Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nebraska Sandhills Hunt: A Photo Essay

It's time to end the chapter on the first big hunting trip of the 2009-2010 season. While the bird gods didn't shine favorably on us, it was a memorable hunt nonetheless. Here's a photo-essay of the trip.

We made it to the Bessey Branch of the Nebraska National Forest on Wednesday afternoon with high hopes.  Accompanying me were Vernon and Steve (hunting buddies and associates from Gun Dog Supply, pictured here) along with Bryan, a colleague from work).  So this was all business, folks...

Of course, like any good bird hunting trip, we were supporting actors to the stars of the show -- the 15 dogs we had in tow.  In addition to Dottie and Vegas, the Mississippi contingent brought 13 dogs with them... pointers, shorthairs, labs, and a lone brittany.  We would not be left wanting for dog power.

I love the minutes before setting out on the first hunt of the day.  The air is crisp, hunters and dogs shiver in anticipation, and Mother Nature paints her scenery with a palette that accentuates the promise of the day ahead.

They don't call 'em Sandhills for nuthin'.

Thirty minutes into that first hunt, Dottie and Vegas locked up on a single, and I was fortunate enough to take him with my first shot.  This was going to be good, I thought out loud.  Little did I know that this would be the last bird anyone would take on the entire trip.

Two proud -- and hot -- pooches.

It spiked to nearly 80 degrees every day -- one of the hazards of early season prairie hunting.  Thankfully, this land featured active windmills every half mile or so.  The shorthairs never missed an opportunity for a swim -- the mossier the better.

Their handlers employed more traditional methods for cooling off.

The hot weather shut our hunting down by noon.  We all said it was for the dogs' health and safety, but these ice packs tell another story...

In the afternoons, we loafed around the cabin or tried our hand at prairie dog shooting, coyote shooting, or just plain shooting.  No critters or targets were harmed in the making of this blog post.
None of us really could understand why we didn't have better luck with the birds.  We had plenty of seasoned dogs, and the scenting conditions seemed reasonable (a slight breeze and plenty of moisture on the ground early in the day).  We talked to some wildlife biologists who said they had seen plenty of birds earlier in the summer, but also spoke with a trainer that had been visiting this area for years, who said it was one of the worst seasons he's seen for bird production.  Whatever the case, it was frustrating for us and the dogs.

But that's why they call it hunting, right?  It's the failures as much as the successes that keep us coming back for more.  That, and the camaraderie.  To say nothing of the scenery.

There Is No Place Like Nebraska.

1 comment:

  1. Love the photos... My dad owns a couple hundred acres along the cedar river in the sandhills and there is truly no place on earth like Nebraska...

    E Hansen
    Gardner, Ks