On Nov. 17 my father-in-law Dan and brother-in-law Chris came out from CA for a visit for thanksgiving. Prior in the year we had planned to head back to SD where I grew up and do some pheasant hunting. Dan was able to make it out 3 years ago with one of his good friends Mike, and we had a very successful trip. They flew into Billings on Nov. 15 and we stuck around Colstrip for a day to relax. We hit the road the morning of the 17th and figured we would get an afternoon hunt in.
We made back to Lemmon around 1:30 and headed out to my friend Stephen's for the afternoon. I hunted the area a couple of weeks before and there was plenty of birds to go around it was just up to the shooting as it normally goes. I also brought my French Brittany named Colt. I hadn't had him out for a while and was just looking forward to letting him get some good exercise and play around. I figured out playing to him meant it was time for business. I kick myself all the time for not investing more of my time into him, as he performed way above what I was expecting.
The first afternoon there was plenty of birds, but the majority were getting up a little far out for us to shoot. We were hitting birds, but it was becoming apparent that our loads were too light to knock them down. We hit a few spots, and the Hungarian Partridge numbers are way up, which is awesome to see as they are such a fun bird to hunt. We walked one of the big fields, and I had Colt out and we finished our walk. We all gathered at a corner of the field, and Colt went on point. It had been long enough since I used him last that I didn't recognize him on point, but I quickly remembered and went to where he was at. We had just walked through the area so I figured he was catching old scent. I was wrong we all headed in and he was pointing right on top of a rooster and hen. The rooster went down to the gun of Dan. We ended the day with shooting a couple of pheasants and a couple partridge. Was a good hunt for the three hours we were out.
The morning of the 18th we headed back out to the same areas. It was a tough day as the birds continued to fly far out. Colt once again did fantastic and continued to point live birds. The tough part is that he can't depict between a rooster and hen, so quite a few were tight holding hens. We hit a lot of birds, but we were still shooting too light of a load. The birds we were hunting had been hunted hard since the opener in October, so they were a little wild. We again ended up short on our limit and again shot a couple more partridge. We knocked a few down, but not hard enough and didn't recover all that had been shot. All and all it was a fun day. I almost ruined the trip on our last walk though as I dropped the keys to our rental car. I was devastated I was already planning my trip back to Colstrip to get the extra set of keys. I headed back to the highway to meet my mother so we could make a plan. Just as I got to the highway I got a great call from my mother-in-law, Dan and Chris found the keys. I thought I could hear them yelling, but wasn't sure and then I saw the headlights and I knew we were good to go. The day went from devastating to time to get out in the morning and hit it hard.
The morning of the 19th we headed to the local store to find some heavier ammo. The store had a great selection, and we switched from 5 and 6 shot to 4 shot. What a difference. The birds were now falling and being recovered. We hunted all day and Colt did awesome. We had found every bird we shot and we finally lost one. I let Colt head to Chris to help look for the bird. With the help of Colt the bird was located and he had a grip on it and wouldn't let go. We had two more birds to get and were headed to another field, and a couple of roosters and hens made it easy on us and sat by the road. Dan and Chris jumped out and got our last two birds for the day, we filled our limit and even headed home before the sun set.
The last morning of the 20th it was going to be a short hunt as we had to head back to MT for Thanksgiving. We hunted the same areas and after a couple of hours had three more birds and hit the road. It was a very fun successful trip, and we learned to make sure and pack some heavier lead later on in the season.
I won't be going back to SD to hunt birds again this year, but I can't remember the bird population doing so well. I often forget how lucky I was growing up there and going out hunting after school or on the weekends and shooting birds so often. I also found a new hunting partner I will be taking advantage of from now on. If you ever get the chance to work with a pointer take full advantage of it. He isn't the best at retrieving but he knows how to find them and won't let them go. I look forward to the rest of the bird season in MT.
On Nov. 6th I worked nights and had previously decided to head back home to do some pheasant hunting with Stephen. We had planned a trip together where he would hunt deer in the morning and afternoons and hunt pheasants when we weren't in the stands.
I finished my day shift, packed up, and hit the road to South Dakota. I arrived at Stephen's at around 1:45 am. Just in time to get a little shut eye before hitting the stand in the morning. The plan was for Stephen to get a nice buck with his bow, but he tagged out the day before. He ended up shooting a fantastic 140's whitetail that he had trail cam pics of. With a buck tagged we decided to sit in the stand anyway as he still had a couple of doe tags, and I really didn't feel like driving all the way out for two days and not spend any time looking for deer. It was a chilly morning and we never had any does come close enough for a shot. We climbed out of the stand and we had been watching a little spike buck working our direction. After making back to the ground and warming up a little the buck continued to work our way. Pretty soon the buck was coming right at us so Stephen and I hid behind a tree and took some video of the buck getting closer. When the buck got around 15 yds away Stephen jumped out for the behind the tree and scared the small buck, which made him turn inside out and flee the other way. Was definitely a good laugh.
We returned to the house and took a nap for a bit as both of us were wore out. After getting a little rest and some food in us we headed out after some birds. We hit some areas right around the house, and I was quickly reminded of how fortunate it was growing up there and the amount of birds that are around. I always took it for granted with the amount of birds. I would like to try and describe how good the bird hunting is, but I can do it no justice as it is unreal. Stephen grabbed the camera while I hunted. We hadn't walked very far and the field erupted with birds. I would like to guess what got up, and will take a guess at somewhere between 250 to 300 birds flew up, but I also know that is way to few for what we saw. I was testing out a new shotgun purchased by Leah's dad, and pretty sure he may not get to use it as I was shooting birds like crazy. I ended up with my limit and Stephen wanted to go scout for deer. We drove around and saw more birds, and an abundant amount of sharptail grouse as well, even bagging a couple along the way. We scouted until dark and then headed to our friend Matt's house for some dinner. We cooked up the couple of birds we shot. We deep fried them and they turned out awesome, much better than you could expect. We sat around the table and had a few beers and shared stories from hunting to "get togethers" from the past. Stephen and I headed back to the house and determined the following day was going to be a great day to sleep in.
The following day we kicked back and headed out mid morning. We did some driving around the country side, which is one thing I truly miss as when we were in high school we could spend everyday out just driving around, and you forget how good simple things were growing up. There was a group of hunters coming out from CO and TX that I had an opportunity to hunt with around 7 years ago and it was great getting out hunting with them again. Everyone shot exceptionally well. By the end of the day there was 5 of us hunting and we got our limit of 15 pheasants, 7 grouse, and one partridge. I would like to say that we walked and walked and walked to get that many birds, but in reality we were done in two hours. We stuck around the house and had a fantastic home cooked meal, and it was time for me to head back to MT as I had to work the next day. It was a very quick trip, but even with a short 2 day trip it's more than worth it to spend some quality time hunting with great friends. Life just doesn't get any better. Getting very excited for my return trip Nov. 17-20 with my father-in-law, and brother-in-law from CA. Looking forward to showing them some of the best upland bird hunting in the WORLD!!!