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Thread: Just getting into upland hunting

  1. #21
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    Well...I do both, so I guess that makes me dull witted AND bi-polar! Okay, I'll bite - expand a little bit on a 10' limb and the cat.

  2. #22
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    I have hit my familiar grounds at Salt Slough WA and San Luis NWR since opening day. I have to give the dog a rest today through Tuesday because her nose and eyes are pretty torn up after hunting four of seven days.

    The cover and feed are about as good as I have seen at both Salt Slough and San Luis. I think there might be more birds around than the last couple of drought years, but it hasn't resulted in more flushes, at least not yet. Even after the rain last Thursday, the ground and cover are so dusty that my dog goes into a sneezing fit when she picks up a hot trail and follows it. Every time we get into the heavy bull rush or cover, the dog goes completely ape running around and around, snuffling and sneezing and going full tilt. I suspect that we are passing by scent trails that are not discernible in the heat and dust, so hopefully we will get a little more rain before the season ends to improve scenting conditions.

    I haven't gone up north yet, but will give it whack in the weeks to come since my rice blind ponds are finally flooded and the trailer is set up in Colusa. I'll hit up the Northern Sacramento Valley refuges (I had better luck up there last year, at least compared to hunting in the San Joaquin Valley) and do at least one trip to LK before the season ends.

    I do admit that I might be dead wrong on there actually being more birds this year in the Grasslands refuges. I don't have direct proof of it yet. I suppose I might be overly optimistic, hoping for a repeat of my 1998-1999 hunting season that came on the heels of the rainfall we had in the prior winter (a near record El Nino winter). My opening weekend this past weekend certainly was less productive than the 1998 season opener.

  3. #23

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    This site continually causes me to re log in before it will allow me to post a reply. As a result my longish reply was lost and I have to recreate it A true PITA!

    This year will be the 55th year I've hunted at Gray Lodge so, like Farmers insurance, I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two with the limb and the cat being examples.
    Many years ago, mid pheasant season, and while I was hanging around the check station waiting for my number to be called, I noticed a truck with a big siamese cat in it walking back and forth on the dash. The owner had just checked out with two pheasants (the limit back then) and as he came up to me I commented about seeing lots of dogs in the parking lot but that was the first cat. He told me in a hushed voice that he got the birds using the cat. Gray Lodge had in the past a lot of black berry patches that dogs couldn't get into but pheasants used as sanctuaries. They'd feed a little before shoot time and then go into the berries for the whole day.
    The guy told me he'd have to be careful where he used the cat because he didn't want it shot by another hunter but later in the season and mid day there weren't many guys out hunting. He'd go to a berry patch he thought was big enough to hold birds and near good feeding areas and he'd take the cat out of the back of his vest and put it next to the berries. Cats have a good sense of smell and are naturally curious so the cat would go into the berries and the guy would go to the other side and wait. It worked well enough he said to shoot as many pheasants as he wanted given he didn't care all that much about shooting pheasants he said. I gave it a 50% rating of being BS and filed it away.
    Decades later, a friend and I were coming back from hunting near the N. boundary on the East side and were headed for the parking lot. It was mid day on a blue bird day with no shooting from the duck hunters or pheasant hunters on the area. Suddenly we heard a fusillade of shots between us and the parking lot and assumed it was some pheasant hunters who had jumped a bird that had stayed too long away from cover. We walked along and it happened again and this time we could see a group of 5 guys walking toward us on the dirt road. Four of them had guns and the other had a 10' limb over his shoulder. They walked along and when they came to a patch of berries the guy with the limb started beating on it and poking the limb into the patch. Suddenly a rooster flushed out of the away side of the patch and the guys with guns emptied their guns at it. It flew away unharmed.
    When we crossed paths I could see it was 4 kids with the oldest in high school and their grandfather with the limb. He was fit to be tied because he said he'd been flushing pheasants for them all morning and was tired and they'd only killed one and were about to run out of shells. We laughed and kept on going to the parking lot.
    There is another way to hunt those patches that doesn't require a dog. You can't really tell how many pheasants there are in an area that has black berries.
    So enzinn, you wouldn't happen to be a member of the Waterfowl Chasers club would you?
    Last edited by calamari; 11-19-2017 at 06:30 PM.

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by calamari View Post
    This site continually causes me to re log in before it will allow me to post a reply. As a result my longish reply was lost and I have to recreate it A true PITA!

    This year will be the 55th year I've hunted at Gray Lodge so, like Farmers insurance, I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two with the limb and the cat being examples.
    Many years ago, mid pheasant season, and while I was hanging around the check station waiting for my number to be called, I noticed a truck with a big siamese cat in it walking back and forth on the dash. The owner had just checked out with two pheasants (the limit back then) and as he came up to me I commented about seeing lots of dogs in the parking lot but that was the first cat. He told me in a hushed voice that he got the birds using the cat. Gray Lodge had in the past a lot of black berry patches that dogs couldn't get into but pheasants used as sanctuaries. They'd feed a little before shoot time and then go into the berries for the whole day.
    The guy told me he'd have to be careful where he used the cat because he didn't want it shot by another hunter but later in the season and mid day there weren't many guys out hunting. He'd go to a berry patch he thought was big enough to hold birds and near good feeding areas and he'd take the cat out of the back of his vest and put it next to the berries. Cats have a good sense of smell and are naturally curious so the cat would go into the berries and the guy would go to the other side and wait. It worked well enough he said to shoot as many pheasants as he wanted given he didn't care all that much about shooting pheasants he said. I gave it a 50% rating of being BS and filed it away.
    Decades later, a friend and I were coming back from hunting near the N. boundary on the East side and were headed for the parking lot. It was mid day on a blue bird day with no shooting from the duck hunters or pheasant hunters on the area. Suddenly we heard a fusillade of shots between us and the parking lot and assumed it was some pheasant hunters who had jumped a bird that had stayed too long away from cover. We walked along and it happened again and this time we could see a group of 5 guys walking toward us on the dirt road. Four of them had guns and the other had a 10' limb over his shoulder. They walked along and when they came to a patch of berries the guy with the limb started beating on it and poking the limb into the patch. Suddenly a rooster flushed out of the away side of the patch and the guys with guns emptied their guns at it. It flew away unharmed.
    When we crossed paths I could see it was 4 kids with the oldest in high school and their grandfather with the limb. He was fit to be tied because he said he'd been flushing pheasants for them all morning and was tired and they'd only killed one and were about to run out of shells. We laughed and kept on going to the parking lot.
    There is another way to hunt those patches that doesn't require a dog. You can't really tell how many pheasants there are in an area that has black berries.
    So enzinn, you wouldn't happen to be a member of the Waterfowl Chasers club would you?
    Nice tales! I like the ingenuity of the limb. I have often thought as I reined in my Lab hot on trail near blackberries that it would be great if I could train a Chihuahua or something similarly small to chase after the birds hiding in there. One of my dogs from way back almost lost an eye chasing after a wounded rooster into a blackberry patch, so I have decided that is their safe place forever more.

    I am indeed a member of waterfowl chasers club, just not The Waterfowl Chasers Club. Adding waterfowling to my pheasant hunting regime was a natural move several decades ago, because it requires about the same amount of unbridled and unfounded optimism as California wild pheasant hunting. Plus, it gave me something else to do at potholes while walking around on the High Prairie in the fall looking for grouse and huns.

    Actually this is my swansong season for California pheasant and water fowling, since I am setting up residency in Montana next July. I'll be living in Lewistown and chasing after almost everything that passes for game - geese, ducks, swan, pheaants, grouse, huns, deer, elk, antelope, trout, pike and bass. Even though I will be in California about 1/4 time, I do not intend to ever hunt here again. Actually, that is not entirely true. Even if I wanted to hunt here again, my time will be so booked hunting and fishing in Montana, I won't have enough time to mess around here in California.

  5. #25

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    This is the first year in 10 years I haven't hunted and fished in Montana. Lewistown is pheasant central if you make connections on private land. There's some big pieces of public stuff to but lots of pressure. Are you familiar with the area/state?

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by calamari View Post
    This is the first year in 10 years I haven't hunted and fished in Montana. Lewistown is pheasant central if you make connections on private land. There's some big pieces of public stuff to but lots of pressure. Are you familiar with the area/state?
    Yes, I chose to live there because of the town and my experiences hunting in that area, among other reasons. I know what you mean about public versus private. The one place north of there that has always produced for me has been the Missouri Breaks. That is a little farther afield then the public land that surrounds Lewistown, but man that place is fun to hunt.

    I laugh when I hear the locals complain about how hard hunting is there. I think they would hang up pheasant hunting altogether if they had to chase after roosters in the heat, mosquitoes and chest-high star thistle of the Grasslands, all for the privilege of maybe getting one dicey shot at a rooster for the whole day!

    If you pound the ground with boot leather out there, you will run into the trifecta of grouse, huns and pheasants eventually on public land and sooner on private. If I am local, I suspect that developing relationships with local farmers might be easier. We'll see. People are pretty reasonable there and if you offer to help or bring them something tasty to eat or drink, doors and gates are likely to open to you. The main thing is to avoid bothering farmers during the harvest. Hit them up during the winter AFTER hunting season has ended and they are not too busy.

    There is some great deer hunting around there too and the farmers sometimes put in special requests to MFWP to have deer harvested on their farm or ranch. Antelope hunting is awesome on private land there and public land southeast of there. There are elk in the mountains that abut the town, but you have to get drawn for that zone. Not a real issue for me, since as a resident I can just target places that get less pressure for tags that are easier to get. I am not a trophy hunter, so tags will be easier to get if I do my research both on paper and in the field.

    I had no idea how good the trout fishing was in the High Prairie until I tried it on a whim one time. There is great trout fishing all around Lewistown and you can choose the terrain and stream size you like to fish. Heck, if I ever get tired of exploring all the water around Lewistown, I could drive several hours south of there and fish streams like the Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone, Boulder and Bighorn. There is no end of wild trout fishing in that region and you can always turn to other fish like pike, bass, perch, crappie, walleye and muskies.

    Heck, I would probably move there even if the pheasant hunting was mediocre. The serenity, which is almost impossible for me to find here in California, is abundant. I have tried to put it into perspective for my California - Bay Area friends who have never been to Montana or the High Prairie. The City of San Jose crossed the 1M mark for people in 2013. The entire state of Montana has just a shade over 1M people. There is simply no comparison for the quality of my outdoors experience in the two states, even with the number of visitors that come to Montana.

    I decided to move there even though my wife will continue to reside in Santa Cruz and my consulting geology business will still require me to be here periodically. I figured I would like to make something like that work, so that I can spend what remains of my life hanging out with reasonable people and chasing after abundant fish and game. And most important of all, get my head screwed on straight with serenity and Montana time.

  7. #27

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    Look into fishing the ponds that exist near where you like to hunt. Very nice trout depending on the year and water conditions.
    Ducks will either be all pin feathered brown eclipse birds early or 10 days of outrageous hunting during the migration. Still it has to be experienced.
    I think I'll miss the night sky the most not going back this year and probably ever again. Being 20 miles from even a yard light and 75 miles from the closest very small town makes looking at the stars at night addictive for me. You seldom find places w/o light pollution in Calif. but the area you're going to has them in abundance.
    It's the winters that will be tough. One of the funniest signs I saw back there said, "Remove masks before entering store." So polite but still struck me funny even though it was talking about snow mobile masks and wanting them off so the cameras can get a good look at you.
    I hope you love it.

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by calamari View Post
    Look into fishing the ponds that exist near where you like to hunt. Very nice trout depending on the year and water conditions.
    Ducks will either be all pin feathered brown eclipse birds early or 10 days of outrageous hunting during the migration. Still it has to be experienced.
    I think I'll miss the night sky the most not going back this year and probably ever again. Being 20 miles from even a yard light and 75 miles from the closest very small town makes looking at the stars at night addictive for me. You seldom find places w/o light pollution in Calif. but the area you're going to has them in abundance.
    It's the winters that will be tough. One of the funniest signs I saw back there said, "Remove masks before entering store." So polite but still struck me funny even though it was talking about snow mobile masks and wanting them off so the cameras can get a good look at you.
    I hope you love it.
    I have hunted there in the winter. It can, of course, get brutally cold. I sometimes felt guilty hunting the thick cover and cattails, busting out pheasants, because I know they use a lot of energy to fly and run in the cold. I do love chasing after grouse, huns and pheasants in the winter and once harsher conditions have set in, the fair weather hunters have disappeared and you pretty much have the plains to yourself.

    Goose hunting for honkers can go deep into the winter - they hang around and eat late harvest stuff, even after a lot of water has locked up. If you move to the spring fed creeks and rivers, you can shoot as many mallards as your heart desires later in the season after a lot of water has locked up. I had to really adjust my assessment and scouting methods out there - you drive around a lot with binoculars, spot the waterfowl working a harvested grain field and then ask for permission to hunt if it is private land. Farmers hate waterfowl, so they usually give you permission and shout "kill them all" as you drive off. If you set up on the X in a dry field, you just have to conceal people and dogs and generally stuff your desire to demonstrate what a good caller you are. Staying concealed, keeping quiet and placing full body decoys correctly can give you some off the hook hunts.

    I was thinking about the waterfowl season there versus here in California. I have had some great hunts in California, but things are really crowded now and honestly I don't get that many quality waterfowl hunts here for the time spent afield. Heck, duck hunting doesn't really start going in earnest, at least for me, until early December on cold years. On warm years, the migration never really ever happens and the birds short stop California in Washington and Oregon and Idaho. The light bulb went off for me years ago after duck hunting in the Columbia and Snake River basins in late December - all the birds I was waiting for in Colusa were packed into open water up there and feeding on corn, potatoes, oats, wheat and barley. The game of waterfowl hunting has really changed with the gradual shift of warmer weather to the north, the types of crops harvested in the north and the increase in hunting pressure to the south.

    Weather can be very variable in Montana and it changes on a dime. For example, the water is still not locked up right now and they are experiencing rain and snow, with lows in the 20s and 40's and highs in the 40's and 60's for this week! There are still plenty of ducks and geese there, at least for now. Next year the water might lock up in November and not thaw until May. You just never know. But it is almost guaranteed that there will be long stretches in the heart of winter there when it is colder than a well digger's ass. Which is precisely why I am moving there, because I like the cold and the people that like the cold. A secondary benefit for a denizen of Santa Cruz, CA like myself, is that butt cold weather sorts the wheat from chaff - there are no homeless drug addicts wandering the streets of Lewistown, mainly because the people there don't put up with that crap, but also because you become a hobocicle if you choose the Santa Cruz lifestyle at that locaion.

    I know what you mean about the night sky. You can actually see the Milky Way there and if you are away from city lights, you can actually see by it on a clear night. My new house sits on the relatively uplifted terrace that overlooks the town and has sweeping views of the mountain ranges that encircle the town. The nigh sky does show through at my place, even though there is some light contamination from the town.

    I'll be coming back to Santa Cruz, CA for one week out of the month, so I'll get my fill of warm weather and the Pacific Ocean, along with bad traffic, snotty wealthy self-entitled turd herders and meth and heroin addicts. I will probably be yearning to walk across the vast tracts of prairie into the wind with my dog the whole time I am in California. I just can't seem to get my fill of the amount of freedom and serenity I experience when I am there, no matter what time of the year or the state of the weather.

    I like the mask sign you saw. I cracked up this spring when I walked into a Lewistown bank to finalize the escrow papers on the house and I noted a sign at the entrance that said "No Firearms Allowed Inside". That, in and of itself, is one of the reasons I am going to reside there.
    Last edited by enzinn; 11-19-2017 at 10:41 PM.

  9. #29

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    Now that this thread has been thoroughly hi-jacked, my apologies to the OP.
    That said, ..."meth and heroin addicts"... is maybe a bigger problem back there than here. Smaller number in total but bigger percentage of the population. Enzinn pm me if you feel like it and we'll discuss details off line

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by calamari View Post
    Now that this thread has been thoroughly hi-jacked, my apologies to the OP.
    That said, ..."meth and heroin addicts"... is maybe a bigger problem back there than here. Smaller number in total but bigger percentage of the population. Enzinn pm me if you feel like it and we'll discuss details off line
    Yes, sorry for getting OT OP.

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