Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Better than a poke in the eye

chilly start to the opener this year
Nearly two weeks into the pheasant season in Colorado and I can say I'm pretty darn happy.  It may not have been the best plan to go to South Dakota for a week... two days before the Colorado opener.  After a walk through a dozen or so unproductive pivot corners and a couple of hit or miss HUGE sections of CRP, I knew for sure I was back in my beloved beautiful home state.  When the dust settled though, there appeared to be more birds than I've seen in years past, strange that this also correlates to an abundance of bird hunters (better hit a weekday if you don't like crowds).  Me, I like the opener for the entertainment value that comes with a sea of orange, bourbon and beer hitting the fields a runnin', so it doesn't bother me that much.  Although I would like to find me one of those Kevlar bullet proof vests just for this occasion.  Frankly, I just like to see a lot of people enjoying good friendship and the outdoors... and smackin' a few long tails. 

I've talked to a few friends and have learned that Sterling and Burlington have both been perhaps better spots than Yuma county this year, at least compared to my success.  Isolated spots around Yuma county were hit pretty hard by a spring hail storm this year.  You'll know right away if a field was damaged by hail.  Best to move on to greener pastures deeper grass.  Still, the area around Yuma is very productive and again there are a lot of birds to be had if you can out smart the rainbow jackal.

The condescending cursing cackle haunts my dreams, laughing at me from distant corn rows!

The killin' wagon with DIY shelf inspired by Matt Ortiz
Daisy, friend Jim's lab.  Her first season.  She rocks!
Jim walking in on a beautiful Elsie point..... HEN! .... DAMN IT!!!!
Shootist and field compatriot Scott and Elsie enjoying the spoils.  Death to all Pheasants!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mythical Beast

Photo: Dr. Shawn Wayment, DVM
For more years than I'm willing to admit, I've been pursuing scaled quail here in Colorado.  I've had to surrender to the little gray bird for several seasons, simply unable to pattern their daily routine or figure out where the damn things live and thrive.  Growing up in Missouri, and having hunted Gentlemen Bob successfully more than a few times, I've kept a steadfast image in my head that if I remained diligent, perseverance would eventually reward me with a bird, or at the very least give me a chance to perhaps see one.  I mean.... they're both quail, right?  How much different could they actually be?  What a sorry state of mind that turned out to be.

Last season I again took a day off of doing battle with my arch enemy, the pheasant, to pursue these noble birds in what I had been lead to believe was their natural habitat.   Now I ask you, have any of you reached a point in your hunting pursuits when you started out the day already defeated?  You know... where you woke up at dark-thirty in the morning and knew you were probably in for a serious bout of burning boot leather that would likely end in disappointment and an empty bird bag?  Well pilgrims, that's how low I had sunk.  Self fulfilling prophecy's being what they are, I got exactly what I anxiously expected - nothing.

Resolving myself to defeat, as well as a creeping suspicion that scaled quail may not actually exist, I determined that if I was ever to chase these birds again, with hat in hand, I would have to engage a professional.  Then I started this blog, and along the way I met some good friends and learned a lot about the pursuit of all things feather, fur and fin.  As good fortune would have it, I also stumbled across a quail man, Dr. Shawn Wayment, DVM, from Setter Feathers and Groused Tales.  After helping me to solve a dog injury, the result of my over exuberant idiot puppy, I confided in Shawn my inability to find scaled quail.  Confident he could do so, he immediately offered to help me remedy the situation and we made plans to meet on the prairie shortly thereafter.

After a good bit of walking the mythical beast was finally tamed, thanks to Shawn's highly skilled and wonderfully patient dogs, and a stray bee bee or two.

Scaled Quail country is large, impressive and intimidating
Industrious, methodical, and a never say quit attitude wins the day
Is there anything more beautiful?
Be prepared to walk .... well... all day
It's well worth the effort though.  Thanks Shawn, for a terrific memory!
Photo: Dr. Shawn Wayment, DVM

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pheasant Euphoria - A South Dakota Odyssey

I read a post recently on Montana Sporting Journal, Killin' Roosters, that gave me a chuckle, and in no small measure made me shout out loud, "Hell yeah!"  In the wake of my recent trip to the pheasant promise lands of South Dakota, it's important that I take this opportunity to echo a steadfast shared opinion with Jay that there is perhaps no other game bird on the upland journey that's easier to hate than the wily rooster.  I likes me some pheasant killin'!

Most birds I hunt with a certain degree of reverence, a tribute to their rarity, survival skills, and apparent ease in eluding me.... but not that shifty underhanded pheasant.  On the other hand, they sure make for a damn fun group outing!  To all those that enjoy, or maybe even despise pheasants, I hope this short film and photo essay will give you a charge.  I'd like to thank all those that participated in the backdrop for this film.  To say they are friends would be an understatement.   My extended family is probably more appropriate. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Steelheading The Dean River

Okay, so I was completely amped about the prospected of writing a new post today about my last opportunity to hunt prairie chickens in Colorado this weekend before the season closes Oct 12th.  That was right before my fearless hunting partner called at the last minute concerned about hunting in such an inhospitable environment right before we take off for our trip to South Dakota on Friday, rambling on about being worried that the dogs might get injured before we leave.  Wimp.

So here I sit, with nothing to do but count the days before we leave.  The guns are cleaned and cased (indecision requires that I bring four).  I've shot a few last minute birds over the puppy, who performed marvelously I might add.  I've weather conditioned my hunting boots.  We've reloaded more than enough 16 ga. shells for the entire season, updated the doggie first aid kit (special thanks go out to Dr. Shawn Wayment, DVM, you really should check this out), checked the extended forecast almost hourly for SD, packed the truck to make sure everything I need can go, then unpacked to make sure I have everything I need, etc, etc, etc. You know the drill. 

So now what?  Let's talk Steelheading.  First, I really should set the table though.  In the Chinese calendar of my life, this was the year of the dog, a new puppy to be precise.  Hence, I'm spending all my effort, not to mention my financial resources, on his development, keeping him healthy and in good physical condition, getting him up to speed, and putting him in front of as many birds as I possibly can.  If there's such a thing as reincarnation, fly shop dog gets my vote for the next go round.

It's fair to say that I'm a creature of variety.  Bird hunting has been an impressive pull in my life, one that has brought me in contact with some exceptionally kind and knowledgeable people and taken me to some breathtaking country.  While I sit here day-dreaming about next week's adventures and what is  sure to amount to a relentless onslaught of heckling, in the back of my brain, I'm never drawn too far away from the second greatest pull that has grabbed me by the arm with unyielding conviction (quite literally) - Steelhead fishing.

Drawn by stories from dozens of my friends who have returned from their fall adventures to BC this year, on what has turned out to be an historic season due to the lack of anadromous netting (go figure), I have difficulty coming to grips with the fact that I missed this year's season entirely.  Perhaps I'll get a chance to fish the quiet Northwest rivers of Washington this winter.  Perhaps not.  Regardless, for some time to come, the only memory I'll have to hold onto is this short video I put together of my trip to the Dean River in the late summer of 2009.

The Dean River is an amazing place, remotely located in some of the most wild and beautiful landscape you can possibly imagine.  Rich with logging and angling tradition, it is commonly accepted in Steelheading circles as the pinnacle in the pursuit for chrome bars.  Genetically speaking, Dean River Steelhead are preselected by nature as pound for pound some of the most violently strong fish on the planet by virtue of fact that only the strongest ones are capable of making it up the Dean River Canyon Falls to earn the privileged right to propagate.  To get acquainted with a Dean silver bullet is to familiarize yourself with a fish capable of moving so fast that they can virtually wrap your line around current flow.  It's an amazing phenomenon to watch your line spin out directly across current, while at the same time, noticing from the corner of your eye a fish doing cartwheels two hundred yards downstream. Compliment this experience with the occasional 35 lb Chinook capable of ripping your arms off as a special surprise, and you've got a winning combination of world class trophy fishing that has no equal.

There is perhaps no other books that captures the visual majesty and history of the Dean River better than that of Grizzly Chronicles by James Sirois.  Given the opportunity to go there, it's well worth the short hike to Jim's cabin from the lodge at BC West to pay him a visit and have your copy autographed.  He'll poor you a cup of tea from his wood burning stove and regale you with endless tales of his furry friends from the forest.

The Dean River is indeed a special place untouched by the modern world.  I hope I'll have the privilege to return there one day soon.   For now, I best get my mind back on pheasant euphoria!