PHEASANT HUNTING IN THE US OF A

 

PHEASANT HUNTING IN THE US OF A

PHEASANT HUNTING IN THE US OF A

High above the Lodge at the Flying B in Idaho

The last article in the pheasant series and already you can see here in the US we don’t use the term
“Shoot” but refer to all matters as “Hunting”.

Unlike the UK here in America there are vast areas of land that nobody owns, or indeed would want
to, and these are called state lands and may be hunted with a suitable permit, however for the most
part the limits are ridiculously low with only TWO birds per day. Hardly worth going out in my opinion
but “one man and his dog” can obviously have some fun if you live in one of these States.

America does have more species to hunt than the UK which is predominately Pheasant, English
partridge, and Chukka often referred to as  Frenchmen, Frenchies or Red Legs and a spattering of
Woodcock and Snipe, and for the idle rich the Grouse. Here we have the good old Pheasant,
Chukka and Partridge often referred to as Hungarian Partridge or Huns. Woodcock can be found on
the East Coast and Southern States have the Bob White Quail, of Dick Cheney fame, and here
perhaps the (hunting) shooting is a bit more like the UK with old fashioned style and horse drawn
transport for the hunters/guns.

Quail hunting transport Southern Style

A bob white quail covey explodes, and with hunters this close together
no wonder people get shot !

There are also many varieties of Grouse, the Prairie Chicken, and Arizona sports three different
types of Quail and of course there are the standard Vermin birds of Dove and Pigeon which can
provide excellent shooting in the right areas.

Well other than the “free” land the rest is either private or commercial with large areas devoted to
Reserves, Preserves, Ranches, or Hunt Clubs where hunting can be had on either a “bird basis”
or a mini vacation.

When I was in Arizona I used a local Hunt Club where you could book your “hunt” and specify what
you would like to hunt/shoot. Experience of this sort of operation showed that it was better to take
an afternoon session and book an area close to the giant holding pen. The reasons for this soon
became apparent as you could only harvest those birds in your assigned area and within the 3
hour time limit. So if a morning hunt had taken place with a lot of birds released and people using
their own less than perfect hunting dogs you could guarantee that many of the birds were still in
there and slowly but surely birds that hadn’t been shot would all start trying to make their way back
to the release pens as others called them in. Those birds left out after the afternoon session often
fell prey to predators who were happy being in a target rich environment!

To get the most enjoyment out of this style of hunting, unless you have a well trained friend, then
your best bet is to use a guide and his dogs. Very soon a rapport will develop and once the guide
knows you are not going to shoot him or his dogs the shoot/hunt takes on a very different
perspective.

There is little to beat well trained pointing dogs

The dogs used in just about all bird hunting operations in the US are the pointers and although
perhaps not the softess mouthed dog their hunting ability is truly amazing! The two favorite types
are the English Pointer and the German Short Hair. For the most part these working dogs appear
as less than perfect examples of the canine world with bones showing through and clear pink or
yellow expressionless eyes. A bit like having a conversation with a drunk, “the lights are on but
there is nobody home!”

A classic “point” from a bag’o bones English Pointer

A bit like Mister Data, the eyes are expressionless and look right through
you

The lights are on, but is anyone home ?

Now in the UK if we are trying for walked up then we would like our faithful friend to hunt within 20
yards of us as we move forward through our area. As labs and spaniels are traditionally flushing and retrieving dogs, although once in a while you will find a labrador that points, we don’t want them
getting “out there” as they will flush countless birds way out of range and ruin everything. You can
therefore imagine what I’m thinking the first time I’m working with these goofey pointers and after
watching the guide fit their collars he lets them go and they disappear at high speed covering huge
areas of the patch where the birds I ordered have been put. I’m mentally thinking that any minute birds
will be airborne and flying out of my area and it will be a giant waste of money. With dogs running
aimlessly this way and that I trudge off after the guide expecting the worst and then the dogs are
gone! Shortly after the vanishing act there comes a “bleeping” noise from deep cover and the guide
changes direction and we close in on the “bleep”.  There are the two goofs, rock steady, one with paw
in the air and tail up like a flag and the other nose down and tail straight out. Very soon I deduce the
bleeps are coming from their collars and when the dogs stop moving the pendulum stops swinging
and the bleeps start. VERY clever, the UK shooter is IMPRESSED!!  The guide motions where he
wants me to be, I check my area, and then on command one of the dogs flushes the quarry, bird up,
gun mounted, simple swing, bird down ……. no reaction, dogs still rock still, I reload, another
command, 2 birds up, I swing, 2 birds down and the dogs retieve all three………. suitably impressed
we move on!   Today I ordered 10 pheasants and we finished up with 22 in the bag!!

A pair of pointing Brittanys

From 30 mph to dead stop in 3 paces

Now that’s a point !!

Like all good things the Prescott Hunt Club that I had become happy with gets sold out from under the manager who had set up a wonderful site and it gets sold off as 10 acre ranchettes! I then tried other
venues in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona but couldn’t find anything that I enjoyed as much so when
my son Edward, himself an excellent shot,came out to visit we took a trip to Mexico for some quail and
duck shooting.

Ducks being ducks I won’t cover that here but just describe the quail hunting which was different to
say the least! Either dogs don’t like Mexicans or vice versa but whatever the reason the Mexicans are
the beaters, flushers and retrievers. They will send scouts out to various fields and then deploy the
beaters in a very close line with Edward and myself on either side of them. The birds are flushed or
kicked out of their hiding places and we shoot them and then the eagle eyed Mexicans go and find
all the downed birds…… quite amazing!

An afternoon on Quail in Mexico with Edward

The Dakotas and Nebraska were looked at as possible venues but after much research I decided to
try the Flying B in Idaho and I’m very pleased that I did. They have a wonderful long season from mid
August through until mid April, release about 60,000 birds over their land and have a good weather
factor most years. They have their own kennel with English and German Pointers and breed their own replacement dogs and also train them. The purpose built hunting lodge wants for nothing and
everything from arrival to departure is five star and is included in the package which costs around
$1000/day but overall is worth every penny and then some! Perhaps the most wonderful place I have
ever shot/hunted at and having found it I would now never go anywhere else.

The fantastic Lodge at the Flying B

Cindy flushes me a perfect shot

I did once join a hunt at the Flying B sponsored by a shooting magazine but sadly the shooting of
some of the party gave cause for alarm with one clown shooting over my shoulder and dam nearly
deafening me, another swinging right through me at fleeing partridge and another blasting a sitting
bird right in front of the pointing dog’s nose. All credit to the dog that it never moved but I’m afraid this
cowboy style shooting is NOT for ME !

At that range with full choke the bird will only be fit for soup

As my Grandfather always said, “Never be in a rush”. What we are talking about here is footwork and
smooth mounting of the gun. A novice or inexperienced “gun” will often forget about the front foot, and
mount and fire far too quickly! This is either a desire to impress everybody or the fact that nobody has
given our hunter some simple rules. As you walk in to the point, check where everyone else IS and
the other dogs. If the bird flushes close to your feet, put your feet in a good position to swing with the
front foot forward by about 18 inches, as you push the gun forward you will be picking up the line of
flight and now count to 3.  Swing smoothly through the bird and if safe, with the right amount of lead,
fire!

From what we can see in the following photo the hunter was “too keen” ! The gun mount was POOR
and has been rolled into the shoulder and his footwork would indicate an “off balance” shot at ultra
close range. The shot was “lucky” for the hunter and very “unlucky” for the bird and in truth there
won’t be anything worth putting on the table! This one is SOUP !!

Plucked in flight !!!

From that point on I shot “solo” and teamed up with Jim and his dogs and formed a very strong bond
and a great hunting team.

My favorite guide and good friend Jim, with a heavy game bag

Walking in on yet another point

I shot with Jim on all my future visits and had a lot of laughs as he recalled a lot of his guiding stories
with some rich, but badly schooled shooters/hunters. Shooting with Jim I scored the highest one day
total of 87 birds shot and as I was the only person with a gun there can be no argument as to who
shot what.

The afternoon “bag” on my 87 bird day !

Edward joined me on a future visit and Jim was very impressed with his etiquette and fine shooting
style especially downing a bird or two that father had missed!

A mixed bag of Huns, Chukka and Pheasant  on our first afternoon hunt


Overall I enjoy working with pointers perhaps more than I ever thought possible and some of Jim’s
dogs have to get a mention.

Above the Lodge Jim lets Brush and Cindy out for the hunt

The first is “Brush” a very non discript looking bag of bones english pointer who would retrieve both
on sight and smell. One of the few dogs I have ever seen observe the shot and watch and if he
suspected you had hit it he would be off in hot pursuit and perform some of the most amazing
retrieves I have ever seen. The most memorable of these retrieves was from an early flush of a big
rooster that took off before the point and came towards me. With plenty of time I mounted the gun for
this classic driven bird shot, applied the requisite lead and fired. Nothing happened! I was so
surprized I couldn’t believe I had missed such a perfect shot and never fired the other barrel. Brush
looked up at me with a knowing look and went after the bird which was now climbing and a 100
yards away. The bird flew a good 1/4 mile crossing the valley floor before attempting to land on the
very steep rubble strewn hillside where it fluttered after a bad landing and then expired. We watched
Brush run the full length of the valley, cross the river, and climb up the steep rock filled hillside setting
off numerous avalanches on his climb including falling back a couple of times himself. He was NOT
going to be cheated out of his retrieve and eventually returned with the bird as though nothing had
happened. Sadly these working pointers are not known for their longevity and often pass anywhere
from the age of 4 on.

Maybe the best gun dog I have worked with ….. “BRUSH”

The other beast who I became friendly with was “Lawman”, quite the ugliest ungainly German short
hair I have ever seen. His legs were too long and his face was mishapened with a sort of “S” bend
nose and upper jaw. When I first saw him in his crate I started laughing and I think he took it
personally and thereafter seemed to want to show me he really was a very good dog. One day we had stopped for a coffee break by the truck and the dogs were just milling about around us and then as we
are talking and smoking Lawman goes on point by some rocks and the other dog honors. Gun
reloaded, and over to the point. Jim orders the flush and I down a partridge and a hen pheasant with a classic left and right. Lawman and friend depart and we walk back to the truck. The dogs return, each
with a bird in their mouth, and Lawman with mouth full of bird goes on point again coming up to the
rocks. We naturally assume it’s the scent from the last flushed pair and call him in but he WON’T
move! He just stands there head cocked sideways and mouth full of bird. Reload once more and
wander over not expecting anything and on order another cock pheasant is flushed from the same
hiding spot……………. It gets shot and retrieved while I’m still shaking my head in disbelief especially
as I had time to take this picture of him on point with a bird in his mouth before loading up and
bagging his second point!

Lawman on point with a bird in his mouth ????

Overall I enjoy “hunting” in America and working with pointers but I’m not keen on all the “orange”,
autos, and pump guns with their tight chokes and would say that from what I have seen I prefer to
shoot alone or with people I have seen in action, and NO, I won’t be hunting quail with Dick Cheney !

Orange, pumps and autos, ……. not for me !

Oh to be, at the Flying B

TONY DOWN

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Comments
  • 11/22/2010 11:20 PM Steveo wrote:
    Again big thanks for sharing those memories,I was fortunate to have had one of those German short hairs,the prettiest point I’ve ever seen,amazing instincts and breeding…
    Well the trials riding is getting decidedly cool now, with a dusting of the white shtuff being a few hundred feet up the mountain, from the salt chuck.
    Reply to this
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