Before we left our home state, Watson and I got two last little forays afield. We got out into the grouse woods one last time before leaving Duluth, taking advantage of one of the deer hunter free areas we had found. There was fresh snow on the ground, fresh snow falling, and after a half dozen flushes I bagged one last bird for us. From there we headed south, stopping at my uncles farm for a field hunt with my friend Jason. It was a typical setup of goose decoys with some mallard spinners. It was also only eight degrees that morning, and as such we actually made the rare decision to hunt without the dogs. We had a couple of close calls with a lot of geese, but the late season birds here have been shot at a lot and were just a tad to wary. We did fool some mallards, and shot well enough to bring five of them down. Had we shot better it would have been more, but isn’t that always the case? Either way, this property has a knack for producing some great, mature late season birds around this time of year, and these ones were spectacular.
From there we bombed our way down to Kansas, retracing our steps from last season. I have no doubt we’ll range around a lot more this time around, but I wanted to reap the rewards of last years learning and try to get us into some birds right away. We are going to be hunting around some high midday heat for these first two weeks, and as such I’ve spent some of our initial days driving a lot and hunting in measured fashion. It’s worked well though, we’ve had great opportunities on each day, and I’ve able to meet my “Bird-a-day” goal each time.
One obstacle I didn’t anticipate finding was standing crops. This isn’t a bad thing, as it means we’ll be able to hunt ‘new’ covers that haven’t received pressure as they get harvested, but conversely there are places right now that we can’t hunt that likely have lot’s of pheasant and quail in them. I’ve heard some other hunters around speaking about low bird numbers and poor success rates. I don’t have a wealth of historical information to make my own assessments about that, but honestly I think the bird numbers right now are just fine, and the standing crop element is just concealing many of them. Personally, I’ve stuck to the recipe that worked well for us last time around; hunting prairie grass with adjacent harvested fields. We have you to encounter and piece of land without birds in it. Certainly some pieces have had less and some more, but if you are working the fields right and staying in a favorable wind, the pheasants are there. I haven’t specifically tried to target any bob-white quail yet, but we’ve flushed six covey of them as well in pursuit of pheasants. Each covey was also quite large, so my thoughts would be they are fairing well too. Our first three days afield here have all been successful. Day one we got one pheasant, day two brought us a pair of bachelors and a quail, and day three we got another single rooster. Some brief scouting didn’t show too many ducks in the area quite yet, so we’ll probably be upland focused until we see some more trickle in. If you’ve never hunted Kansas, I don’t know if I can recommend it enough for an upland hunter. It’s what I would call a very hunt-able state for your average DYI hunter, the communities here are super friendly, and it’s a just a dang fun place to follow a dog around.