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Recent entries



Year in Review

Thu, January 03, 2013

Hunting partner Lil is starting to really show her age at 13.  Am amazed she still hunted this year.

old lil

A few thoughts as the 2012 upland season draws to a close.

Highlights were:

—Hanging out with friends and enjoying our times in the field.  Something about being with others who have drunk the Kool-Aid makes you feel better about yourself.  Spent 3 days in S.E. Iowa with Mr. Drysdale and his father.  Great cover, good time visiting, very few birds. 

—Watching my 13-year old Springer Lil make it through one more season.  It’s a struggle but when she gets on a hot scent, she can still take off in high gear with all the enthusiasm she had as a pup.  Cataracts are limiting vision, almost completely deaf but still willing.

—Made one circus shot while hunting alone that is still satisfying to think about.  Rooster flushed wild about 75 yards in front of us on a wooded hillside (so far that even Jeff Lampe probably wouldn’t have shot.)  For some unknown reason, he started curving toward me as he picked up steam.  I noticed an opening in the branches and snapped off a shot as he passed at about 40 yards.  He collapsed and came crashing down through the branches.  Lil made the retrieve, one of precious few this year.

—One memorable miss.  Wind around 25 mph and Lil and I were hunting into it.  She punched out a rooster about 30 yards ahead that started flying to my right but then caught the wind and flew by me.  I missed him cleanly 3 times in a row and I’m pretty positive that I shot behind him every time. After each shot I was sure I had nailed him and never even came close.

—Noticed a continuing decline in quality cover.  With high crop prices, there is low interest in renewing CRP contracts.  Most cornfields were disked and waterways mowed (not sure why.)  The public ground we hunted needs controlled burning but I’m sure the lack of funding prevents that.  My access to decent hunting areas has shrunk dramatically.  An inability to draw a free upland permit doesn’t help.  Went to places I have hunted for the past 10-12 years and think bird populations are as low as they’ve ever been.

—All in all, a very sparse year.  Shot 4 pheasants and only missed 2 other opportunities.  Went out several times, none to upland permit areas. Missed out on the usual pheasant trip to N.W. Iowa.  Talked with some people who hunted public ground in the Spirit Lake, IA area and South Dakota and had good trips.  Will have to break down next year and bite off the extra driving needed to get to better hunting.

Enough of my whining. How was your season? Hopefully, there were some more productive hunts.


What are the Odds?

Wed, December 12, 2012


There are all kinds of approaches to upland hunting.  I started with a double barrel 20 gauge Stevens (that I later discovered shot 3 feet low at 20 yards,) walked more than my share of railroad tracks and often hunted alone.  I just went out there and stumbled around a lot, by myself, no dog.

When you go to the outfitter places in South Dakota, almost all of them are focused on big drive hunting.  Blockers and drivers; dogs are usually just used for retrieving, if at all.  Given the cover they hunt and the need to let the sports shoot as many birds as possible, this makes sense.

In the old days, it was common to see drive hunting for pheasants in Illinois.  I’ve done lots of it before becoming a dog snob.  In controlled hunting areas I still see large groups of hunters, very close together, moving at a snail’s pace, pushing every bit of cover as tightly as they possibly can.  I suspect this works but it’s too boring for me.

Now that I’m a dog snob, I still run into hunters who love to drive with large groups and don’t feel that dogs add anything to the mix.  If birds are there, they’ll flush.  To each his own, just leaves more birds for me and my friends.

Having said that, I know that my snob friends and I often hunt too fast, have poor spacing (based on the width of the cover), dogs aren’t infallible, and we are undoubtedly passing some birds. Blasting whistles and yelling commands don’t help either.

I’ve also seen several dogs that were a pheasant’s best friend.  Flushed everything 150 yards away, couldn’t find a scent if their life depended on it, stayed within 5 feet of their master at all times, disappeared over the horizon, etc.

Having said all this, I did run across some statistical evidence recently that supports my belief that good dogs make a difference.  A friend was part of 3 hunts in the same free upland permit area in the same season.  With dogs, four hunters limited out every time.  In looking at the DNR results for this area for the year (who knows how accurate these numbers are) he discovered only 5 more birds were reported killed for the entire rest of the season from this site. 

I’ve participated in hunts myself at upland permit sites that contributed a big chunk of the reported harvest for the year. Maybe a lot of hunters don’t report their kills or even show up for that matter.  What are your thoughts?  Are dogs really necessary for good results or can other tactics work just as well?


One of the Gang

Tue, December 11, 2012

For the past several years, many of my pheasant chasing and dog training adventures have involved Mr. Drysdale and his trusty companion Libby.  We have shared great times and truly miserable times.

No matter the results, we discovered early on that it was more entertaining to have two springers running around than just one.  Even if they didn’t find any birds, it’s just more fun to watch and you have to think all that bouncing around would make roosters nervous and think hard about flushing.

It was a shock last week when Mr. D. called and said that Libby had unexpectedly passed away.  We had hunted together the week before and she seemed to be in great shape.  Much better than my 13-year old Lil who wheezes and chugs through the cover at an ever slowing pace (kind of like her master.)

Here is a picture of happier times with Libby (dog on left.)  This photo was taken during a blizzard in South Dakota.  Most interstates were closed and the cover snowed in.  Mr. D. and The Admiral stuck to it and managed to waylay these roosters in miserable conditions. Unfortunately, Sara, the lab in this photo, also died this fall in an accident. She will be missed too.


While Mr. D. has Maggie well on the way to being a bird dog and maybe, some day, a gun dog; I will always remember the great times we had with the Lil and Libby show.  She is buried in prairie grass with an old hunting coat and 10 years worth of tail feathers.  Not a bad send off for a dog that loved nothing more than hot pheasant scent and punching out a bird.



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