Thursday, November 24, 2011

Busting Birds

 We woke up early yesterday morning, before daylight, and got ready to duck hunt.  It was blowing hard in town, which meant the middle of the valley was going to be miserable.  It was!  Gusting to 40 MPH and cold.

We set up along the field edge, near some juniper trees, waiting for the ducks to fly out of their sanctuary and into the uncut wheat fields of Ladd Marsh.  The boys haven't done much pass shooting, so they were excited to get out there, especially after the hunt uncle Seth and I had last week.

There were some guys decoying to the south of us, doing a good job of it too.  They weren't the typical guys out there scaring off ducks.  Their set up was professional and the ducks responded well to them.  It helped us out, keeping the birds focused on something besides us.  Many times ducks would make a pass at the decoys, bank with the wind, slide down over us and try making a turn to get back around setting us up for good shooting.

Corey and Cole tag teamed the first duck, a young, local drake.  It collapsed stone dead out of the air.  Jesse marked and retrieved it to them.  Then Tyler knocked down a duck, a big northern bird that didn't move once it hit the ground.  Jesse was right there again................the boys were loving it.  They all had part of a duck and had some other opportunities they just didn't connect on.

The decoy spread was busy most of the morning knocking down birds.  On one of the rallies a wounded hen barreled over the top of me, barely in control with flight feathers askew.  I knocked her down as she jetted past me with the wind, trying to make it back to water.  She fell over 100 yards out but Jesse had her in his sights.  It was a few minutes before he showed, but show he did with the mallard in his soft mouth. 

Tyler knocked down another duck soon afterwards.  It was a local drake, small and without the color of the norther birds.  A guy came down the line, headed away from the decoy spread, and back to his truck.  He had set up that morning unknowingly in front of the spread.  He knocked down a duck and while looking for it spotted the spread.  Without a dog the duck was impossible to find in the thick, heavy grass.  He came to tell me so Jesse could find it.  I headed up to where he said the duck fell and Jesse had scent almost immediately.  It took him a while to track down the runner, but he got him before he made it to the ditch.  The man thanked us and gave the duck to the boys, since their dog had retrieved it.  They were pretty excited to up their body count.

Just before we left, a big group of ducks dropped into the decoys.  They dropped a few and I watched a lone drake break formation headed for the open field.  It dropped 500-600 yards from the decoys.  I watched the hunters that killed it for a while and realized they hadn't seen it drop.  I headed out with Jesse to find the dead bird.  He worked the wind perfectly, finding the bird quickly.  There was a long, deep, wide ditch between us and the decoys.  I tried to get the attention of the guys sitting in their blinds, but with the wind, they didn't hear me, so we reduced it to our bag limit and headed home. 

 We got home, changed out our steel shot for lead, did some chores for mom and headed to chukar country.  We passed two trucks leaving the area we wanted to hunt, but decided with the limited time we had, we'd give it a go.  Jesse pointed birds in the first draw.  I had to move 60 yards down hill to where he held the birds.  I was just above him when the birds flushed, I missed easily.  Jesse turned up country and pointed again on a second group, just 40 yards from the last.  I had a quick shot that didn't connect with anything.

It was Corey's turn next.  Jesse made it around to him, following scent on the ever present wind.  Corey followed him out on a point where Jess locked up again.  Corey made it to his side and kicked up a bird.  It was too fast for him and as he let down his gun and guard, the rest of the covey flushed.  He said he didn't get his head down, he didn't follow through, and he is positive he flock shot, missing his chance.

Tyler had just caught up to us and was standing there with me watching Corey work his way back towards us and Jesse was headed around the hill hunting.  I told Tyler it was up to him to get some feathers in Jesse's mouth, so he took off fast trying to catch the dog.  It didn't take long and we heard the shot and Tyler  yelling fetch.  They had made it down to the next ridge and into the draw where Jesse pointed his birds.  Tyler worked in close and then Jesse moved on, fast; the birds had ran out.  Tyler kept with him and he locked up again a few minutes later.  Tyler got along side of him, flushed the birds and killed a chukar; his first on the wing.

 We stopped for pictures and then headed around the hill looking for more. 

Jesse had a few more points, the boys had a few more misses and we were headed back, trying to stay ahead of the falling darkness.  Jess was in the lead, but below Tyler and Corey.   A chukar flushed wild between them.  The shot was Corey's and he let the bird swing out and away from Tyler before shouldering his gun.  At the shot the chukar dropped to the ground, rebounded and flew down country, crashed again, raised once more, high into the air, then ran out of gas.  The boys got Jesse down there and he found it, pointing the dead bird, then retrieving it to Corey; his first ever game bird shot on the wing.  When Corey hit it he started yelling and jumping up and down......he was so excited.  Cole and I watched from above.   

Cole got a few shots in, but the chukars were fast and the single shot 20 gauge is still a bit big and the hammer somewhat cumbersome for a 9 year old.  But he had fun and can't wait to go again.  I missed six opportunities at chukar; not the best day of shooting for sure.  If my dad would have been there I'm sure I'd have heard him announce to all the world, like he did in 1995 when we were hunting uncle Dave and aunt Kerrin's place in Vale for pheasant, that "if a bird gets up in front of Jason, someone kill it, because he can't hit CRAP!"