Posts Tagged ‘bird hunting’

I Prefer to Hunt Alone

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

The author follows Montana's "Big Sky" behind his German shorthaired pointer "Trammell"

The author follows Montana’s “Big Sky” behind his German shorthaired pointer “Trammell”

While I enjoy hunting in the company of a few good friends, I most look forward to the days I get to hunt by myself.


Sure there’s the avoidance of any witnesses to those easy shots missed; however, I think there are two basic reasons why I like hunting alone best.


First, when I hunt alone, I am free to follow my dog without worrying about asking permission from the group or staying in line for safety.


Second, I value solitude.  Sometimes I just want to be quiet, think and walk.  I’m not a fan of planning the hunt, hunting the plan and post-hunt evaluation.  That level of analysis is best left for the cubicle.


Give me a section of grass, I’ll turn the pup loose and follow.  Personally, that’s my idea of the perfect day afield.



When you’re pheasant hunting, which do you prefer:

A)    Just me & my dog wandering the landscape.

B)    Small group of one or two other hunters to focus on the best cover.

C)    Large group of hunters to push big chunks of cover toward blockers.


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Bird Hunting Dilemmas to Ponder in the Off-Season

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

1. Your dog is on point in a nasty, thick blowdown. The bird is pinned and won’t flush.

(a) Do you wait and wait, knowing that if you go into the mess you probably won’t have room to swing your gun even though the bird might fly out the other side and you’ll have no shot?

(b) Or do you move in to flush it, hoping to secure a shootable location before it flushes, figuring it’s better to make something happen in case the bird decides to run and/or your dog breaks point?


2. You’ve trained all year to make your pointing dog steady. As soon as you start hunting and put up a few wild birds, he starts breaking on the shot.

(a) Do you forego the opportunity to shoot, focusing on correcting your dog and re-establishing his steadiness so all that training time isn’t for naught?

(b) Or do you say the heck with it, and take the opportunity to put a bird on the ground for him to retrieve (and for you to eat), figuring you’ll recoup the steadiness in the spring?


3. It’s late afternoon, you only have a half hour left to hunt, and you know of just one more spot that almost always holds birds that you can check on your way back to the truck. But you just shot at one, and while it really felt like you were on it, you didn’t see the bird fall.

(a) Do you and your dog spend that whole half hour, if need be, looking for that bird in case you got it, never wanting to waste game?

(b) Or do you send your dog on a quick search then get back to hunting your way to that last honey hole where the odds of another shooting opportunity are pretty good?

Post your answers in the comments section.

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.

Bird hunting’s Instant Replay

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

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.

What’s Tougher on your Body: Pheasant Hunting or Ruffed Grouse Hunting?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Grouse cover may look like a tangle, but my small stature finds it easier to navigate than the thick grasses of a pheasant field.

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.


Get off the Stairmaster and give pheasant hunting a try for your next workout

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?


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Pheasants Forever, “The Friends with Benefits Organization”

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Membership 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 as evidenced by Mark Haslup (left) and Tom Poorker (right).

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.


Izzy’s first limit of Minnesota timberdoodles

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.


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

When do Bird Hunters hit their “Prime?”

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

The profile of a bird hunter in his prime at age 37.

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? 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.