Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Headed to God's Country

Tomorrow I'm headed to the Nebraska Sandhills for my first big hunting road trip of the season, and I simply cannot wait.  A native of central Nebraska, it didn't take much of a drive northwest to start hitting the unmistakable topography of the Sandhills, a region than encompasses more than 20,000 square miles of prairie sand dunes.  But if you think it's a barren, lunar landscape, you'd be flat wrong.

The Sandhills are fed by the massive Ogallala aquifer, and spring-fed ponds and marshes are plentiful, as are the critters and plants that inhabit this spectacular, one-of-a-kind landscape.  And, because it's desolate and not conducive to agriculture, it's pretty much the way it was hundreds, if not thousands of years ago -- minus the half-million cattle that call the region home.

Of course, it's not beef that we're seeking.  It's prairie chickens and sharptail grouse that we're after, two grassland birds that have coexisted in this area for eons.  Before the gaudy ditch parrot was introduced a hundred or so years ago, it was these birds that ruled the plains.  As modern agriculture thrived, so did the pheasant, and the prairie grouse were somewhat marginalized.

Anyhow, I've been visiting the Sandhills as long as I've been on this earth -- from fishing for lunker walleye at Merritt Reservoir to canoeing the spectacular Niobrara River.  No matter where I visit, it's this area that enchants me more than any.  I once hiked 21 miles on one hunt -- just me and the dogs -- and truthfully, I've never felt closer to God.

Stay tuned -- God and Verizon Aircard willing, I'll have some updates from the road.