Tuesday, December 1, 2015

PLANTERS & COCKLEBURS - UTAH PHEASANT HUNT 2015

Chief pointing a running hen

Again - my apologies for the lack of posts this fall. It’s been very busy with a lot of personal plus career changes have kept me from the blog more than I would normally like. However, we have been hunting. 

hot day grouse hunting. Over 70ยบ.
This stream was a nice relief.
The grouse season kind of ended without much to report. A bird here and there but we weren’t slaying them by any means. It was another warm fall and I had most of my success during the early morning hours. Chief has discovered his new love - turkeys. We had more points on turkeys this year than ever before. It was fun to watch. 

When the Utah general deer season opened that was pretty much the last time I went grouse hunting this year. recently it has snowed enough to shut down the areas I normally hunt or  at least hunting with dogs is over. 

The first Saturday in November opened to a packed reception of hunters of all types busting through fences ditches and marching through Utah’s wetlands all in pursuit of the wiley rooster pheasant. Utah again planted over 13,000 birds in the state lands and that has brought out the hunters in droves. More hunters than I’ve seen in 30 years. Usually the opening day is a mad house but after that the number of hunters reduces over  time until it was rare to see other hunters in the field after that. Not this year. Every wma has a few trucks parked outside the gate almost every time I've checked or been out.

We  hunted the opener and bagged a few planters, maybe a wild bird or two, but since then we’ve moved out of the busy areas and been in pursuit of the wild birds and the challenge they bring.

Still, we seem to bag more planters than wild birds no matter where we hunt anymore. These poor released birds are so dumb and ill equipped to handle the conditions, habitat and hunters. It’s practically a mercy killing in some instances. Frankly, with the added pressure of all the new hunters coming into these habitats its killing the wild bird populations. I’ve seen a gradual decline in the areas I hunt in both hens and roosters. I appreciate the effort the state is putting in but it’s almost ruined the hunt for this hunter. OK maybe ruined is a harsh word but it’s definitely diminished the experience. I ranted about this last year and I feel more strongly about it this year. 



Hazel Working It
I’m sure the state dwr is labeling the new pheasant hunt standard as a big success. I totally disagree. If people want a pheasant farm canned-hunt experience there is plenty of opportunity in this state to do so. There are dozens of places available to go shoot a pen raised bird if that’s what your into. Personally, I like hunting wild birds. Key word being wild. Not liberated or released - but wild.  Birds that a couple hours into the hunt are juking and jiving dogs and hunters, using all the powers that have been instilled in them by generations of survivors. That’s hunting. Shooting a decimated sick bird that has been wearing a blinder it’s entire life and is then dump trucked into a wma doesn’t compare.  All this while a dozen hunters wait for the DWR guy to leave so they can “hunt” the birds they just saw released. It’s not hunting in my opinion. That’s just shooting birds.

I’m sure I’m in the minority on this but I’d love to see a different approach based around habitat and supplementing in the late spring rather than during  the pheasant  hunt.



I have gone to many pheasant farms in my day and have had plenty of good experiences but I understand what I’m doing. I’m trying to simulate real pheasant hunting. It’s similar, but it’s not the same. The dogs don’t know the difference and they usually just think they fell into pheasant Shangri la and have a lot of fun. Pheasant farms are also great for bringing along a young dog. Getting feathers in front of their noses and simulating the hunting experience under more controlled conditions can be just the thing to get a young dog hunting and hunting the right way. But don’t fool yourself it’s still not real pheasant hunting. Same goes for what the state of Utah is doing. It’s not real pheasant hunting and I believe in the long run will be detrimental to wild bird hunting and also it’s just a bad look to those who don’t hunt. Anti-hunting groups jump all over this type of thing and why wouldn’t they. We’ve got to find a better way.

Habitat, predator control and stricter rules on access to these areas could make things a lot more interesting and make for a better more legitimate hunting experience. Pay for it with an upland stamp if needed. 

Chief attempting to rub off a cockle bur against my leg
Other than that rant I’ve enjoyed getting out and watching some good dog work. The most entertaining part is watching the dogs work the birds. The most memorable events this year were dog’s working some wild hens. It’s just so fun to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I love actually putting birds in the bag but it’s so much more fulfilling when you take that bird from your dog’s mouth and feel the weight of a nice full, healthy wild pheasant with in-tact tail feathers with spurs and everything that makes a rooster pheasant all that it is. That’s a trophy... especially in this state. If you get a couple of those each season it makes the rest of it worth it. We’ve bagged a handful of planters and a couple nice wild birds and seen a ton of points on hens and we’ve also been juked out by some wiley roosters that have left us scratching our heads. But that’s what I love about it. 

Pheasant stamp yo!

It's time to hit the Chukar hills.