Archive for the ‘ Upland Hunting ’ Category

Grouse Nirvana

After  a long week hosting the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Conservation Ed Training Academy I took the weekend to head out west with my father-in-law to chase grouse.  We had a blast!  I think grouse hunting is just plain awesome and truly enjoy chasing these psychotic sandhill chickens.  You will walk a ton (like I need that kind of impact to my cholesterol level) but in some of the best scenery in the state.  Grouse can pop up at any time and give you little warning but when their numbers are large it is a blast (yes pun intended). 

Grouse can be a challenge for some and generally we have luck when the weather gets a bit cold and they tend to huddle up on the protected side of hills from the wind.  On warmer days, the shady side of hills is best.  They are not like pheasant and do not care for thick cover grass but rather favor more choppy sand hills with mixed grasses that have been thinned a bit by grazing.  Give it a trip or two and you’ll get the hang of it. 

We also enjoyed a bit of waterfowl in the sandhill potholes and of course had no intention of going through an entire pheasant opener without chasing them too!  Life is good!

Get Em’ Out There

Rawly

Last night of camp with a tired old dog (the lab was tired too)!

Did I mention I like a BIG fire?

Finally a critter he was familiar with

Every morning was a gift!

Not a lot of trees in them there hills...

Whatchagot-Grouse

Those Beautiful Hills

…the prairie grouse (sharp-tailed grouse & prairie chickens) that inhabit the short-grass areas of the sandhills have several defenses against the human hunter…one is their good eyesight that allows them to see danger coming from afar – another is their mottled browns & off-white feathers that allow them to become dang-near invisible to the shotgun carrying predator as they make their living in the clump grasses…as if these two adaptations weren’t enough these sandhill birds have a very sinister desire to “off” us hunters by living in vast expanses of very un-flat terrain that is covered in sandburs & prickly pear…you may think my statement is a little extreme but that would just prove that you have never chased these feathered-boogers across miles of short-grassed, sand dunes only to see a family flock of sharpies jump 20 yards beyond your gun’s reach and appear to land ‘just over the hill‘ – which spurs you to walk several more hills of sand so that your trusty pointer can lock up hard on 1 ornate box turtle and exactly zero grouse…

…to celebrate opening weekend of the Prairie Grouse season I headed towards Valentine chasing the promise of grouse and good weather with my former College Adviser and two other grouse-nuts…we set-up base camp at Big Alkali Wildlife Area and had lots of fun telling stories and reliving past hunts…we ate some wonderful food and did our best to stay warm on the chilly, wet mornings of our hunt…though, the grouse were scarce and the shots few we had an amazing time – and surprisingly saw very few other hunters, even on the public access areas…we did manage to put enough sharpies in the game-pouch for a decent meal and plenty of memories to help start the season and perhaps provide some fodder for campfires yet to come…

Success

…Dr. Jim Pease, my former college prof, was in charge of cooking the grouse and I wanted to watch his technique so that I could add another recipe to my file – prairie grouse are sometimes given a bad name as table-fare, but I think this is mainly due to the fact that even ice cream wouldn’t be as popular if you had to walk several miles over rough terrain to secure it…so I watched Jim work his magic on the skinned-out birds as he readied them for the pot…he started  by placing garden-fresh tomatoes and peppers around the grouse as they lay in the cast-iron dutch oven…he then sprinkled onion flakes, garlic salt and several other spices on them…just as the dutch oven was being placed over the fire I asked Jim what he called his grouse recipe – his reply was “Whatchagot Grousecause you take whatcha-got in camp and put it in the pot with the grouse”…worked for me! – it was delicious…

Whatchagot Grouse

hershy

Missouri River Outdoor Expo

Folks if you have made the short drive to Ponca State Park in northeast Nebraska for the Fall Expo you really owe it to yourself and family to get up there.  The largest Expo in Nebraska (and maybe the midwest) Ponca has something for everyone…from shooting rifle, shotgun,  muzzleloaders, archery, big game rifles, kayaking, Missouri River boat rides, fishing, bow fishing, camping, tree stand safety, outdoor villages, crafts, games, wildlife activities…you just can’t go wrong this weekend at Ponca. 

Jeff Fields and the team at Ponca have done an outstanding job, along with all the volunteers that make this huge program such a success.  And of course, just visiting Ponca State Park in the fall is a treat in itself.  The attitude amongst all the staff and volunteers just seems to foster a fun and exciting time for all who are fortunate enough to participate in this grand event.  Don’t miss out!  The Expo will run Saturday through Sunday this weekend only.  We’ll see you out there!

Get Em’ Out There

Rawly

Shooting is a big part of the Ponca Expo and is a lot of fun for anyone!

The ‘If’s’ of Dove Hunting

if things go the way I imagine them – I will be feasting on the grilled, fruits of my dove hunting labor at this time in exactly seven days…but there are a lot of “if’s” that need to be addressed prior to that time – for example:

if my scouting pays off I will have zeroed in on the location of some dove-concentrating habitat such as a watering, feeding or loafing area – I prefer food in the morning, loafing in the midday and water/food at night…I hope the doves do, too

if  the doves are there I  hope they decide to fly when I am ready for them – hidden behind the bush in my camo & not when I am sipping my soda, eating my snack or ridding myself of the morning coffee I drank on the way to the field

if they fly in range of my beretta I hope my pre-season practice has been sufficient – the only thing more humbling than trying to connect with a dove, is the next dove

if my wingshooting is up-to-par I hope the birds keep flying until I have enough for dinner – usually I am one-box of shells short of a meal

if this does all come together I will need more shotgun shells – I hope Leslie brings enough!

hershy

Upland Bird Outlook

…work the dog, bust some blue-rock , knock on some doors – now is the time to start planning for this fall’s bird hunting – if you haven’t already begun

…to help you out NGPC Upland Game Program Manager, Jeff Lusk, is currently compiling Nebraska’s 2010 Upland Game Hunting Outlook that should give us hunters an idea of how our bird populations have fared…the Outlook is based on population surveys conducted in April & July as well as field staff observations about general nesting and brooding conditions…you will be able to access the full outlook at our website (www.OutdoorNebraska.org) once it is finalized…

…I snuck a peek at his pre-release work and here are some of the hi-lights
* Winter Snow & Spring Rain didn’t help – but the entire state was not effected equally
* Pheasant hunting should be similar to last year – head west!
* Prairie Grouse hunting may be even better in some parts of the state

…just remember that upland game is dependent on the amount and quality of the available habitat in the area…if you have superb, year-around bird habitat you will have birds – if you don’t, you won’t…changes in the habitat at the local level can dramatically influence the bird population in the area – hopefully with a successful Conservation Reserve Program sign-up this month our Upland Birds will have even more quality habitat to make use of for years to come..

hershy

Get Your East Zone Grouse Apps In!

…I almost forgot!…on August 1, the NGPC began accepting applications for the East Zone Prairie Grouse Permits…each year, when the population can handle the harvest, a few hundred lucky hunters are allowed to hunt this zone, east of Hwy 81, for a rare upland prize – the greater prairie chicken…Nebraska is one of just a few states that even offers a season for this grassland royalty – which is lumped together with the sharp-tailed grouse to make up our “prairie-grouse” population……the permits are free, though you will need to have your 2010 (small game) Hunting Permit already purchased or your Hunter Education # if under 16 years old…if selected you can harvest up to 3 prairie grouse on the permit from the opener on September 18 to the last day of season on January 31, 2011 – which is 31 days longer than last year…plenty of time to find a trophy chicken…

…contact your local Game and Parks District Office for an application or call 402-471-5597…the adventure awaits – gotta get mine in today!

hershy

A male chicken drums for the ladies in the spring