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.

The Start of a Fantastic Decade

Growing up, I have always been a kid who loves the country. I love the mountains, deserts, high plains and basically anything in between that doesn't have other houses around. I was enchanted by movies of cowboys and indians, and I decided that I wanted to be one or the other when I grew up. With the ranch I have in Wyoming, I was able to let my heart and imagination run free. My favorite summers were when I was still in elementary school back packing into the Wind Rivers and spending time at the ranch. When I was still too young to hunt, my Dad used to take my older brothers deer and pheasant hunting every year. With him getting busy at work, and development pushing our hunting grounds further and further away, the hunting trips became less frequent. Then, as I got into junior high and high school sports it was the practicing that kept me from any hunting trips that were planned. After graduating this past June, I finally had some free time to do the things my heart really longed to do. It was time for me to hunt and fish, and from the way things went, it was the start of what is going to be a fantastic decade.