Archive for the ‘Rooster RoadTrip’ Category

Minnesota Recap: Getting Back to Where it All Began

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Pheasant Run #1, the first-ever land acquisition in Pheasants Forever's rich conservation history. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Pheasant Run #1, the first-ever land acquisition in Pheasants Forever’s rich conservation history. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Five days and 2,200 miles after we left Minnesota, the Rooster Road Trip crew made it back to where it all began; Pheasant Run #1 in Nobles County, Minnesota – the first property purchased and made open to the public by Pheasants Forever – and there couldn’t be a more fitting way to end this trip.

Hunting this notable public piece was on all our pheasant hunting bucket lists.  And, at nearly 30-years-old, Pheasant Run #1 still looked prime thanks to the volunteers with the Nobles County Pheasants Forever chapter who use funds they raise to keep the grass growing here and at the other 29 land acquisitions the group has participated in during the last three decades.

This state Wildlife Management Area started as a 40-acre property and has expanded over the years. In fact, this area is in part of a stretch where, if a pheasant hunter was so inclined, he or she could walk nearly seven consecutive miles of public land. These add-ons are also attributed to the efforts of Nobles County Pheasants Forever.

We were joined by chapter board member Nathan Holt and his two black labs, “Nitro” and “Phelps;” board member Chad Nixon and his two yellow labs, “KC” and “Molly;” and board member Bruce Amundson his black lab, “Jackie.” As it turns out, Bruce actually helped start the chapter (#013), so I felt confident with him as my “guide.”

As we spread out across the rolling hills of bluestem, with cattails filling the depressions between, Pheasant Run #1 proved the old adage once again: “Where there’s quality habitat, there’re birds.” Unfortunately, the pheasants were doing what they do best on extremely windy days, flushing wild out of gun range.

Somehow, I was still completely content walking out of that field without a bird. Just knowing the pheasants were there – and will continue to thrive – was enough to check this off as a highlight of my pheasant hunting career.

As the years pass, hunters like us will come and go, bird dogs like “Annie,” “Sprig” and “Beau” will find their first birds here and some, inevitably, will find their last. But, the grass and pheasants will remain thanks to chapters like Nobles County Pheasants Forever. It will be here for the next generation of wingshooters, always calling with opens arms to those who are willing to put on the miles and chase these beautiful birds.

Sadly, time catches up with all of us, and Rooster Road Trip 2013 has to come to an end. From North Dakota to Iowa, we’ve met and hunted with some of the finest volunteers PF has to offer, and I thank each and every one of them for the memories.

It has been an experience of a lifetime for all of us.

Thank you, readers, for supporting Pheasants Forever, our wildlife habitat conservation mission, and for riding along with Rooster Road Trip 2013.

Low Brass is written by Rehan Nana, Pheasants Forever’s Public Relations Specialist. Email Rehan at RNana@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter at @RehanNanaQF.

Rooster Road Trip Dog of the Day: “Nitro”

Friday, November 1st, 2013

MN6

Nathan Holt, a board member with the Nobles County Pheasants Forever chapter, and his black Labrador retriever, “Nitro,” prepare to hunt one of the wildlife complexes his group has helped create.

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor, at ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

Iowa Recap – The Land of GSPs, Labs and Fast-Flying Pheasants

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Pheasants Forever's Rooster Road Trip teamed up with Iowa's Northern Polk and Iowa Capitol PF chapters to profile their public land habitat work. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip teamed up with Iowa’s Northern Polk and Iowa Capitol PF chapters to profile their public land habitat work. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

The fourth state on PF’s Rooster Road Trip 2013 was Iowa, a state with a reputation. Some may call us crazy for hunting in Iowa just 20 minutes North of Des Moines, the most densely populated city in Iowa, but that’s where Pheasants Forever Regional Representative Jared Wiklund was confident we would find birds.

Find birds we did. This was not the 100 bird bouquet of pheasants flushing out of the end of a field, but instead it was a constant stream of birds that would flush in singles or pairs over the three fields we hunted. Speaking with Jared, I mentioned this was the type of hunting I liked because it is best for the dog, as it makes us both keep on our “A Game” while producing enough birds to keep our attention.

We pushed up about 30 pheasants between the three road trippers and five Northern Polk and Iowa Capitol Pheasants Forever chapter members with six birds ending up in the bag – a solid two hours on public land in any state. On the way to Minnesota and the last day of the Rooster Road Trip, I got a call from Jared and it turns out the last piece they hunted after we headed out produced 40 flushes on a 30 minute walk.

Jared, who is not only the PF Regional Representative but a dedicated chapter member with Northern Polk County Pheasants Forever, and the chapter have been working on the fields we hunted to ensure the highest-quality habitat for public land ringnecks in a state where approximately 99 percent of the land is in private ownership. It’s a strong chapter that is willing to put in the hours to keep the pheasant populations up in this area of Iowa.

Later in the day, we hunted with Brooks VanDerBeek, 19, a sophomore at Iowa State University in Ames and his friend Nolan Benzing, 20. Both are studying natural resources and they serve as president and vice president, respectively, of the Iowa State University Pheasants Forever chapter, which was the first college PF chapter to form in the country. While no birds were put in the bag, we did have a great time getting to know the future generation of Pheasants Forever chapter leadership.

Dogs today consisted of German shorthairs and labs. Iowa seems to be the exception to running pointers and flushers together, because as we cut the dogs loose, somehow the dogs all understood the strengths and weaknesses of the others and all six dogs seemed to work as one efficient group. The labs flushed in the cattails when needed, and the GSPs pointed cagey birds in thinner cover when needed.

I’ll be driving through next week to visit family in Kansas City, and given our luck today, I may have to take another two hours for a Rooster Road Trip Iowa – Part Two!

Low Brass is written by Rehan Nana, Pheasants Forever’s Public Relations Specialist. Email Rehan at RNana@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter at @RehanNanaQF.

Garmin Alpha: Yes, It’s Worth It

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

"Annie," a two-year-old red setter, wears the Garmin Alpha tracking/training system. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

“Annie,” a red setter, wears the Garmin Alpha tracking/training system. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Old hunting joke: What’s the first thing a pointing dog owner should do when he loses his dog?

Answer: Pray

So far this season, my 1 ½-year-old setter and I have hunted our way across seven states in the upper Midwest for pheasant, quail, ruffed grouse, sharptails, and woodcock. Every place was unique and gave me a different perspective on upland hunting, but they all had one commonality: Annie got lost.

What brought her back to me, civilization and safety? My Garmin Alpha. As a pointing dog owner, I cannot stress this enough; the Alpha is the most important piece of gear for any big-ranging dog.

Here are some of the reasons why:

From an “Oh, no…” perspective: One of the biggest concerns of mine is having my dog roll too far, become disoriented and continue to sprint in the wrong direction. Knowing that, the biggest advantage the Alpha gives users is the safety net of being able to tell where your dog is to the exact foot. The grouse woods and the upland fields somehow seem to swallow dogs whole five feet in, and while being able to tell where your dog is to the foot may seem like overkill to some, the peace of mind it provides -knowing your dog is casting in front of you at 80 yards and not across the county – makes any hunt exponentially more enjoyable, not to mention worry-free.

When hunting familiar haunts (happy Halloween!), your well-known old barns and fencerows can lead you back to where you need to be. But for the serious hunter, when venturing off to new country, especially in new and different terrain, the Alpha can literally be a lifesaver. Not only does it let me know where my dog is, it lets me know where I am and where safety is. It’s a three-point security system that no hunter should be without. Additionally, having the ability to mark waypoints (or coveys) will easily let you find the trail when you decide to go bushwhacking after a running rooster.

Practice makes perfect: The Alpha is not simply a GPS unit, there’s more bang for your buck. The Alpha has a complete dog training system incorporated, giving you one less unit to pack in your vest. With three separate training buttons, you can set up the collar to stimulate continuous, stimulate momentarily (both either linear or traditional) or tone. I trained Annie to tone recall, which saves your breath so you can yell “ROOSTER!” without going hoarse.

Also, we know there are few worse feelings than accidently correcting your dog. Since Garmin is full of bird hunters, they know this and put a simple screen lock so this doesn’t happen – a touch I know the dog appreciates as much as I do.

Silence is golden: Wild birds get get smart in a hurry, and if you’re going to take the time to not slam the car door when you get to the field, it only makes sense to keep talking/yelling at the dog to a minimum. So, in addition to the tone recall function, when your dog does lock a bird down, the Alpha handheld unit alerts you with a vibrate/beep/visual, as opposed to the standard 100 decibel “car horn” locator ping.

Hunter friendly: I am not always the earliest adopter to new technologies in the field, so when I lost the user manual I feared I had a high-priced paperweight. Instead, the Alpha, which uses a touch screen that can be activated through heavy gloves, was a cinch to figure out and almost set up itself.

Unfortunately, it won’t make coffee: From a more fun side of things, the Alpha is like your own personal hunting secretary, keeping track of all the details you wish you had time to think about. From being able to calculate every variable of speed to distance your dog ran to planning your hunting route to alarm clocks to telling you exact legal hunting times (sunrise and sunset for your particular location), the only time you could get lost is while you’re playing around with all of its neat functions.

Not just for pointers: While this is a tracking device well-suited for big running pointing dogs and hounds, that doesn’t mean it can’t be handy for flushers. Annie and I both hate cattail sloughs, so we avoid them like the plague, but I know they are magnets for flushing dog owners. The principle behind the Alpha remains the same for flushers or pointers:  knowing exactly where your dog is at all times. Since cattail birds can be notoriously spooky, it could easily be used the same for location and recall.

After a year of using the Alpha with my first pointing dog, I feel comfortable saying it is the single most important piece of gear for the safety of my dog and in becoming a more knowledgeable and effective upland hunter.

I won’t hit the field without it, and neither should you.

Low Brass is written by Rehan Nana, Pheasants Forever’s Public Relations Specialist. Email Rehan at RNana@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter at @RehanNanaQF.

Too Cool for School, But Not for Pheasant Hunting

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Nolan Benzing (left), 20, from Gilman, Iowa, and Brooks VanDerBeek, 19, from Oskaloosa, Iowa, head up the Iowa State University Pheasants Forever chapter in Ames, Iowa. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Brooks VanDerBeek, 19, a sophomore at Iowa State University in Ames, wrote his paper ahead of the due date earlier this week so he could skip class, rope a buddy into doing the same, and join Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip for an afternoon of public land pheasant hunting in Iowa.

Brooks didn’t have to twist his friend’s arm too much. Nolan Benzing, 20, is also an underclassman at Iowa State, and he’d already been out duck hunting this morning. Both studying natural resources, VanDerBeek and Benzing are the president and vice president, respectively, of the Iowa State University Pheasants Forever chapter, which was the first college PF chapter to form in the country.

If VanDerBeek and Benzing had a Halloween party to get to later in the evening, they were already dressed for the occasion, though I get the feeling they pull this kind of stuff even when the Rooster Road Trip’s not in town. Hopefully your professor is a pheasant hunter, Brooks, and looks kindly upon you. But if not, you still get an A for the day in our book.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Rooster Road Trip Dog of the Day: “Mazi”

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Mazi

“Mazi” is Uriah Hansen’s German shorthaired pointer. A Pheasants Forever member who volunteers for the Northern Polk Pheasants Forever chapter, Hansen is actively involved in his chapter’s efforts to improve upland habitat on public wildlife areas in Iowa, and he enjoys hunting those areas with his GSP.

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor, at ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

Nebraska Recap – The Best “Mixed” Success a Hunter Could Ask For

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever’s Rehan Nana and his red setter, “Annie,” with a mixed bag found on Nebraska Open Fields and Waters properties. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

“What is your ideal mixed bag hunt?” For me, it’s an easy answer: pheasant and quail in the same field. Nebraska is known for being a mixed bag state, so I’ve been anxiously waiting to get to day three of the Rooster Road Trip, where Nebraska Coordinating Wildlife Biologist Jake Holt tipped us off there had been a good quail hatch.

Unlike many hunting “tips,” Jake was dead on, and the “Cornhusker State” didn’t let us down. In fact, after nearly five days on the road, it brought us up. How did we do?

This was the best day of hunting for the Rooster Road Trip – ever.

Seventeen birds ended up in the bag today. Wild, publicly-accessed pheasants AND wild, publicly-accessed quail.

Our first field was a 30-acre parcel with the perfect amount of diverse cover, which produced a diverse mix of birds. Two munsterlanders, my red setter, and Andrew’s Lab, “Beau,” all hit the ground running. Within the first 100 yards a ringneck busted out of range, but luckily, it wasn’t the only bird. Hens were darting left and right past us.

I let Annie range down the line of hunters and she cast over to Andrew. Even though Andrew owns a Lab, he must have some pointer-owner in him somewhere, because he confidently let Annie work and then called over “Point!” No sooner than he said that, two bobs zipped past our line and our shot. Thankfully, those were only the scouts. Immediately after, a healthy 15-bird covey made the grass shake, and we scratched two down.

“Where we have grass, we have birds,” Holt said.

Pushing the field out, pheasants started flushing like grasshoppers in August. A rooster crossed right-left (my favorite shot), and thanks to well-placed Federal Prairie Storm 4’s, it ended up in the pack. Within 80 yards, we put up another covey of birds, and I dropped a cock bird. So, thirty minutes into hunting Nebraska, I had my first Cornhusker ringneck and bobwhite, a sequence I’ll play over and over again in the off-season. Thanks, Nebraska!

Shooting a Browning Citori 725, I had the opportunity to pick and choose my shells/barrel. Knowing I was officially in mixed bag country, I dropped a 7 steel in the top tube and 4 steel in the bottom. Shortly before the end of the field, I managed to bag my second rooster of the day on another right-left crossing shot (Rooster Road Trip Roadies, do you agree with this shell combo? What would you have used in this situation?).

I wish I could tell you names and other shots taken, but truthfully, there was too much shooting and too many birds to keep it straight! What I can tell you is every field we hunted produced in a big way, and these are areas open to you too. The Open Fields and Waters Program is a joint project of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever.

The only thing that topped the hunting today was the company. We were joined today by Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners Mick Jensen and Lynn Berggren. On the ride over, Commissioner Berggren and I discussed his youth growing up hunting pheasants in Nebraska and how he passed his outdoor tradition on to his children. He mentioned how important pheasant hunting has been and still is to the communities in Nebraska, both culturally and economically, and the positive things that are being done, especially with getting youth involved, to carry on the traditions.

From the dog work, to the pheasant/quail combo to the camaraderie, today will probably be one of the best days afield this season. It’s always a pleasure to share the field with people who share conservation and outdoor ethics, and today was no exception. With the last field pushed and photos wrapped up, the Nebraska commissioners and biologists heartily invited us back for a late season hunt, and after the day we had, there is no doubt we’ll be back.

Annie’s Tracks according to the Garmin Alpha: 9.61 miles

My Tracks: 6.30

Rooster Road Trip Gun Review: Browning Cynergy Feather Composite

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

The Browning Cynergy Feather Composite 12 gauge. Photo by Rehan Nana, Pheasants Forever

The Browning Cynergy Feather Composite 12 gauge. Photo by Rehan Nana, Pheasants Forever

Until this week, I’d never shouldered an over/under shotgun. Hunting pheasants across five states in five days may not seem like the ideal time to not only switch shotguns, but switch from the only action (pump) you’ve known for nearly 20 years. Thankfully, the Browning Cynergy Feather Composite has made the transition seamless.

So seamless, in fact, the first longtail I swung on in North Dakota crumpled at the report of my first-ever o/u trigger pull. As I cracked the shotgun open to eject the spent shell, for a moment it seemed like my life was complete. Then, when the dog retrieved the bird and I put the Cynergy up on my shoulder for a memorable trophy picture, it was.

While this o/u isn’t yet a classic in the aesthetic sense, the black composite is striking enough to draw looks in the field, and the gold enhanced grayed finish is pleasing up close. The composite make also has an almost “sticky” feel to it, making for confident gripping and shouldering.

Weighing in at just 6 lbs. 7 oz, with an ultra-low profile, the Browning Cynergy Feather Composite is the type of shotgun you can carry around the field all day, or in my case, five consecutive days.

One North Dakota rooster escaped unharmed when I momentarily forgot I wasn’t carrying a pump. I had all night to brood about this golden hour operator error on the safety and one unfulfilled dog. I vowed not to let it happen again, that tomorrow is a fresh start. Seeing the next rooster flushed coming back to me in the mouth of a happy little dog made me feel like I’d been shooting this Cynergy my entire life. And if all we can do is live in the moment, I had been.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Rooster Road Trip Dog of the Day: “Diana”

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Diana

“Diana” is Mick Jensen’s small munsterlander, shown here with a rooster bagged on a Nebraska Open and Fields and Waters property in northeast Nebraska. A Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioner, Jensen represents the state’s northeast district in overseeing the state’s fish, wildlife, parks and outdoor recreation resources. The Open Fields and Waters Program is a joint project of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever.

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor, at ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

Rooster Road Trip South Daktota Recap – GSP Edition

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

SD6

From left, German shorthaired pointers “Mojo,” “Chance” and “Jackson.” Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

What I’m about to write may come across as being a bit blasphemous, perhaps even somewhat deranged but hear me out, because in the long run I think I made the right choice.

Today I consciously decided to have my yellow lab, Beau, take the day off as we hunted the pheasant rich region of Pierre, South Dakota. That’s right, she sat crated as I chased birds.

After doing some pre-road trip scouting (read: hunting) Saturday and Sunday in North Dakota followed by a hard day’s hunt on Monday, I figured a day off in SoDak would pay dividends as we weave our way through the rest of the trip. After all, the bird dog cavalry was in town.

Linking up with us outside of Pierre was a motley crew of five hunters, five yellow labs, and four German shorthaired pointers. Wasting no time, the proverbial line was quickly drawn on the icy dirt road: Team GSP would go east while Team Lab would head west.  I chose east.

Being a lab guy, I saw this as a good opportunity to experience a different style of bird hunting. You know, the kind where every shot is a well-orchestrated layup and thick cover would be avoided in favor of flowing fields of grass. I was wrong, at least about the thick cover part.

Forming a line with PF Regional Representative, Mike Stephenson, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Jim Ristau, and Habitat Specialist, Justin Derga, we set out behind the four GSPs and cut straight toward a large section of cattails.

With fresh snow revealing recently laid pheasant tracks, we slowly navigated the thick thermal cover. With the exception of a few wild flushes, the dogs repeatedly locked-up on birds that were more than comfortable sitting tight until a well placed (or lucky) boot forced a move.

All-in-all we saw more than a hundred birds in that one section. Of the birds we kicked up within shooting range, most of them were hens but we were able to scratch out five roosters before heading back to the truck. Granted, a couple birds slipped through our patterns and one was smart enough to wait until we were reloading to show himself, but that’s why it’s called hunting, not shooting, even if you’re walking behind a pointing dog. And that’s tough for me to admit.

Who knows? Maybe today’s hunt was just what I needed to push me over the edge and put my name down on that wirehair I’ve been mulling over. But even if that’s so, it won’t be for a couple more years. Right now I’m still loving every second of following Beau because as the saying goes, “flushers have more fun.” Right?

All kidding aside, today was encompassed by great people, stellar dog-work, textbook public habitat and flushing pheasants. Whether you’re team pointer or team flusher, that’s something you can appreciate.

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Marketing Specialist.