It was a long way out to Montana and back. I think I put over 5,000 miles on Tim’s truck and the young pups we took are now accomplished travelers. Despite the distance it was a great trip. Bird numbers were quite low and it took an old dog like Jack who has years of experience on the Texas prairie to find and hold birds. His first find was most memorable as he was 407 yards away when the Garmin beeped and it took us a while to get to him. He was standing in a mowed hayfield. Tim and Allen each knocked down a Hun when the covey flushed. Some people think a find like that is unusual or even impossible. This was the first time Jack had ever pointed huns but I have seen him point and hold Texas quail at twice that distance (fortunately in Texas I was usually on a horse). So called “meat hunters” who never break their dogs and keep them in close don’t believe and/or don’t understand that a find like that is what you should expect from any good pointing dog.
One of my objectives on the trip was to add a Sage grouse to my list of birds shot (I had shot huns and sharptails on a previous trip to Montana). I managed to accomplish that on the first morning. It may have been the best eating game bird I’ve ever had. I lightly covered the fillet breast meat with flour, added a little salt and pepper, and the seared to medium rare in a hot skillet.
We covered many miles of prairie and I was amazed at the access that the state of Montana provides for it’s hunters. There are hundreds of pieces of private land that are part of the Block Management Area program as well as lots of state and federal land. Alex Rickert and his father Al hosted us and we stayed at their Table Rock Ranch. The ranch is a testament to what good management practices can do to help bird numbers. It was on the ranch that we got into the most birds. It’s where Jack had his 407 yard Hun find and LJ had a find on a covey of 20 huns that that ran out in front of him and the shooters didn’t go far enough. They busted when LJ tried to relocate on them. On the last evening we ran Glo by her self in part of the same field and she got into some sharptails. Between the ones she pointed and the ones we walked up we moved about 18 grouse. Brandy and Sam were also really getting to like the prairies by the end of the trip. On one run we moved a bunch of hen pheasants and a few sharptails and Sam got all cranked up ripping off 300 to 400 yard casts but still handling. Alex’s puppy Birdy has adapted well to the prairies and was actually running a little too big for a 7 month old puppy. By the end of the five days Alex was keeping her a little closer and she will get more chances on birds as the season progresses.
So, Tuesday is the first of October and it will be time to put the blank gun away for three months. It’s going to be tougher than last year finding grouse but the woodcock hatch was good and the flight birds will be through later in the month and early in November. I’m looking forward to shooting some birds for the young dogs as well as guiding. I still have some open dates if anybody is interested in coming up.
|If you click on the picture and look at it full sized you can see Sam at about 350 yards coming along the fence line right in the center of the picture.|
|The sage grouse I shot the first morning.|
|Unfortunately, Montana has its share of porcupines. Fortunately Brandy only got a couple dozen around her mouth. Hopefully she’ll be smart enough to avoid them in the future.|
|Timmy found me a Beretta S56e that has sling swivels. When I first got the gun I was tempted to remove the swivels. After five days in Montana I was glad I kept the swivels and the sling.|