Back on the Prairie

Places to hunt, firearms to use, problems encountered

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Back on the Prairie

Postby AverageGuy » Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:59 am

I got excited and ended my Deer Rifle season early so Spud and I packed up and headed to the Prairie last week. Ran off and left the Nikon on the charger at home so was left to only an Iphone. Lots of retrieve photos is about it.

First bird of the trip. Spud pointed in a big weedy/grassy waterway, hens went up close and then a big rooster popped presenting a 45 yard crossing shot. Hit him the first shot, shot behind on the second. Rooster powered on out but then fell about 150 yards into the adjoining standing sunflower field. I marched directly to my mark but of course lost it to some extent in the featureless standing sunflowers. Asked Spud to hunt dead, he did and we were on the board.

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Another

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Only Good Point Photo I captured on this Trip. Was limited out and chugging back to the truck. Big wad of 7-8 hens on this one.

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Took the time to snap this on one of our warmer days. Did not move a bird at our first two drops that day. Got a point and then a 2 shot double on the 3rd drop. Another point to fill our limit on the 4th drop. Hunting was good particularly compared to around home, but the lowest numbers of pheasants I have seen in the Dakotas at the same time. We need to lobby Congress to increase the CRP acreage allotments to their previous levels which were 12 Million acres higher than now.

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I managed 50 years of bird hunting and never saw a porcupine. Have encountered 3 of them in the area we are now hunting in our last two trips over the last month. Two of them were on this trip. First one was a point in an excellent large thick patch of Kochia weeds with some decent numbers of pheasants in it. Spud went on point, I went ahead to flush struggling in the waist tall thick weeds which made seeing anything on the ground impossible. After my efforts produced nothing I heard some movement on the ground just a foot or two away. I backed out and called Spud to come with me and he complied immediately. Narrowly averted disaster.

The next day I was unfortunately slower on the uptake. Spud went on point in a large patch of cattails surrounding a pond laying next to a sunflower field. We have shot roosters out of the spot every time we have hunted it. I went in front with cattail heads in my face, fuzz flying off into my mouth, eyes and nose. Seeing the ground was again impossible. With visions of a gaudy rooster busting up at any moment, I persisted in my flushing attempt too long. Apparently I actually stepped on the porky. I realized it too late and as I turned to leave Spud apparently figured if I was going to attack the porky he would too! 5 minutes into our hunt that morning we were headed to back to the truck with over an hour drive to the nearest vet. Sedation, quills pulled, $250, no more hunting that day. Totally my fault. Never even noticed my pants leg until the vet pointed it out to me. No wonder Spud broke and went in. Really poor performance on my part. I learned a guy must be thinking porky in that country when no birds get up after a reasonable attempt to flush.

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Last day of the Trip. Spud on point in a heavy cover waterway. Couple of hens go up close and then a rooster sneaks out ahead, low going straight away. I fired one load of 13/8 oz nickel 5s through a modified choke. The rooster flew on a short distance and then pitched down into the heavy cover indicating he had been hit hard but not hard enough. Spud raced to the fall. Saw the rooster flap up out of the heavy cover and then here came Spud with the live rooster absent his beautiful long tail.

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Second bird that day. Spud on point in the cattails again. Me ahead attempting to flush. Nothing flushing. Visions of Porky spring to mind and just then a big gaudy rooster busts up presenting a gimme shot. Brains screams don't blow him up, which leads to me then only hitting the bird with the fringe of my pattern, dropping him head up back into the sea of cattails with one shot. Spud rips ahead and begins doing his thing and as I track his movements rattling around in the cattails I see this wonderful sight.

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Hunted on. Spud on point in a large Kochia weed patch. Hens flush and then a rooster busts up. Rolled that one. Two crippled bird recoveries in a row turned what would have a been a waste into a 3 shell limit day. Thanks for bailing me out, Spud.

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Saw alot of antelope and deer. The rifle deer season had just opened and the motels were full of deer hunters. Enjoyed meeting and visiting with them at the start and end of our days. I will say however that I saw a 10 to 1 ratio of hunters who likely will not be hunting 10 years from now, for every one that may still be. Our challenges ahead at the voting box and with funding are very real.

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Ended up about 1.5 miles from the truck when I shot our 3rd bird on the last day. So I had more shells and water than I will likely ever need, contingency gear, and 3 roosters in my vest and it was getting heavier with each step. I was gassed. Sat down to rest a spell and reflect. Spud sitting in front me. A young rutting whitetail buck comes working in on top of us from upwind. He had Spud's full attention but he never rose from his sitting position. He did bark once :lol: .

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Last edited by AverageGuy on Mon Nov 19, 2018 10:41 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby Willie T » Mon Nov 19, 2018 10:23 am

Good stuff AG. Except for the porkies, there is no place I'd rather be than with a bird dog on the prairie in the fall.
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby orhunter » Mon Nov 19, 2018 10:42 am

Thanks for the write up and photos, Kent. Those prickly things can sure mess up a day. I've been lucky and have run into only one out in that open country and the cover was such I could see what Ellie was pointing when I walked up for the flush.

I should have been where you were. 3 birds in six days hunting is well, for the birds.
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby AverageGuy » Mon Nov 19, 2018 11:02 am

Harvey, I text'd Kelly and said the same thing when he told me you were having tough sledding finding birds!

Good bird numbers and access to private ground closer to home resulted in me and my dogs not hitting the Dakotas until 10 years ago. But in 10 straight years of hunting I had never seen a Porky in SD. Am now hunting about 60 further west and have seen 3 in the last two trips and on back to back days on this trip. Menace. Spud is reasonably broke if I do what I need to do, which is realize when he is soft pointing one in heavy cover and call him out vs continuing to stomp around trying to flush a bird which is not there. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, so far...

Would love to see a live one in the open and get a better avoidance training opportunity. Have a dead one in the freezer and will use it again, but Spud went the opposite direction like he should in the last session so working a live one would sure be better. I am alone holding a shotgun at port arms ready to shoot a bird and so have missed the moment to get on the ecollar until it was too late. I need to do better, so he can do better.

Willie T - with you all the way Brother.
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby orhunter » Mon Nov 19, 2018 11:30 am

Yea, a soft point usually indicates there are no feathers present. I could read my other Griff pretty good. She was a quick learner though, her first was her last. She didn't want anything to do with them after that. Out this way we have Bobcats and the dogs would point those too.
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby AverageGuy » Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:26 pm

In my defense the cover was up to my waist in one instance and my nose in the second. The Garmin 550 Plus is what lead me to the dog on point buried in cover. So not the best opportunity to read nuances in how the dog was pointing.

But the lack of flush after my initial attempts, in weather conditions where it was not real likely that a healthy bird would bury in real deep, is where I think I should have caught on earlier. And the dog will come out on a porky easily if/when I command him to. If it is a bird he will not call out easily.

So in the future my plan will be to back out and see if he comes out easily with me which confirms it is a porky. Will do more work with a my dead one and any live ones we come across that I can actually see and therefore train on accordingly. No way I am getting on a ecollar on a dog pointing in cover until/unless I can actually confirm it is pointing a porky so not as easy as a hot deer or coyote race by comparison.

Done the pointed Bobcat with GWPs numerous times as well. Way more fun than a porky.
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby Willie T » Mon Nov 19, 2018 2:35 pm

AG, dense cattails is the cover I have encountered the most porkies in. Your boot tells me a lot about the cover you were in... don't beat yourself up too much. Trying to seize the moment and take advantage of a training opportunity in that kind of salad is playing with fire. Without the aid of an audible indicator, its tough to read what you can't see. The best outcome you can hope for is the dog learns from its mistake to make a good decision next time.
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby Drahthaar1108 » Mon Nov 19, 2018 6:17 pm

Great hunt. Forrest
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby ANick » Tue Nov 20, 2018 1:18 am

AG,
Thanks for taking us along! :)
Looked like a good day not to be wearing hiking shorts on that porky meet n greet. Kinda high suck value for the Spud though. Not that it seemed to slow him down much. :)

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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby ryanr » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:02 am

Nice job AG, thanks for sharing.
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby orhunter » Tue Nov 20, 2018 3:07 pm

One neat thing while we were hunting was a Prairie Falcon following the dog around. I always knew where she was by watching the bird. Organic GPS. We have Peregrine Falcons around here so it was nice to see the other kind. Had one make off with a Chukar I’d shot one day. Kinda cool.
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby RowdyGSP » Thu Nov 22, 2018 9:43 pm

Phenomenal pictures as always... Nice story too. And of course, as per usual, that Spud is something else. Continues to impress me. Do we need to do some porky avoidance training for ya??
"You have to be smarter than the dog to train it."
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"Chukar: The first time you hunt them it's for sport. After that it's revenge."
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby jlw034 » Fri Nov 23, 2018 7:49 pm

Great write up!
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby Bigearl » Sun Nov 25, 2018 9:39 am

AG. Why do you think you met so many hunters that won’t be hunting in the future? Lack of opportunities? Lack of dedication?
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Re: Back on the Prairie

Postby AverageGuy » Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:04 pm

Big Earl, the observation I shared was based on the age of the hunters I met at the packed motel I was hunting out of. The 10:1 ratio I observed was hunters 60 and older vs those 30 and younger. Most of them were hunting deer. Deer hunting seems to be the remaining area bringing women and youngsters into the hunting sports.

If it weren't for released birds huge portions of the remaining bird hunters would not have enough bird contacts to train out a puppy. Which costs money, as do the road trips to where the wild birds still remain. Growing up, the 3 states I hunted most were Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. I could go anywhere and secure permission and enjoy quality hunts.

It is the opposite now, largely due to the whitetail deer hunting craze having locked up most land in those states for that singular purpose. I get on some nice private lands in those states after the prime archery rut and rifle seasons have pasted but not until. Which makes for a lot less opportunity to enjoy high quality hunts. The pressure on the remaining public lands makes for relatively poor upland bird hunting. Not poor enough to deter me from going but walking a lot of miles for a few moments of action does not attract the youngsters into the Sport. KS has quite a bit of walk-in lands but they quickly decline from overuse and do not stand up well over a season which lasts 3 months. My best hunts year in and year out for upland birds are on private lands and I often pay for the privilege to do so.

Waterfowl is the opposite, with public lands being excellent at times, but the demand still exceeds the supply for the most part in the MW with quite a bit of competition, especially on the weekends, opening days and Holidays. Working folks can only accomplish so much using vacation to travel and hunt and so as opportunities closer to home dwindle they fall away. Particularly in terms of recruiting young hunters into the Sport. In order to hunt public waterfowl areas I have invested quite a bit of money in boats, trailers, decoys, blinds, mojos. Another hurdle to new entrants where I live, although strong legs and backs can compensate for awhile in getting deep into the public marshes. I am at a point where I will only hunt waterfowl alone in a rare situation where I can access and hunt a spot safely, transporting relatively small amounts of equipment, shorter distances. The days of wading alone into an unknown marsh with decoys, shell belt, and fanny pack on my person, navigating with a headlight in the dark, with my dog wading and swimming along with me are over. Finding a good waterfowl hunting partner who is eager to go, and can go during the week is not that easily done. Spending some money to buy quality waders and clothes, an out of state license, gas, motels whittles the numbers down even more. Throw in some difficult bust hunts which are inevitable when hunting waterfowl and only those who already love it, continue to pursue it. I think my situation is representative of others.

Those are my thoughts/observations.
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