Dirty Birding

Upland game hunts get me in a state of utter excitement. I feel like a child at Christmas, counting down each day until my next big hunt. The anticipation of getting out and hoping my efforts prove successful, while knowing that I am going to exert all of my energy walking or hiking upwards of 15 miles a day–there is nothing else quite like it.

Typically our pheasant trips span two days. Heading to bed the night before the hunt is especially difficult. I try to go to bed as early as possible, since wake up time is 1:00 am and we are in the car driving by 2:00 am; however, the pre-hunt jitters always get me, so sleep doesn’t come easy.

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I don’t know who is more excited–me or the dogs!

Traffic permitting, the first morning we arrive around 5:00 am. We spend the two hours before sunrise driving around scouting and marking the best locations on my OnXMaps app. The app is wonderful for finding private versus public land and for marking/noting specific areas.

We hunt about three hours away from home, so we are unable to scout prior to the hunt. I always think I have an idea of which areas we will hit prior to arriving, but the terrain changes so rapidly that my notions are always wrong. Where there were once fields of flowering alfalfa, they are now barren and could never hold a bird. Ditches that previously flowed with water and housed birds are now dry. Areas where previous months held unhuntable rowed crops are now lush fields of alfalfa. It’s always changing.

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An area that was previously alfalfa, but instead was now unhuntable rows of crops. Also, perk of hunting–the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets!

 

My last pheasant hunt was the close of the season, right before Christmas. The weather was disastrous, and I was sick with bronchitis. The hunt was literally planned for the last few days of the season, so we couldn’t reschedule. It was either go and I push through, or cancel the trip and wait until next year. The latter wasn’t an option for me.

The day before we left, I was still feeling ill, but decided to go. I figured if I had to sit out some fields, then I would rest when needed. We also had a bit of weather right before we headed the almost 200 miles down, and weren’t sure what to expect.

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It was muddy, cloudy, and raining off and on during the trip.

Southern California is not well equipped to handle major rainfall, so on the occasions we do get a lot of it, it can be pretty detrimental. Many of the roads were washed out or flooded. Fields were submerged and the roads are all clay, so it made for an incredibly difficult time covering ground. Luckily we brought our Xtratufs, as often times the fields are wet from being flooded. Traversing through the mud, even with the waterproof fishing boots, was next to impossible.

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One of the less deep areas of mud, and I’m still nearly falling over with each step.

The truck wouldn’t make it down the majority of the roads, which also limited the areas we could hunt, as many of the connecting public roads are clay/dirt farm roads.

Areas we had in mind to hunt were wiped out by the storm so we had to devise a new strategy. There was an area we had previously hunted where we didn’t have luck in the months prior. We hopped in the car and drove the 30 minutes away to check it out, and ended up being successful with our new location!

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We ended the trip with two roosters.

Our two-day trip ended with us taking two roosters, and we covered 25 miles of ground on foot. We ended up seeing a few more roosters we didn’t take down (I missed a great opportunity sadly), but we came home with muddy shoes, tired feet, burning lungs, and some great memories!

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