Birthday Rooster Revisited on a Day of Great Rainbows

Friday afternoon, our group of five hardcore pheasant hunters took to the fields in search of the scarce pheasants at Mayberry. Surprisingly we found quite a few birds, but these well-trained escape artists evaded and dodged us quite expertly. We shot at not less than three roosters, but didn’t even touch a feather.

At the end of our first leg, I had my best chance of the day. Lola had been inhailing pheasant scent for a couple hundred yards and I’d been working hard to keep up with her when she went into a serious pheasant chase. I sped up, sloshing through the eight-inch deep water trying to keep pace. When the bird got up – low and fast – at about 35 yards out. I threw the gun up and took a quick shot, but didn’t manage to hit the bird.

On a better note, it looks like I did bag my birthday rooster, it just took a week to catch it. If you read my previous post about attempting to bag a rooster on my 60th birthday, you already know that I did knock down a rooster last Saturday, but it managed to beat Lola to a large berry patch and survived with a broken wing.

Now for the rest of the story. As Rob and his pooch Peetie rounded that same berry patch on our pheasant hunt this Friday (a week after the previous event), Peetie got some pheasant scent. She took up the trail and instead of sending a pheasant skyward, she caught it. Yes, most likely (since we’ve not crippled any other birds in that vicinity) it was my birthday pheasant afterall. It just took a week to retrieve it.

The weather this weekend was quite turbulent and at the end of our pheasant several dark rain cells passed through the area and we got a bit wet. Here’s a couple nice rainbow photos.

Very intense rainbow

November Always a Spotty Duck-Goose Month

Duck hunting in November has always been spotty. There are exceptions, but if I had to eliminate duck hunting during November it wouldn’t break my heart. Fred and I did manage to bring home some geese last week, but the hunt was boldstered by one big barrage at a large flock of Alleutians that came over at close range. We knocked down four before each wiffing on our third shots.

Pheasant hunting sometimes takes up the slack for a lack of ducks, but this year and last have been tough.

Yesterday I hit the duck ponds for just the third watefowl hunt of the year and the heavy north winds made the day look promising, but for one of the first times in my life I’d have to say that the wind blew too hard. It was very  unpleasant out there and few ducks worked our pond. I knocked down one greenhead that tried to land in front of me and missed another. Lola maintained her stellar record for the season – no lost birds and found one extra (that Fred had lost earlier).

I had Fred snap a photo after the goose hunt.

Rich with geese and pintail on a November goose hunt

The Good Old Days – again.

Nothing makes me think of the good old days like pheasant hunting.

While looking through the archives – the days before digital photography – I found some old photos of our 90s pheasant harvest. A few of them have the date on them – 11-25-95.

That is fourteen years ago and it sure was different then. Take a look.

Cousin Wes and brother Rob with limits

Friends Fred, Steve, Gary and Ralph with limits

Rich and Terry with limits

Rich and Val with limit

In the 90s, we had years where every hunter went home with a limit through Thanksgiving. We’ve only had a couple limits taken so far this year and tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

What’s different? Weather patterns, a shift from farming to ranching on Sherman Island and older less productive habitat on our property.

Oh yes, we are also a little older and slower.

Birthday Rooster

What a day for a birthday. Sunny and clear after an evening of outdoor dining and a little jamming, however weak. The banjo and guitar supplied by Rob and cousin Wes and some singing by me.

Our rendition of “He’s in the Jailhouse Now” left plenty to be desired, but on Saturday morning all I could think of was bagging a bright wild rooster on my 60th birthday.

At 8:00 AM sharp, Rob – accompanied by Tule and Peetie, Wes and I -accompanied by Lola, hit the fields.

It was long before Lola had a hen up and then another. The next field produced a rooster quickly and I knocked it down with my first shot – a birthday bird?

It was not to be and the winged rooster made it to a nearby berry patch and escaped. Too bad, but we had plenty of hunting to do.

Field three produced nothing. Nothing but about 100 bitterns and a river otter that posed – and me with no camera.

We planned an attack on the next field, one of our most productive. I circled and came in from the far ditch. As I moved into position, with Lola a few yards in front of me, a rooster climbed into the air only ten yards away. The bird headed for the thick cover on the opposite side of a 20- yard wide ditch.

It cackled a long continuous cackle and nearly hovered, offering an ‘unmissable’ shot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t shoot. I was not convinced that Lola would make the retrieve and having already lost one bird, I was gun shy. I let the rooster go – with some regret. Maybe I’ll find him again and Lola will get him up over dry ground on our side of the ditch where the odds of retrieving him will be better. There’s plenty of days of pheasant hunting remaining. In fact I’ll be back again this week and I’ll be looking for him.

In the mean time I’ll have to consider him a worth birthday rooster. Game on.

Rainbow

On the way to the ranch a couple weeks ago, an early morning rain combined with early sun produced some good rainbows. Here’s one of the best that I was able to photograph.

rainbow resized

It looks like it’s coming directly out of the General Electric reactor on Valecitos Road.

2009 Nevada Late Season Mule Deer Hunt

It’s interesting how every deer hunt takes on a new look. No two hunts are ever alike and this year’s Nevada mule deer hunt was nothing like last years.

We arrived to very cold temps and snow on the mountains. The first night it was difficult to sleep in the bitter cold. However, each day of the hunt warmed and several times I hunted in just a t-shirt.

Caption: We did see quite a few antelope in open areas.buck antelope cropped and resized

I believe the changing weather caused the deer to transition into lower elevations at the start of the hunt and then move back up the mountain by the end. On two days I didn’t see a single deer while on other days my partner and I observed between 50 and 100.

I didn’t see many big bucks, but I didn’t count. I believe my hunting partner spotted significantly more than I, including a couple bucks I would have shot, but he didn’t shoot, because he’s looking for a larger-horned animal than I.

One thing that hadn’t changed was the number of wild horses.

wild horses cropped and resized

I did see one very large buck and here’s the story.

I was out of gas, and on top of the mountain a long ways from anybody, but my gas tank gage said the tank was nearly full and I knew that to be the truth because I’d just filled it from my two-gallon plastic gas can.

Trying to stay calm – the thought of walking out was not appealing – I tried to figure out why the ATV would not start.

“Maybe there was something wrong with the gas I’d just added to the tank.” I thought to myself.

“It’s downhill all the way, maybe I can coast down in neutral.” My second thought.

“Maybe I should try the reserve tank.” My third thought.

That’s what I acted on and sure enough the ATV started.

“Hope I can make it out of here and find somebody to consult with.” My next thought.  When I’m along in a remote spot the first thing I look for is company.

I knew where some gold mining was taking place and maybe somebody there would help me figure this out.

Using the reserve tank, I drove about four or five miles to where the mining operation was ongoing. I climbed a fence and explained my plight and asked if anybody knew something about ATVs. A young man offered to help.

I told him that I may have contaminated the gas in my tank and that was the only thing I could imagine had happened. He knew how to drain the tank and told me he give me some replacement gas.

He was my hero and I was very relieved.

By the time we finished I realized that the reason for the entire calamity was that I’d inadvertantly turned the fuel selection knob to off. There had been nothing wrong the whole time, but he had saved me from myself.

This gentleman also added a new twist to my hunt. He suggested I try a spot where I had not hunted before. It wasn’t long before I was climbing the mountain roads with a vigor. It was the next to the last day of the season and I had yet to see a deer  this day – even though I’d checked out a spot where there had been many mule deer a few days back.

Another five or six miles of ATV riding and I was overlooking new country.

I stopped the bike and walked out on a ridge to look around. The area was pretty well stripped of sage by a fire that had taken place a few years back. Deer would be quite visible.

As I turned to look up at a rocky knob, a buck’s head popped out of the rocks and the sun hit his antlers.

I hustled back to the ATV and broke out my spotting scope.

The wind was blowing about 25 MPH and I had to work to steady the scope. The first buck was medium sized, but the one that was coming over the skyline above him was huge.

In about two seconds I knew I had to go after this one.

It turned out that there were about 25 does and several bucks on the knob. The longer I looked, the more deer I saw. After watching them for 15 or 20 minutes, the biggest buck and the next to the biggest bucks walked back around the knob to the mountain’s north slope.  I concluded that I needed to reverse course and drive the ATV to the top of the hill to re-spot the bucks.

At my next stop, I could see the second largest buck, but not the largest. I was about to change location again to attempt to spot the larger buck when I heard the rumble of ATV engines. Not wanting to share my information with others, I wrapped up my gear and headed down the mountain. In a few moments I realized it was my hunting partner and a couple of his buddies coming up the road.

I told them I’d spotted a big buck on the knob and that I was gong for it. With that, I took off.

The climb would be about 1300 feet in elevation from a drainage at the bottom heading into the wind, up a hidden draw and over a secondary  knob just below the top of the hill. It was a good plan. Here’s a photo of the mountain.

the stalk route cropped and resized

It took about an hour and a half the climb the hill. I was both exhausted and exhilarated when I reached the top. When the rock pile at the top of the hill came into view I ranged it at 138 yards. The deer were somewhere in between.

As I approached the knob, I realized that I would soon be very close to the bedded deer. I glassed for doe’s ears and it wasn’t long before a feeding doe came into view. I stayed low so, at most, they could only see the top of my head.

Within moments other deer’s ears came into view and then antlers. They were very close. I later ranged it at 60 yards.

The deer did not know I was there and they were relaxed and nibbling around. The buck that came into view was not the largest buck but his buddy. He looked pretty big through my four-power rifle scope.

What I should have done was back down the mountain and come up again from a different angle in an attempt to spot the largest buck.

However, when a doe began to stare me down and the buck in front of me turned giving me an easy neck shot, I broke down and dropped the buck.

The deer stood and stared at me in shock. Not one of them ran. I was standing with an audience of about twenty deer including another smaller 3×3 buck, but the big one was not in sight.

Finally I broke the standoff and walked up to my buck. I was thrilled by the experience, but later realized that I’d failed to achieve what I set out to do. It was bitter-sweet and surreal.

Here’s the buck I shot.

IMG_0028 Rich with buck angle view cropped and resized