Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting Ready...

I have been flogging away, preparing for the Fall trek to birds in beautiful, faraway places. Guns serviced, dogs vetted, trailer updated with new electrics and some shelving, truck tuned and tires checked and rotated. Lists and sublists of things to prepare and pack get written and rewritten. The actual departure date seems to come on so slowly, then it is suddenly just a few days away. The new Garmin updated DC30 collar is supposed to arrive by Wednesday along with a kit of new collars, first aid items and such. 

I will probably hunt with Joe A, and Gundogdoc in North Dakota after stopping at Randy Anderson's camp this coming weekend to pick-up Tommy. Then we'll head for Montana where Pete and his friend Bruce will met me for a week or two of dogs and birds on the prairie. From there we'll probably head West to Oregon to visit some old friends and hunt chukars, Huns, and grouse. With luck, we may fish for steelhead as well.

By the end of October I need to head for the barn, and prepare for some up-coming field trials one of which our club is hosting on November 8th and 9th. But I will be heading to Arizona in December for a week or two, where Ted, Tommy, Jesse and I hope to learn all about Mearn's quail.

Fall is indeed a great time to be alive and moving through the West at no particular speed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dove can be an "upland game bird"

I spent Monday & Tuesday in the Imperial Valley hunting dove with a couple of good friends. Good meals, good drinks, good times, but boy was it HOT.

We spent some time over a beer talking about dove hunting styles. The traditional "dove shoot" strikes me as being just that: mostly shooting, with much less emphasis on hunting. Find a good corner, preferably in the shade, then hang out until the birds start to fly. Often it is too hot to even think about bringing a dog. When the sun sets retire to a big barbecue dinner with 20 or more buddies. It's a great time, but only loosely related to most upland game hunting.

Our hunts in the Imperial Valley are more active and I think are a lot more fun. We actually had several different distinct hunt styles in just a couple of days:

1. Monday, first 2 hours: traditional dove shooting. We posted on the edge of the chaparral and pass shot as the birds moved into the fields. Not a lot of birds (thunderstorms had sent many south) but everyone took 15 to 20 shots; results varied :) Had some variety in the bag - a few white wings, but no collared dove.

2. Monday, second 2 hours: started walking the chaparral, jump shooting birds that were roosting in the higher trees. My favorite type of dove hunting, with a tremendous variety of shots. A few close flushes, but more angles and dropping birds. Lots of strategy as a buddy and I planned attacks on each likely clump of trees.

3. Monday evening: More walking the chaparral, but now with LOTS of birds, some jumping out of the trees, and some coming into the trees to roost. This raks as one of my all-time favorite dove hunts.

4. Monday evening: beers and grilled dove, followed by Oban. Definitely traditional.

5. Tuesday morning: A really interesting hunt. The birds roosted in the chaparral over night and then decided to leave for Mexico, following a small canal. We had big flights of birds coming through fast, 40 to 70 yards in the air. Akin to driven pheasants? We knocked down a few but no one could brag about their average. Next year I'll bring my Model 12 with 1-1/4 oz of #7.5 shot and a full choke.

I read in the paper that some folks in the Imperial Valley at a good field shot their limits in less than 20 minutes. I'm sure they enjoyed themselves, but I'll head for the chaparral every time.

Next weekend I'll head for a spot up on the Laguna Mountains. Since it is over 5,000 feet the temperature should be 30 degrees cooler than it was in the Imperial Valley. The cover is mixed pines and oaks with good dove feed on the ground. That jump shooting is really a hoot. We never take a limit - half that is doing well - bit I can almost pretend that I'm hunting blue grouse in Montana.

Take care,