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A Bird Hunter's Journal

Old 11-18-2004, 09:45 AM
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Default A Bird Hunter's Journal

Friday, 11/12/04, 8:37am, Dallas, TX
I'm convinced dogs are smarter than people. As I begin to load up the SUV for another return trip home to hit the opening of Kansas pheasant season, my yellow lab gets excited. By the time he sees the old 870 Wingmaster and worn blaze-orange vest, he's practically bouncing off the ceiling. He knows what this weekend is about. My neighbor, on the other hand, doesn't. With several boxes of shells, sleeping bag, boots, dog bag and sheathed shotgun leaning on my vehicle, he walks over looking puzzled. "So what are you doing this weekend?" I hate the city.

5:24pm, Mount Hope, KS
On my way through, I stop by Grandma's house for a surprise visit. I haven't seen her in months and it'll be my hide if I don't stop in to say hello. Two minutes into my visit she tells me about how much rain they had last spring, how there should be plenty of cover for the birds and that it should be a great weekend. God bless pheasant-hunter grandmas.

6:32pm, Lyons, KS
After driving through downtown, I'm buzzed by a corporate Learjet taking off from a single-runway airport west of town. Even rich folks apparently heard this part of Kansas should be thick with birds, 'cause no one flies a jet into this small town unless it's Opening Weekend or the pilot's drunk.

7:07pm, Great Bend, KS
Finally meet up with the rest of the guys at the Traveler's Budget Inn; guys I've hunted with for years. Handshakes are discarded for hugs and introductions are made to several new faces in the group. Discussion turns to the recent shooting of two local (and federally protected) whooping cranes by a few idiots (who, by the way, turned themselves in after an impressive public outcry and are waiting to be charged). After wishing the culprits a swift death, we remind the new guys they can't shoot the big brown birds tomorrow. Only the ones that look like peacocks. We also go over a few safety rules so the old hands feel better about hunting with the new ones. Rumor has it that many out-of-state hunters have been seen knocking down "private property-no hunting" signs in the area so they can claim a field wasn't posted when they're busted for trespassing. Several muffled threats are made by the group to no one in particular.

Saturday, 11/13/04, 6:16am, Great Bend, Ks
We're an odd bunch. Most bird hunters are standing in a field before sun-up. Us? We're standing in line for a second helping of biscuits and gravy at the local Elks Lodge (they offer a Hunter's Breakfast on Opening Day every year). One of the many perks to hunting private land is that you don't need to worry about beating someone else to your field. It will be there when you're ready. Besides, the birds aren't even up that early. They like to sleep in on occasion too, you know.

1:46pm, Rush County, KS
Not a bad morning. We see a good number of birds and the dogs (two labs, one pointer and a weimaraner) work well. Personally, I pull the trigger twice. Harvest one and double on another. As a group, well, let's just say the skeet range is in order for a few guys. There's just something downright funny about hearing several shotgun blasts, followed by several mumbled cuss words which, in turn, are followed by guys laughing up and down the line. We stop in for lunch at the only burger joint in the county to watch the rest of the KU/UT football game. Due to karma and a bad referee call, the good guys lose the game in the final 11 seconds and Texas wins. I need to go shoot something.

5:17pm, Rush County, Ks
Back at the old family farm, we count the day's work. Fifteen birds. Not bad when you consider the group missed three times that many. We drop the tailgates, crack a few beers and clean the birds under a dropping sunset. We recount the day's hunt, relive old ones and just enjoy the company. They write songs about stuff like this.

Sunday, 11/14/04, 6:53am, Great Bend, KS
It rained last night. Not enough to cause problems, but enough to hold scent and give the dogs a sporting chance. The morning looks promising. We throw back a few muffins with Diet Coke chasers for breakfast and hit the road.

8:56am, Rush County, KS
We walk a few small draws, several cut milo fields and the biggest, baddest CRP field I've ever hunted. How big? We walk it three times and I know we didn't see all the birds there. Two of the dogs bump a badger and lose some nose skin in the process. Some birds flush early; some hold tight. Think the X Games have excitement? Try holding it together when a pheasant flies up your pantleg and plants a kiss on your cheek before flying off behind you. I may need to get on some blood pressure medication when I get back home.

Noon, Rush County, KS
The best table to eat from is the dropped tailgate of an early '70s baby blue Chevy pickup. With bread, lunch meat and homemade cookies, we eat like kings. A few roosters are heard in the milo filed across from the old farmhouse. We hit that field next and bag a few more birds for our troubles. My dog finds a bird that was dropped and then lost for well over 10 minutes. Man, I love this.

4:30 pm, Rush County, KS
Total tally for the day? 21 birds. Most of them are young, but a few big spurs can be found in the group. We hand out a few more beers, snap a few pictures, clean the day's harvest and divide up the hard-earned booty. Several in the group have long drives and early Monday morning jobs awaiting them, so they slowly head home. A few of us, however, don't want the weekend to end just yet so we stick around a little while longer. And only a Bird Hunter could truly understand why.

ToddBDS is offline  
Old 11-18-2004, 12:28 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2004
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Default My attempt to write a hunting story

I enjoyed your story about openign weekend around Great Bend. My son & I went to Bucklin KS and our group shoot 20+ opening day. This story below happened last season I hope you enjoy reading it.

12/23/2003 Wellington, Kansas

This was the Second Annual Christmas Break Pheasant Hunt in South-Central Kansas. This hunt began, as a chance for son Brandon (KU & PSU)and his classmates form Wellington High School Class of 2001 to get together to hunt, share stories, spend some time outdoors and relax after a “trying” semester at college. Add in some of my; teaching and refereeing buddies and you have a hunt. All the returnees from last years hunt were very excited with memories of the great hunt of 2002 exactly year ago. No one on the hunt will ever forget the highlights of WJHS 8th grader Tyler getting the first bird, Gerry's (WSU) now legendary hip shot, Ryan’s (KSU) bagging his first pheasant ever and Brandon getting his limit of rosters for the first time in his hunting career. That cold, snowy, successful hunt would be hard to top.

We met at 7:15 the day began with 16 hunters and 3 dogs all black labs; the number had grown from the 2002 hunt. We would need all the hunters we could get because the weather today began in the 30’s and it was going to reach into the high 40’s, with a clear sky and dry. The birds were going to be in the large milo fields not hold up in the heavy cover like the year before. The last thing said to the newcomers to hunting in the area “his is not like ESPN or the Outdoor Channel we may or may not get any birds but we will work hard and have fun.”

Our first stop was a small farm about three miles northeast of Wellington, the county seat of Sumner County. Brandon my son had talked to the farmer the night before and he told him that he had seen some birds just west of his driveway and to have at them. This part of the field was thin uncut milo that had been hurt by the lack of rain late in the summer. The first drive began with 14 hunters walking west with the sun rising at their backs, what a beautiful sight; and two blockers at the end of the field. The field ended with a 15-yard wide path of grass next to a hedgerow so we felt two blockers would be enough. The farmer’s information was great the drive had just begun when the first birds got up in shotgun range, luckily for the birds the hunters had been studying at college or working behind desks so after a number of shots all left the field safe. On this first drive only one bird was bagged, a great shot by Greg of Wellington one of the blockers. He shot the bird about 35 yards away from him going into the hedgerow. It was not a clean kill but I was able to run it down as it passed him on the other side of the hedgerow. The group was down in the dumps because of the poor shooting but we could not set there and lick our wounds we need to walk the cut part of the field that headed back to a weed patch next to a railroad track. This drive began with the blockers getting about 15-20 hens up as they walked next to the railroad tracks. As the drive hit the weeds the birds got up wild out the sides. The group got only one bird out of the weed patch on a clean kill by Steve of Derby. It was decided that if we could do this dive over we should have would walk from the weeds to the cut milo. Even after deciding we walked the field wrong we still should have had six or more birds in the bag, but we had two birds with lots of misses.

After a short drive a few miles north and west we came to our next field the local hunters called the railroad tracks. This is a field of cut milo; the property has a windbreak to the south, a draw and old railroad line through the field. The plan for this field was to make three passes through it going west, east than back west again getting the birds to the north end of the field. The northeast corner is a low spot that is to wet to farm so there a lot of weeds in about an acre of ground, which is were we wanted to birds to head. On each drive I got 50 yards a head of the drivers to keep the birds from running into the trees in the windbreak to the south or back into the field that we had just walked. We made our three passes through the field and by the time we got to the north west part of the field the birds began to fly. The first one tried to escape by flying wild ahead and north of the walkers but I was there to make a clean kill on an overhead swing shoot I was very surprised . As the drive came to the end of the field the excitement was in the air as bird after bird got up with shouts of hen and roster filling the air. After all was said and done we bagged five birds and left enough rosters to ensure next years crop. “It is great when a plan comes together.”

When we got to the next field we new we were going to lose six of our hunters soon because of other commitments (work, family Christmas outing, and dental appointments; where are their priorities, there are birds to hunt) so we just walked the south end of a milo field across from a wooded water way. This field has strips of uncut milo and weeds in it the farmer could not cut it with the rest of the field because it was to wet at harvest time. As we ended this drive a roster pheasant got up going low and fast he headed strait for one of the blockers, Austin (OSU) with one shot from Austin’s beautiful black and silver over and under the bird fell dead almost hitting Austin’s lab Jake who was setting right next to him. Cooper (Dartmouth) made a great shot on a bird that got up as we were searching for a downed and running bird. The low point of the drive came when the last roster to get up for the drive flushed in front of about four walkers and in front of a blocker the roster climbed and after about a dozen shot rang out he flew off safely to the trees to the west. We knew that there were more birds in this field but after loosing six hunters we decided to go a mile north and hunt another field.

Now we had seven walkers and three blockers on an 80-acre field of Grandma’s land we made one pass on the south end and got two birds. The most entertaining thing to happen in this field was when Zach (KSU) shot a bird that we could not find at first. All ten of us had seen it go down and had a good mark and two dogs working to find the downed bird. After a search of about 5 minutes all the sudden Brandon took off running he was chasing the downed bird. Making a great tackle and retrieve to loud laughter from his fellow hunters.

It was noon and we needed to get some lunch and head south for the afternoon hunt. But we decided to walk the north end of a milo field across from the wooded water way and we were glad we did. Scott, Steve’s nephew from Atlanta, Georgia and Spencer (KSU) Steve’s son shot a bird that Zach's dog Trigger retrieved and then the bird got away from the hunters, the chase was on. With Trigger going full speed he made a great second catch and retrieve. We had eleven birds for the morning as we head back to town.

After a quick trip to town to get a burger and some more shells. The hunting party headed south toward South Haven and the Oklahoma border Zach and Garrett were our host and guides for the afternoon hunt. Garrett had received permission to hunt a field next to his home that was a cut bean field that ran into a field of winter wheat that had 15-foot wide half-mile long strips of tall-uncut hay grazer. We began our afternoon hunt walking the cut bean field that had some hay grazer stalks left from last season from the east to the west hopping to drive the birds to the cover of the hay grazer. About half way through the beans a covey of quail got up, Scott shoot one but the rest went across the road to an abided farm site that would have been great fun to hunt but it is in Oklahoma. The rest of the covey was safe from us. With two men walking the a strip and one blocking most of the pheasants were getting away so on the last two strips we had two men walking, two men blocking and three on each side to keep the birds from running out and flushing wild. This worked great on the last two strips we got nine birds and only two got away that got up in range one went done after being shot in the strip next to us but we could not find it. The other one got away after a clean miss by Mike after it got up in front of him he missed because of; take your pick of excesses: the sun was in his eyes, he was winded from the tough walk in the strips, his gun jammed, he could not get the safety off, any of these will work. On the last strip as the walkers were coming to the end it did look like a TV hunting show a rooter came cackling out and Brandon shoot him just then a second one came out and Steve and I both hit it. Brandon picked up both birds with 5 yard of each other. Nine birds from the field and hundreds of hens, all of are hearts were pumping hard because of the constant flushes. There was going to be lots jumps in the night as we dreamed about the constant flushes under our feet.

A few of the roosters that did get up wild went to a field that Garrett owns across the road and a little north. It is a low cut milo field with a small and a large draw in it. Brandon and Zach R. (KU) walked the small west draw and got up four birds and bagged the two rosters that got up in range. The rest of us walked the big draw that cut trough the field with Zach B. and Garrett blocking we got one bird up but is was a clean miss, more seed for next year.

We went about a mile west of the strip field for the next field to hunt. This was a weed patch south of the Hunnewell elevator that looked very birdie there was lots of good cover going into a cut bean field. A covey of quail was flushed and Zach B. got one as it flew past him as he blocked. As the walkers came to the end of the field a shot knocked down a roster and it took off running across the road this Jayhawker Pheasant wanted to become a Sooner in the worst way but for the second time in the day Brandon made a great tackle and retrieve as the bird was heading south into Oklahoma.

It was getting late but we had one more field to walk a small patch of CRP ground east of Hunnewell, Kansas. As we drove in we say about ten birds settle into the grass we were going to walk. The group walked it form south to north with two more rosters getting up in range both right in front of Ryan and both where added to the number of birds we took on this hunt.

As the sun was setting it was now time for pictures, the birds were stacked and counted, 25 pheasants, two quails and lots of happy tired hunters poised for pictures that will be treasured for a lifetime. After the pictures were taken, the birds were divided up, and email address exchanged it was time to head home. But no one wanted to leave no one wanted the day to end. What a great hunt it ended up being. We meet Scott from Atlanta who thought it had been the best upland game hunt he had ever been on. Steve & Brandon both getting limits, December 23rd is Brandon’s lucky day. Ryan is now a veteran hunter getting three birds and it was no big deal. But most important aspect about the hunt was the chance to continue old friendships and making new ones as we share the Kansas outdoors. Come to think of it, it was better than what you see on ESPN and The Outdoor Channel.
crusaderhunter is offline  
Old 12-07-2004, 09:39 AM
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Default RE: A Bird Hunter's Journal

Great into into positive endeavor. I grew up on pheasants in PA but never had the birds like you in the back of a truck. It reminds me of my late german shorthair who worked hard to bring game home. Gosh, I've got to get to Kansas and hunt some birds.

Thanks Sean
Bowhuntingsoccermaniac is offline  
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