Antelope and Pheasant Hunting

Oh, man I just love fall.  I love the colors, the smell, the way the air feels… It just has a different energy from the rest of the year.  So combine that with going out to look for Bob’s antelope and going Pheasant hunting for the first time and it makes for a great time!

First I want to tell you this story… I guess about 13 years ago I had said to my dad that I wanted to hunt pheasant so my dad was on the lookout for a shotgun for me.  Well, while he and my mom were in Billings she had him stop at Shopko and he went to go look at guns and was eyeing a 20 gauge they had there for $230 but decided not to get it.  So they get ready to leave and as he goes out the door, the blue light starts flashing and the voice over the loudspeaker announces that the Remington 20 gauge is on blue light special!  Did you guys know they really did blue light specials? And I do want to know who controlled what went on special, maybe the guy at the gun counter who saw this fella looking at a particular gun? Anyway, dad goes back in there and the gun is on special so he goes ahead and buys it.  Then when he gets home, there’s a rebate in one of his hunting magazines so he sends that in and get twenty bucks back.  And now he’s got my gun.  But unfortunately it didn’t get out much until now.  And once you hear the rest of this, you might pity it even more!

Now for page two… (Anybody get that?  Huh?) Well, anyhow Bob and I took our 4 yr old son, Robby, with us and piled in the truck with my dad and went looking for antelope at daylight.

Little Buddy.jpg.

We drove out towards Grass Range to hunt out at the Ayer’s Hutterite Colony and entered the first pasture.  We soon realized we had picked the wrong day to hunt that area because it was the weekend that there were cattle buyers in town and a lot of the area rancher’s were gathering up calves to ship.  So as we drove in we were met with cattle semi’s, bawling cattle and horses and riders on the move.  We went ahead and checked the entire area that we had permission to hunt on, but the antelope had all been pushed out into the neighboring ranches.

Since we hadn’t had any luck with the antelope we decided to go home and change gear and get the dogs to go out Pheasant hunting.  We loaded up with shotguns and Bob’s bow, just in case…

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My dad hunts two Brittany Spaniels, Joe and Dex, that are eight and ten years old so they have a lot of experience. And we have a Brittany Spaniel/Golden Retriever cross we call CC.  She is almost two and this was her first time out.  We really should have had her out before and we have mostly worked with her on obedience training, but she has always been pretty keen on pointing so we were hoping she hadn’t lost some of that natural instinct.

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As we got out of the truck,there were some Pheasant feathers on the ground and I showed them to CC and she got pretty excited and  dad’s dogs started sweeping along, nose to the ground.  We took off up along a draw with dad on one side and Bob and I on the other.  Dad’s dog flushed a hen right away but we can only shoot roosters so we continued on.  Our dog swept in and out of the long grass and brush, coming back to check in with us and then taking off again.  I think she thought at first that we were just out for a nice walk when all of a sudden as she was running excitedly after a scent she surprised a hen that flew up right in front of her.  She jumped up after it as it flew and then came back to us, running all out and you could see in her eyes that she knew what was up now.  She became a bit more focused and followed dad’s dogs more closely as they scoured the bottom of the coulee.  They scared up a few pheasant here and there and Bob and Dad got a few shots off with no luck.

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Looking back down the coulee

On our way back down, we went through a hailed-out barley field and Dad scared up a coyote and a few more hens and Bob tried another shot at a rooster.  But we didn’t actually take any down in that field.

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We crossed the road to another stubble field that edged a small ravine and we came across quite a few more birds, but dad’s dogs were hunting a bit too far out and we weren’t able to get a shot.  I was especially frustrated when I decided to move on and catch up to the guys and as I walked away the dogs got up two roosters out of the ravine where I had been standing.

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Day was drawing to a close and we decided to drive down and check out one more spot when dad noticed some roosters in the field off the road.  Bob hopped out and intended to let me try to get around where I could try a shot too but the birds started to take off and we didn’t get a chance at them.  We drove just a bit further and there was another rooster.  I hopped out and he flew up right in front of me.  I pumped my gun, settled it into my shoulder, squeezed the trigger… and nothing.  I left my safety on.  ARG!!!

Well, after that we saw a bunch of pheasant head across the stubble field and down towards the ravine in a different area.  We still had 40 minutes of hunting time left as you can hunt 30 minutes after sunset so we set off after them.  As we came up to the edge we saw them all coast down into the bottom.  We had left the dogs because we had hoped to sneak up on them a little bit so we stood looking down the steep hill as they disappeared into the long grass and brush in the bottom.  Then we all started to meander down the slope.   Pheasant flew up here and there and dad shot two roosters.  I didn’t get a shot and Bob tried for a couple.

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So, all in all, it wasn’t entirely successful but man was it fun.  I loved tromping around with the dogs and the thrill of watching those beautiful birds fly up and hearing the whir of their wings.   I can’t wait to get out again.  And this time I am sure I will remember to flip my safety off.

 

Summer Fishing Series: Part II-4th of July Fishing at Fort Peck

Ft. Peck 4th of July weekend-

walleye-with-flared-fins

For this part of the series Katrina and I joined a couple of friends, Kevin and Crystal for a fishing trip to Ft. Peck at the southern part of the late had Hell Creek marina.  This would be our first time fishing there on that arm of the lake.

jdr-lures

During the weeks leading up to the trip both Katrina and I were figuring out what we would need to bring for both food, water, and fishing gear. We brought what we thought would be a good batch of gear.  A medium-light action spinning combo, a medium action spinning combo, and my typical tackle box:  basically the spoons from JDR Specialty Tackle that I had purchased on the last trip.

For the food we borrowed a Yeti 125 from my dad so that we would have just one spot to keep the food cool and get the fish cooled down until we were able to get home.  We wrapped dry ice in newspaper and put it in the bottom with regular ice over the top.  It worked so well, we were able to freeze the fish we caught and it kept our ice from melting the whole time.

About a week prior to the trip, we met up with Crystal and Kevin, who we would be getting to know very well during the next week (if want to get to know someone, the best way I have always found is to go “live” with them for a period of time by camping, hunting and generally being outdoors).  We talked through some of the specifics of what each couple would be bringing so that we could prevent doubling up on things.  This really set us up for a good time!

On the night before we were going to leave for the trip, we got as much of the gear ready as we could, so that we would be ready for the next day of travel.  After I wrapped up my work the next day, we loaded up the cooler, our gear, and the kids who were going to stay with grandparents who happen to be on the way.

We got the kids settled with their grandpa and grandma and met up with Kevin and Crystal in Lewistown.  This is where the fun began.  We hooked up the boat to my pickup as it was better suited to pull it and could handle all of our combined gear.  We got gas and then were on our way.

We arrived to the camping spot about 12:30 am, which was about what we figured, based on when we had left Lewistown.  We then started stealth-fully looking for a camping spot which had shade during the time when we would possibly in camp.  We found a spot and pulled out the tent to get it set up.

We had just recently purchased a tent from our local Sam’s Club and we had set it up in the yard the week before, that was helpful since we were setting up the tent in darkness.  We got it up just as the wind started blowing.  We found out one of the legs was a bit weak and we supported it with a bit of duct tape.

After finishing up the tent we went to getting the truck and camper unloaded. At this point we were all a bit tired and crashed.

Day 1 of Fishing:
We woke up early and made breakfast and tea for the girls and talked about what we would try to do to get the trip started off well.  We ate and got on the water relatively early and we were fishing!

The day started off kind of slowly.  We decided since I had had some luck bottom bouncing with my dad a few weeks earlier, that we would try that.  We were able to get a couple fish here and there, but nothing truly significant.

Katrina: I am going to interject here and just say that I had never been fishing like this.  My previous experience with fishing had been sitting on a bank, throwing the line out and waiting.  So I really didn’t know what to expect when I found out that we would be sitting all day in a boat.  I brought a lot of books and was prepared to nap!  But what I found out was, it was amazing out there.  There is a lot more to the ways you can fish from a boat which makes it really interesting.  And it was just so relaxing and fun, especially in the morning, the water is beautiful, the fresh air smells fantastic, and you don’t really have any responsibilities on a boat.  It’s not like you are expected to accomplish anything besides fishing out there!

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Day 2

Once again we woke early.  This time we tried further down the lake, we found where the electronics said we had fish, but they were not biting.  We used all types of colors, ranges of depths, and speeds, but to no avail.  The fish were just not biting.

We decided to take a break as it was very hot.  We moved into the main part of the lake and before we knew it Kevin had jumped in.  We all decided to follow suit and jumped in after him.  This was a great change to the day, it being so slow for so long.

After we all clambered back into the boat, we decided to try going around the edge of a cove trolling some of the spoons from JDR specialty tackle while bottom bouncing.  We were trolling along when Katrina called “I think I’m hung up!”  When I turned to look, the rod was bouncing heavily!  After a few more moments of reeling, to our disappointment, the line went slack.  After reeling in the line, I looked at the end and it was a clean break, telling us it wasn’t a snag, but rather a pike’s teeth that had done the job.  Unfortunately, we had not set up that pole with a steel leader.  Just a reminder that when you can, use a steel leader to help get the fish in the boat.

We moved down the bay, and a few minutes in, we were all reeling  up again as Kevin had hooked in to a fish.  However, this wasn’t an ordinary fish.  I happened to be watching Kevin as the fish hammered down the bottom bouncer and almost took the rod into the lake.  At times during this fight, the fish seemed to tear line from the reel, then Kevin would be able to catch up to him and get him closer to the boat.  However, after the five minute struggle, the fish, with his sharp teeth, cut through the line and left Kevin struggling to accept what had just happened.

After that fish, we decided to keep fishing that bay, as it seemed to be holding fish that were biting.  After another few minutes, we found out that we were going to have a “crappie” day!  Kevin hooked into the first one, and then one after another we all started catching these great pan fish!  We also caught a few walleye during that day and packed it up to head to camp and have another great dinner done by the whole crew.

Day 3 – Redemption

After talking the previous night, the gals decided they would like a morning off to sleep a bit more and enjoy their warm drinks (coffee and tea) while Kevin and I decided to head out.  This proved to be good for us, bad for the gals.

We decided to try to catch the walleye bite in the morning in the same bay that we had fished the day before.

We got to the bay early with no other boats around.  We decided not only to try to be there in the morning, but to also try  plastic baits on a jig head instead of spoons and bottom bouncers.  Almost right off we started catching crappie and a walleye here and there.  It was fun to be catching fish consistently which was a change from the past two days.

One of my casts in particular I threw towards the bank where we had fish the day before. This time, to my surprise, I ended up hooking in to something different!  It struggled and pulled differently than any of the fish I had caught prior, and after a couple of minutes, I ended up bringing to the surface a really nice smallmouth bass! We brought him in to the boat and took a couple of good pictures and then moved down shore, not 10 minutes later I brought in another one just about the same size!  I couldn’t believe it!  Two really nice bass within a couple of minutes.

bob-bass

After the two bass I thought it had been a really successful day and didn’t really expect much else from the day.  It was then I ended up hooking into another nice fish.  As I was reeling, it felt different as it was coming up.  When it hit the surface I was ecstatic.  It was about a 5 lb walleye, my biggest to date!  Kevin was giving me a bad time about my luck as we took a couple of pictures and put it on to the stringer.  Since it was a big fish I decided to put two hooks through his mouth so he wouldn’t get off.

bob-big-walleye

We kept on fishing for awhile, still in awe over the difference in this day.  I decided that I would look to see how the fish on the stringer were doing.  When I looked down I saw something terrifying.  My walleye had worked his way off one of the hooks and the other was open!  I set down my rod and was going to pull it up slowly so I could replace and close the hooks, but when he felt me pull up on the stringer, he shook right off of the hook and back in to the water.

This was devastating as he was by far the best Walleye I have caught and I definitely wanted to show Katrina a good sized walleye.  But after a few minutes we both got back to fishing.

kevin-bass

Kevin, running the boat and fishing from the bow, then got a bite and hooked into a good fish.  The fish came up relatively quickly, but it was another 5lb walleye.  Although we both knew it was a different fish, I couldn’t let him get off easy, so I told him thank you for getting my fish back into the boat.  This time we ran the string through the gill so there was no way for him to get off.

Kevin Walleye.jpg

It was about lunch time after Kevin’s fish so we headed back to shore to eat lunch and pick up the girls.  We then went right back out to that bay to see what else it would hold.

To our dismay, the rest of the day was filled with a fish here and a fish there, although Crystal did get a good sized bass.

crystal-bass

Day 4 –(4th of July) All good things must come to an end.

We woke up early to get a couple of hours on the water. Although this was a last ditch attempt we didn’t have very much luck.  A few fish here and there.  Kevin did, at the end of the morning, finally did catch the pike of the trip.

Kevin Pike.jpg

patriotic-flag
The clouds doing their part to celebrate the 4th of July

Things we did right:

Used electronics to find the fish

 kept trying different depths, colors, and methods

When we found something that worked, we stuck with it

Having friends and family around

Things we could have done better:

HAVE A LIVEWELL

Asked about what was working from a local shop before fishing.