Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Quiet Windy Day


Sometimes I wonder why I'm drawn to hunt the plains in solitude.  It doesn't happen often, but from time to time, I enjoy getting out on my own to take in a hunt with no one else around.  Such was the case on my most recent Greater Prairie Chicken hunt.

As the day started, I knew this would be a challenging outing.  The wind was blowing steady at 20-30 mph and conditions were very dry.  After taking in a beautiful sunrise over a hot cup of coffee, granola bar and some fruit, it was time to put the dog on the ground and start pushing up wind. A few minutes into my stroll, I immediately reset my expectations, tuning out visions of recent success and instead hoping that perhaps I might see a bird before the end of the day.

Luck being in my favor, I did manage to see quite a few birds though.  All totaled, I put up17 prairie chickens during the morning hunt, unfortunately with only one shot fired.  This being born out of frustration more than any legitimate shooting opportunity.  While the bird hunting gods were smiling down upon me with game, the wind was proving to be a formidable obstacle.  The birds were jumpy and flushing wild, in some cases a few hundred yards before I was able to move into a shooting position.

The heat of the day began to take hold around 11:00, so I figured it was time to head back to the truck, attend to the dog, grab some lunch, settle in for an afternoon nap, and dream up a plan for the evening walk-about.  I found a lone tree stationed as a sentry out among the sandhills which was large enough for me to park my truck under, providing shade and relief from the afternoon sun.  With temps soaring above 85 degrees, this was a welcome oasis.

My evening hunt proved to be a mirror image of the morning, and was equally frustrating.  Still windy, I was temped with plenty of birds yet given very few shooting opportunities and limited chances for my dog to enjoy his birthright.  We did manage to put the sneak on one unsuspecting bird, hidden against a sunlit amber glowing edge of a grassy bowl beneath the crest of a small hilltop.  Pepper got birdy immediately as he approached the bottom of the bowl, made a hard turn upwind, locked up for a moment, and stood staunch as we watched the bird flush some 30 yards in front of an inquisitive point.  It was a beautiful moment in time.  In desperation, I fired and manage to connect on a long poke I had no business taking.  To my amazement, my young Pepper made a wonderful 75 yard retrieve, elevating him from idiot to life long hunting companion.  I may even have to start using his name.
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2 comments:

  1. I understand what you mean about hunting chickens in solitude. Something about all that big open country just makes it feel right, and I find I can walk forever.

    Glad you got some dog work, too. Puppies can be brilliant or idiots -- usually both on the same day.

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  2. I too like to hunt birds in solitude...just me and the dogs. Not much better than that. Congrats on the chicken too!

    Regards,

    Shawn

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