was like watching a pinball machine as she bounced through the cover.  My 13-year-old Lily managed to hunt the whole time. Definitely, slower but still committed to finding birds.

We probably punched out about 20 hens and saw 3 other roosters who flushed wild.  The funniest was on the second day when we stopped for a breather, chatted for five minutes while Lil piddled around then watched a rooster flush 30 yards away who had been there the whole time. Nobody was in position for a shot.

We saw several deer, jumped a coyote, ate some good food, solved several world problems and just enjoyed having the chance to work great looking cover with the prospect of finding birds any minute now.

So far this season, I have fired a grand total of 3 shots in 6 hunts. I may not make it through the top layer of a box of #5’s. 

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Pheasant Opener

Tue, November 06, 2012

Good friends, relatively good weather, nice long walks with the pooch doing amazingly well for age 13.  Now, if there only had been a few more pheasants.  So went my opening weekend.

Opening morning, light steady rain, near freezing but not.  Started in a short ditch that had been surprising productive in the past.  Walked almost 90% of the ditch without seeing anything.  As we neared the end, pheasants started popping out of the densest cover.  Crazy corkscrew flight patterns made for some missed shot opportunities.  Getting too close, coming right at me, have to turn around to try a shot going away, feet are tangled in the briars, losing balance, bird gone.

We did manage to scratch one down and the dogs made a good retrieve.  Went to next cover.  Surprise, another ditch.  Had enough hunters and dogs to cover both sides at once.  Rooster flushed wild in front of me and crossed over.  Not horribly alarmed, just wanted a change of scenery.  Dogs on other side worked well and flushed the rooster near the end of the ditch and The Admiral did him in with one crossing shot.

Loaded vehicles and took a long drive to a large block of CRP that sits a quarter mile from the nearest road.  This particular field has a property line dividing it almost in the middle.  The side we had permission to hunt had been mowed, probably back in August. The other side had been untouched and we could see pheasants popping up and setting down along the central ditch.  The only difference between the two properties is mowing vs. no mowing.  Lots of pheasants vs. no pheasants.

On Sunday, we hunted a very long ditch near El Paso.  This had been productive in the past so we started trudging.  Filter strips enlarged from almost none to almost 50 yards of nice, unmowed brome.  Not the best grass but better than some.  Good cover for my springer Lil. We found a few roosts and sent a man ahead to block as we got about 200 yards away from the end.  As our blocker moved closer to the ditch, one pheasant popped up, then another, then four more came up. 

At the same time, Lil headed into the ditch next to me and a rooster flushed on the far side.  Managed to snap off two shots with no effect and that was it for the day.  We probably walked 5 miles and all the action took place in a 10 second span.

The Admiral had drawn a permit for a PHA near Clinton on Sunday and they saw over 60 pheasants in an 80-acre patch of cover.  They limited out.  At least that’s a good sign that the drought didn’t hammer this year’s crop of young pheasants in places with good habitat.

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