Friday, September 23, 2016

Leaves were falling

With the last few days feeling more like fall than summer, Jake and I decided to take a long drive over to a place we haven't hunted for several years. With the number of birds we've seen on our last three hunts this spot could shine some serious light on what the season might look like. The drive into this spot has quite a few miles of dirt road and in the dark a nice buck jumped off the side of the road right in front of my truck. Luckily for me, his reflexes were a lot quicker than mine and he bound off the road before we could find who was big dog on the mountain. I decided that seeing game that close up must be a sign of good luck. Four miles later we stopped and prepared for the hunt. I was amazed how many leaves had fallen off the tree's.

Normally, we start at the bottom of the mountain and hike as far up as my legs and the birds will let me. It's well over 4000 feet to the top which I never have made. Today we took a shortcut and got about half way up which was about 4000 feet in elevation. Jake and I hunted yesterday and it was a pretty tough hunt so we thought we'd take it easier today. It was the right thing to do. My legs and lungs were still burning from yesterday and it seemed like every fifty yards or so I had to stop from either hip pain, back pain, or shortness of breath. I wanted to voice my opinion of the getting old process but knew it really had to do with the extra pounds around my waist as well as the extra weight in my vest which was from the water for Jake.

There was no way I could zig zag up the steep ridge like I use too so I found a game trail and walked it until I would find another game trail going a little higher. With Jake covering all the ground in between I knew it shouldn't be long before we found birds. As luck would have it, Jake's first point was straight uphill but only 52 yards away. Understand, the astro only shows vertical distance so he was actually further, which my leg's and lungs soon confirmed. As the birds flushed straight over me, I fired a shot as I spun my way to the ground. I had some help from above because Jake was soon running down hill and came up with a dead bird. I didn't even know I hit it. The bird was a first year bird and probably hatched in June. The next three hours found me stalking a point about every fifteen minutes or so and I really didn't gain a whole bunch more altitude. The problem became the age of most of the birds. About 1/3 of the birds were about the age of the bird I had already bagged but the other 2/3 seemed to be about 5 to 6 weeks old. Very young for this time of the year.

These young birds would have been easy to limit on because they would hold until the very last moment and than just fly 50 to 100 yards around the hill where Jake would see them land and immediately run over and point them again. I finally had to stop Jake at the flush of the young birds and encourage him to go another way. As I said, we did find some more grown birds to shoot but too often came across another covey of small birds. Most of the covey's of small birds were fewer in number than the larger bird covey's. I finally decided to shoot one of the young birds for picture purposes and have to admit it seemed like it took eternity for the bird to get far enough away that I wouldn't blow it apart.

I'd have to say we saw somewhere around 150 birds in the three hours of hunting and gained only 600 feet of elevation. Could have been a great day. It probably will be a great day in the future since  I opted to let these young guys go. I've seen young birds on my other three hunts this year but not like this area. I encourage everyone to hold back on these birds. They provide a much better experience for you on a later hunt.
This is a two and a half month old bird(left) and a five week old bird(right). You'll definitely know the difference as they flush.
The meat retained is not even as much as a mature quail.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow!You saw a lot of birds and had a good outing on the opening.Mays used to make a meal out of the really young birds.I will be taking setter on a road trip up by Denali soon.Mays won't be happy about staying home but it's for his own good.Sounds like Jake is in good form.Still working(too much)'told the boss it's time for another trip.The young man I got the setter from was killed in an auto crash.We ran the dogs together.Too young,only 32 yrs old.Went to the memorial.It was so sad.Keep having fun.Sounds like you are getting up those hills.I take a lot of breaks myself.Say Hi to Barb.
Alan,May's,and the setter

larry szurgot said...

Temperature's are up again this week so Jake and I are sticking around the house getting those fall job's out of our way. Looks like your family is doing well. Best of luck with the setter on your next ptarmigan hunt. I know how hard it will be for you to leave the big guy home but a cinnamon role and the couch will be reward enough.

Larry and Jake

Bob McMichael said...

I've been seeing lots of young birds, too, Larry. If they can mature before getting shot, eaten, frozen, drowned, or struck by lightning they will make for a good late season! I'm passing on them, too. Looks like the weather's about to cool down a bit - my dogs have been struggling with the heat, despite being in pretty good shape from running all summer. I hope your aches subside soon. Best of luck in the field!