Tuesday, November 22, 2016

More Utah Pheasant Hunting

Hazel On Point. Sage Backing

More pheasant hunting last weekend. Our success has continued. We were fortunate enough to limit out again. It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve been lucky. However we have put in a ton of miles in pursuit of these birds. Plus we have a pretty good pack of dogs that are finding these birds for us. 

I’ve really enjoyed hunting behind Hazel the pudelpointer this pheasant season. She loves pheasants and she’s pretty good at it. It’s a strength of hers and at 9 years old she has seen it all and knows how to work and find these birds. She has worked herself into shape and is really hunting hard and doing all I could ask of her. 

Last week I voiced my frustration at losing a couple birds. This week Hazel found a wounded pheasant in the same area we lost one the previous week. I was standing there talking with my son when suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, Hazel flies past me in hot pursuit of something I couldn’t see. I was worried it was a cat or some other critter but soon I figured out she had a wounded pheasant. It juked an jived in the waist high cover with Hazel in pursuit, hopping like a jack-rabbit and voicing her excitement. Finally she got a hold of it after stomping on it’s tail feathers to slow it down. It was a cool retrieve to watch. She was so fired up.

Jack, Chief & Some Fat Guy With A Nice Rooster
Soon after she found the last bird of the day in some thick tamaracks and retrieved it to hand. It was a good day for her and overall it’s been a great pheasant hunt this year. Hazel is now 9 years old, I’m starting to see her slow down and I see her recovery time after a hunt get longer and longer. I can’t predict the future but my guess is I only have a couple more productive seasons with this girl. That’s a really sad thought.  She’s a fun dog and I’ve really enjoyed owning her. She’s taught me a ton. Lessons I will use on every dog I own for the rest of my life. She was a hard one. The first couple of years were tough and required a ton of patience (which I’m short on) but once I let go of all the things I thought she was doing wrong and started enjoying what she did right, I realized I had one hell of a hunting dog. She won’t win many style points or trial ribbons and she may flush a bird or 4 she should of pointed, but she puts birds in the bag. She's pure hunting dog and lives to hunt. She has so much personality and communicates better than any dog I've ever seen. Mostly because she is so vocal. If she's on a bird in heavy cover she will bark ( it used to drive me crazy but I've found it quite useful on many occasions). If she's excited she'll bark, If she's confused she will come and seek direction. It's pretty cool and makes the hunt more enjoyable to have such a hunting partner that works with you in this unique way.

My son and her were born only a week apart. My goal is to have him shoot his first bird over Hazel’s point. I don’t know if it will work out that way but that would be an awesome final chapter to her career. time will tell. 

Again, it's been a really enjoyable hunting season. It's been a blast to work these dogs and spend time with my brother, my son and friends. Just to be out in it, doing what we love to do. We are blessed to have these opportunities. Days like this make up for those days you don't see a thing and you feel like your wasting your time. Wait... scratch that.. I never feel like I'm wasting time while bird hunting. 

Shawn Packing Out A  Limit Of Birds

Monday, November 14, 2016


The difference between the pheasant hunt opener and a week later is pretty substantial. The pheasants have now experienced hunters and their dogs and are savvy to what that means. All of their survival instincts are now on high alert and if they are smart, they know to get the heck out of dodge when we approach. Occasionally we get lucky and find a bird that took the gamble to hide rather than run and if we’re fortunate our dogs will catch a whiff of them as we walk through the area and hopefully the bird decides not to fly until we get close enough for a shot. As the season progresses it gets more and more challenging as a bird hunter to put one of these birds in the bag. A lot of things have to come together to make that happen.

I’ve been schooled enough times by these wild roosters that I try to take a careful approach while hunting these wiley creatures. Sometimes it all just works out and you find a bird that reacts just how you want but it’s been my experience that more often than not the birds are running and juking and jiveing and doing everything they can to escape you and your dogs. I’m constantly fascinated how these birds (and not only pheasants) that have a brain the size of a pea somehow find the best way to survive a situation where the odds are so stacked against them. There are those birds that find that small window to get away. It’s a challenge and that is what I like about it. If it was easy everyone would do it. You have to love it or it’s not worth it. It’s for us bird hunting weirdos who are willing to put in the time, the hours of walking that are occasionally rewarded with a rooster in the hand. When it all works out it's a special thing.

Below are a few things that I think help put more late season birds in the bag. And if your wondering I’m guilty of everything I’m saying not to do and I believe it has cost me on several occasions.

1 - Be Quiet
I see and hear it all the time. Hunters slamming their truck doors, shouting at their dogs, shouting to one another. Beepers and bells on dogs.  Rattling fence gates. All these things will tip off any bird within ear-shot. And once they experience hunters and dogs they remember and I believe their actions tip each other off to the dangers we bring.

Train your dogs to respond to noiseless cues. I use a tone button on my e-collars. It emits a small beep that is only audible within a few feet of the collar. My pudelpointer responds really well to this and it works really well when I want to be stealth and work a cover. Chief, my setter is a little harder to handle and doesn’t always respond to the faint beeping on his collar so occasionally I need to give him a little stimulation to get a response from him. Chief is one of those dogs that you release and let the chips fall where they may. It can be frustrating at times but he’s at his best when he feels free to hunt and do his thing. Only problem is keeping him in a range I like while pheasant hunting. If you must call your dog then at least do it with a whistle. I believe a whistle is less obtrusive and doesn’t put the birds on as high of an alert.

Good dog work was the only reason we saw this bird
If you like to run a beeper collar on your dog, than run it on point-only mode and if you have the option use a hawk-scream or bobwhite quail whistle for the signal sound. I run a beeper on Chief in Point only mode and have the point signal as a hawk-scream. However I’m thinking of taking it off for the rest of the hunt. I tend to use it as a remote “where the hell are you” noise and I believe I’m not doing myself any favors hitting the beeper whenever I’m concerned about where he’s run off to. 

When closing gates and talking and loading guns try to be quiet and stealth. It will increase your chances of catching a bird off guard and cause it to hunker down and hide rather than put on it’s nikes and run for the hills.

Another thing we do is use 2-way radios. If you use these sparingly and keep the volume low it can help you communicate with one another without shouting. However if the volume is too loud or if you over use them they can be more of a detriment than a help.

2 - Increase shot size. My preferred pheasant load is Remington Pheasant Load in 6 shot. 6 shot on the opener and increase my shot size as the season gos on. 5 is probably the perfect pheasant load. And 4 might be better towards the end of the season. However, when  I do most of my hunting on public land I’m required to use steel shot and I’ve decided to use heavier 2-4 shot on pheasants and I’m wondering if 4 is heavy enough. Especially on late season wild birds. We’ve had birds that were hit hard and folded up get up and run after being shot. If anyone has a steel load that they feel is best for pheasants please feel free to share.

3- Be strategic. Before you approach an area think it through. Look to where you believe the escape routes are and remember where you see birds fly to once they flush. Chances are you will hunt the same areas several times over the coarse of a few years. If you have 2-3 people in your party spread out and set up blockers or take the time to approach areas from different angles to increase the chances of pinching a running bird between you. If you have dogs let them hunt and range. Sometimes I feel our best advantage is our pack of dogs and how many layers of hounds we have working and area. My Hazel works rather close now days, Chief will work as big as I will let him and my brother’s shorthairs are mostly medium rangers so we have a lot of dogs causing chaos and confusion for the birds in the area. Sometimes you can tell the pressure is too much and you will see birds flushing wild at distances that don’t help us but if all works rights we get those birds that hold long enough to permit us within range and those are the ones that end up in the bag.
Take a minute and put together a game plan.

4 - Put in the time and walk the extra mile. When pushing a field or area walk to the end of it. Don’t stop short even if the area isn’t producing. Lots of times birds are running ahead and it just takes extra time to either catch up to them or to get them to move in such a way that the dogs can scent them. Hit the areas where most people aren’t willing to go. Actually…  nevermind, just stick to the places that are close to the road. Fields that are easy to walk through and places where everyone else has went. I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Seriously, this is the secret. If you want wild birds you have to put it the time and effort.

5 - Mark your birds. Why is this so hard? I suck at this. I get too excited and blow this simple thing. When you shoot a bird don’t take your eyes off the spot it went down and get to that spot as soon as possible. Hopefully your dog beats you there and soon you see your bird in the dogs mouth before you have a chance to get there. If not it’s crucial to know where that bird dropped and get your dogs hunting for a downed bird as soon as possible. A wounded bird can cover a lot of ground in a surprisingly short amount of time. Work on hunting dead and retrieving in heavy cover during the off months so when the time comes to find that bird that isn’t where it fell the dogs are prepared for it. 

Saturday was a productive day and the dogs gave us some good opportunities but we lost a couple birds that I thought were rather simple retrieves. I blame myself for not doing the things I’ve listed above. I didn’t mark the birds properly and I didn’t work on retrieving like I usually do in the off season and I feel like my dogs have grown soft where they were once very dependable. We had some things working against us. It was hot, there was hardly any wind and the cover was very heavy but I’ve seen my dogs pull of retrieves in tougher situations before. Nothing makes me more upset than losing a bird. I hate it. We spent a lot of time looking for those birds. I wish I could say we never lose a bird.  There was a time that it was very rare but to be honest it happens, it's not cool and I do make a strong effort to find anything I shoot.

Overall it was a fun day even with that frustration. If we would of found those birds we would of limited out again so I can’t complain. Hazel had some great moments that were fun to watch. Chief was not on his game but he hunted hard but just wasn’t as productive as the week before. I think I was being a little too restrictive on him and trying to keep him close and within range and not lost. He gets turned around in the heavier cover. I need to take my own advice and let the chips fall where they may and let him do his thing. Rumor is there is snow coming and I'm just giddy about that prospect. Pheasants with a few inches of snow on the ground.... there is nothing better in this hunters opinion. Can't wait for some redemption after last weeks failures.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


It's Good To See Long Tail Feather Sticking Out Of Our Packs.

Like I’ve said many times before, the Pheasant hunt opener is the “Christmas Morning” of my adult life. I love it. The past few years my enthusiasm for Utah pheasant hunting has been lessened by sub par hunts and sub par birds and overall the experience was not what I had become accustomed to. However, this year was a blast. My brother limited out on wild birds in heavy cover behind good dogs and good dog work. It once again lived up to my hopes and expectations.

Nice Young Wild Rooster

We didn’t go out until about 12:30 in the early afternoon. My brother went out for the opening morning circus with his sons and his boys bagged their 4 state released birds in about 45 minutes. I personally don’t enjoy that circus so I like to sleep in and avoid the mad-rush to get to the easy birds in the morning. My brother’s boys enjoy it and love getting into birds and getting the hunt done early so they can have the rest of their day to do whatever.

Shawn and I like marathon hunts that last for hours and covering a lot of ground following our pack of bird dogs. We like to hunt cover that most people aren’t willing to walk to and we have our spots around the state that we like to hit each season. Some years we do good some years… not so good. Saturday was a good day. We saw plenty of WILD birds and the dogs created some good opportunities. We limited out and ended the day with a nice rooster off Chief’s point just before dusk. It was a great way to end a enjoyable day.

I probably need to apologize to the Utah DWR. I’ve been harsh the past couple of years because of the added pressure and lack of wild birds that releasing birds seemed to have created. For whatever reason this year was much better. We saw more wild birds than we’ve seen in a few years and the cover was thick and able to hide the birds well. If we added some food plots the place would be awesome. If the DWR has a plan and this is the end result I’m stoked. Maybe this is just an up year. I don’t know.

Chief's Bird. He's Forgiven
Last Bird Of The Day
Chief had a strong day and did really well. He started the day getting lost from ranging out to far. I found him after 30 minutes but he immediately did it again but I was able to get him back pretty quickly. He started to run off a third time and I was able to catch up to him and corrected him with a few harsh words and a hat spanking. After that he was a rock-star. 

Hazel had a good hunt as well and hit the cover hard. She had some good moments and a solid retrieve. The trip to South Dakota did the dogs a lot of good. It was a warm day and the dogs were able to work long and hard because they were in good shape and were able to handle the heat and conditions. Pheasant hunting in the areas we hunt is hard on dogs and our dogs did great and had the stamina to last the day.

We had a ton of fun and we can't wait to get out and do it again.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Nice Point And Retrieve By Hazel
My brother and I have been talking about this trip for years and finally this year it happened. We had such a great time. To leave home, work, and all responsibility behind and have nothing to do but hunt for 5 days. It was awesome.

First Bird Of The Trip

South Dakota Sunset
We ended up in the northeast corner of the state. An area neither of us knew anything about. We went in flying blind. However, the morning of the opener we visited the local DWR office and the one of the area wardens happily walked us through the South Dakota hunting atlas and showed us several great spots to get us going. It was time well spent.

First we tried some CRP and Walk-In-Access areas. The first field was a bust. Nothing…. “we traveled all this way for this?” 2nd field…. awesomeness, we saw several birds and I blew a beautiful opportunity.  Shortly thereafter Hazel my pride-and-joy Pudelpointer had a point on a nice rooster that I was lucky enough to bag. 

After that the action was pretty consistent. We didn’t bag a ton of birds nor did we limit out everyday but we saw enough to keep us happy. It was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to go back. The dogs did great and all had their moments where they were top dog.

The Hounds Working It.

My dogs were trashed by the end of the week and are resting and healing on a thick bed in my back yard. They did great and I was proud of both of them. Chief became disoriented a couple times and got himself lost, but we quickly found him. Hazel had a blast and hunted as hard as I’ve seen her hunt in a while. She loves pheasant hunting and I think it’s what she is best at. She was yapping it up all week.

There Is A Setter On Point Somewhere In There

Chief had his moments as well. The last day we were there it rained and Hazel was foot-sore and done for the hunt. So I had a day with just Chief and we had a great time. He was foot-sore and beat up from all the cover he busted through through out the week so I armored him up with a neoprene body suit  and booted his feet. When I put him on the ground he ran like it was the first day out. He had some beautiful points a put up some birds. Within a couple hours we we’re soaking wet and tired and called it a day.

Shawn's shorthairs also had a great hunt and had some great moments and awesome retrieves. His older female Sage is still recovering from a litter of pups she had late last summer and she showed to have more stamina then the rest of the dogs. She's one tough dog. I can see why Shawn is so proud of her and her daughter Oakley.

Last Day Hunt. It Rained All Day.

Tired & Ready To Go Home

It was a great week and I thank Shawn for putting it all together. I’m already excited to go back. It’s amazing the amount of land available and dedicated to bird hunting. They really make it a priority and it shows. Even on a down year we had a great time. We met a ton of great other hunters from all over the country. It was so fun to be with these people and just talk dogs and hunting with them. Not one of them acted the A-hole. Everyone was friendly and helpful. Made me proud to be a bird hunter.

I am inspired to do more of these out of state hunts. We talked about Montana and southern Arizona in the next few years. I’d like to give South Dakota or North Dakota another go as soon as I can. I would also love to go back to Michigan and grouse hunt. There really isn’t a better vacation in my opinion. It was so much fun and I would recommend it anyone who has the time or the means.