Sometimes your best times in the field are completely unplanned. Last Saturday was a striking example of that semi-accurate truism.
The events that led up to one of my most pleasant Nebraska bird hunting surprises were set in motion earlier in the week when a fellow abuser of boot-leather (aka a Southeastern Nebraska pheasant hunter) approached me about joining him on a piece a private ground he had access to. Never being one to pass up access, but being of a careful nature when it comes to such unexpected good fortune, I asked a few questions. Specifically, how many other hunters would be joining us and are there any quail in the area? When he replied “None” and “We always see a covey or two”, I committed.
We met at my place well before sunrise the following Saturday, loaded up the dogs and made our way south into what is considered the worst pheasant country in NE. While this is considered the worst for large colorful roosters, it is decent quail country, if you can find coveys that have not been over-shot.
As the sun rose and legal shooting time came and went, we came upon a piece of CRP-MAP ground that looked as prime as any Dakota field. Despite having all the appearances of prime potential, fields such as this have disappointed in the past, but we decided to work this particular one anyway.
We exited the vehicle in a hushed manner. Any rooster in these parts knows that slamming car doors, big talking and sound of dogs means trouble. Within 5 minutes I saw Sam get birdy and start working his way to the waterway in-front of us. Liking the look of things, we picked up the pace and moved towards the dog who was already locking up. As we approached, a rooster flushed in my direction, crossing my line of fire at less than 30 yards. What?! That never happens in these parts. One expects to walk at least 3 hours and have flushes at a minimum of 60 yards this time of year. My partner’s discharging gun snapped me back into focus and I quickly ended this bird’s plan of escape with a round of 6’s.
The next bird was rousted in a very similar fashion as we approached the next waterway. This time Sam worked the bird, which made the mistake of heading my way. BB was also birdy and ended this bird’s escape plans. Again I was surprised to see a rooster emerge from the giant ragweed and fly in my direction. He too was dropped within 30 yards and BB moved in to make the retrieve. Seeing this made me very happy. Relative to her size, lugging an adult rooster was an accomplishment.
We moved on and put up a few hens off points, which is fun and good practice for the dogs. As we made our way along the perimeter of the field, Sam became quite interested in yet another waterway and the rest of us happily followed his lead. We were all frankly giddy with 2 birds in the bag in 30 minutes. My partner Matt and I straddled the waterway and followed it downhill. As we got to a point where it flattened out, both dogs became intense and went to work on a thick clump of sunflower. Jackpot, another rooster made the mistake flying into my line of fire, albeit behind me. My partner and I both hesitated a moment as we turned for the shot, as any shot that requires spinning around requires attention paid to one’s companions. The rooster was now directly in-front of me and the bead of my SKB. Seconds later he was in Sam’s mouth, making his way over to my game bag.
Matt and I stood there very surprised that we had taken 3 roosters out of a public field, in Southeastern Nebraska after 40 minutes in the field. The dogs made it happen, but the Hunting Gods obviously smiled on us.
We went on to bust a decent covey of quail, which broke a 2 year dry spell for me. What a morning!
Later that day we moved on to the private ground and saw precious little. The long breaking rooster toyed with us, but that was it. I guess those unexpected successes in the field truly are the best.