Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hens, Rainbows, Gashed Tail and "It's A Trap!" More Utah Pheasant Hunting

Well, the Pheasant hunt in Utah is still going on. The hunting becomes increasingly difficult with the birds becoming more and more wise to us and our bird dog assault.

I got out yesterday and we saw a few birds, had some great points and witnessed some good dog work but all we seemed to be finding was hens. We saw a few roosters but never had an opportunity on any of them. This late in the season you have to be on top of your game. Any mistakes made by you or your dogs will result in a long flush out of shotgun range. Sometimes you do everything right and the birds still go up out of range.

We had a couple issues during the day. Both involved Chief my young Llewellin. First, last week he caught his tail on a barbwire fence and peeled back a large chunk of skin. It was bleeding pretty bad and required some first aid. Notice the photo on the left and my awesome gauze/electrical tape first aid job. It worked and I thought it was pretty much healed up but yesterday he wagged off his bandage and it opened up again. It took me 3 tries of bandaging it before it would stay on for more than a minute. We got it handled and he's just fine.

2nd problem is he found himself stuck in a trap. Luckily it was a small coil spring trap and did no permanent damage. It did freak me out when I heard the trap snap on him. Chief was calm and just stood there with his foot up until I could come up and release him. I was very angry at first but I realized the trapper has the right to trap in this area as much as I have the right to hunt. I just wish there was a way to dog proof them. I admit it really pissed me off. If I had wire cutters it would of been in the pond. But I didn't and I realized it was an accident and I need to be more aware that when I hunt public lands this is a risk that we need to be aware of.  I'm just grateful I was close by and it wasn't a conibear trap. Thats a real fear of mine. I'm afraid that one of my dogs will be out hunting and stick their nose into one of those and suffocate before I realize that they are in trouble. Yesterday was a good reminder and you can be sure I've studied up on traps and what to look for and how to safely remove them.

Below is a very good article I found on how to release your dog from a trap. Study it! It could save your dogs life.
How to release a dog caught in a trap

Back to pheasant hunting.
My advice for hunting late season pheasants is get up early, hunt late, hunt silently and let your dogs have the freedom to hunt. And importantly when the dogs are birdy get up on them and keep up as best you can.

Late season birds usually won't hold for points like they do the first couple of weeks. They will run and hide and run some more until either the dogs pin them or they run out of cover. We were juked out by a couple wiley birds yesterday. Dogs were stalking and pointing for a long time and just to run out of scent. We hooked back but to no avail. It was very cool to watch. My dogs are hard running fast dogs. The don't creep like some dogs. So to watch them point, loose scent, Run a pattern for another 30 yards, slam into point and repeat for a few hundred yards was exciting.  I believe the birds did a hook on us and were able to get behind us. Who knows? That's how it go's with wild birds you can't win them all.

Honestly that's what makes it fun. This crazy, beautiful bird with a brain the size of a marble is using all it's survival tactics that are ingrained in it's DNA causing you and your dogs to have fits. Its so cool to work a cover just to watch the bird you knew was there sneaking along the private property side of the fence line  into someones farmyard while you just sit there and laugh because there's not a damn thing you can do about it. When working a cover you just have to hope a rooster decides to hunker down and hope you walk past. Those are the birds that end up in your game bag. The survivors are heading for the freedom of the next pasture or fragmite field.

Good luck to everyone still in the chase.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Utah Pheasant Hunt First Week

Utah Pheasant Hunt 2012

Warm Opening Day
We've had a good time chasing Utah ringnecks in some of the toughest cover imaginable. I love hunting pheasants but I hate where we have to sometimes go to find them. I hate fragmites... that says it all. If I can stay out of them and still find birds I'm happy.

We have been successful and the dogs are doing really well. My young dog Chief is really coming on this year and Hazel is still awesome. Such a pleasure to hunt behind these dogs. Love every minute.

Opening weekend was HOT. High 60s. Too hot and too hard on the dogs. We got our limit of birds but it took all day to do it. It cooled off a little during the week and we were able to go out again. But is was the same deal. Too hot and it took a lot of work to get our birds again. I don't mind working hard for my birds but hunting the fragmites for them is very hard on the dog. They were very sore and beat up by the days end.

Highlight opening weekend was when Chief pointed a pair of young roosters. My brother and I were able to connect on both of them. I was stoked for Chief. I don't think he was nearly as excited. He just kept on hunting like he was saying... "Why so excited... that's what I do." I'm very proud of him.

The next weekend we got a snowstorm that dumped about 6" of snow. Perfect pheasant hunting conditions in my opinion. We got out early and Got into them pretty quick. Bagged a couple old swamp roosters that never would of stuck around if there wasn't that much snow on the ground. We stayed out of the fragmites and had a beautiful morning. Fresh fluffy, deep snow makes the birds stick rather than run. It makes for a much easier hunt. Especially with hard running pointing dogs like mine.

It was nice to put some big older roosters in the bag. So far we've been bagging just the young, dumb ones while we watch the nice, big old birds flush up ahead of us out of shooting range.

Unfortunately, the first big snow means the end of Grouse season. Unless you want to snow shoe into the cover that holds them. Dogs are useless in those conditions. And if you can't hunt birds with bird dogs why go. Right? It's too bad. It was a good year for grouse. Oh well. We'll chase pheasants for a couple more weeks and then we'll head for the chukar hills. I better hit the treadmill.

Nice Rooster Caught with no place to run. Shawn's dog had a nice long retrieve to find this one.

Shawn with a nice Rooster
 A good find and retrieve from Hazel.
During the hunt we look up at the horizon and saw a giant funnel cloud moving across the lake. I don't know if you can label this as a tornado but it was amazing to watch water swirling from the lake all the way up into the clouds. Gave us a moment of pause until we realized it wasn't coming our direction.
We don't get tornados in Utah very often. It was very cool to witness it. Camera phone picture doesn't do it justice. It was much closer than it looks it the photo. It died as suddenly as it appeared. So cool.

Utah Tornado? Sure looked like one.

We braved snow, rain, sleet and pea sized hail and witnessed a tornado during this hunt. What we'll go through for a bird hunt.

I swear the things you see when your out in the field. Things that you would never see anytime or anywhere else in your life. Hunting... there is absolutely nothing like it. Stepping out of everyday life and getting to witness nature at it's wildest or even at it's most dangerous. I absolutely love it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

October Bird Hunting

Young ruff that evaded my shot. Hopefully it will survive the winter to make more grouse next year.
My favorite month has come and gone. I did some great hunting with family and friends. Grouse season this year has been a lot of fun. Steady action most every time we went. It was a blast. Hopefully the snow will hold off for a little longer and I can enjoy a few more days in the mountains chasing the ruffs and the blues.
Nice Male Blue Grouse
Chief with a nice Blue Grouse. Chief relocated it after I wounded it. After flying a couple hundred yards Chief pointed it again and I was finally able to bag it on my second try. Great work by a young dog.

At the edge of the cover wondering what direction we should go. I should let the dog decide... She's usually right.
Another Blue for Jeff. Amazing shot on a fast moving bird. The bird was wounded and running. Chief tracked it and caught it after plucking the tail feathers during the pursuit. Nice mature male bird.