I got out this weekend for the Nebraska opener with my uncle. We had a pretty good day but with other responsibilities it was an early day for my uncle. I planned to hunt the same area on Sunday. I decided however, while pheasants are fun and I do like hunting quail I missed the sand hills and prairie birds. It was a decision that didn't disappoint.
I got up early to make some coffee and let the dogs stretch while the sun had a chance to wake up and begin warming the hills. The wind was pretty stiff and I was beginning to rethink my decision.
We were not far into our walk when the dogs found a pair of Prairie chickens. The fox was on the closest bird before I realized it. It was a nice adult male that almost had all of its feathers fully grown in, including his "horns". It was a first for my dogs and myself. We have found plenty of sharptails out there but never a chicken.
We were headed for a covey of sharptails that have eluded us before. They pulled another trick on us this trip. We found two singles from the group but they were bumped and therefore got a pass until next time. As we swung back to the truck we found another covey of chickens. I took one from the rise and we followed a group of four for our third and final bird.
As we got closer to the truck the dogs went on point along a windrow. I remembered the rancher saying there were quail around and immediately wished for my open choked barrels.
I must have been taking to long for my oldest dog while I took some pictures and just enjoying the sight of my two setters on point.
The birds held really tight and I had to wait for one single to get out a ways not to destroy it. After the shot I marked the covey down and we went to the truck to switch out barrels and swap #6's for #8's. As we swung around to get back to the where I had marked the first covey down the dogs found another. Most of the covey flushed on the far side of a cedar tree and were out of range before I had a shot. Two unlucky quail chose an escape route to the right which gave me plenty of time to get the gun on them before they got over the hill. We followed that covey and took one more bird from it. After we left that covey we went and found the first covey which hadn't gone far. The covey was still making assembly calls which made setting the dogs into the wind easy. I made a bad hit on one on the rise and it was over the trees before I could get another shot off. Thankfully the dogs found the little male after a short search. We hunted in the direction I though the covey would have gone and found a female trying to hide in the wide open. She made a limit of six.
We got back to the truck and the dogs were pretty worn out. As they cooled off I took the birds our of my bag. I realized I had dropped one of the two female quail I had shot. I left the dogs at the truck and retraced my steps but never did find her.
I'm liking that little fox more and more.
My two pups.
It was about 2 in the afternoon by the time the dogs had plenty to drink, pictures were taken and everything put up. I couldn't believe what a day it had been. As I began the drive home the days events replayed over and over in my mind. The Sandhills are really getting their hooks in me, deeply. I realized I still had plenty of hunting light left and still had three pheasant I could legally take. While I never set out intentionally to do it, the cards all seemed to fall into place to take a limit of prairie grouse, quail, and pheasant in the same day. I figured "what the heck" and turned the truck south off the interstate and headed in the direction of a couple small walk in areas I figured would be my best bet to find a couple of birds with my tired dogs.
I knew the crops fields, large CRP tracts, or any heavy cover areas were out of the question for my dogs for sure. Having to hunt small tracts with fairly light cover at the end of opening weekend seemed more and more pointless as I drove on. The first place I had picked already had tire tracks coming and going. I wasn't thrilled but still semi hopeful with the field of standing corn a few hundred yards away. The cover looked good and food was close. We made it 2/3 the way down one side of the field when a rooster flushed. It made a short lived attempt for the corn. A second rooster flushed just a little farther ahead. I regretted then my decision for leaving the open choked barrels on the gun as I watched it sail into the corn with out firing a shot.
D happily brought the rooster back as Emma tried to figure out how to help.
On the far side of the field the dogs got birdy again, in stop and go fashion, as they trailed a running bird. We never saw that bird which I'm sure made a smart run for the corn. We hunted two other similar tracts with out much interest from the dogs. We called it a day a little early. We came up short of our limit of pheasant, but had a hell of a time giving it ago.
Last edited by JoshS on Wed Nov 01, 2017 8:26 pm; edited 2 times in total
Joined: 17 Mar 2017
Location: Endless Mountains of Pa
Fantastic hunt, thanks for taking us along with the great post. Wish I could have joined you, the dog work looks to be fantastic in your pictures. Glad you like your Fox double gun, she is a beauty for sure. Looks like you shoot her well also!
Great hunting sir!
_________________ "L.C. Smith America's Best" - John Houchins
Joined: 18 Jan 2006
Location: Parker, CO
Thanks for the great post and pics. You had a better trip than I. Tried to hunt Thursday in the Sandhills, and the 40-50mph winds kept me inside. Friday morning was a little better, but still 20mph and only in the low 20s. Was my first trip up there, and more of an exploratory trip. Only saw one bird, but learned a lot. Headed south for the Saturday opener with my regular hunting partners, and usually have limits both days, but unfortunately, as I'm sure you experienced, 80% of the crops were still up, and I know there were plenty of birds, they were all hiding. In four days, I shot my Browning Lightening Feather 16 ga. once. Luckily it connected with a nice rooster, so I don't feel bad. in another 2-3 weeks, it will be much better.
Glad to see another setter owner/hunter from Colorado!
Thank you guys. We definitely had one of those rare days were things just fall into place. I hope all of you get a few of those this year!
Thanks Dave and yes I'm loving that little fox more and more.
Flyline check your PM box. It'd be nice to see some other setters in CO. Nothing against any other breed. I grew up with labs and had a really nice EP for a bit before moving to Alaska. They are all fun to hunt behind for their own reasons. I am pretty partial to my two Llewellins as any dog guy should be of theirs. They admittedly have a weakness in the pheasant hunting area. At 45 lbs and 40 lbs they just don't have the weight to push through cover day in and day out like a lab, GSP, or some of the bigger breeds. They are well suited for the prairie, open quail covers, and mountains though.
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