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Day 6 of Pheasant Quest 2014

We are still on the hot and sunny high plains of Kansas. We hunted the morning, bagged another 10 pheasants, had lunch, packed, and headed north.

Now while getting 10 pheasants in the morning is nothing to sniff at, it is becoming the Kansas normal. But the highlight of the hunt was a record retrieve by Miss Tooey.

The dogs flushed up a rooster out of the milo that went vertical as though it had been in a rocket silo. The pheasant then streaked north, and Kent (a top skeet shooter and instructor) took a long shot at the disappearing rooster and connected. The bird took a death glide and fell 200 yards away. Tooey marked the fall and lit out across two strips of milo and two wheat belts, straight to where the bird had landed in some grass. This is a record retrieve distance for Tooey, and I couldn’t be more delighted. And this was after she ran down a crippled bird that landed and had run some distance. Tooey and Scarlett didn’t give up, and that is why Tooey found the live bird and brought it to me for a humane coup de gras. A trained dog makes for a good hunt.

Tooey and her 200 yard retrieve for Kent

Tooey and her 200 yard retrieve for Kent

Because we hunted early in order to beat the heat, the low sun made for some nice dog photography potential.

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Tooey’s last morning in Kansas

After we packed the car, Norm, Scarlett, Tooey, and I headed north to the Nebraska panhandle while Kent headed home to Illinois. By 5:00 p.m., we made it to a little ranch south of Bridgeport, Nebraska. Behind our cabin was a gorgeous pond surrounded by cattails. Tooey bee-lined it to the water to wash off the Kansas dust. Both pups got in a few water retrieves while Norm and I broke out the cigars and scotch. The coyotes came in to observe and comment while we basked in this oasis of a Nebraska ranch, anticipating the pheasant hunt of the following morning.

1 pond plus 2 water dogs makes for happy pups

1 pond plus 2 water dogs makes for happy pups

A great way to wash and Irish Water Spaniel

A great way to wash an Irish Water Spaniel

Norm discussing the finer points of cigars and scotch with Scarlett

Norm discussing the finer points of cigars and scotch with Scarlett

Day 7

Last night around midnight, Tooey, who had been curled up on the bunk bed with me, got up, ran to the door, and started barking like it was the 4th of July. Bright flashes were coming in from around the window curtains, followed by long rolling rumbles of Midwest thunder. The weather had shifted fast while we slept. Notice the cloud build up behind Norm in the previous photo. Well those clouds were followed by driving rain and a night of thunder storms with Tooey barking till dawn (not restful).

The daylight broke with non-stop lightning and more rain. We consulted with the ranch owner and determined that the weather forecast was not compatible with walking in the fields with 28-gauge lightning rods in our hands. He had reviewed the weather maps, as most Midwest farmers are prone to do, and the prospects were dimming. So discretion being the better part of valor, we abandoned pheasant hunting in Nebraska and ran from the storm front.

As soon as we were safely out from under this storm cell, I checked the weather in our planned hunting area.

Say no more . . .

Say no more . . .

This map shows tornado and flood warnings where we had planned to hunt, but now we are in western Wyoming, safely to the left of the orange. No, Tooey, we are not in Kansas (or Nebraska) anymore.

To be continued . . .

Today, I encountered a new problem while hunting birds. This was the first time I lost track of how many flushes Tooey and Scarlett made because there were simply too many to keep track of in my head. Of those flushes, there were many that were never shot at due to distance, safety, or being hens (we only shoot at roosters). And of the ones that were actually suitable to shoot at, we now have another 8 in the cooler.

I have to brag. I am so pleased with Tooey, especially on the retrieves. She marked every downed bird today, with the maximum mark being about 100 yards into the field of milo. And that bird was sufficiently unscathed that when she found it, she flushed it again. It went another 100 yards before I made a nice crossing shot where it fell into an open wheat field. Then Tooey put on another sprint, picked up the bird, and delivered it to hand.

Delivery to hand after a couple of 100 yard sprints

Delivery to hand after a couple of 100 yard sprints

The high plains of Kansas are visually remarkable in their starkness. One can spin 360 degrees and see nothing but horizon and crops. And with a low angle sun, it is very photogenic, especially if you have a stylish Irish Water Spaniel to pose.

Striking a pose by the wheat silos near McDonald, Kansas

Striking a pose by the wheat silos near McDonald, Kansas

Scanning the horizon for more birds to flush and retrieve

Scanning the horizon for more birds to flush and retrieve

The next photo is Tooey with Kent (Norm’s son) and a bird that eluded us for several minutes until Tooey tracked it down and forced the flush. Again, I am so delighted with Tooey’s performance. She may not have set the AKC hunt test circuit on fire in pursuit of her titles in the retriever and upland venues, but when it counts in real-world hunting, she brings home the goods. (More on this topic in future posts.)

Tooey and Kent with a handsome rooster

Tooey and Kent with a handsome rooster

Tooey and Scarlett wore themselves out by noon with several miles of running, a couple of dozen flushes (a guess), and 8 retrieves. But with an afternoon’s rest, they will be back at it tomorrow morning for our final day in Kansas before we move on to Nebraska.

To be continued . . .

Day 4 of Pheasant Quest 2014

And yes there are pheasants in Kansas.

Tooey and Scarlett had no problem finding and flushing Kansas pheasants this morning. I actually stopped counting, but maybe around 20. My shooting was not that impressive in the beginning, so there were quite a few were opportunities for me to work with Tooey on being steady to flush and shot. But by the end of the morning, I settled into the shooting groove (4 roosters for me this morning), and Tooey retrieved a total of 6 birds, and Scarlett 2 others. (Norm and Kent brought down the other birds.)

Were you looking for this?

Were you looking for this?

We were hunting in alternating strips of milo and native grasses, with most of the pheasants holding up in the milo. After Tooey determined that the milo was source of the birds, she stayed in tight and just worked the crop, only going out into the grass for the retrieves. After 3 hours, the dogs were tired and warm, so we stopped at 11:00 a.m., and returned to where we are staying at Beaver Creek Ranch. I couldn’t be happier with Tooey’s performance on Kansas birds. And we have 2 more days at this pheasant paradise.

Beaver Creek Ranch

Beaver Creek Ranch

The only pernicious seeds that clung to the dog’s coat were sand burrs. About 1/4″ in diameter, they are the perfect nucleus for a matt. But as luck would have it, the ranch has a covered hot tub on the shady side of the house that matches the height of a grooming table. So it only took a few minutes with a very relaxed Tooey to extricate the burrs.

A Kansas grooming table and one tired puppy.

A Kansas grooming table and one successful IWS

To be continued . . .

Day 3: Yes Tooey, this is Kansas

Again, today was mostly just sitting in the car on the Interstate, but with one diversion. We stopped in Sydney, Nebraska to walk the floor of Cabela’s hometown store.

Tooey in front of the worlds largest outdoor recreation store

Tooey in front of the worlds largest outdoor recreation store

For the 18 people in the world who do not know about Cabela’s, it is a candy store for the outdoor recreation world, and they sell most things that you need, and much that you do not. (I got to handle a used Holland & Holland shotgun ($34,000) but it didn’t fit that well, so I passed.) Being the flagship store, the interior is decorated with a somewhat bizarre cross between a museum of natural history and sporting goods store.

customer service to the right, guns to the left

customer service to the right, guns to the left

But it was time to hit the road and go to Kansas. We cut across the corner of NE Colorado, back into Nebraska, and then south into Kansas. Interstates morphed into blue highways, and then county roads, and finally into 10 miles of gravel and dirt until we arrived at Beaver Creek Ranch. An oasis in the high plains of Kansas. Tooey and Scarlett got to scout out some pasture before we settled in for the night. Tomorrow looks promising.

So this is Kansas

So this is Kansas

The last map for a few days as we will be in this area for 3 days, actually working the fields for birds.

Laramie to the Beaver Creek Ranch in NE Kansas

Laramie to the Beaver Creek Ranch in NE Kansas

To be continued . . .

Day 2 of the Pheasant Quest 2014

In a nutshell, Day 2 was another full day of driving towards Kansas at 80 miles an hour on the Interstate. Boring (mostly).

The day started by leaving Burely, Idaho in search of some fine Interstate dining. The best opportunity appeared over the state line in Snowville, Utah.

Tooey recommends the Cattlemans Breakfast

Tooey recommends the Cattleman’s Breakfast

Here I digress with a bit of geographical trivia. Interstate I-84 starts in Portland and heads south-east for about 800 miles to Morgan, Utah. We live about a mile from start of I-84 in Portland, and at the other end, the tiny town of Morgan is the home of the Browning company.

For those of you who are not aficionados of shotguns, Browning has been in the firearms business since the 19th century and makes some of the best world-class guns for hunting and target sports, including one of Tooey’s personal favorite, her 28 gauge Browning Citori Lighting, which is packed away in her car. So we just had to stop at the factory outlet store. That’s why the Intestate was built between our house and their store, right?

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Tooey and Scarlett in their VIP parking spot in Morgan, Utah

After I-84 ends in Morgan, it was time to join I-80 and head into Wyoming. Without casting aspersions on this windswept wasteland, let the following photo say it all.

Welcome to Wyoming

Welcome to Wyoming

So as of Day 2, we have clocked over 1100 miles and will be passing through Sydney, Nebraska tomorrow morning. (Can you say Cabela’s flagship store?!) And by dinner time, we should be ensconced in northwest Kansas at our first hunting destination of Beaver Creek Ranch.

Burley, Idaho to Laramie, Wyoming, via Morgan, Utah

Burley, Idaho to Laramie, Wyoming, via Morgan, Utah

To be continued . . .

Often email contains stuff you just don’t want to read until you have to. But not today. Today, I received my e-copy of Rat Tails, the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s newsletter. Opening that email was a special delight because it features Russ’s photography and includes my article.

It’s fun to see one’s work in print! And I get to tell Cooper and Tooey that once again, they are famous. First the Tooey graced the center spread of the June 2013 issue of Gun Dog Magazine, and now Cooper is featured on the cover of Rat Tails!

Click the image below to open a PDF that includes the full size cover and my article:

Rat_Tails _Sept-Oct_cover

 

Kansas Odyssey 2014: Day 1

The plan: Drive 3000 miles across 6 states with two dogs, and then find, flush, and retrieve a bazillion pheasants.

Day 1 is the rather boring but a necessary step of getting from Portland, Oregon to northwest Kansas, where we are going to start a western state hunting odyssey. We just have to get in a car and drive until our butts are numb.

Step 1 of Day 1 was to drive from Portland to Beavercreek, Oregon to pick up Norm and his Boykin Spaniel, Scarlett, the 28 lb. bird-finding machine.

Russ, Tooey, Norm, and Scarlett

Russ, Tooey, Norm, and Scarlett

Check.

Step 2: Load 2 dogs, six shotguns, and other misc. accessories into the car and then drive east to Burely, Idaho (about 600 miles).

I-84 from Portland to Burely in one day

I-84 from Portland to Burely in one day

Check.

Tomorrow should get us to eastern Wyoming or eastern Nebraska.

To be continued . . . .

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