Thursday, November 25, 2010

No Time to be a Nancy

My last precious day of vacation. I'm not talking about sitting under a palm tree sipping a cold one either. Instead, 25 mph winds and hard frozen snow. It's the kind of wind that makes your eyes water and your chin numb. When the weather is too crumby for being on stand, you can bet my dog is 20 yards in front of me and I'm sporting a sexy orange vest.

I felt like I was in a NASCAR race driving to my pheasant ground. The wind would whip my truck around like it was made of cardboard. The driveway back into our family farm has a long brushy field line alone it that usually hold birds. Not today. It's to open and the wind is beating it up pretty badly. If they are not there, they are somewhere else. This actually is a good thing. The line is super hard to get a close flush out of. The snow is rock hard so they now can run like the little roadrunners they are. They've been pressured now for a month or so and holding tight isn't in their agenda.

This wind will take care of that, I was hoping to myself. As we began and got our first flushes, things weren't lookin' so hot. Positioning myself as best as I could to the side of the cover I was thinking would produce the flush wasn't working. The birds were not holding all too tight to my surprise. Didn't really matter though because we were there and so were the birds. That truely is what it's about. Being there.

So I'm watching my suddenly birdy dog like a hawk just waiting for it. Then, I see him. Head down and running through the brush like he was in the wide open. Sprinting, ok more like stumbling, to get around to the back as fast as I can. Come on, come one. Nothing, and no dog. Off I go. Running down the trail scanning for Dixie. Suddenly I spot the orange collar and she is BIRDY! Staying in check with her we worked the back side of the dike. Finally. A perfect flush. Bead up and bird down. Couldn't have done that sittin' on the coach.

As I was putting my chaps on and switching boots I thought to myself,"What am I doing? Seriously!" I'm not going to lie, the wind sucked, bad. You know what though? It's hunting season and there is no time to be a nancy. Tough conditions can make for a great hunt, like mine today. Sometimes I have to push myself. Like today, I don't know who was in worse shape. Dixie or me. My face felt like if something touched it it would shatter. Her pads were so beat up and bloody from the icy snow it looked like a double lung shot when she walked. Before you know it, it will all be over and I don't want to miss a day. Too many great things could happen to be peaking out the window.

I want to wish everyone a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving. I'm sure many of stories will be told over a turkey in the days to come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Flat Grass

As far as rooster huntin' goes, snow means one thing, flat grass. With our first good coating of snow on the ground I had to go see what the birds were up to. The snow was of the heavy wet kind. You know, the stuff that makes your back crack and pop while shoveling it. It's more like white mud than snow.

Sure enough. At the arrival to my hunting destination I knew what I would be dealing with. All the tall native prairie grasses where as flat as a pancake. This situation can really make huntin' rudies a blast, literally. When you get enough, or heavy enough, snow fall it takes the majority of the pheasants habitat away. Now they are confined to small brushy patches that protect the undergrowth. This specific situation is super awesome and I'll tell you why. One of the pheasants biggest habitat during the winter months are cattails. Well, it hasn't been cold enough to freeze the wetlands up nice and solid. So, with water still under the cattails the pheasants wont be there yet. Now you have birds concentrated in these dry brushy patches of cover that the snow can not take down. Flat grass and wet cattails are rare and fantastic.

Another super awesome thing the snow does for a pheasant hunter is that it takes their legs away. Running birds that don't hold can really cause headaches. Especially this deep into the season. The birds have endured some hunting pressure and tend to be loose and not hold really tight causing out of range flushes. I'll put it this way, a rooster without legs is like a car without tires. Not so good. Wet snow or deep snow keeps the birds from running simply because they can't walk on top of it. This make them hold super tight which allows for some ultra awesome flushes.

My dog, Dixie, and I always let the wind decide what are approach is going to be. I want the wind swirling right up her beautiful nostrils. Helping her detect birds more efficiently and it also helps you guess the direction of the flushes. Birds generally try to flush into or across the wind.

Our first patch of cover was full of birds. As soon as Dixie entered the cover the birds started flushing instantly. Unfortunately, I had picked the wrong side to be on. Kind of always seems to work that way. In complete pandemonium, I sprinted to the side of the flushes. I didn't even make there and I already had a rooster beaded up. Both of the roosters legs dropped with my first shot. I watch him keep going in disbelief, while others will still bursting out of the brush mind you. With my jaw at my boots the rooster continued to gain altitude. I know whats going on here. Heart or lung shot. Typically you see this climbing with this type of shot. Sure enough, the rudie folded up and began a long long fall, right into the middle of our largest slough. This is going to be interesting. We camped out for a half our waiting for the wind to drift the "floater" into range. One really kick butt blind retrieve and the soaked rooster was in the vest. We pressed on for another.

When it snows, go shoot some rudies. The can hide, but they can't run.