New Years Eve Pheasant Hunt
Well, at this point (January 3, 2016) another hunting season is pretty much in the book for me. Big game has been wrapped up since the last day of November and upland bird ended on January 1st.
On New Years Eve I got together with a bunch of friends to have a New Years Eve pheasant hunt (we had 12 hunters, with 5 dogs)..one last chance to chase some very skittish, very hard to corner, late season birds. Since mid November I have been looking for a special bird: one that had (has) good winter plumage, wasn't shot to hell, and one that would make a good mount as I've never taken a pheasant to have mounted.
So, out we went, despite the challenging conditions, I was looking forward to the hunt, and my hopes were high. The conditions were good with the birds hanging tight in some cold winter cover. We hunted two different areas, one flat area, thick with upland cover adjacent to cut crops and another area in a huge slough near the river in low crop land. (As a matter of fact, this slew is so big that every year when we have a wondering moose or two drop down out of Saskatchewan, they almost always end up spending some time in that slough!) The first several hours we spent working over the flat area with thick upland cover. We pointed and flushed no less than 17 pheasants and one sharp-tail grouse. Unfortunately, only one of the pheasants was a rooster, and he flushed in front of another hunter in our group that was not on the ball and so he didn't even get a shot off.
The second area we hunted for about an hour and a half and we finished out the day there with an absolutely beautiful sunset. We flushed over 45 birds; I don't know how many were roosters or hens. The Slough is a large cat-tail area that is about head high, and once everyone is in there - it is mass chaos with the sounds of birds, dogs and men hollering "Rooster!" or their dog's name in every direction, none of which you can see around you. There is only one rule, which is a simple one; you can only shoot a bird if you can see clear open sky below the bird and well above the top of the cat-tails. The guys we hunt with are all safe gentlemen (thank God!) and a lot more birds go free without being shot at than probably have to.
All the guys I hunt with that have bird dogs either run various breeds of big burly retrievers or big lanky Griffons, so I always feel a little bad pushing my little Brittanies in that heavy thick stuff in the slough. But, my little male (Teddy) especially, has more of a hunting heart that most of the biggest dogs I have ever hunted around. All my companions that were close enough to witness Teddy's methods for getting around in those cat-tails couldn't help but compliment him. He either all out jumps into them and dam near 'swims' over the tops of them, or he crouches and follows the pheasant and raccoon trails through there like a stealth ninja. The real disadvantage for us is when he locks up on a bird...when its that deep and thick; I can't tell when he is on something! But now that he is in his third hunting season, the instinct he and I have developed seems to work pretty well, and he does a better than average job of flushing the bird(s) at the right time, even when he and cannot see each other.
So eventually I got what I was hoping for while we were hunting the slough...I had a nice big, fat beautiful rooster flush back towards me, and I pulled off a gorgeous single shot (I'm famous for being a two shot bird killer - when I do kill them!). I watched the late afternoon sun radiate his plumage as he gracefully tumbled back to earth. I then marked the spot as best as I could...ever try to mark something when your only frame of reference is head high cat-tails? I was concerned also because I knew my dog would not have been able to see where he went down; so right from the start, finding this bird was going to be a real challenge.
The short of it: we never did find my trophy. We eventually ended up with four other guys stomping around in there along with my dog and the two best retrievers out of the lot all searching for my bird. Unfortunately, the group lost two other birds as well, but a total of four were retrieved.
Here are a handful of pictures from our outing. It was a wonderful hunt, with great friends and laughs on the tail gate complete with cold beer for everyone afterwords, so for the hunt I am thankful. As far as that beautiful late season pheasant, the one with the awesome thick plumage that I was hoping to finally get mounted for the living-room...I guess I'll just have to collect him next year this time.
Teddy working some cover, stopping to get a visual from me (life is tough when your only about 2 feet tall) -he's on the left of the picture:
Again, its a tough life! But there's birds in there...
I enjoyed reading that.
What's the difference between pheasant plumage this time of year vs. earlier?
A griffon doesn't have curly hair, correct? Give me a couple of retrieving breeds that are big, with curly hair, especially if they can be a little aggressive. I'm trying to remember a certain dog I met once...
Until the weather really gets cold, the birds have what they call 'Pin Feathers' which are basically undeveloped feathers in their skin...birds that are mounted with pin feathers tend to look scrappy and not nice and full.
Griffon - are a pointing breed as well, but much bigger dogs (retriever size). Think Chewbacca looking. The other guys have retrievers such as Goldens, Black Labs and a Chesapeake.
"I'm trying to remember a certain dog I met once..." - Did she have perfume on?
Thanks for commenting.
No, and that was part of the problem...LOL
I looked up pics of Griffons and they looked long or wire haired rather than curly.
But I think it was either a Chessy or a Griffon that I was introduced to, and warned about. I was told the breed, but I guess my memory isn't what it used to be.
I just remember thick curly hair, lots of muscle, a big chest (hardy har har...Let me get that out right now) and thinking I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley...
Thanks for posting up those pics Bob. As you'll probably agree, bird hunts with dogs is as much about enjoying the excitement of the dogs than anything else.
Yep, I agree...the dogs are pretty special. I never truly understood that until I owned my own dogs.