We started our season as usual on Sage Grouse in Idaho. Sage Grouse are still in trouble here but there were enough birds around to get some good dog work and a couple excellent dinners.
We then headed to Wisconsin for our annual Grouse and Woodcock fix. We had several young dogs that needed to see some birds so our emphasis was on giving them the opportunity to show us they have what it takes. Grouse numbers were disappointing given the spring drumming counts and most birds we found were spooky and hard to get close to. It seemed like a higher percentage were adults which explains their wariness. We managed to find enough to keep it interesting but overall it wasn’t fantastic hunting and made it difficult to get our youngsters going. One bright spot was a couple coverts with good numbers of woodcock which helped make up for the lack of dog work on Grouse.
With poor reports of Chukar numbers in Idaho after last year’s heavy snows we decided to spend the rest of our season chasing quail in Kansas. So right after Christmas we loaded up and drove to Kansas, arriving just in time for sub-zero temps and howling wind. It was too cold to hunt so we spent our first three days scouting.
January 2-10 was spent at the 2nd Rymansetters.com Breeders Gathering. Hunting was tough after the weather warmed up as birds we had located seemed to vanish. We spent a lot of time with friends old and new and had a very productive series of discussions about goals for RS.com.
First day out was a reunion of sorts. We joined Walt Lesser with October Kade, and Bob Mele with October Lizzie Lee (Bob adopted Lizzie a couple years ago). We miss Lizzie and she reminded us why on this day, making a point on a covey and a single plus retrieving both birds shot over her points.
Walt Cottrell and “Rose” joined us for a hunt and Walt got these photos of Gen pointing a dead quail, Rose backing her, and Lisa with her Bobwhite.
After saying our good byes we got serious about locating birds for our young dogs. This is only the second year we’ve hunted Bobwhite Quail so it’s as much a learning experience for us as for the dogs. A light snow fall helped by allowing us to locate/track birds and we altered our hunting style as well as the habitat covered to maximize our chances of finding birds. It paid off. These birds tend to sit tight which makes them pretty easy for the dogs to handle. However they don’t put off much scent so, combined with their tendency to hide rather than run (we did find coveys that ran), they are surprisingly difficult to locate. The dogs had to figure this out and cover ground more thoroughly and we had to learn to hit areas we had previously passed by. We finished the hunt with dogs making points on the last 7 coveys we found.
Two highlights of that last week occurred on the same day. Buck has had very limited experience despite being two years old (thanks in part to Lisa injuring her knee and foot our second day in WI and being unable to hunt the rest of the trip). He found a couple singles last year (pretty tough for a young dog) but hadn’t really had much chance otherwise. We were hunting a cover we knew held some birds and he hunted very well, covering likely areas as he should. We passed through an area where he slowed down and scoured it thoroughly. We noticed scattered droppings and Buck moved out and sped up when we got away from the sign. So we went back towards where we’d seen the droppings and he immediately slowed down and worked the area over and over. Eventually he located a good sized covey and pointed them, sitting tightly within a few feet of his nose. He clearly knew those birds were there and searched until he found them. Later that day we hunted Coulter. He’d made points on a couple coveys before but this one showed he’s got it figured out. In a brushy draw He and Candy got birdy and we again noticed scatted fresh droppings so we knew there were birds around. They both made several short points while moving up the draw, following the birds as they ran ahead of them. About 100 yards up the draw and in the last patch of brush Coulter pointed the covey and held until we arrived. A very nice piece of dog work.
Our last day of hunting capped off the trip nicely. We’d been running Piper every day and she’d seen a couple singles flush but had no other contacts. This day she got out ahead of us and pointed for a while. It was windy and we never heard the flush but she had a covey pointed and was back where they flushed checking it out, making several short points and eventually locating a single straggler from the covey.
In the end we’re really happy with the development of our youngsters and got to enjoy some quality hunts with our older dogs. Now it’s puppy season (we’re babysitting Brook’s litter right now) which will keep us busy for the next few weeks.