Tag Archives: pheasant hunting

53 years of hunting memories

WInter birds

My first pheasant hunt was in 1963. I was 15 years old and so excited that I couldn’t sleep the night before. I shot my first bird near Gibbon, Minnesota in Moltke township. My uncle Ed had a few good areas to hunt and my dad went with me. It is the only time he ever hunted with me and it was a memory I will always cherish. I can still remember the field that this first bird flushed from, I was sporting a borrowed 12 gauge single shot. The bird flushed into a stiff wind and my dad hollered shoot. I raised my gun aimed, pulled the trigger and by golly the bird dropped. I ran over to pick up the bird. Earlier that year I had hunted on my uncle Eldon’s farm with a borrowed 410 shotgun. I was walking a fence line when 3 roosters erupted. I shot and felt a powder charge hit my right eye. The firing pin had blown out the gun. I could hardly see out of the eye for several days. Fortunately no permanent damage occurred.

The following year I started hunting with two high school friends. None of us had a car so we would talk my mother into driving us out into the country and we would hunt all day and walk back into town. We had a great time but didn’t get a lot of birds. One time we were bored so we would throw one of our caps in the air and shoot at it.  A Weimaraner showed up and started hunting with us. All of a sudden our hunting improved. The dog followed us home. My dad new the farmer that owned the dog so he drove to the farm and returned the dog. We asked if the dog could hunt with us again. The farmer agreed. Our hunting year improved a lot. None of us were very good shots. I had purchased a single shot 16 gauge and my friends sported a 12 gauge single shot and the other a 12 gauge pump. The guy with the pump shot no more birds than the rest of us. He just used up more shells.

I purchased a Westernfield 12 gauge pump the fall of my junior year. I still use that gun today. It has been repaired a number of times. I estimate I shot 800 pheasants with it. I have no photographs of my early hunting years with the exception of one 8mm reel of film I took in 1965. I had a hunting dog of my own at the time it was a German short hair, named Penny. She had a good nose but wasn’t the smartest dog I ever owned.

Penny, my first hunting dog

I hunted in Southern Minnesota through the early 70’s. Habitat was being removed at a rapid pace by 1970. Many farms had sloughs on them. In the early 60’s the government subsidized the drainage of sloughs while at the same time paying the same farmer to  idle acres under the soil bank program. By the mid 1970’s most sloughs were gone. Flooding along rivers is more prevalent without the water capturing sloughs. Modern agriculture has literally destroyed wildlife populations in many parts of the mid west.

I graduated with Biology teaching degree. I accepted a teaching job in Leigh, NE. The abundant pheasant population was the main reason I took the job there. I could hear pheasants crowing all the way around the town when I walked up to school. Year one I hunted with other faculty members without a dog. On opening day the superintendent brought his black lab along. The dog got on a hot scent in the first field and took off. He spent most of the morning trying to track down his dog. I remember a lot of pheasants. Some of the hunters were complaining there just weren’t as many birds as last year.

My first Springer-Archie

The above picture is obviously a fake. It was taken on a farm where I took many pheasants. The owner of the property only farmed 160 acres and not very well, but the place was loaded with pheasants. His son a student of mine took the photo.  Hunting in the Leigh area was fabulous. I only  lived there for 3 years but it was some of the best hunting of my life. Since I was a teacher I had a lot of students whose parents farmed. It was easy to get access to private land. 

I got 35 pheasants one year. My Springer, Archie was the main reason. He was an aggressive hard hunting dog that never gave up. He was one of the few Springers  that I had that consistently retrieved birds.

The best hunting day I ever had came in 1974. I had moved to Fremont but still had lots of access to private land back in Leigh. I went with a party of four on opening weekend. I ended up shooting 9 birds that day. The main reason I did so well was my dog worked close with me.

Archie was my best hunting dog. He hunted until he was 13 and even then he often rooted up birds his younger son’s missed.

All three dogs hunted but Archie was the  main hunter. He hit the heaviest brush and was very persistent. Augie the black and white standing in the photo was lazy. He probably had a better nose than Archie but he didn’t like going into heavy cover. He was a good retriever however, probably because he was always out in the open and could see where the birds dropped.

By the early 80’s habitat was being removed a lot in the Leigh area and my access to landowners decreased. Some lost there farms during the rough Carter years. I did some hunting around Fremont and got permission from  a farmer in Herman to hunt. I got a few birds here or there but hunting was getting a lot tougher. 

By 1985 I was relying on an organization that identified farmers that would allow hunters ( yes, there were actually farmers that would let you hunt on their land) As a member you had access to their list and you could call a farmer and get permission to hunt. I found one farm around Wahoo that was quite productive. I hunted there 2 years and did quite well, but he lost his farm and the new owner removed all the cover.

Guido was my hunting dog at the time and he did quite well hunting the basins.

I kept looking for new places to hunt and found a great spot in the Clay Center area. I’d never hunted there and when I arrived at one of the sloughs I was surprised when I saw a bunch of pheasants flying across the road into the slough. Unfortunately there was a big sign saying steel shot only.  I didn’t have any steel shot. I had to go back to town and buy steel shot shells. Well I did that and returned that morning, I probably flushed over 100 birds. They were wild but I got my limit. I returned to that area for several more years but it was 150 miles away and I was looking for something closer.

The CRP program was instituted in 1985 and improved in 1990. Habitat improved. Hunting got better. My access to public land had disappeared, however. I found out that the Indian reservations on the east part of the state had pheasant hunting with a special reservation license. The Winnebago reservation had some good hunting. Thurston county had always been a good county for the birds. I hunted the reservation a number of years. It extended my hunting season by 2 weeks since their season started two weeks earlier than the states.

I’ve had a number of memorable hunting days but the one that stands out more than any is the hunt I had one December day.

That morning I decided to hunt a creek that lead to a patch of CRP. I barely reached the creek and a rooster flushed. I dropped him and crossed the creek to retrieved the bird. My dog Gudio was really working the brush of the small creek. Soon another ringneck flushed. I shot and missed. I walked another 100 yards or so and Guido flushed another bird and then a few seconds later another bird. He flushed some more singles and I dropped 2 more. By the time I was done He had flushed 10 single roosters and I had shot up a half a box of shells but I got my limit. To this day I have never had that many individual flushes in that short period of time.

The last year I hunted the Reservation was 2004. Habitat on the reservation was disappearing and pressure on the little habitat that was left was increasing. It wasn’t worth hunting there anymore.

Photo taken Winnebago Reservation

I always wanted to hunt South Dakota so I finally made my move. There was an add in the newspaper for pheasant hunting in Burke, South Dakota. I responded and set up a 3 day hunt.

I had Gudio and Cosmo as my hunting companions and they had a ball. The landowner would drive us around to various spots and we would proceed to hunt. Hunting was good and I normally limited out in several hours or less. The property also had some quail as well as grouse and Hungarian partridge. In all my years of hunting I only shot 2 partridge and I only recovered one of them.

I was down to one dog by 2006 but Cosmo was in his peak years and hunting was good in South Dakota. After 3 or 4 years I decided to try another South Dakota ranch. I found it in the magazine that South Dakota Game division mailed out. I was blown away when he drove me around his property showing me the  borders. Pheasants were flying up everywhere. At that time he had 3000 acres and they were loaded with birds. He let you hunt on your own and told you to be careful to stay on his property.

I’ve hunted the Dakotas for roughly 15 years. The hunting has been fabulous with the exception of 2012 a bad drought year. 

I’ve taken several friends hunting in South Dakota. Hunting costs are high. Trespass fees are $150 a day. Motels run roughly $100 day and the license is $120 for 10 days. I hunt South Dakota two different 4 day periods. To keep costs down I hunt public land on the first day. It has been difficult hunting public land although I did limit out one time on it.

Nebraska hunting is getting more difficult every year. This last year most of the birds I shot were released by Game and Parks on some of their properties. 

Since I’m getting older driving long distances to hunt and return the same day is just too tiring. I try to stay within 90 miles and often hunt for only 2 hours and return home. If there are birds around my Brittany, Tbone will find them. My best hunt and a memorable one was in the Tekamah area this year. It was on private property and I limited out in 20 minutes after flushing 7 roosters. I hunt this property once a year and pay to access it. The birds are all wild, no released  ones.

Hunting pheasants and photography are my two passions. I only regret that I don’t have many photos from the earlier years of hunting. I had a cheap kodak camera when i was in high school and it never dawned on me to take any photos when hunting. Today I always have at least one camera in my vehicle at all times. I have the phone of course but really prefer a camera.

I know my hunting days are limited. At least I will have the photos of those lovely days in the field.

Canine tribute continued……………Make prints of those important memories!

Springer Spaniel pupppies

Springer Spaniel puppies

In 2002 I had a client contact me about photographing some Springer Spaniel puppies with their baby. They said they had 8 pups and I recommended that they bring in only 3 so it would be easier to work with them. I mentioned I was l looking for a Springer because Guido my exisiting Springer was ten years old and slowing down as a hunter. We made a deal and I traded $300 worth of photos for Cosmo. He’s the dog on the right side.

Cosmo 10 weeks

Cosmo 10 weeks

Cosmo as a pup

Cosmo as a pup

Cosmo was always photogenic. He had these big eyes that would just grab you. As a pup he was extremely playful and after a day of photographing high school seniors I would play tug a war and ball for hours at a time.

Cosmo and his frisbee

Cosmo and his frisbee

Cosmo with frisbee

Cosmo with frisbee

Springer with frisbee

Springer with frisbee

We used totake  many walks at the park where Cosmo was known as the dog with the frisbee in his mouth. He carried it everywhere.

Cosmo with ball

Cosmo with ball

Cosmo also had his favorite ball to play with in the house. He loved to play tug of war with it.

Cosmo after successful hunt

Cosmo after successful hunt

I introduced Cosmo to hunting when he was only 4 months old. He hunted along side Guido and mostly played during the first year out. He was quickly acclimated to gun fire as I took him down to the gun range and let him hear the shotgunners practicing. He never flinched. The above photo was taken when he was one year and four months old. He caught on to hunting very quick and aided me in a number of pheasant limits.

Cosmo and me after hunt

Cosmo and me after hunt

One thanksgiving my wife Carmen came along while Cosmo and I hunted. We had been married for over 20 years and this was the first time she ever went along. Of course she took the picture which I cherish because I can’t get a picture like this on my own.

Cosmo and me South Dakota

Cosmo and me South Dakota

We hunted South Dakota every year. Unfortunately Cosmo got cut by barbed wire on this trip and I had to cut the hunt short by a day.

Cosmo, me, and grouse

Cosmo, me, and grouse

I used to get a grouse permit for the eastern part of the state. You received 3 tags and were allowed to take 3 birds for the season. On this occasion I got 2 grouse with one shot.

Pheasants Winnebago Indian Reservation

Pheasants Winnebago Indian                    Reservation

We used to hunt the Indian reservation. On this occasion Cosmo flushed 10 roosters one at a time out of a creek area. I shot poorly but managed to get my limit.

Cosmo  flushing pheasants

Cosmo flushing pheasants

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On rare occasions bird hunting was so good I would get my limit early and then photograph Cosmo flushing birds. The first photo was taken on the Indian reservation. I got my limit in a half an hour that morning. In 2011 South Dakota was crawling with pheasants and I had some real opportunities for photographing Cosmo at work.

Cosmo with and without haircut

Cosmo with and without haircut

During warm weather Cosmo gets a haircut. Since he has an affinity for water I is much easier to clean him up after a walk. He’s never seen a puddle he didn’t like.

 

Cosmo's retirement hunt

Cosmo’s retirement hunt

This is Cosmo’s South Dakota retirement hunt. He is 12 years and 4 months at this point. Tbone had hurt himself the previous day and I benched him, hunting only with Cosmo. Although slower than Tbone , Cosmo hunted well that day. He did a good job flushing birds and helped retrieve every bird I shot. The old boy still had it in him.IMG_2278

Cosmos Nebraska retirement hunt

Cosmos Nebraska retirement hunt

We had our final hunt of 2014 in Tekamah Ne.  Cosmo did well considering Tbone covers twice the territory because of his youth.

Cosmo 12 years 6 months

Cosmo 12 years 6 months

Cosmo is slowing down but he still likes to carry his frisbee around and play tug of war with his ball. It is hard to see a dog get old. I will truly miss him when he’s gone. Cosmo is the last of 6 Springers that I’ve owned. It is the end of a dynasty.

Tbone- my Brittany

Tbone- my Brittany

During the summer of 2014 I decided to get another dog. It was that, or quit hunting in a year. I had contacted Springer rescue and jumped through all their hoops, which included several interviews as well as paperwork, to get an adult Springer. I was accepted as an applicant but found at the time only out of state dogs were available. On a whim I checked the dog posts on Craigslist. I couldn’t believe it someone listed a Springer. It was a young dog and the owner was in Onawa, IA. The drive was about 70 miles, so Carmen and I went there to check out the dog. Tbone is a very dark brown and because of his color I thought he was a young Springer, who hadn’t filled out yet. He was terribly underweight, tipping the scales at 34 lbs. The seller wanted $75 for him. I was very concerned about his weight and said I would probably have some vet bills with him. The seller dropped the price to $35 so I decided to take a chance. And boy did I get a deal! I just didn’t know it yet.

Brittany on the run

Tbone on the run

I took Tbone to the vet. There was nothing wrong with him. He needed shots which I was aware of but no health problems. I took about 6 months and I had his weight up to 42 lbs. The first thing I noticed with Tbone is that he liked to range more than a Springer.

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pheasant hunting

pheasant hunting

I took Tbone along to South Dakota for a hunt even though I didn’t know the dog very well.  I’d only had him 2 weeks and he hadn’t ever hunted where there was a good pheasant population. I did fit him with a shock collar to keep him honest. We got into a field that was thick with birds and all hell broke loose with birds flushing all over. Tbone went ape shit  and chased flying birds well over a block and a half. The shock collar wasn’t working and I was scared I would lose him.

I had decided too put him in his cage and just hunt Cosmo and had already left the dog behind when I noticed that the sending unit for the shock collar was set on the wrong frequency. I corrected the problem, left Tbone out of the cage and started hunting again. After a few shocks when he got too far ahead he settled down and hunted well, even retrieving several birds. His style of hunting was a lot different than Cosmo’s but I chalked that up to inexperience.IMG_1608

I took him hunting up to Tekamah with several other hunters and I noticed Tbone seemed to be pointing at times. This is not typical with Springers. When I got home I started googling Brittany images and saw several Brittanies that were a dark liver color. Tbone was a Brittany not a Springer.

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In his second year of hunting Tbone matured into an excellent hunter. He is whistle trained and has done a good job of pointing and retrieving birds. I believe he may be one of my best hunting dogs. I did get a good deal!IMG_9388

 

Photographs are important memories. Take as many as you can and make prints of the ones that are the most important to you. Many of the pictures on this post are also in print form. Your computer will die some day. Don’t lose those precious memories, make prints.

A photographic tribute to my canine family present and past

Since 1971 I have had 6 Springer Spaniels and 1 Brittany as pets and hunting companions. They have enriched my life and brought me joy. My first Springer was Archie. I got him as an 8 week old pup in Platte Center NE. He was the pick of the litter and the best hunting dog I ever owned.

Archie

Archie

I lived in Leigh the first 3 years of Archies life. I remember him chasing up his first bird on the edge of town at about 6 months of age. He was an aggressive hunter and caught some bird when he was young. I had my best years hunting in Nebraska with Archie.

 

Archie - 9 years

Archie – 9 years

Archie hunted until he was 14 in spite of a hip injury which required the removal of the hip joint because of severe arthritis in it. Dogs form a muscular hip and can continue to function after such surgery. The early years of hunting in Leigh were the best I ever had in Nebraska and I could normally hunt 2 or 3 farms during the entire season and take 30 birds or more. I really miss those days of hunting with Archie. As I said Archie was an aggressive hunter and you had to keep up with him when he was on a hot trail. I could do that in those days, not so any more.

Augie ca.1987

Augie ca.1987

My second dog was a gift to my wife at the time. She loved dogs as much as me. It was a smaller female tricolor and I bought her from a broker whom I later figured out was selling for a puppy mill. The pup was not healthy and coughed a lot. We took her to a vet several times before she improved.

Ginger as a pup

Ginger as a pup

Ginger turned out to be a disappointment in the field since she didn’t like hunting. She was a nice pet though. Neither Springer was neutered and we had a litter of pups on our hand within a year. We did find homes for all of them. Several years later she had another litter. We kept two of the pups. I wanted a black and white and my wife wanted to keep the pup we named “Harry” who was born with a harelip. His birth defect required that he be fed by hand when he was of suckling age.

Augie and Harry

Augie and Harry

Augie was really attached to me. I remember holding him as a pup and his little claws would dig into my chest. Both dogs grew into adults and both were hunted.

Augie

Augie

Augie had real skills as a hunting dog. I think he had the best nose of all my Springer’s but he was a little lazy. When I hunted he was reluctant to go into heavy cover and would stay with me on the outside of cover patches. However, he was a great retriever and was right on top of any birds I shot. He let the other 2 dogs do all the hard work and he would take the credit. I hunted the 3 dogs together until 1986. Harry and Archie both died in 1986. Augie hunted pretty well on his own but he was nowhere near the dog Archie was.

 

Augie ca.1987

Augie ca.1987

The picture above was taken sometime in the mid 80’s. I had a picture of both Augie and Harry together with this setting but put it in a veternarian’s office and never retrieved it.

 

Harry

Harry

Harry had several surgeries on his harelip as a pup and although it looked better it was still obvious if you viewed him up close. He was a beautiful dog but didn’t like his picture taken and he didn’t photograph well. I really think he was self-conscious about his harelip. He had more personality than any of my springers, always excited and full of spunk. He had gold colored eyes that would really stand out as you looked at him. When he hunted he ran out of steam after a half hour or so. This was on a consistant basis and I never could figure out why. When he was approximately 7 years old he started losing weight and eventually he lost his sight. I had taken him to a vet and mentioned that he seemed to have trouble seeing. Although there never was an official diagnosis, it is quite obvious he had diabetes. He had a good seven years.

In 1992 Augie was 10 and beginning to slow down with his hunting skills. I mentioned that to a customer and that I was looking for a springer pup. He said he knew someone in Columbus who had pups he wanted to give away and that they would be 8 weeks old in another week. I drove to Columbus and picked Guido out of the litter.

Guido

Guido

Guido lived up to his name. He was a bit tempermental at times and got downright  grumpy in his old age. He wasn’t overly cooperative when taking pictures and I never did get a close head shot of him in all the years that I tried.

Guido during a hunt

Guido during a hunt

Gudio enjoyed hunting and was quite good at it although he didn’t retrieve birds well. Hunting in the 90’s was pretty good in Nebraska and it was during Guido’s tenure that I started hunting South Dakota.

South Dakota 2003

South Dakota 2003

Gudio was 11 years old on this photo and still enjoyed the hunt although he did let my younger dog Cosmo do a lot of the hard work. Guido died in 2006 at the age of 14. He was a little hard to live with his last year but I enjoyed his company and hunting skills in his earlier years.

Gudio,Cosmo, and myself

Gudio,Cosmo, and myself

Unfortunately the average age of Springers in my life have been around 14 years.  After year 11 most dogs slow down considerably and hunting with them is not as effective. I’ve always tried to get a new dog while the older one still hunts because they do learn from the older dog and I can transition into the younger dog rather smoothly. I added Cosmo in 2002 when Guido was ten.

I will have another post covering the two dogs I have with me today. Their names are Cosmo and Tbone.