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Jeff
JEFF
IDLEMAN

Cockleburs

Iowa Pheasants 2011

Sun, December 04, 2011

Here I am with Lil and the last pheasant of our Iowa trip. 


iowalil

I love northwest Iowa for pheasant hunting. There is far more cover than in central Illinois and even in a bad year, like this one, there are more birds.  Some forecasts estimated the Iowa pheasant population down as much as 80% from last year.  Even at that, it’s still better than Illinois.

Of course one of the main reasons for hunting is the chance to hang out with friends and make new ones.  I first started going to Iowa in 2004 or so with Jeff Lampe.  It’s become an annual pilgrimage and we have sponged off of his relatives so often I feel like a third cousin.  The conversations in the truck alone are worth the trip.  Hunting new cover and finding birds is a bonus.

This year The Farmer was able to go with us, which improved the quality of the dialogue dramatically.  Also, this trip was special because I was taking my 12-year-old Springer Lil on what will be her last big road trip.  She has been to Iowa and South Dakota in the past and I was concerned to see how she would hold up to 6 hours in the field in dense cover.

The forecasts of reduced bird counts are true.  However, through the generosity of Jeff’s relatives, we were able to hunt mostly private ground and saw plenty of birds.  Last year the weather was miserable.  Foot of snow on the ground, temperatures in the teens for highs and constant high winds. This year, we faired much better.

Day one was spent mostly driving but we managed to hit a public area north of Fort Dodge in the afternoon. It’s an 80 acre pothole with dense grass all around it. Stomped dutifully around the edges and then went into the center pothole area which was dried up.  A rooster jumped up in front of The Farmer but immediately went down.  He had been wounded by a previous hunter.  We rallied the dogs and tried to run him down but the cover was too thick and he got away.

Day two started in a beautiful marsh area near Algona. I had fallen through the ice there last year but almost all of the ponds were dry this year.  We had seen more than a hundred pheasants there last time, nowhere near as many this time.  We did get several opportunities with mixed results.  In the afternoon, we hunted a 240 acre cover that is managed just for pheasant habitat.  Again, not as many birds as the year previous but still plenty of action. The dogs Hawk, Indy and Lil got snootfuls of pheasant scent and the usual chaos ensued. At the end of the day we had bagged 3 roosters and missed plenty.

Day three was the high point of the trip.  Started in the pheasant heaven of day two and used our experience from the day before to work the cover in a better way.  It paid off with more opportunities and birds in the bag.  After lunch, we tried one sparse cover then headed to Storm Lake for the ancestral Lampe Marsh.

For some reason, I am the scourge of Lampe Marsh.  The first time Jeff and I went there it was freezing rain.  I walked into the field, shot 3 roosters in about 5 minutes and then provided moral support from then on (How did you miss that one?, etc.)  Every time I’ve been there I’ve shot well and we’ve seen lots of birds.  This time was no exception.  We ended day 3 with 8 roosters in the bag.  Each of the dogs had done some good deeds and some not so good ones. Without the dogs, we would have seen far fewer birds and the retrieving was vital in this heavy cover.

The Farmer’s pedometer said we were walking between 6 and 7 miles per day.  With the heavy cover, it felt like 20. My favorite memory of day three was when we were sitting around the marsh getting ready to go back to the trucks. Energizer Bunny Lil was working the sparse cover on the fence line we were standing against. I was glad she still had the energy to do this but clearly she was wasting her time.  We talked for at least 5 minutes and suddenly a rooster flushed from the fence row about 20 feet away from us.  We were so shocked nobody fired a shot. A good way to end a great day.

Day four was a quick trip back to the marsh before starting the long drive home.  It was cold when we started and the wind picked up. Even though we had hunted it the day before, we still saw at least 10 birds but most were flushing wild.  As we completed the walk around the perimeter, a rooster Lil had been trailing popped up in front of The Farmer and I.  He was headed for the cattails in the marsh so I snapped off a shot trying to hit him before he got there.  The #3 steel shot worked fine and he crumpled and hit a small tree at the edge of the marsh.

We had a great trip.  Saw new country.  Heard old lies and made up some new ones. Had good visits with Jeff’s relatives. Discovered frips (half French fry, half potato chip.) I was glad that Lil got to have one more go at the excellent cover in Iowa.

Comments

Sounds like a good time was had by all.  Glad you built some great memories out of Lil’s (possibly)last big adventure.

Posted by riverrat47 on December 04

Lil has more great years in her.  I have no doubts.

Posted by Mr Drysdale on December 05

I certianly hope so, Mr. D.  Not knowing her, I made that statement based on Jeff’s comment in the blog.

Posted by riverrat47 on December 05

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