Posts Tagged ‘bird hunting’
Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
Am I the only one who starts telling the story of my hunt in my head before I’m even done hunting? It’s not intentional, and I don’t usually talk to myself. So why do I do it in the field?
Muttering to myself while I walk through the switchgrass, thumb double-checking the safety, one eye on my dog who’d resumed hunting after we worked two birds, … “Scratch went on point about 80 yards in,” I hear me saying in my head. “When I got to him, he started tracking real slow, but his tail kept wagging fast, and I thought I heard a bird moving somewhere in front of him but I couldn’t tell where exactly. So I kept up with him, and just when we were almost to the drainage ditch – you know the one where they planted that strip of milo perpendicular to the road and the deer pounded it down – two birds came up, definitely sharptails, one straightaway and one veering off to the left, and I missed them both. I got so wound up trying to pick one, I missed them both!”
No doubt one of the fun parts of hunting is rehashing the day – how many birds and where, the good shots and the bad shots, and the other surprises long the way. Whether we report in immediately back at the truck or wait until a more mellow moment at home or camp, everyone gets a turn. Trading tales is part of the sporting tradition, but it usually occurs after the hunt.
Since I prefer to hunt alone, my internal storytelling is paradoxical. If I choose to be in the woods or fields by myself with my dogs, why does my mind want to talk to someone? The answer must have to do with time. Reliving moments of action by retelling them not only extends the excitement but fixes those moments in my brain.
There are always days hunting wild birds when you don’t find many. On those days, each bird encounter seems especially vivid. Those few minutes of bird contact, with or without shooting, are very short compared with the many longer minutes of walking and stalking, searching and hunting.
Police try to question witnesses to a crime as soon as possible after an incident, knowing that with the passage of time, details fade in memory. Say what you saw soon after you saw it and the information will be more accurate and lasting in your mind. Similarly, why do we repeat things aloud when we’re trying to memorize something? Saying it makes it stick. So too, with going over what happened when that spectacular rooster sprung out of the cattails and Scratch leapt upward, spinning in the air trying to catch the bird’s tail. Or when the covey of quail split in two with four birds flushing forward and three right over my head. Or when both dogs locked on point facing that deep crevasse in the ledge where I could just barely see the porcupine’s back as it huddled in the far corner.
I’ve decided to let my mind wander into these one-sided conversations while I hunt. The way I figure it, anything that replays the intensity, surprise and wonder deserves a place in my thoughts.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Although most of my favorite outdoor publications annually run the same old tired stories about “getting into shape before bird hunting season,” I don’t think the non-hunter realizes the physical demands of a walk across the prairie, or through the forest, with a shotgun in tow. Similarly, I doubt most forest grouse hunters appreciate the exertion needed for a wild pheasant hunt and vice versa. It’s along these lines the debate in the Pheasants Forever offices last week commenced.
At 5’8” tall, some consider me relatively short . . . Okay, I’m really 5’7” and a ¼” . . . Anyway, I’ve always considered pheasant hunting to be far more physically demanding than grouse hunting. The resistance of the tall prairie grasses, cattails and brush against my short legs have always led to extreme leg fatigue and cramping, while ducking in and through alder swamps and aspen thickets have been relatively easy for me.
To my surprise, my taller colleagues Andrew Vavra, Anthony Hauck and Rehan Nana complained of finding the grouse woods to be far more difficult than the pheasant fields. They find the ducking out of the way of branches, climbing over deadfalls, and squeezing through poplar thickets to be much more of a physical workout than a sojourn across a pheasant prairie. I grew up hunting ruffed grouse in Michigan’s northwoods, while all three of these guys cut their teeth on the open pheasant prairies of Minnesota and Kansas, respectively.
So the debate has got me thinking about the classic nurture versus nature debate, from a bird hunter’s perspective. Are the physical demands of pheasant hunting and ruffed grouse hunting directly related to your height or to the type of hunting one is introduced to in the beginning?
How tall are you, what kind of bird hunting did you grow up on, and what type of bird hunting is hardest on your body?
Monday, September 24th, 2012
I was struggling. It was Sunday morning and I was on the second day of a fruitless grouse hunting/scouting excursion intended to produce some new spots. You see, I’ve been hunting my exact same haunts the last five years and “my” aspen stands were starting to age out of their grousey prime. So, I’d set off east and north of my normal destinations in search of new coverts.
I spent Saturday pounding decent looking grouse woods with very little flushes. And the one layup shot presented to me clanked off the backboard with a horribly makeable miss.
Truth be told, I was really struggling with two nagging thoughts in my mind. First, it was my first solo exploring expedition with two dogs, so I was very nervous about losing my 6-month old pup in the woods. Second, I was nervous about getting lost myself. Despite my GPS lock on my truck’s location, I had trouble diving into the grouse woods with abandon. Fortunately, hope was just around the corner.
Around 11AM on Sunday, I rounded the corner of a state forest gravel road and passed two trucks on my right. To my surprise, I recognized the two faces under the blaze orange hats. If you’ve attended Pheasant Fest or Game Fair in the last ten years, then you’d probably have recognized both of them too. They were Tom Poorker and Mark Haslup from Focus Outdoors Television and Midwest GunDog Kennels.
After commenting on the serendipity of their coming out of the woods at the exact moment I drove by, I shared with them my frustration of learning a new grouse woods. That’s when my luck turned around. Although, they’d both been set to finish their hunting for the day with dog training obligations waiting at Midwest GunDog Kennels, they offered to show me a spot in their home woods. They even went so far as to insist on my two pups being the only dogs in the woods as their bird dogs had already completed their work for the morning.
Needless to say, we found grouse and woodcock in the woods where these two veteran hunters aimed our trio. In fact, Mark bagged a nice opening weekend timberdoodle that my young pup was able to deliver to his hand, and Tom brought down a beautiful ruff with a dandy shot. However, I earned the trophy of the morning’s walk with renewed confidence.
After sharing a few laughs over our impromptu hunting trip and thanking them for their generosity, I went north in search of some spots of my own. And I finally started to find what I was looking for in the woods. In fact, in one particular alder/aspen mix, I elected to hunt my 6-month old shorthair solo for the first time and she produced three neatly pointed woodcock, quickly earning me a day’s limit.
To me, the moral of the story is that membership in Pheasants Forever definitely delivers more habitat on the ground – we’ve got 8.5 million acres of proof of that fact – however, membership in Pheasants Forever also creates friendships. Whether you’re a chapter officer, banquet goer or Pheasant Fest attendee, your involvement in Pheasants Forever will introduce you to new people, good people. Some will even become your friends, help you train your dog, and show you a new hunting spot.
To Mark & Tom: Thanks a bunch for a great experience! It truly meant a lot to me for you to take the time out of your plans to give me a little nudge in the right direction.
Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
Professional athletes’ ages are frequently part of the conversation when talking about the best players in a country’s major sports. With millions at stake, team owners want to make sure they are signing contracts when a player is entering his prime, rather than when they are headed to the “back nine” of their career.
NFL players’ careers average only three years (according to NFL Players Association), so most point toward the mid-twenties as the age of a football player’s prime years. Baseball players tend to reach their prime a little older. Perhaps it’s the blend of physical ability mixed with experience and intellect that leads baseball experts to circle 28 and 29 as the prime years for an MLBer.
This is the line of thinking that has me wondering when a bird hunter reaches his or her prime age. When does a person’s physical ability intersect with hunting experience and intellect in the moment of peak bird hunting performance?
As a 37-year old guy, I’m biased in my perspective on today’s question. I believe bird hunters experience their best seasons in their mid-to-late thirties when they are physically capable of walking hard all day, while also being “seasoned” just enough to have the patience and knowledge to recognize the signs of an upcoming flush before the bird busts from cover. To blend two clichés, “This ain’t my first rodeo and I’m no longer a bull in a China shop.”
However, I haven’t reached my 40s, 50s, or 60s yet. So I must ask the more seasoned readers, “does bird hunting get better for me in the coming years, or am I truly hitting the ‘salad days’ now?” And for all you 20-somethings reading this; you still don’t know what you don’t know. Your best bird hunting days are definitely still to come – guaranteed!
On a related note, bird dogs are often considered to be in their prime at the age of 5. If we take the dog to human year equation of multiplying the dog’s age by 7 years, then a 5-year old bird dog equates to a 35-year old human; further supporting my theory of the bird hunter’s prime age being in the mid-thirties.
In your opinion, at what age is a bird hunter at their all-time best?
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
I stood there watching the numbers – those impossibly large numbers – add up on the little screen in front of me. I’d been standing there a while, and I began to get desperate, wondering if there was something wrong, perhaps a hole in the tank. And still the numbers kept rising. Sixty. Seventy. Eighty. Eighty? Are you kidding me?
And as the pump approached the ninety-dollar mark I realized that my beloved old truck, the one with more miles on it than the Starship Enterprise, the one that had taken me on so many hunting and fishing adventures and (more importantly) back again, the one that perpetually smelled of wet dog and cheesy poofs, the one that averaged – on a good day with a downhill tailwind – about fourteen miles to the gallon, was going to be spending a lot of time this fall parked in the driveway, replaced by my wife’s old Subaru.
The reality of four, five or even (as some predict) six-dollar gasoline isn’t going to make most of us stop hunting, but it is going to force us to get creative in how we go about doing it. Downsizing vehicles or perhaps making fewer trips of longer duration, giving up something else (who needs a new iPad, right?) in order to continue to afford hunting, carpooling on trips to split gas and expenses, camping out instead of motels, cookfires rather than restaurants; all these things can extend the hunting dollar, and, it can even be argued, enhance the total experience.
I’m somewhat lucky in that I live fairly close to decent bird hunting in two states and I happened to inherit a pretty darn good compact all-wheel-drive hunting wagon when my wife got a newer car. I can fit two medium dog crates (goodbye aluminum dog box) and enough gear for a few days’ trip in the back, and it gets decent mileage.
But even at that, my modest income dictates that if I’m going to hunt as much as I want to this fall, I’m going to need to adapt. For example, although much of the time I prefer to hunt alone, I’m seeking out a partner this year to split gas costs, especially on longer trips. And no motel rooms or eating out. I’ll instead dirtbag it in a tent on public hunting camping areas and nosh on my own tailgate lunches and campfire meals.
And you know what? The more I think about it, the more I realize that doesn’t sound like sacrifice to me, it sounds like… fun. I certainly won’t try to claim there’s any kind of silver lining to sky-high gas prices, but with the right attitude and a little creativity it’s certainly not the end of the bird-hunting world.
How are you planning to cope with gas prices this fall?
Chad Love writes for Quail Forever (Pheasants Forever’s quail conservation division). From Woodward, Oklahoma, he is a lifelong upland hunter and “bird dog guy” who also writes the Man’s Best Friend blog for Field&Stream.com.