pheasant hunt Nebraska
The surprise of a flushing rooster is one of the reasons I prefer pheasant hunting. Waterfowl hunters call in their prey (not much of a surprise factor in that although it takes real skill). Deer hunters sit in a tree stand and wait for their game to appear. ( This requires some skill but there’s no big surprise) . I’ve missed many a pheasant that flushed right from under me. Nothing is more pleasurable than watching your dogs hunt. I’ve hunted in 6 decades and have an enjoyed every hunt. I shot my first bird in Gibbon Minnesota on my uncles farm. My dad was with me. He seldom found time to hunt and that day in November is probably the last time he went hunting. It’s a memory that I cherish. I only wish I had photographs of it. He was just too busy trying to support a family with 5 children.
Pheasant hunting can be a real challenge unless you have a dog. My dad picked up a 6 month old female German Shorthair which my high school buddies and I found very helpful in finding the birds. I named her Penny and she had pretty good instincts as far as pointing birds. She was dumb as a box of rocks when it came to retrieving though.
Archie- my first Springer Spaniel
When I moved to Leigh, Nebraska in the early 70’s I had t get serious about getting my own hunting dog. The first year I lived there I hunted without a dog and bird numbers were pretty good so I got some shooting in. In February of 1971 I saw an add for Springer puppies in the Columbus paper. I’d read that Springer’s were an excellent choice for pheasant hunting. When I arrived to select a pup I was lucky because all the pups were still there and I had first choice. I picked the most aggressive one I could find and home he went with me. We called him Archie (after Archie Bunker) He would prove to be one of the best hunting dogs I ever had. I lived in Leigh for 3 years and the hunting was good and access was also very good. Having been a teacher at the time I knew a lot of farmers since their children attended school. Those first 3 years in Nebraska were my best hunting days in the state.
Archie, Augie and Harry
I ended up moving to Fremont Nebraska an area that had much lower pheasant populations. I bought a female Springer and named her Ginger. She never hunted but we had pups form Archie and Ginger. I kept two of them, Augie and Harry. Harry had a harelip and we had to feed him by hand as a pup. He had several surgeries on his mouth and turned out to be a really nice dog with lots of personality.
Augie , Archies son
Augie was really attached to me and had probably the best nose of any of my Springers. I used to hunt all 3 dogs at once. Archie did all the hard work. Augie was kind of lazy and would hunt in easy areas staying relatively close to me. Harry was not the best hunter and seemed to run out of energy fairly quickly. (later on I found that he had diabetes) By the late 80’s I had to spent some serious time to find new hunting areas. My contacts in Leigh were drying up primarily due to a poor farm economy, they were going broke and quit farming.
I started looking west and began hunting the federal wetlands near Clay Center Nebraska. My first hunt near Clay Center was one I’ll never forget. I flushed well over a hundred pheasants one November morning. The bird were wild but I limited out before noon. Archie was getting older and I had to rely on Augie to fill in for him. Hunting got tougher because Augie wasn’t as good. Archie passed away in 1986 and I had to rely on Augie. Augie was about 10 years old so he was also began to slow down.
Guido and me
I was photographing a client in my studio in 1992 and I mentioned my hunting dog was starting to slow down due to age. He mentioned that he knew someone in Columbus that had a litter of Springer’s that he was going to give away. I called the guy, drove to Columbus and picked out Guido. Guido was a great hunter. He was very similar to Archie except he didn’t retrieve birds.
Guido hunted for 13 years. I shifted north during his tenure. The Winnebago Indian Reservation had fairly good numbers in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. However hunting access in Nebraska itself became more and more difficult. It is during this time I decided to hunt South Dakota and I’m happy I did. My first experience was a place called “Dakota Birds” near Gregory South Dakota. The company was run by two brothers. It cost $200 per day including a place to stay. The farmhouse I stayed in was near their farm. It was comfortable and a great place since dogs could come inside and my dogs were house dogs so they needed to be inside. I enjoyed hunting there. They would drive you around to different spots and let you walk and pick you up at the end of the field. In most cases I limited out in 2 hours or less.
By 2002 Guido was 10 and he was beginning to slow down. He was a little grumpy in his old age but he still enjoyed the hunt.
cosmo at age 1
Guido and Cosmo Gregory South Dakota
My last springer is Cosmo. I also acquired Cosmo through a photo client. A couple brought in their 9 month baby with 3 Springers for a photo. The pups were up for sale so I made a deal, $300 worth of photos for one of the pups. I named him Cosmo. He was the most playful Springer I ever owned. I spent countless hours playing tug of war with him as a puppy. Later he became a frisbee fanatic and even at age 13 he still carries a frisbee with him as he goes for his walks. Cosmo was a great hunter.
Cosmo and Me
South Dakota Pheasnt
Cosmo and Me
We still continued to hunt Nebraska in the 2000’s but South Dakota was the place to go. The image above was taken on Thanksgiving Day 2006. CRP was still pretty strong in the mid 2000’s and there were public areas to hunt some pheasants. Unfortunately most of those fields have been plowed and returned to corn. Ethanol subsidies have done a lot to destroy habitat. My South Dakota location shifted farther west to a small town of Kennebec. The first year I hunted there the rancher drove me around on his 3000 acre ranch. Pheasants were everywhere. I got so excited. He let you hunt on your own which is always my preference. There is something about hunting alone with your dog that can’t be matched. Bird hunting was fabulous on his property. It was rare to not get your limit in 2 hours. The years went by quickly and soon Cosmo hit age 11 and he was slowing down. It was time for a new hunting dog. I contacted Springer Rescue and filled out all their applications including a home interview. I passed and when it was time to adopt there were no Springer’s available locally. On a lark I got on craiglist andcheck dogs for sale. Unbelievably there was a Springer listed south of Sioux City about 30 miles. I rushed up there and met Tbone. He was skinny, obviously not well fed. The seller wanted $75 but soon dropped to $35 when I said I’d probably have vet bills with him. I took him home and he bonded almost immediately. The vet said there was nothing wrong with him. I fed him well and he went for 34 lbs to 42 lbs within 3 months
Tbone a Brittany
Tbone a Brittany
I though Tbone was a Springer. He looked a lot like Cosmo when he was young. After hunting Tbone I knew he wasn’t a Springer. He pointed on birds and ranged much more then a Springer. I hunted with Cosmo and Tbone through 2014. In fact Cosmo hunted alone with me the last hunt in South Dakota and we limited out in under an hour. Tbone was benched because of an injury.
I relied on Tbone as the primary hunter in 2015. He did a great job and we ended the year with 31 pheasants 6 quail and 2 grouse.
I’ve pheasant hunted for 52 years. During that time I’ve had 7 hunting dogs. I miss the one’s that are gone. I enjoyed so many happy hunting hours with them. I’m so happy that I have photos of them. If you are a hunter print some of your hunting photos don’t let them disappear into the digital ether.
I’m 67 now and age is catching up with me. I can’t hunt without aches and pains and after a hunting day. It takes me several days to recover but I still love it and I still love watching my dogs hunt.