Monday, December 26, 2011

PLAYER "A".....PLAYER "B"

For those of you who keep a copy of the USGA's Decisions on the Rules of Golf on your bedside nightstand (I know many of you do. And who would not, for it is scintillating reading) you are familiar with the terms Player A and Player B. When rendering a decision on the Rules, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A) refer to players as A, B, C and D. Thusly protecting the names of the innocent as well as those who should not be allowed to breed.


This is the story of my guiding in the 2-Shot Goose Hunt competition this year. If you are following the blog (and if not...why not?) you already know Tom's son, Grant, won the 2-Shot from Tom's favorite pit, the pasture pit at Lingle. I was guiding the lake pit. Tom's second favorite pit. The lake pit is located in Wyoming on Tom's property southwest of Henry. I should have been suspicious when my hunters were not at the draw party on Friday night. The guides draw their hunters and then a (if you are an IRS agent please stop reading now) Calcutta auction is held on the teams. Proceeds go to the Wyoming Home for old Angus Bulls.

The Lake pit has had four shots fired many times. I was very hopeful. The firing order of my hunters (Player A and Player B) was determined by a coin flip on the first tee. Conducting the coin toss ceremony was Ingrid E. Newkirk, National President of PETA.  Player A won the toss and was to fire the first tee shot. There is a game plan to the hunt.  I call the shot because I want the geese to be no more than 15 yards from the pit feet down and it needs to be a big goose.  I should point out that a goose may not be shot while sitting on the water. However, the rules do not preclude having a toe nail in the water.  I want the geese so close so that even an artist from Minnesota could not miss. "Go Bears!" (reference to the movie Fargo)

Not long after legal shooting time we had the first small bunch of geese respond to my Tim Grounds Super Mag. It was obvious to me that the geese were smitten with my goose talk. They were coming to point blank range. Similar to hitting a 7 iron from 165 yards to six inches.  A gimme "birdie" for sure. (How do you like that play on words, Ingrid?)

A single goose rocketed out of the sky as if he had a rock tied to his feet. He was coming to toe dunking distance. The goose began his descent from 200 yards above the spread. I told Player A to get ready. I am thinking "please don't shoot my decoys!" This bird is reading the book. Somewhere around 80 yards in the bird's descent, Player A lost control of all bodily functions. One of the worst sounds a guide can hear is the sound of a lid sliding back before you call the shot. The next milliseconds play out in slow motion. The words get caught in my throat. I am about to scream at Player A "NNOOOO!"  Player A stands and fires a shot at aforementioned  goose at the 80 yard mark. Of course goose flies on. Ingrid rejoices from her perch in the cattails. Game Over. Flagrant violation of the rules. Team disqualified. If you miss a shot in the competition you are usually done. We would now have to bag two geese with one shot to get back in it. Player A, now referred to as "Jack-in-the-Box", clearly has a total disregard for the traditions of the game as well as for the USGA and the R&A.

I must confess that Player A did regain his composure enough to miss his second shot at TEN yards.  This goose was in the chair having a pedicure! A stifled chuckle came from the cattails.

As we sat in the pit lamenting our misfortune with player A, Player B wants me to look at his shotgun. Like I haven't seen a shotgun in guiding hunters for over 20 years! But this gun is special. It is a Winchester Model 12 that his father bought in 1939. Seems to me that firearms might have made a few improvements in the last seventy two years! However, being the "professional" (another veiled reference to golf) that I am, I feigned interest. As he hands me the heirloom I notice the safety is off. This constitutes an egregious violation of Rule #1..KEEP YOUR FRIGGING SAFETY ON IN THE PIT! I have had one gun go off in a pit and after the dust from the IED settles you look for fallen soldiers. Aside from needing personal wipes, no one was injured.

In no uncertain terms, I referred Player B to Rule #1. A few moments later we had geese working. I alerted Player B to put a peg in the ground. He was about to be on the tee. The group of four Canadas all bellied up within 10 yards of the pit. Ingrid covered her eyes. If they were any closer you could whack them with your lob wedge. Player B had learned from Player A's foible and remained seated until I said "Go"! B slid back the lid and stood to fire. The geese were so close and so tightly packed, I let the possibility of a double, or the rarest of the rare, a triple enter my mind. I know better than to have those fantasies. They are always followed by heart wrenching, debilitating pain. Player B never fired.  He couldn't get his safety off. Ingrid's whimper was soon replaced by a guffaw.

I will not go into all the sordid details. Player B rose to shoot EIGHT TIMES and never fired a shot. I suspect he and Ingrid are engaged in some sort of sordid love affair, which surely involves a greens keeper and a midget of yet to be determined gender. At the conclusion of the hunt you have to check in your geese, of which we had none. You also have to report how many shots were fired. I reported Player A had two whiffs and Player B had eight balks. I apologize for the baseball reference. I looked through my bedside copy of the Decisions Book and as I suspected balks are not covered. A golfer never balks.

I recommended to the tournament committee that Player A and Player B never be allowed to enter the competition again.

At the conclusion of Saturday night's Awards Banquet,  I was walking through the parking lot on the way to my truck when I witnessed three people walking hand in hand in hand. Was it the Three Musketeers? I knew in an instant I had been set-up. It was Player A, Ingrid and Player B. I was but a pawn in their diabolical scheme.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

THE GOOD GUYS FINISH FIRST

Tom Harpstreith

The annual 2-Shot Goose Hunt has been held in Torrington the second weekend in December beginning in 1988. My late friend and mentor, Tom Harpstreith, was instrumental in the formation of the hunt. Tom was a driving force behind the continuation and growth of the hunt. The rules of the hunt are 2-Man teams get two shots per person. A perfect score would be four geese. If there is a tie, it goes to the four geese with the highest total weight.

The 2-Shot is a major supporter of many charities in Goshen County. Proceeds from the hunt fund scholarships for deserving local students as well as providing financial support for enhancing local waterfowl refuges and many other community initiatives.

Tom was obsessed with winning the 2-Shot either as a guide or as a participant. As a shooter in the event he never drew a quality pit. Tom has the premier pits in Goshen County. When he was the guide, his shooters were always less than stellar. Consequently no wins.

This year Tom's son, Grant, won the competition as a guide from Tom's favorite pit west of Lingle, WY. He and his two shooters were the only team to record four geese!

My dear friend you did it! There is a snicker in heaven today.





Monday, December 5, 2011

GEESE LOVE GREEN GRASS AND CORN

You don't have to be an avid ornithologist nor a devoted waterfowl enthusiast to know that Canada geese love green grass. Drive by almost any golf course and you will see geese. Out here our green grass is winter wheat. Following the bean harvest in September many farmers plant those fields with winter wheat. The primary purpose is to prevent excessive wind erosion of soil during the winter months. The benefit to the geese (and to us) is the green shoots of the wheat emerge just before the "snowbirds" from the north come to spend the winter in our tropical clime. They are on it like their city brethren take to Kentucky blue.

When it gets really cold here, and it does occasionally, they go for the corn. Corn is a higher octane fuel for them than green grass. Kinda like their own green energy ethanol initiative. Van Jones must be so proud.

Sometimes geese want corn so badly they pay no heed to their natural instincts. They figuratively and occasionally literally lose their heads. They don't listen to their gut instincts. For this goose, corn was responsible for a real pain in the stomach. Literally!

Dave Kalinski, Mayor of Silver Summit, Utah, and goose with corn fetish
                    

Friday, December 2, 2011

FROM PRACTICE SQUAD TO JUNIOR VARSITY

If you have been following this blog you know of the journey that my puppy Molly has been on. From being banished to Utah and then back again; to having issues during training; to getting her first "live fire" hunt a couple weeks ago.

She was doing fine on marked retrieves on the river but was having issues with blind retrieves. I knew what she needed was to have success on the blinds. This past Wednesday may have been her breakthrough.

I had two clients and we were targeting geese. Molly was named to the starting lineup. You are on your own girl. No back up today.

It was quite warm in the morning and the geese started coming off the roost shortly after shooting time. The first bunch was six Canadas. They dropped into the pocket at 20 yards. Shortly after I called the shot, four geese hit the ground. Molly was sitting outside the pit in the decoys. She remained rock steady just like we had done hundreds of times in training.

Ken - Molly - Nate

Three were dead and we had one walker. I assumed Molly had marked all of the geese, but I wanted to get her on the live one first.  I walked her to the side of the decoy spread. Heeled her up and gave her a line. She fired out like a 1500 fps shot shell. She was at slightly less than warp speed when she ran over the goose. She wheeled and picked up the goose and brought it to heel and delivered to hand. Maybe all that practice is finally paying off. She nailed the three other geese in similar fashion. Proud Papa indeed.

As I took her back to her assigned location in the decoys, she kept looking to the north of the spread. When I told her to sit she came around to heel and it was obvious she was locked in on something. Then I saw it. A fifth goose had fallen and she marked them all. I gave her the command and she retrieved the fifth goose. The last three geese for our limit were retrieved in the same manner.

Proud Papa and Labrador Retriever
Limit by 8:30 and a Labrador Retriever that may have grasped the play book.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

FRIENDSHIP

"Happiness is time spent with a friend and looking forward to sharing time with them again."
Thomas Jefferson


I have been truly blessed throughout my life with close friends.  I receive phone calls or texts almost daily from a number of my high school friends. We are very involved in each other's families. We share the accomplishments and the travails of our lives and those of our children.


Many friendships have been formed through my hunting and fly fishing associations. From fellow fly fishing guides to cherished friendships with many of my clients, I appreciate them all.

This time of year is now twinged with sadness as well as great joy. The joy is the arrival of the waterfowl. The sadness is for the loss of my good friend Tom Harpstreith. From the middle of October to mid February, Tom and I spent almost every day together. It was never an issue that Tom was closer in age to my parents than to me. Our love of the outdoors and the anticipation of upcoming waterfowl seasons honed our friendship. Tom taught me everything I know about hunting Canada geese. One of his many "Tomisms" was "I have to hunt every day because every day is different."


Countless hours are spent preparing blinds and pits.  A thousand decoys have to be moved from storage to their respective locations. Furniture and heaters hauled to each spot and the salamanders, toads, snakes, frogs and spiders that have been inhabiting the pits all summer must be relocated or eradicated. Hours of cutting grass and tweaking the camo on the pits and blinds. Those hours turn into days of preparation. 

I could not do it without a group of my friends from Utah and Colorado.

                                                                  

Petey Peterson, Dexter, Eric Lobdell, Cass, Garrett Klein, May, Joe, NP Dave Kalinski (Off being Polish)


These friendships were born many years ago on the ski slopes of Park City. They were cemented by a love of waterfowling. Every November the crew makes the eight hour drive to Torrington to help with setup and then again in February to help take down the spreads and store them for the following season. When the guys heard that we had lost the river blind to the flood, they built a new one.  It is not easy to build a blind to Tom Harpstreith's standards, but they did it.

The highlight of the trip is having dinners with the Harpstreith family. Tom's wife, Lovie, has continued the tradition of hosting the Utah gang for dinner. Lovie is an amazing chef. She has attended numerous cooking schools in Europe. She learned her craft well! The downside is the dinners always occur the same week as Thanksgiving. If this continues, I may lose my position in the "Chippendale's Western Revue".

I don't think that the arrival of my friends from Utah and the arrival of the waterfowl is a coincidence.

Thank you Eric, Garrett, Dave and Petey.

Thank you Tom.  For everything. We miss you, my Friend.

Monday, November 21, 2011

FROM BAGDAHD, KABUL AND THE TRACTOR SUPPLY TO THE NORTH PLATTE

I had the great pleasure of guiding the Staggs brothers the past three days.  They drove from Memphis, TN, to hunt the North Platte. Leonard runs a Tractor Supply store and his brother, Logan, is a Marine recruiter.

Logan first contacted me in July of this year.  He indicated they were interested in an October duck hunt. I told him we normally don't have mallards until the middle of November.  Logan told me he had contacted several other guide services and no one mentioned we don't have ducks in October.  I didn't need to ask.  We communicated several more times by email during the fall and we settled on Nov 17, 18 and 19.  

When they arrived in Torrington,  I went to the Holiday Inn to meet them. I have never had hunters who were more excited to hunt than the Staggs brothers. Logan told me that he had done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the time there he dreamed of hunting the river he had heard so much about. 

He and his brother, Leonard, had been on several guided waterfowl hunting trips before that were less than successful.  Needless to say they had high hopes but were understandably cautious. 

My Dad, Michael, joined us on the first morning. When we had finished setting the decoys, I took the 4-wheeler back to our parking area as the brothers were behind the blind organizing their gear.  Most of you know that Michael is quite good with his Carlson duck call.  It was about five minutes before shooting time when the first flock of mallards came up the river. Dad gave them a high ball and they broke down immediately. He continued to coax the flock of 100 mallards with distant greeting calls, lonesome hen and low end closing calls. The flock circled downwind and dropped over the trees and into the decoys. Most of them were inside twenty yards.  Ducks don't decoy like that in Fallujah.

The Platte River specialist, Dani, was the lab on duty for the morning.  I will put her up against any dog on the North Platte.  After thousands of retrieves on this river she knows where the ducks and geese are going to go before they do. We had a wing tipped drake heading downstream. As Dani got close to the bird, he began to run/fly/swim as fast as he could. Just like an LA auto chase, the chase always ends the same way. After a 300 yard run downstream, the drake made a fatal error of heading to the bank. Never ever ever leave your vehicle and run! Dani and the drake disappeared into a log pile. A few minutes later, Officer Danielle was coming across the sand bar with the duck in handcuffs.

The day continued pretty much the same way. A limit of mallards and one Canada goose. The second day was a carbon copy of the first. Limit and a goose. I did manage to trick a flock of 500 into the decoys.  200 landed in the decoys, There wasn't room for the remainder. We did not shoot. I don't need to educate that many at one time.  Pretty sure the brothers had ever witnessed that!

Saturday, the third day, dawned with a couple inches of snow on the ground. I love snow and mallards. When snow is on the ground mallards have the need to feed. The sky this morning looked like the Santa Monica Freeway at rush hour. Ducks were moving in every direction. The feeding chuckle sounded like an OWS chant minus the drum circle.  By 8:00, ten fat greenheads were doing the bicycle in the decoys. Another great day on the North Platte.
                            Leonard and Logan Staggs with North Platte Mallards


The Staggs brothers were on the road back to TN by 9:00. Safe travels and hope to see you again.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SLEEPLESS IN FAIRBURY

Last night I had the pleasure of talking to two of my very best  friends Kaylee and Cassidy.  They live in Fairbury, NE. They have the nicest mommy and daddy. I am blessed to have all of  them as friends.  I stay with them on their farm during the snow goose season.  Kaylee and Cassidy are also good friends with my son Brayden. When Brayden visits the farm they show him the chickens, goats and cattle. Several times they have had to put new born calves in the bathtub to get them warm. Their mommy is not happy when that happens.

I can't wait to see you girls in February.

THIS WOULD MAKE STEVE WINWOOD PROUD

I am back in the high life again, all the doors I closed one time will open up again, I'll be back in the high life again.


It is true that all my ducks left last Sunday.  It was so bad I elected to cancel a group scheduled to hunt today.  It was a new group and I didn't want them to have a bad hunt. Turns out I shouldn't have called them off. They can leave over night and they can show up over night. I went down to the river this morning and it was non-stop mallards up and down the river. The first wave of Canada geese also arrived. This morning the lake held big and little Canadas along with many mallards and wigeon.  Snow geese have been migrating all day on their way to warmer climes.

I hear you Steve buddy!

THE DUCK COMMANDER

On a recent episode of The Duck Commander, the crew had a tornado go through their duck woods. It uprooted hundreds of trees, but the collateral damage was far worse.  It took all the ducks.

We shot limits of mallards every day for the past ten days. After great hunts on the river on Friday and an equally great hunt on the lake on Saturday, we experienced 50 mph winds Saturday night and all day Sunday and Monday. At 5:00 am on Sunday morning as we headed east on Hwy 26 towards Morrill  it appeared as if we were herding tumble weeds. I am sure that I have never witnessed this many tumble weeds in such a mass migration.

The west wind not only caused the tumble weeds to migrate, it had the same effect on the ducks...it wasn't that it took some of the ducks, it took them all. We never fired a shot on Sunday. The Kiowa refuge is six miles down river from our lease. The refuge that had been black with ducks for the past two weeks, was now empty. They were gone. Just like the Commander's ducks, the Wyoming tornado took JJ's.

The good news is that today, Tuesday, Kiowa was holding quite a few mallards.  Looks like the game might be back on.

BOOM BOOM BOOM!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

TOM KNAPP....YOU SUCK

                                             JJ and Jeff Meyer
 
Hunted the lake yesterday and again this morning.  Limits of mallards both days along with two bonus wigeon today. We didn't see as many mallards today as yesterday but we had a better wind direction today.

Today we worked a couple of nice bunches of 75 to 100.  Jeff Meyer was having trouble with his 12 gauge  this morning.  The trigger would not reset after firing the first shot. He was so frustrated that he walked back to the truck to get his 20 gauge. (Tom Harpstreith is smiling)  He was concerned that he didn't have enough firepower.

His first shot at 20 yards was merely a tactic to allow the birds to get to 50 yards.  The strategy worked perfectly as he crumpled a drake.  So much for not enough firepower.

The next flock was our bunch of 100.  The majority of the birds were on Jeff's side of the pit.  The lead birds were at 15 yards and 10 feet off the water.  Jeff's first shot stoned a drake. Jeff's second shot bagged another drake. His third shot dropped two drakes!  That's right, three shots four drakes.  Knapp you got nothing on the Meyer. Jeff shoots almost as well as Todd Norsten.

We are heading back to the river tomorrow.  Will let you know how we do.

JJ

Friday, November 11, 2011

ONCE IN A LIFETIME

                                                    Apprentice
                                            (click on photos to enlarge)
I am blessed in so many ways.  On Wednesday afternoon, I took my 4-year old son Brayden to the river blind. We spent as much time walking around on the sand bars as we did in the blind actually hunting.  We did manage to get a couple of fat greenheads so he was able to watch the mallards work the decoys. I think he liked it because he kept saying "Daddy, I love you!"

On Thursday morning I was blessed to have in the blind with me my Dad, Michael; one my great clients and friend, Jeff Meyer, owner of Pathfinder Ranch in Alcova, WY; and my friend Trent Tatum, co-owner of the North Platte Lodge in Alcova.  We decoyed many flocks of mallards and had our limit by 9:00 AM.

                                               Jeff Meyer and Sage
Needing just three more mallards for our limit, my Dad and I convinced a flock of 25 mallards to come and visit our spread.  They were hovering above the decoys at 15 yards.  I reminded everyone that we needed only three. The first volley rang out and two greenheads hit the water.  Needing one more, Trent focused on a drake that was trying to make his escape through the trees. Bad decision for duck; good decision for Trent.  Trent's yellow lab, Allie, went "into the woods" (Stephen Sondheim reference not intended) and returned with a "once in a lifetime duck"!

It was a magnificent drake mallard/pintail hybrid.  The beak was that of a pintail (sprig), head was a mallard on the sides but had the brown crown of a pintail. The neck was long like a pintail but it had the white ring of a mallard; however, the white extended down the throat for an inch. Wings had the green speculum of a pintail but the body shape was that of a mallard.  The tail had the triangle shape of a pintail but was colored like a drake mallard. It had the spike tail feather of a sprig but instead of coming out the rear of the tail it was located where a drake mallard would have his curl feathers. A magnificent bird. A trophy of a lifetime!
                                         Drake Mallard/Pintail Hybrid

I have been witness to many mallards being harvested over the years. I have seen only one other mallard/pintail hybrid.  My Dad has been hunting mallards for over 50 years. Trust me when I say he has been responsible for thousands of mallards taken over the years (If you have seen the number of duck bands on his call lanyard you know what I mean).  Trent's duck is the first hybrid drake he has ever seen.



                                         Trent Tatum and Allie  
 Thank you to Trent for these wonderful photographs.

I am truly blessed to share my passion for waterfowling with my dad, my son and good friends.

See you on the river.

JJ

Sunday, November 6, 2011

FIRST DAY ON THE RIVER - NOVEMBER 6, 2011

A big shout out to my brother Chad and all the folks who work with him at the National Weather Service. The forecast was for snow, low temps around 20 and strong WNW winds. Could you have a more perfect day for the first day on the river? I think not.

On the drive to the river, the stars were brightly shining; the temp was a balmy 31 degrees and the wind was light and variable.  Got to love those weather forecasters! Have to tell the story of how Chad's forecast saved countless lives in Tucson.

Chad's first assignment with the Weather Service was in Tucson. His primary duty was as the Chief Hydrologist for the area. Hydrologist in the desert? You get 5" of moisture a year! Give me a break. Often when they do get rain they do get flash floods. Chad issued a flash flood warning for an arroyo (I think that is a ditch) that winds through several housing developments. It is a playground for kids and dirt bike enthusiasts.  Everyone cleared the arroyo just before a four foot wall of water came racing down the valley.

We were all obviously very proud of him. He received many accolades from the residents of Tucson.  They even held a parade for him....no they didn't but we were proud of him nonetheless. A few days later I asked him how he knew to issue the flash flood warning for that specific arroyo. Expecting some sort of complicated scientific explanation he said "I picked the boys up from soccer practice and on the way home there was water running across the road and I figured that when I get home I better issue a warning!" Gospel truth.

So back to the first day on the river. Saturday evening I drove down to the river. First thing I saw was 1500 mallards hitting a picked cornfield a mile down river from my blind.  I drove to the Kiowa Refuge just south of Morrill, NE, and it was covered in mallards. On Friday it held 200. They can and do show up overnight.

I love blue sky mallards. The sun illuminating the iridescent green heads of the drake mallards is one of nature's most exquisite sites.  And did we see green heads? The first two bunches of the day were each over 100 mallards. A hundred mallards at twenty yards is quite a sight. Taking only one fat greenhead from a bunch, my three gunners harvested their fifteen mallards by 9:30.

It was truly a magical first day.


   Jeff Meyer's Sage, the best Chessie I have ever hunted with.                                                

                           Forest Meyer, Josh Jamison, Sage, Jeff Meyer

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

PLEASE "NO PICTURES...NO AUTOGRAPHS"

They say (don't have a clue as to who they is) everyone has their fifteen minutes of fame. Alas, I fear that mine is going to extend far beyond the quarter hour. If you have the November-December issue of the Ducks Unlimited Magazine, I invite you to turn to page 69 (I know..I had no input whatsoever on page selection).  The photo was taken on my duck lease near Morrill, NE. The lab in the photo is the world's foremost North Platte River specialist, Dani.

Dani has retained the Canine Career Agency to represent her. The CCA represents Lassie 10, Benji (deceased) and the greatest one hit wonder in all dogdom, Hooch. She is developing a line of field wear that can be worn while hunting pheasants, Chukar and amazingly enough, Sage Grouse.  Her line of waterfowl vests and electronic accessories will be released in time for the spring snow goose season.

I am currently assessing offers from GQ, Just Beautiful Men and Commando Monthly. I have to be very careful with my image.  I don't want to end up like Snooki or Wink Martindale.  However, if you are hunting with me this year, I will have 8x10 glossies available. They are suitable for framing. I will also have the WyoBraska Waterfowl screensavers available on my website.

Enough about me. Lets talk about waterfowl.

The migration is very slow this year. The weather has been very warm in central Canada.  Reports are the migration is two weeks behind normal.  We had our first measurable snow last night.  The three to four inches  was gone by this afternoon. Temps were chilly today, high of 34. We are supposed to have a low of 10 in the morning.

My Dad and I were down to the river this afternoon. We had to cut a few trees that were blocking the road into the duck blind. We are going to place the blind in position tomorrow morning.  Right now, the water in the river may be the best we have ever had. However, a drop in water levels could change everything. Just going to play it by ear. Did see a few duck tracks on the bars near the blind location.

There was a fair number of mallards, pintails, gadwall and teal on the lake today. About 40 little Canadas were on the lake behind the pit. We are seeing the first indications of a migration.  I have learned that they can show up overnight.  Hoping that it is tonight!

I have the first hunters this weekend. Will let you know how we do.

Here are a few photos from the river blind setup and a portfolio pic!

                                      Scientific Waterfowling? I think not!
                         Another autumn, another blind placement consultation
                                       Clearing limbs for visibility
                           Aftermath of the flood - ideal duck water                                        

Thursday, October 20, 2011

BACK IN TORRINGTON

The fly rods and the drift boat are put away for the winter.  The fishing was spectacular all season.  Last Sunday, October 16th, was my last day on the river.  The two anglers in my boat (one who had never fly fished before) brought over 60 fish to the net.  At least ten of them were over 20 inches.

It is now time for mallards and Canada geese and there is lots of work to do to get ready for the waterfowl season.

The river blind in Nebraska washed away with the flood along with the road to the blind. We hope to have the road fixed this weekend and then set the new blind in place next week. River is still a little high but is dropping every day. The woods are too wet to drive vehicles through to our parking area.  Will need to get decoys, heaters and other equipment down there when it dries.

I need to cut grass aroung the lake pit and Lingle pit to make room for the goose decoys.  The lake is still quite high because of irrigation water.  The weather remains quite warm which will accelerate the evaporation process.

The Henry field pit is looking great.  We will have corn in front and winter wheat behind us this year. We will begin picking the corn next week, weather permitting. The warm weather and occasional rain has been a boon to the wheat crop. It looks much better than it did last year at this time. It should look like Augusta National fairways by the time visitors from the north arrive.

There remains a lot to get done in the next few weeks, but we will be ready.  My contacts in Canada say they have never seen so many mallards.  Canada geese are starting to show up in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan in large numbers as well. Many biologists believe this may be the largest mallard population ever.  Many mallards nested twice this year.  My friend in Alberta said there are still some young mallards that are not on the wing yet!

Now if the weather cooperates we should have a stellar season.  Looking forward to seeing everyone!

JJ

Thursday, September 22, 2011

WyoBraska Waterfowl's ReDeaux Molly

If you have been following the blog (if not, why not?) you know the saga of the most recent addition to the WyoBraska Waterfowl stable of Labrador retrievers. Official name listed above.  She was banished earlier this summer to the Siberian village of Heber City for displaying not a single ounce of desire for retrieving. It was utterly pathetic.

The short version is I had to take her back and she was destined to be a house pet. On a pure whim one evening I threw a dummy for her and she amazingly ran after it and brought it back. Fast forward to today. I just returned from the high plateau where the elusive Sage Grouse dwells. Happy to report there is one less grouse contributing to "Big Al's Greenhouse gasses". Said grouse was tracked, flushed, then shot, then retrieved and delivered to hand by the "ReDeaux" princess. It was as if she had been doing this forever.

Now don't get me wrong, she might be like the guy who hits it great on the range but can't take it to the course. Scratch on the practice tee but can't break 90 when there is a $5 nassau on the line..  But as of right now, she has made amazing progress this summer. Steady to shot; marks 200 yd. triples; is taking hand signals to 300 yd blinds; demonstrates a keen nose; delivers to heel and never wants to quit.

We will find out soon how she does when we drop the flag. She still has a lot to learn but I think we have something we can work with.


                                              WyoBraska Waterfowl's ReDeaux Molly


                                           

Friday, September 2, 2011

SORRY BEEN REALLY BUSY

I had worked 24 straight days until the last two days. Can you say tired?  Oh and as you may have guessed I did go fishing. But I had to. One of the afternoons I went hopper fishing with Trent Tatum, co-owner of North Platte Lodge and our Sims Rep. We had 16 eats in ninety minutes from the dam to Hollingsworth.

Speaking of hoppers. Overall we have been very disappointed in the hoppers this year. On the upper river, except for dam to Ledge Creek, the hopper bite has not materialized. Not sure why. Theory is the spraying for hoppers was very effective. Good for the ranchers and their hay not so good for guides and trout. We are finding lots of hoppers downstream from Sechrist to Casper but they are not getting into river and consequently the trout are feeding on them. Still hopeful for some action in September.

Last night Trent, my Dad and I went on a fact finding/recon mission to a super secret- private pond at the base of  the Pedros Range. OMG! First fish for Trent and I snapped  2x tippet on the strike. Can't say how big the fish were that we caught but I can tell you that if you get invited to this pond you will have to go through memory erasing treatments  in Guantanamo Bay. Can't have this kind of information getting out. "O " didn't close that did he? I am pretty sure he said he was going to but appears he has back tracked on quite a few things.  Fishing has remained strong all through August. The Reef has slowed a bit but still better than most fisheries.

We have been having fun on dries occasionally over the past few weeks. Tricos in the early mornings; hoppers mid-day; and caddis in the evening. Not every day but often enough to keep this senior member of the guide team of North Platte Lodge very happy.  The Mile has been fishing very well. Somedays it has been stupid fishing.  I recently guided two anglers who said they had been on numerous guided fly fishing trips and the most "fish to the net" they ever had was three and the biggest was 15 inches. I know what you are thinking "where the hell have they been fishing"? I took them to the Mile on their first day. After the first 300 yds we had doubled their old record. By lunch we had 25 fish to the net by the end of the day I was a beneficiary in their wills. I think it was the 8 fish over 20" that sealed the deal. That was fun.

Speaking of fun, I got to spend three days on the water with dear friend Boone Scharp from Michigan. Boone and I go way back to our Park City days working on the mountain at the Snow Hut.  We were joined by Boone's childhood friend Jake Tropea who now lives in California. We had three days of spectacular fishing.  Boone and I would like to announce the arranged pre-engagement of my son Brayden, a recent graduate of Busy Bees pre-school at Valley Christian Academy and Boone's daughter Emelia who will be attending Stanford Law School in fall of 2031. Best wishes to the happy couple. We intend to have them meet sometime in the next ten years.

Here are a few pics from August trips.

                                          Brian Vinchur, Elkhorn, NE, with 25" cutbow on a hopper

                                                                                   
                                           
                                               Brian and a 20" Rainbow from the After Bay.                                                                          

I have been privileged to have been guiding Brian and his family for nearly 20 years.  I started Brian and his daughters fly fishing in Park City. They were young girls at the time. They are now young ladies and now I am really old!

                          A one-armed 18" rainbow. The guy fishes better with one arm than most with two.


                            Baby Bald Eagle. Have watched it grow all summer. Just starting to fly.

The most deformed trout I have ever seen. 24" and  over 7 lbs. Clearly has not heard of Michele's anti-obesity initiative. Must be going to Sloane's every morning for burritos, chips and turnovers.

Will be posting a Molly update and hunting outlook soon.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

MY MOM RIPPING LIPS

Did an evening float the other day. Had my Mother in the front of the Clackacraft. Fished a grasshopper dry. She had several eats and this 20" cut-bow made it to the net.


Her fish my fingers!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Caelifera in the order Orthoptera...The Hoppers are coming!

The hoppers are two to three weeks away. The cool wet weather this spring and early summer has slowed their development. Around my house (half mile from the river) the hoppers are flying . Nearer the river most hoppers are still less than an inch in length.  As the vegetation away from the river dries, they will move to the green vegetation on the river banks.  And then the dinner bell will be ringing.

Last Thursday evening, Seth Kapust (lead guide at North Platte Lodge), my Dad (Michael), and I did a dry fly recon on the upper section of the Reef.  We had ten takes, two get-aways and four fish to the net.  My Dad got his nymph rod out and in 15 minutes he had 5 hookups with 3 fish to the net. Not bad for one arm.  The fish are stacked on the banks right now.  The rumor from the river keeper is they will drop the river to around 4800 cfs the first of August. That will be perfect as that should coincide with hoppers on the wing. This will be more fun than Harry Reid and Nancy Chemical Peel at a Snoop Dog concert!

Molly Update


Molly continues to make amazing progress. We are doing long (300 + yard) marked triple retrieves. She is learning hand signals now. I started her on hand signal backs last week. We trained last night at Pathfinder Ranch. I set up a 300 yard marked single retrieve with a 50 yard blind off the line of the marked. I sent Molly  on the marked retrieve line. When she was 150 yards out, I hit her with the whistle. She stopped immediately and turned to face me.  I gave her a left-over toward the blind. She took the cast perfectly and winded the blind. She delivered it to hand. I then sent her on the long mark. Proud Daddy. Still long way to go but she will definitely get some playing time in the upcoming season.





Molly airborne on a retrieve and first hopper rainbows of 2011!
Get 'er done!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fish Photos

"And The Beat Goes On"

The fishing remains amazing.  I know I have said this before but it demands repeating.  The Grey Reef and Miracle Mile sections of the North Platte are the best trophy trout waters in the US.  20 inch rainbows are now routine.  The North Platte Lodge has a 25" Club.  We award anglers a hat recognizing their accomplishment.  The Lodge has had to re-order hats already this year.

A friend of mine recently spent the day at the Mile.  He had over 100 hookups and landed over 70 fish. He lost count of the fish over 20".   He fished a Golden Stone dry with a dropper. The vast majority of takes were on the dry.  He had 6 fish break him off!  And he was wade fishing! That can't be done on any other river in the country that I know of.

Recently I had the honor of having dear friends Jack and Jan Massimino from Park City in my boat on the Reef. Jack and Jan are both excellent fly fishers.  I don't want to denegrate any of my less accomplished guests, but it is a joy to fish with folks who can actually land the fly where they want to and know the nuances of mending. I had been seeing a few pods of rising fish over the past couple of days below Government Bridge. The Reef is having an epic Yellow Sallie hatch this year.  Clouds of Sallies and PMD's fill the air.  Today was one of those days. We put on the river at Lusby and the nymphing was on fire from the start. Several double hook ups and a few break-offs.  About a half mile below the bridge I detected a pod of risers.  They were in a quiet pool on the inside of a seam.  The Massiminos grabbed their dry fly rods as I slid the boat downstream of the fish and sneaked up the bank on the unsuspecting rainbows.  It appeared to be at least ten fish and judging by the size of the noses sticking out of the water they were all big.  The boat now in position, Jack, of course, gave the first shot to Jan.  She didn't waste the opportunity. She dropped the fly just in front of the last fish. It drifted into an open mouth. Fish on!

Ten was indeed the magic number.  We hooked them all.  We did not land them all.  Not only are Reef fish strong they are evidently from the "Dorado" strain of rainbows.  They spend as much time out of the water as they do in it.  Jump after jump. Drag screaming run after run. Four of the six fish that came to the net were over 20". Jan's first fish was 23".  The other four either broke us off or came un-bit during their "Wallendas" impersonation. Big strong fish and lots of them.  Hopper time is going to be unbelievable.

We had a magical day on the Reef. Back at the lodge Jack commented "I may never fish the Green again!"  Not the first person I have heard that from.

A quick update on puppy Molly.  She continues to make amazing improvement. She is now doing triple marked retrieves with the dummy launcher. I have started her on hand signals. She is doing great on her overs.  Will start her backs soon.  Did several retrieves from the dummy launcher 200 yards into an alfalfa field the other day.  She has to mark the dummy and then use her nose to find the dummy in the tall grass. She winded several from 10 to 20 yards away.  Fun to watch her learn to use her nose.  Looks like she may get to dress for the varsity squad this fall.

"The beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain"
Sonny and Cher

JJ

Friday, June 17, 2011

Do you believe in Miracles?

The USA winning the Gold Medal in hockey....Charl Swartzel winning the Masters....Red Sox's being down 1-3 to the Yankees and winning the ALCS....Nancy Pelosi never had a face lift....Dolly Parton is all natural....Weiner's account was hacked..... and the greatest miracle of all....Lyle Lovett getting to sleep with Julia Roberts.

Well, I have one better than all of those.  My hunting clients know that a year and a half ago I got a new puppy.  Her name is Molly.  She comes from the Labrador's Unlimited Kennel in Valparaiso, IN, owned by my good friend Bill Cox.  All of my dogs have been from Bill's kennel.  He breeds the finest hunting labs in the country.  He also trains labs.  Bill has qualified more dogs for the Master National Hunt Trials than any other breeder/trainer. Molly's pedigree is exemplary.

However, Houston, we have a problem! After a reasonably promising start last fall, Molly decided she didn't like to train.  She didn't really like retrieving dummies.  I have never had a dog that did not want to train. It became so bad this spring that it was clear that she was never going to make a quality retriever.  In May I gave Molly to my brother Chad.  He has three young kids and I thought she would at least make a good pet.

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Chad could not keep Molly.  So back she came.  And now the MIRACLE ON THE REEF.  My Dad is convinced that Molly has been possessed by the spirit of my wonder dog, Brooks.  Brooks is a legend all across the Midwest. The ultimate hunting companion. 1000 yard blind retrieves on snow geese; tracking a rooster pheasant and pinning him until the gunners arrived; marking multiple mallards; she did it all with style and grace.  Molly, after usually running away with the dummy; if she picked it up at all, now delivers to hand.  In the last few days I have introduced marked doubles and she nailed them.  I started her on piles.  She is up to 100 yards and never hesitates.  I planted a 50 yard blind for her last night.  She took the line like she had been doing them forever.

Time will tell if she makes the move from the scout team to the varsity starting line-up.  I am cautiously optimistic.

"The mystery masked man was smart
He got himself a Tonto
'Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free
But Tonto he was smarter
And one day said kemo sabe
Kiss my ass I bought a boat
I'm going out to sea"

Lyle Lovett "If I had a boat"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good Help is Hard to Find!

OK, it has been more than awhile since last post.  Much like the current Administration I am blaming it on 'W'.

My corporate staff has been very busy  converting my new home in Alcova into non-typical guide living quarters. I even have a vacuum cleaner and jet dry for the dishwasher!  Shower every night and HD TV. Be still my beating heart.

Fishing remains spectacular.  River flows are approaching record levels and should remain that way all summer.  If you have never fished the Grey Reef section of the North Platte, you have missed the finest stream in the west.  Soon it will be hopper time.  20+ inch fish smashing hoppers is a spiritual moment.  And we are not talking an occasional fish.  How about at least 20 takes in a typical day's float?

Call me or the North Platte Lodge to schedule your trip.  NPL phone number is listed at top of this page.

Come and get ya sum!

Tight lines,

JJ

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hey Ya Got an Ark?

Have I mentioned that I really do love my job?  However, this weather really really sucks. This is a high desert; not supposed to rain.  One of my fellow guides was so despondent over the current climatological conditions he attempted self-immolation.  However he was not successful due to excessive amounts of precipitation.

Have been snowed off river, blown off river and rained off river in the past ten days.  In spite of all the "Al Gore"   inspired weather, the fishing has been great. The other day I launched at the dam and did 26 miles of river!  The upper section looked like teenage girls at a Justin Beiber concert.  Lots of shrieking and pandemonium.  Opting to not become embroiled in the mosh pit I went full steam ahead for three miles down river.  My guests and I fished in blissful solitude all day.  Lots of fish and several made the  20"+ club.

Speaking of 20" fish, how about a 14 lb walleye?  The river gave up another monster the other day.  Not sure what is going on with the big walleyes but sure it has something to do with Seal Team 6.  God bless our military.



Pleased to report I purchased a mobile home in Alcova.  I have been living in a camper for the past several years.  Lack of running water is not much fun.  A hot shower at night!  Sorry Al, I do not have a low-flow shower head.  I think not having a shower for many years makes us about even.

Monday, May 9, 2011

2 Fly and SEC Basketball Coaches

This past week was memorable on many levels. I guided May 5th and 6th for Casper's annual 2 Fly Foundation  Tournament.  The Foundation supports Wyoming charities as well as helping to preserve the habitat of the North Platte River. My guests caught lots of fish both days.

On Sunday, North Platte Lodge hosted 8 "biker" ladies for a day on the water.   In my boat were LSU womens' head basketball coach, Nikki Caldwell, and Tennessee assistant coach, Holly Warlick. They  are the co-founders of "Champions For a Cause Foundation" which supports the fight against breast cancer. The Foundation was started by Caldwell and Warlick while both were assistant coaches at TN under legendary coach Pat Summit. Nikki won national championships at TN both as a player and a coach. Nikki and Holly are both avid "Harley" riders and their "Crusin For a Cure", a six day ride from Rapid City to Las Vegas, raises funds for their Foundation.  This was the first time either had ever fly fished for trout. They were a hoot to have in my boat and yes, they caught fish!

Nikki Caldwell
(my hands!)
HOPPER TIME IS COMING!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

THIS WEATHER IS ^#$@?&*!

Ok, got that off my chest.  Now if I could just get rid of the 20 lb. weight on my chest.  No fun having "terminal' head and chest cold while rowing 17 miles in snow and rain and 35 degrees and 40 mph winds.  I want this weather in December when the mallards and Canadas are here not in May.  Oh well, I do love my job.

Fishing report:  Of course my fly fishermen have to endure the same lovely weather.  Fishing is almost always good on the Reef and this weekend was no exception.  In spite of the horrific weather, the dedicated guide managed to control the boat well enough in the gale force winds and my guests put a respectable number of fish in the net.  Several fish over 20" and that is real measuring stick.  Most of the rainbows are now done spawning.  I think they take a few days off and then begin their 6 month feeding binge. Size #18 Reef worms and egg patterns were the primary choices from the menu.

A shout out to all my hunting clients.  If you have never hunted Sage Grouse, you need to add this magnificent bird to your trophy room.  The North Platte Lodge has leased the finest Sage Grouse lands in the world.  The season is a short few weeks the last half of September.  We have only a few days available so call the Lodge right away to reserve a hunt of a lifetime.  307.237.1182

Go Huskers!

Monday, April 25, 2011

FORREST GUMP

"I may not be smart, but I know what 'stupid fishing' is."

Today was stupid fishing on the Grey Reef.  Truly don't know how many fish my guests caught.  Just know it was lots!  Someone was hooked up all the time.  Boated at least 10 rainbows over 20".  It was an epic day.

Ya'll need to come and get ya sum.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Eating a World Record!

Last weekend my good friend and fellow NPL guide, Rudy Hemkens, was guiding on the Miracle Mile.  The Mile is a short stretch of water between Seminoe Reservoir and Pathfinder Reservoir.  It has a reputation for big fish.  Usually those fish are trout, however this day was different.  Pathfinder has a good population of walleye and walleye spawn in the spring just like rainbows.  Walleye love moving water just like trout.  Rudy's fly fisherman hooked and landed a 31" 10.9 lb walleye.  A truly unique catch.

Turns out she was an IFGA world record for 8lb class tippet on a fly.  The old record was 8.6 lbs.  The lunker ate a leech pattern streamer and the guides ate her last night!  She was very good.

Fishing remains very good on the Reef.  Flows are running at 4500 cfs.  Rumor is they will raise the river to 5000 in the next few days.  I am hoping for 6500.  Rainbows are still on the redds on the upper river.  I think the spawn is pretty much over below Government bridge.  With the higher flows the fish tend to move to the banks.

Floated dam to bridge today.  Good fishing most of the day but not epic.  Landed a couple bows over 20" and lots in the 18" range.  Second day of no wind.  Seems to be taking a little longer this spring to get into prime rowing condition.  Wonder if being the oldest guide on the river by a decade has anything to do with that?

Monday, April 18, 2011

THE FIRST WEEKEND

"April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land," prolific baetis hatches from still ice cold water, magenta hued rainbows on the redds, and WIND! Pardon me. Did I mention the WIND! T.S. Elliott did not write of baetis hatches and redds or WIND!  The wind does blow in Wyoming in the spring.

I launched the new Clackacraft for its maiden voyage on the Grey Reef Friday morning.  It was a bit chilly but I love the crispness of the morning air. 

All three days were pretty much carbon copies.  Fishing was good but not "en fuego".  Flows on the Reef are 4500 cfs.  Flows again this spring will be high to rid the system of abundant water.  I love it when it gets above 6000.

Fishing at 4500 requires long leaders and considerable weight.  Those two factors make hook sets on subtle takes difficult even for seasoned anglers.  I love the challenge of introducing novice anglers to the art of fly fishing.  Sunday I had the privilege of guiding a father and his ten year old son.  The young man brought numerous fish to the net!  Not sure whose smile was the biggest.  Son, Dad or mine. 

Oh, did I mention the WIND blows in April in Wyoming?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"I am haunted by waters."

I know that is a bit cliched, but it is obviously true.  Norman Maclean's poignant story "A River Runs Through It" contains the brilliant paragraph "Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters."

Water has played a major role in my life.  I grew up on a small lake in Nebraska.  The lake was out our back door.  The Platte River was across the road in front of our home. My brothers and sister and I fished and water skied on the lake.  I hunted waterfowl on the river in the fall.  The river provided the spectacle of spring migration.  I cherished the hunts with my father, Michael, and his hunting buddies on the Missouri River near Niobrara, NE.  It was on the Missouri I was privileged to hunt with a World Champion duck caller.  It was on the Missouri I met my dog training mentor.  He also breeds some of the finest labs in the country.  All of my dogs are from his kennel.

In the late '80's we moved to Park City, UT.  Thus began my love affair with mountain streams and trout.  From here I fished the great rivers of the west.  Friendships forged on those rivers led to fly fishing for steelhead in British Columbia; bonefish in the Bahamas and Honduras; bonefish, permit and snook in Boca Paila, Mexico; tarpon in Boca Grande and stripers and bluefish off Boston.

Later on, I was drawn to the waters of the North Platte around Torrington, WY.  Thousands of waterfowl winter in this magical valley.  200 miles upstream you will find the finest trout water I have ever fished.  The North Platte is home to the legendary Grey Reef, Miracle Mile and Fremont Canyon sections.  I am honored and privileged to guide for the North Platte Lodge located on the Grey Reef.  If you would like to experience this amazing fishery, contact the Lodge at 307-237-1182 and tell them you would like to fish with JJ.

I will be keeping you updated on the fishing from now until October. 

Come join me on the "water"!





'

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thank You

To all of our great clients,

A sincere thank you from Petey and me for a great year.  We are so blessed to have your support and friendship.  We assure you we will never take either for granted.  We will continue to strive to provide you with a premier hunting experience.

All of the decoy spreads are picked up and in storage.  All of the blinds are in their summer resting spots.  We are retrieving the boats this afternoon.  We will visit our landowners tomorrow and thank them for the use of their ponds and land.  Petey will then head back to Aspen and I am headed back to Torrington and then to Florida for a week long nap.

We harvested a total of 842 birds for the season.  That is a 6.47 birds per hunter day for the season.  Our biggest day was March 12th when we bagged 114 birds.  The 2nd largest day was March 13th with 77 birds.  Our biggest per hunter days were March 1st and 2nd.  Our hunters bagged an average of 13 birds per hunter over those two days.  Central Flyway's Best harvested 42.5 birds per day for the 20 days of hunting.

We encourage you to secure your reservations for next year's hunt as soon as possible.  Many of you have already done so and we thank you for that.

My administrative staff will be keeping you updated on the 2011 fly fishing season on the Grey Reef this summer.  Contact me or The North Platte Lodge in Alcova, WY, to fish with me.  Don't forget I do Cast and Blast trips for trophy trout and the magnificent Sage Grouse in September through the Lodge as well.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Torrington for mallards and Canadas next fall and winter.

If any of you would like to leave a comment on your hunt we would greatly appreciate your feedback.

God Bless all of you.

JJ and Petey

More 2011 Snow Goose Hunts






Friday, March 18, 2011

Bye Bye Chen Caerulescens

And then they were gone.  Most of you managed to sneak  past us.  Many of you teased us with your coy non-committal attitude.  You would hang around the edges of the dance hall but never join us in the front row.  You would listen to the music for a brief moment and then continue on your epic 3000 mile journey.  You are a magnificent bird.

You have a standing invitation to join us again next March.  Same time same location. We will be here. Y'all come back now, hear!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2011 Snow Goose Hunt



So a horse and a llama walk into a bar......

Petey and his hunters went to Knoble's pond yesterday.  They didn't see many birds and those they did see wouldn't work.  They did bag 5 birds right off the bat but it went downhill from there.  Only 7 birds for the day but in spite of that Petey had a great day. Petey had Ken Markin from Colorado and his 82 years young father, Karl, from Washington.  Also in the group was Karl's close friend and hunting buddy from Oregon, Arnie Petersen.  The day was filled with hunting adventures all over the world.  Karl has a bad 'dove' addiction.  He needs serious counseling.  He has hunted doves in almost all the countries in South America.  He has been to Bolivia 10 times!  He has also hunted doves in South Africa and many countries in north Africa as well.  He thinks he may cancel the next trip to Libya.  His hunting partner,Mommar, is a little busy right now.

My day started at the Church pond with a llama and a horse.  As we were getting things loaded in the ATV to go to the blind the llama and the horse came walking down the road.  The horse obviously thought the llama was quite cute (she did have captivating eyes) as they proceeded to 'get it on' right in front of us.  After a brief respite for a post coital cigarette, I herded them back down the road.  Shortly after getting set in the blind it became apparent that the 'black hole' swarm we dealt with yesterday was still to the east of us.  We toughed it out until 10:30 and then I made the call to move to Barber's pond.  Good call JJ!  We harvested 23 birds for the day.  One memorable group was four adult blues that started to work from a suburb just south of the moon.  It took them 45 minutes to descend.  When I called the shot the closest bird was maybe 60 yards.  Seconds later all four geese were enrolled in a spinning class in the decoys.  Great shooting Dr. Keith and Dr. Brad.

Getting nervous about the last five days.  We have not seen any migration for the past three days.  We have seen a good number of birds moving back south.  I don't have a clue as to what that means.  South Dakota is still covered in snow but temps are warming there over the next few days.  Word is that the Missouri River below Lewis and Clark Reservoir on the Nebraska-South Dakota border is covered with geese.  The lake itself is still frozen.  Also hearing that the juvie flocks are showing up at Squaw Creek in Missouri.  Last year the juvie flocks did not come through here.  They followed the Missouri River.  The year before they did come through here.  And so we wait.

The Full Monty and the horse and the llama in the same week!   Who'd a thunk it? You can't make this stuff up.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ouch! Where is Carl Sagan when you need him?

We knew it was coming.  Today was one of those brutal ugly days.  All life matter was being inhaled by a black hole.

I was at the Church pond today and Petey was at Knoble's pond.  We both had exactly the same day.  Had lots of birds early. They would drop from the ozone to about 100 yards and then just drift away.  Not just one bunch but flock after flock. Birds were moving from north to south all day.

At the Church pond we had a mega swarm on the ground 2 miles to the east of us.  Easily 30,000 birds in the 'black hole'.  It sucked in everything in our sector of the universe.  We kept waiting for them to get up and leave.  About 1:00 they started to go, but an airplane came flying by.  An airplane to snow geese is like Sarah Palin at a NOW Convention.  It gets ugly and then goes downhill from there. The plane freaked the geese so bad they just dove back into the pond.

Both groups shot 12 geese today.  We had 2 geese at 4:00 but shot 7 in the last hour.  Petey's day was pretty much the same.  Not the greatest of days but not a total bust either.

Looks like the weather is going to cooperate over the next few days so the migration should get going again.  Reports from Missouri are that there are still a lot of geese around Mound City and the Juvenile flocks are still in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.

If we can find someone to stop the black holes we can stabilize our little corner of the goose universe.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

ol' Maria Grever knew of what she spoke

"What a difference a day makes!"  Most of you are no doubt familiar with  the great Mexican composer Maria Mendez Grever. She wrote this memorable song in 1934.  The original American recording was by the Dorsey Brothers the same year.  My favorite cover of the song was by Dinah Washington.  She of course won a Grammy in 1959 for her recording.  But surely you knew that.

Yep, it was a different day.  Yesterday was perfect weather.  Today perfectly awful.  We had cloudy skies with freezing drizzle and snow showers.  Not ideal for migrating geese. 

I was at Barber's today and we got 18.  Just one of those days. Every time the dogs made a retrieve they would drag 10 decoys back into the bank. Consequently considerable time was spent resetting decoys.  We had a swarm of geese on the ground to the west of us and it played havoc with us most of the day. Our wonderful friendly game warden also paid us a visit.  So that took time from our day.  He really is a great guy.

Petey and his gang were at Knoble's. They bagged 28.  It was great to have the Ellis group from Illinois with us for the past three days.  We had our annual steak dinner last night.  They grilled the steaks in the parking lot at the Capri Four Seasons! 

Heath and his hunters were at the Church pond today. They harvested 31 today.  They had birds over them most of the day.  The birds were moving west to east all day.  We assume that these were birds that have been to South Dakota and were on their way back because of the snow and frozen lakes and ponds.

So we get to dance the dance and sing the song again.  What a difference a day makes. Twenty four little hours.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Central Flyway's Best joins the CENTURY Club and the Full Monty

The only thing I am 100% sure about in snow goose hunting is that I know absolutely nothing.  Oh I guess I know some things and make pretty good guesses on others, but when it comes to really having them figured out I feel pretty inept most of the time.

Which track to play on the Fox Pro?  Play it loud or soft?  Why, when you have 500 birds working do only three actually commit? Why do some birds fall out of the sky and then just slide away?  Why o' why o' why o'?

Guess that is why I find spring snow goose hunting so addictive.  30 straight days with limited sleep.  Hard work during set-up and tear down.  Hunting till dark every day.  All of this for 3 weeks of hunting!  I do love it so.

We had four groups out today.  It was a perfect migration day.  Sunny skies and 55 degrees with a light north wind.  Heath and his hunters were at Barber's pond today and they bagged 25 birds.  The word from his hunters was they did not shoot well.  Petey and his crew were at the Church pond and their total for the day was 27.  Lynn and Captain Cookie and the Captain's diminutive son were in the field spread.  This is where the porno comes in. Long story short version:  a goose was shot while doing the full Monty.  Nice shot Coop!  More on this later.  Oh yeah, they shot 8 birds.

I had three sharpshooters at Knoble's pond today.  And I do mean sharp.  They were stellar shots all day long.  When the last feather drifted down from on high 54 snow geese were in the bag.  It was an amazing day.  I witnessed the finest Chesapeake retriever work I have ever seen.  And Sage is just a pup.  She is going to be something special.  Snow goose work is great for puppies.  Snows make lots of noise.  They take forever to get down from the ozone so the dogs get to watch them a long time.  They can't take a load of steel like a Canada.  Once they hit the water they can't swim or dive like a mallard.  They are pretty much wussies after they are shot.  (my guess is I would be as well) but they are experts at NOT getting shot.  They are unequivocally the the smartest wariest waterfowl.  In comparison, Canadas should all be riding the short bus.

So, yes, Central Flyway's Best hit the century club today. 114 total.  It was an epic day.

And down the stretch they come!

We have had a major push of birds the past two days.  On Thursday we had two groups out and both shot 17 birds.  My crew was at the Church pond and we had birds over us all day long.  However we didn't shoot our first bird until 2:30.  Nobody wanted to play until then.  Petey was at Barber's pond and they didn't see that many birds even though Barber's is only three miles to the west of the Church.  Such is snow goose hunting.

Friday we also had a good push of birds.  Petey and his gang were at Barber's Pond.  They harvested 27 birds.  Petey's lab Gunner put on a spectacular retrieving demonstration.  My group was back at the Church.  Around 10:30 the wind really began to blow from the southwest.  The 30 mph gust stirred up large waves that played havoc with the decoys.  I could see that things were more than likely going to be going downhill.  We decided to make the move to Knoble's pond as it is more protected from the wind.  Good call, JJ!  We were able to bag 22 in the afternoon in spite of my gunners firing numerous shells that apparently did not contain any steel shot.  There can be no other plausible explanation for so many misses at point blank range! 

We are definitely on the downhill side of the migration, but there are still a lot of birds to come.  The good thing is that birds decoy better on the tail end of the migration as the juveniles come last.

We have three groups out today.  Will update you tonight.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A quick update

Great day at the Church pond.  My group harvested 38 birds.  Petey and his gang hunted only half the day as they had to hit the road.  They bagged 17 before calling it quits.  55 for the day is not too shabby.

It was not a migration day.  We had light snow and low visibility this morning.  We saw a couple large flocks early but the rest of the day it was all small groups.  My theory is these were birds which have been in the area for several days.  They can't go too far north because of snow and frozen watersheds.  We should see the migration pick up again in day or two.  Temps are forecast to moderate and peak near 60 next week.  We are not seeing many Ross geese or juvie snows and blues and that is good thing.  Rossies and juveniles bring up the rear of the migration.  Once we start to see them in significant numbers there is usually 10-14 days left in the migration.

Stay tuned.  The really Big Show is coming soon to a pond near me!  Hope you are there too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kjúklingasalat

Many of you will recognize the Icelandic translation for Chicken Salad.  More salad today.  Snow, freezing mist, 30 mph northeast wind, not a chance of getting snow geese today.  Except they didn't consider who they were dealing with.  The last two hours at Knoble's pond was some of the most spectacular shooting of the season so far.  Huge bunches of 500 - 1000 birds finished in the decoys.  We had birds in the water and the rest looking for room to land.  It was glorious!

All of the birds in the last two hours were full of corn.  I suspect they were all local birds who spent the day in local corn fields and then went looking for water and a place to rest for the evening.  26 of them are resting in peace tonight.

My black lab Dani was the retriever of the day.  She made the swim across the pond and back at least six times today chasing cripples.  She is simply amazing.  Earlier in the day I watched a cripple make it to the far bank and head off into the woods.  During a lull in the action I sent Dani across the pond on a blind retrieve. When she reached the bank, I gave her the whistle command to sit. I then gave her a hand signal to go down the bank to her left.  Even though the bird had crawled out of the water more than an hour earlier, she picked up the scent and disappeared into the woods. Two minutes later she emerged from the woods with the goose.  She then made the swim back across the pond and came to heel and delivered the bird to hand.  Dani loves snow goose hunting more than I do.  She thrives on the high degree of difficulty.

Petey and his crew were at the Church pond today and harvested 18 birds.  Heath guided our third group today at Barber's pond and they bagged 17.  I think 61 birds for the day is definitely not kjúklingur skít!

Chicken Salad

The time tested adage of making chicken salad out of chicken s**t is appropriate for yesterday's hunt. Cloudy, snow flurries and the beloved east wind all combined to make our prospects for a successful hunt seem quite dim. However the snow flurries were light and scattered.  The east wind was just a whisper and low and behold  we experienced one of the unique phenomenas of spring snow goose migration. A reverse migration!  We had birds coming from the north going back south all afternoon.  I think they ran into the snow line and frozen lakes in northern NE and southern SD and decided they need to head back to Squaw Creek and wait awhile.

The good news is we now get three chances at them.  One, on their first trip north; two, on their way back south; and three, on their way north again.  At 2:30 yesterday we had 10 birds.  We finished with 28.  The last volley was with fire belching out of the barrels in the near darkness.  Our three groups bagged a total of 60 birds yesterday. 

Not bad for a chicken s**t day!

I have to give a shout of high praise to my yellow lab, AZ.  Those of you who have hunted with her know that she is not blessed with blinding ground speed.  A running back she is not.  A bit more like an offensive lineman.  What she does have is the sweetest personality that any retriever could have.  I used the term retriever because that is what she is.  A world class retriever.  She is steady to shot.  She will never leave until I give her the command to go.  She is like a rock even when 1500 screaming white banshees are spiraling like an F4 tornado above her head.  She unfailingly marks up to seven birds.  She takes hand signals and whistle commands that allow us to put the 500 yard sailers that fell in the corn field into the bag.  I am blessed to have such a hunting partner.