Monday, February 1, 2010

The Buzzer Beater with Kevin

I guess I can write about this now that Kevin is gone.
In basketball hitting a shot with the clock running down is exilerating.... When hunting, watching a flock of geese approach with 90 seconds left in the hunting season is even more pressure packed; especially when you are leaving the country for a two year mission only days later.
Kevin and I went out on January 31st to get him his first goose right before he left to Mexico.

We didn't have a great chance of getting one because we didn't do any scouting nor did we have a trusted hunting spot to go to. However, I try to keep my eyes and ears open at all times, at school, work, or home. I had noticed that right before sundown a large flock of honkers would fly over BYU's campus in the general direction of Utah Lake, more specifically Provo Bay.

From doing some field work for my civil engineering classes I know a few public spots in what I hoped was the flight path of those geese. Kevin showed up to my apartment at 3, and we drove 5 minutes to Provo Bay.

I didn't carry my shotgun, mainly because I still have a goose in my freezer and Johanna doesn't really support the stockpiling of waterfowl meat in the freezer. So I was out there with my camera instead. Too bad the duck season had already closed, because we had hundreds of ducks right on us for two hours straight. It was certainly a temptation.
My camera battery died right as the sun was setting so I wasn't able to document this part of the story. The geese were flying around, and they knew hunting season hadn't quite closed yet. We had two flocks of honkers (flying silent) come near our blind, but not close enough. Anyways the season was 5 minutes from closing, and we started talking about leaving. We figured we might as well stay the whole time, being that we had already been there for 2 hours. Just then we saw a line of geese off in the distance, and it seemed like they were headed our way.

They seemed to be a mile away, but they were getting larger and larger as the seconds ticked off the clock. They certainly were headed right for us, and at the pace they were flying they would be over us with one minute to spare. We waited patiently, hunkered down behind our blind, and the geese didn't change their course at all, they were headed right over us.
Kev kept asking how he should take the shot, he was definitely getting birdy. I told him to pick a single goose, step backwards and shoot it right as it was straight above us. I bet this flock was 50 yards up, so it was no easy shot. I told Kev to choose his bird, lead it, pull the trigger, and then repeat until he was out of shells. I thought he was going to nail one last buzzer beater before his 2 years without hunting.
The time came, geese silently gliding over our heads, the sky a navy blue above them. Kev stepped backwards and shattered the silence over Provo Bay. Kev, just got a new gun that shoots 3 1/2 shells. This was the first goose load he had thrown into a flock of birds, and he definitely wasn't ready for it. After his first shot, he looked like he just took a jab from Mike Tyson, I thought he was going to fall over. I was laughing as Kev regained his balance and blasted a few more canon shells well behind the flock. The geese continued calmly off to some field, winning this game, at least until 2012. We were disappointed, but I was glad that I didn't have to clean three honkers that night, and the scenery was definitely worth our time.

A Pheasant Hunt to Remember

After getting my first rooster on the opener, I longed with all my heart to be back out in pheasant country. I began seeing little clumps of cattails or other cover on the side of the freeway and think that it was some of the most beautiful plant life anywhere on earth. I hear of the pheasant hunts in South Dakota where the pheasants are like flocks of black birds here in Utah, and you can take your limit in a matter of minutes. A pheasant hunt to remember here comes from the way we got our birds, not the numbers. Hunting the wily ring necks requires lots of work and a good shot. Tal, in his final semester of his masters degree in engineering still has his priorities straight, so we skipped school one final time to go after the elusive roosters before the hunt closed. We went on a Tuesday to some public land and had the whole place to ourselves. Our party was two people strong with no dogs so we knew our chances were slim, but we also knew our chances of surviving through the rest of the year without getting back into the field were even slimmer.

We began zig zagging through the fields to cover as much ground as possible. All we were seeing was hens, so I volunteered to be the bird dog for a while. I went stumbling, and tripping through a dried up pond bottom of 10 foot tall cattails, while Tal waited on the hill next to it. Sure enough, running out came a monster rooster. He looked Tal in the eye and all I heard was, "KEV!!", the flush, and finally through the cattails I heard the shot and saw him drop. The day continued, and we were surprised at the number of birds we were hearing and seeing. As another rooster cackled and took off not ten yards away from me in the willows , I was so jolted I almost dropped my gun and I missed him. We never know if we are only going to see that one bird so it was tough on me mentally. Tal stopped to call and tell my dad about his shot and my embarassing miss. I heard some chittering in a thick patch of grass not far from us. After he hung up I told him I thought I could hear one right where we were. I had said this before to no avail, so needless to say he was skeptical.

The patch I heard him in was right against a river bank so the hillside next to us was very steep and about 40 feet tall. There was a fence there so I grabbed my barrel and reached it over and began stirring through the grass with the butt of my gun. Sure enough, just like stirring a magical potion, I stirred up the rooster. The only problem was that I had my gun by the barrel on the other side of the fence and it only had to climb 40 feet before he'd be gone forever. I pulled the gun back up and over the fence, shouldered it, he crested and I fired. Down the hill he rolled right back to our feet. Even the sting of the first miss was gone for a minute. We continued hunting until both of us kept falling down and cramping up from pushing through so much thick cover and covering so much ground. Both of us wanted to see just one more rooster, and just as the sun was setting a hen flushed. Then right behind me, flying right into the setting sun, an uncackling rooster flew the coop. I put my sight on it but with the sun in my eyes I decided it was another hen. Only when Tal, who had a better angle than me, screamed at me for not shooting did I realize I had just let that one last rooster fly from right under my feet to freedom. Then came the question of who was at fault. Me for not shooting or Tal for not yelling "rooster"? Either way, the hunt was one to remember. Never will I have a trip that will be both such a story teller and also haunt me forever.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bar H Pheasant Hunt, Tremonton Utah

We took 18 shooters up to the Bar H Ranch to hunt pheasants last Saturday! Pheasant "farms" are generally more like shooting clay pigeons than pheasant hunting, so I didn't have any real expectations for this hunt. We split into two groups to see a little more action, and we payed to take 30 birds, a mixed bag of pheasants, mostly roosters.

After half a day with Maggie, our pointer, the Bar H had far exceeded my expectations. This was as real as pheasant hunting gets. After our first two shooters missed on the first bird, we thought we were ready to knock the rest-of-em dead. Uncle Jim was asking the guide if birds ever come up before the dog goes on point. He just finished saying that it happens, but not very often, when a big rooster came up at Jim's feet, 50 yards away from the dog. After recieving the wild rooster scare that Jim clearly didn't expect, bird number two sailed safely out into the vastness of the Hansel Valley. About half of our birds came up by surprise without warning from Maggie. Several birds actually got away! All of them were shootable, but they would have been good shots. The scenery was beautiful, the dogs work like crazy, the terrain was actual pheasant habitat, and the birds acted like wild pheasants. We all loved Bar H, if you are looking for a good pheasant hunt this is the place to go. We did finally hit some which was fun. I got one with my single shot 20 gauge! We ended up 22 out of 30 between the two groups.

Bar H has great prices, just 15 bucks a bird. They hunt from November to March.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Fish All Day, Make Up Lies

When I was a kid, I remember fishing at the ranch where everyone lined the banks and we'd be reeling them in every cast. The next few years, we'd hear stories of elusive monsters swimming in the depths of the Green. It seemed that when someone would catch one of these no one would be around to witness it. It was as the legendary sign in the ranch bunk house says; fish all day, and make up lies. This year we decided to document any monsters we caught just to be able to prove them. There was something different in the water this year, it seemed to be going back to how I remembered it as a kid only now the fish were bigger. Each morning of a week spent at the ranch, I would smile as I tied on the lure of choice, a rapala, and think of the twenty inch plus rainbows and browns that wanted a piece of it. Nearly without fail, the first cast used to be your best chance, but this year it didn't matter. Every cast was as good as gold, hooking fish of every size. I experienced some of the funnest fights of my life with huge rainbows taking me down deep around logs and boulders, and heart stopping leaps out of the water by enormous browns. The fish I caught this year will stick in my memory forever, and the big ones I lost will be stuck in my nightmares. The best part about it, we got them all back in the water, and got pictures of most of them.

Hunting the Symbol of Peace

Hunting doves makes you feel a bit guilty when you think about what they stand for and all... Kev and I are new comers to this wing shooting and it is quickly becoming one of our favorite hunts. In the last two years we have limited out on some excellent hunts. We have a connection with a private land owner who doesn't let hunters pay to hunt there, so we are pretty lucky.

This year we showed up and expected the hunt to be the same as the year before. We had it all planned out before we got there; start in the sunflower fields near the watering hole and jump them like pheasants for the first hour or so till we were tired, then go find a spot between the fields and the old corals and barns as we would wait for them to fly right over us; we figured we'd have out limits by 9:30 am.

Our plan didn't work out so well, after seeing 3 or 4 doves and shooting one in the first hour, the number of mosquito bites far out numbered the amount of birds we had seen. So we moved over to the corals, again no birds to be found. We figured the year before must have been a fluke, as we were leaving we happened across a farmer who told us where the birds were at, near the edge of the property. So we crossed the valley and before we parked we had already seen 50 or more birds. 2 hours later, after a lot of fun watching Kev learn that his shotgun will indeed shoot 30 yards we had our limits. It took Kevin a while before he hit one, but once he did I think bird hunting was changed forever. He was knocking down doubles like they were geese setting right on us, and thats not easy with doves.

When it was all said and done we had our limits by about the same time as the year before, but we got a completely different hunt. Good times.

Livestock at the Wagstaff Ranch

I did some poaching with my Canon during the summer before anything was in season.

We saw it all this year, Coyotes, Skunks, badgers, grouse, geese, young deer in velvet, 5 point monster bucks up close, and some small moose.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My First Rooster

This year I had no sports to interrupt my hunting. School tried to do so, and failed, failed miserably. I missed the first day of class to go on the dove hunt opener, went bow hunting for elk that Saturday, made it to the ranch for the duck and goose opener in October, and finally made it to pheasant season. I'd been pheasant hunting before but always because I was injured from sports and thus I couldn't shoot a gun. Not even having a big 5x5 elk traverse right below my patch of aspens in a spike only area got my heart going as much as my first rooster. There I laid in a cheap motel, hardly sleeping, terrified that someone would get to the public land before us. I had no idea of what lay in store for me the next day. I had our group up at 445 am ready to get up there and stake our ground. The sun rose red and beautiul after we had been there an hour and a half. Walking through the thick cattails and having a rooster cackle as he comes up is something that is good for the soul. As we pushed through the thick river bottom vegetation, we flushed up the first rooster of the day in the first 200 yards. He was brought down but not by me. The day continued, and I started realizing the slim chances of myself getting a rooster. I was pushing through a thick hollow of toolies as high as I am tall and heard the flush of a rooster to my left. I lunged out of the toolies to where I could see, and I saw the flight of the rooster crossing from left to right in front of me. I shouldered my gun and slapped the trigger. As the roosters legs spread and body went limp, I went crazy. The excitement of the moment had me sprinting toward where it went down, and not even the dogs could catch me. The proudest hunting moment I have ever had is holding up that first ring neck.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A day for Rapalas

In Early August we pulled out the hardware and tried some spinners and rapalas on the Green River in Wyoming. It's not always the case but on this particular day we could not miss. I was using a broken pole for left handers because I didn't plan on fishing on this trip. I think my awkward reeling motions were getting it done for the fish. I was throwing spinners in spots that I have never caught fish before; it didn't matter, the fish were on the line. We caught quite a few brown, and rainbow trout. 2 or 3 of them were pushing 20 inches, nothing monstrous but this brown that Kevin is holding got hooked right under our feet on the bank and jumped up to eye level before Kev landed him, it was nuts.
The water was high and clear. A slight breeze eliminated the bugs, and we enjoyed the tall grass and cottonwoods as a backdrop for this ideal fishing day.

Even these monsters were taking the rapalas. I think this fish must have had an inferiority complex to take a rapala that is almost its size.

This rainbow was a great fight. All of the fish were taking the spinners extra hard. What a great day.