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Posts Tagged ‘pheasant hunting’

Petroglyphs up there - one of the lessons to learn.

Petroglyphs up there – one of the lessons to learn.

In another life I must have been an historian. I love the past, reading about it, talking about it, and especially the dazzle of discovery. Besides being with dogs, the chance to span the decades (even centuries) is high on my list of reasons to go hunting. Cresting a ridge to find everyday stuff lost or discarded by those who walked the same path brings dusty books and mind-numbing lectures to life.

I’ve stumbled over sheepherder stoves and peeked (not too far) into abandoned gold mines, camped in willow corrals and counted bullet holes in a Buick abandoned after a foiled bank robbery. Man-made artifacts, each with a tale to tell those lucky enough to walk a bit farther.

A ranch driveway bears a faded sales pitch for an insurance agent, painted on a boulder when the rutted gravel was the only road into town. Pictographs and petroglyphs are a regular discovery in the tumbles of lava that define chukar country. Rock cairns called “stoneboys” by Basque sheepherders, were piled to counter the boredom of minding a flock. Stories from different ages, for differing reasons.

Wagon wheels, lead-soldered cans piled among shattered crockery, square nails from abandoned homesteads, all tie this life to past lives. Everyday junk joins us to predecessors.

Why did someone leave that wooden bucket on this ridge? Who knapped arrowheads, leaving a pile of obsidian chips glittering at the base of this rock? Was that intact spear point dropped in the heat of a chase? A clean miss? What – or who – was the target?

That’s why I love this stuff, the stories. Do you have any?

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This is how you welcome a newcomer, according to Buddy.

This is how you welcome a newcomer, according to the master of the method, Buddy.

The Grandfather and I conspired, I admit. Whose dog would best deliver a bird so that the Grandson had a controlled, safe shot at his first pheasant? He’d broken a ton of clay targets, but never a feathered one, and deserved the best possible introduction to our passion.

I lobbied for Grandfather’s Lab. What a great story that would make! But at his insistence, my wirehair Buddy got the nod. A point, not a flush, would give us more time to safely get the gun to the shoulder, feet pointed in the right direction, staying aware of the other hunters.

The field of head-high grass held promise, and once we entered, a full measure of adrenaline. Three adults, one 12-year-old, and my reliable dog. Bird up! And my veterinarian had the hard left crosser on the ground. Buddy leapt the rushing creek, tracked expertly, jumped the creek again with his feathered burden, and delivered to me waiting on the other side. Good boy.

Grandson was clearly psyched up from the flush, and I had to keep one eye on the uneven ground, one on Buddy, and a hand on his shoulder to keep things in control. A slog or two later, Grandfather called “point,” and we high-stepped our way through the clinging vegetation. Ready.

The rest is a blur. Someone walked in to flush. I kept one hand on Grandson’s shoulder for safety. Veterinarian watched from a distance. Buddy trembled in anticipation of a mouthful of feathers. Brrrrrr! Bang! Bird down!

Another track, a leap across the creek and back, and delivery, then fist bumps and high fives. Grandson’s first pheasant, a pleasant weight in his game bag. Photos all around.

Welcome to the fraternity, WM.

(If you want to take a kid hunting, enter my contest here and maybe you’ll be joining us on the shoot.)

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And then, there was thawing out in Alabama at Dream Ranch.

And then, there was thawing out in Alabama at Dream Ranch.

It’s all over but the shouting. If one shouts at the end of bird season, that is.

Several thousand road miles, a lot of new friends, some new country and a ton of birds … tired dogs and a bunch of oil changes in unfamiliar towns. Every day was an adventure and gratifying in its own way (after all, it was hunting). While you’re reading about some of my peak experiences, re-live your own.

A pair of doubles on Huns in Montana with 6X Outfitters’ Al Gadoury. The dynamic is markedly different when you hunt without TV cameras. Both good, but different. Considering how I shot, I kinda wish there was a crew there.

Passing on the only ringneck anyone saw on opening day at a nearby wildlife refuge because I mis-read the regulations. Aaagh!

Hunting generally northward while a stranger hunted generally southward – toward me. When it turned out to be a training/hunting buddy, all was well in the world … again.

Hunting what can only be described as an American Serengeti at South Dakota’s Warne Ranches. Waves of birds rising from the grass, and on camera!

A chance – after 25 years – to share a field with my dogs’ veterinarian, and have both Manny and Buddy make epic retrieves across fields and raging creeks.

The coldest night I’ve ever spent in chukar country, minus 12 degrees. Warm enough during the day to enjoy, along with bighorns and a great friend. And the realization that for 72 hours we hadn’t heard a train, plane, truck or other hunter.

Horseback hunting with some great kids and their mom, out west for the first time. The wonder of the wide open spaces was clear on their faces. Introducing them to our sport was incredible.

Anyway, you get the idea. Now, what about yours?

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Approach birds from anywhere but alongside your dog. You’ll see steadier points and birds that are more likely to fly than run.

I was again reminded of how working with our dogs, thinking like they think, can produce better shooting from us. In South Dakota, a companion got so nervous (or was he dazzled at Buddy’s performance?) the bird had ample opportunity to fly wild or scoot out from under Buddy’s point.

Luckily the bird held and the outcome was fatal for him. And the lesson will definitely be in my upcoming book. You can preview it here:

First, ensure a solid point and a bird that holds still rather than a scampering off unscathed. Start by being punctual. Once your dog stands the bird, walk in with alacrity. The longer you dawdle, or admire his stunning good looks, or take photos, then the greater the chance a bird will flush wild, run off or the dog will do the flushing for you.

Then, assert yourself. Over many years in many fields one thing is clear: both birds and dogs hold better when the gunner moves with confidence. Once your dog shows you the bird, stride right in and everyone will likely do what’s expected of them. No sneaking, mincing or doubt … this is the time to show you are in charge.

Choose your route with care. Swing wide around the dog and you’ll cut off one of the bird’s escape routes. Two gunners performing a pincer movement means even fewer bolt-holes for a cunning rooster more inclined sprint than fly.

Flanking your dog also minimizes his chance of breaking point. “Allelomimetic behavior” is a highfalutin’ word for the actions of that flock of birds that jinks in unison, or pair of wolves on the hunt, trotting in parallel. Sauntering close alongside a pointing dog is an invitation to follow you into the flush – that’s how we teach “heel,” after all.

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Bill Zeromski, our TruckVault Cares Facebook contest winner, relived 25-year-old memories of pheasant hunting with his father at South Dakota’s Warne Ranch today. My crack production crew of Tad Newberry and Lynn Berland captured every moment, from loading up to his first pheasant and you’ll see it next season on the show.

Cody Warne’s Labs (three sisters) performed admirably, and after an epic first few minutes with clouds of ringnecks, we settled into a rhythm that flushed hundreds of birds. After a few practice shots to warn the birds, Bill knocked on down, dedicating his success to his father’s memory.

After lunch, Buddy shone, producing a shootable rooster after a long stalk  in CRP grasses. Heat topping 80 degrees put him back in his crate soon after, yielding to his grand-nephew Manny. The little guy was as hot as the air temperature, covering a lot of ground from grass to milo, to cut corn and cattails. A few strong points put hens up, and eventually a rooster that was delivered to hand.

Bill’s shooting got more refined as the day went on, putting another bird in his game bag and memories in his mental photo album. Here are some of them. If you like them, please “Like” our Facebook page too.

Memories of the hunt.

Cody and Bill offer Buddy a drink after a hot hunt. He ended up in the cooler.

Lynn and Cody shooting an introductory segment for the show.

The contest’s namesake TruckVault doing yeoman’s duty.

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Interior shot at Cheyenne Ridge Signature Lodge … location for our “Take Your Kid Hunting” episode.

You want variety, you got it! With the conclusion of the Olympics, Wingshooting USA returns to NBC Sports Fridays, 10 a.m. Eastern time. Many of you can now watch two different episodes each week.

This week, here is the program lineup:

Pursuit: Dish Network (Ch. 240 “HUNT” on the program guide) and DirecTV (Ch. 604 “PRST” on program guide). Wingshooting USA will air Monday 7:00 p.m.,  Monday 6:30 a.m. and Friday 7:30 a.m. Eastern. This episode airs on all the other networks as well:

A father-daughter team join Scott at Cheyenne Ridge Signature Lodge in South Dakota where a youngster named Hunter lives up to her moniker. Hunter downs her first ringneck and her experience should serve as inspiration for every hunting parent.

And on NBC Sports Group, Fridays 10 a.m. (Eastern)

Crops, shelterbelts and surrounding scrub at Western Wings preserve in Idaho challenge a mother-daughter brace of Labs. It’s rough-and-tumble hunting in the shadow of dramatic mountains flanking Yellowstone National Park.

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Noted dog photographer Nancy Anisfield was also there, chronicling our work for Upland Almanac and Versatile Hunting Dog magazines. This is one of her shots.

If you watched Cast & Blast and What the Dogs Taught Me on that other network back in the day, you might remember Duke. He is the shorthair that arrived one night, hunted with us the next day, and impressed me with his stoicism and the way he blossomed in that one single Montana day.

Since then, I’ve been curious about his home, line, and the breeders at Pheasant Bonanza who did such a great job with him.

Starting this Monday, watch his relatives work the fields Duke was trained in, and enjoy the hunt! Details on where to watch, here.

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