Sunday, December 16, 2012

THE BAHA MEN AND WATERFOWL

Irving Berlin, Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Burt Bacharac, Oscar Hammerstein and Bob Marley are all great lyricists who have enriched our lives. Their songs play over and over on the soundtrack in our heads.

Randy Newman has never enriched a damn thing. Randy Newman sucks. I would love to take Randy Newman hunting on a -20 day with wind NNW at 30 with gusts to 50.  I am confident there would be a hunting accident. Randy Newman sucks.

Perhaps the greatest song of all time was written and performed by the Baha Men.

Who let the dogs out?
Who, who, who, who, who?
Who let the dogs out?
Who, who, who, who, who?

I apologize. I fear the lyrics are now permanently etched in the tiny space reserved for only your most cherished memories.

I can't promise this will be the last blog on my black lab, Molly.

If you have been following this blog, you know Molly's road to membership in the WyoBraska Waterfowl Retriever Club was not exactly on paved highways. Molly is now the lead dog. The many long hours of training over the past two years is paying huge dividends.

Danielle is now ten years old. She has earned the title of the Platte River Specialist. Dani is simply the ultimate retriever on the North Platte. I can't recall ever losing a downed bird with her. 400 yard blind retrieves on birds in the current or long blind retrieves on sailing birds into the woods are common place with her. She now hunts one day every two weeks.

Molly is well on her way to the same lofty status. She has been impeccable on her whistle commands and hand signals. I have not lost a bird with her this year. She is the steadiest dog I have ever had. She will sit outside all day and watch client dogs make the "easy" retrieves and never complain. But when the degree of difficulty is above the pay grade of the other dogs she is eager to show her stuff.

Molly still has a few little quirks. Large Canadas pose a problem for her. Being a small dog, her mouth is not big enough to wrap around a honker. You try lifting a 12 lb goose with your mouth. It ain't that easy.

Our apprentice retriever is 11 month old Tommie.  She has had a couple of ten plus duck days on the river and displays all the attributes I need in my retrievers.

Molly has big paws to fill. Her disposition and size remind everyone of the legendary Brooks. Brooks; Harvey; Ally; Zile; Danielle and AZ have set the bar high. By the end of the spring snow goose season, Molly will be reaching for the top rung.

Molly
Who let these dogs out? I believe only God.
Tommie
AZ


Dani











MOTHER BE WHUPPIN' MY BUTT

November 2012 has been one of the driest and warmest ever recorded. Torrington received a meager 0.6 inches of precipitation during the month. The high temp for the month was 76 degrees on November 21st. The end of November should bring us high temps in the low 40's and night time temps around 15 degrees.The 30th of November the high was 67 and the low was 27.

Thank heavens Montana had one storm in the middle of the month that pushed some birds south. Truth is it caused one of the most dramatic migration days I have ever seen. Canada geese and mallards came down the river all day long. Flock after flock of five hundred to a thousand lesser Canadas raced by on their way to Colorado, Oklahoma and north Texas. Skeins of snow geese were accompanied by spirals of sandhill cranes as well the tail end migration of gadwall and blue wing teal.

There are two major things that move big Canadas and northern mallards; ice and snow. Their water must freeze and snow must cover their food. If they have open water and a food source, cold alone will not move them.

Now that my pity party is over, I have to confess that November was my best month ever for mallards! I am blessed to hunt in perhaps the finest location for consistent mallard hunting in the entire US. I hesitate to say exactly how many mallards my hunters have taken because I don't want area hunters to know how good I am doing. In November we bagged more mallards than we took all of last season. And I didn't start hunters until the 10th!

Suffice to say, Mother Nature took a swing, butt she missed!

]

Saturday, November 10, 2012

BOOM....BOOM....BOOM

Game on!

The 2012-2013 waterfowl season is officially underway. There has been a surprising number of mallards on the river. Our mallards normally don't arrive until mid-November, but we certainly welcome the early arrivals. We have had several great days on the river. 

However, none was more spectacular than November 7th. Accompanying me was my Dad, Michael, and my good friend Aaron Garcia. Aaron is the current Wyoming state goose calling champion. But this day was all about mallards. 

The balmy morning certainly didn't portend what we were about to witness. Shooting time was 6:10 and as if late for an appointment,  the 150 mallards broke from "on high" (for the WMIM).  Following their downwind leg they turned final, pulled full flaps and Boom....Boom....Boom............Boom................Boom! Five greenheads were doing their best spinning class impressions.

A flock 250+ came down river. The split second the high-balls from the Carlson calls reached the mallards, all 250 locked up. As they dropped altitude they were joined by 150 mallards who were heading up river. The first flock and their new best friends circled once and dropped into the decoys. 400 mallards in the water. All inside of 30 yards. There wasn't any Boom....Boom....Boom. We did not fire a shot! Too many and too majestic. I know I will never tire of witnessing that spectacle.

They kept flying and we decoyed flock after flock. Most flew away. We took a couple singles and decided  that was enough. Aaron's puppy, Briley, is a litter mate to Tommie. Briley flawlessly made the retrieves this morning. They are going to be great dogs.

I have never seen this many mallards on the North Platte this early in November. If (read big if) it continues,  the 2012-2013 season could be one for the record books.

Retriever Update

This early season has allowed me to get lots of work for the young dogs. Tommie is progressing at warp speed. Her water entries are explosive. She is learning how to handle live birds in the river as well as track them along the banks. I could not be more pleased with her.

Molly continues to solidify her status as lead retriever. She is handling beautifully and learns more about the river every day. We have not lost a duck this year with Tommie and Molly.

AZ and Dani are also getting some work. However, both need a couple days to recuperate after a morning of retrieving.

Best Day of All

Friday, October 26th, my son, Brayden, did not have school because of a teacher conference. He said he wanted to go duck hunting. The night before I told him he could pick which dog would accompany us in the morning. He picked AZ. He also insisted on bringing his Red Ryder BB Gun.

At 5:00 AM he was dressed in his Carharts and camo jacket. I was fairly confident he would last about 15 minutes in the blind. I set the decoys and we settled into the blind. The early migration consisted of teal and gadwall. We decoyed several flocks of "gaddys" and I shot a couple. As each minute passed I was waiting for the "Dad, I'm bored. Can we go now?" I answered questions about the migration: Why do ducks have different feathers?; How do they name the different ducks?; Do ducks have tongues?; Can we clean one here?; If AZ likes ducks, why doesn't she eat them?; How do weathermen predict the weather? (they don't); Can you go to McDonalds and bring back lunch?; How many do you think I shot? I know I shot two!

I could have shot a limit of gadwall, but elected to wait for the greenheads. At 10:00 I had two gadwall and three mallards.  I said, "B we have to go now we have our limit." " No Dad, I want to stay and play duck hunter!" At 2:00 I pleaded, "B we have to go now!" He reluctantly acquiesced.

A perfect day. And the Lord smiled.
Brayden's Gadwall







Thursday, October 4, 2012

SUMMER'S PROMISE ALMOST GONE

Yesterday, October 2, 2012, was an idyllic day on the North Platte.

As the light crawled across the sage and filled the canyons, the temperature followed the light's lead. From a chilly start in the mid-40s the temp climbed to 83 in the afternoon. The wind remained light and the trout seemed to celebrate the day as well.

From a distance, mini-clouds of Tricorythodes (Tricos) resemble puffs of white dust. Pods of rising trout were feasting on the spinners as they fell in the shallows. As I witnessed the spectacle, I was reminded of a line from A River Runs Through It. "Nobody who did not  know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a trout by catching him."

The fly fishing has been spectacular this year. The fishing this fall has been unequivocally the best in all my years on the North Platte. Gin clear water, prolific hatches and hungry trout. What could be better?

Today we said goodbye to summer. The high today was 38 and the wind was relentless.  Today was time for streamers.  Countless 20+ inch fish chased the streamers and made their way to the net.

It is time for the fly rods to be put away and  park the Clackacraft for the winter.

It is time for waterfowl.

Dog Update

Molly and Tommie have made tremendous progress this summer.

Molly will be a great hunting partner this season. She is doing long (300+ yard) blind retrieves and never misses a hand signal. She may have the best nose of any lab I have ever had. Molly got some time during the recent Sage Grouse season and she expertly tracked down several wounded birds. She will assume the lead retriever position this season.

Tommie is now 10 months old.  She has grown from a little black puppy to the tallest of all my dogs and loves to train. She is steady as a rock and is delivering to hand with style and enthusiasm. Tommie is doing multiple marks and is doing well on her lining drills. She soaks up each new step in her training like a thirsty sponge. I can't wait to spend time in the blind this season with her.

Dani and AZ, are doing fine. However, they both are having the aches and pains that inevitably come with age. Although their time in the field will be reduced, it will be impossible to reduce their desire to hunt. The old dogs also got to hunt during the Sage Grouse season. Dani reaffirmed her place as the upland specialist. She covers ground like a pointer and rousts birds out the thickest of cover. On the last day, AZ trailed a wing tipped grouse for three hundred yards in the sage brush and proudly brought the bird to hand.

The girls and I have been training most evenings, with the young ones getting most of the work. Dani and AZ getting tune ups as the young girls continue their education.


2012-2013 Waterfowl Season Preparations

I will be heading back to Torrington in a couple weeks.  My last day on the river will be October 15th. There is lots of work to do to get ready for the upcoming season.

We pulled the lake pit due to water seeping into the pit. The culprits were muskrats tunneling into the bank in front of the pit. The pit was allowed to dry over the summer. In September, Grant Harpstreith and Kris "Petey" Peterson put the pit back in the ground. Before the pit was dropped into the ground, the hole was lined with a pond liner and  reinforced mesh. Petey had some extra liner from his landscaping business. I can't thank him enough for his help (I think there may be someone in Aspen who might have a leaky pond). My dad, Michael, checked on the lake today and said the water level is great. He also noted the lakes held hundreds of blue wing teal, gadwalls, wigeon and mallards. You kids are safe for awhile!

The Henry field is looking great. The winter wheat has been planted and is already growing. Thank heavens we have center pivot irrigation! The corn should be ready to be picked soon.   Many area farmers have had to cut their corn for silage because of the drought. The crop won't be as good as last year but will certainly provide adequate food for the birds.

The Lingle pit has been the premier pit in Goshen County for many years. Last year four times as many geese were harvested from this pit as from any other pit in the county. My only concern is the amount of water for the river on the refuge. Extreme drought conditions exist throughout the North Platte drainage. Hoping they will release enough water to hold the birds.

I have the same concerns for the river in Nebraska. The advantage of low water for the duck hunting is that we should have more choices for great decoy water. Last year's blind location may have to be relocated due to low water. I will keep it there if we can. The final location will be determined in early November, but we will probably have to be mobile this year as water levels change.

I am ready; dogs are ready; decoys are ready; pits and blinds will be soon. Hope the birds are ready.







Tuesday, June 26, 2012

DUCKS, DOGS AND YOUNG FLY FISHERMEN

DUCKS


Conjugal bliss is alive and well on the Canadian prairie. The early-spring apprehension concerning water conditions in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba has been alleviated by late-spring rains across the duck factory.

Breeding duck populations appear to be higher than 2011. This indicates a large carryover from last year's record production. Reports are Canada geese are everywhere! Mild spring weather should allow for a greater than normal survival rate for all species.  The outlook for production is average to above average as long as there is sufficient moisture to maintain wetland habitat.

If we are lucky enough to have something close to normal fall and winter weather, we should be in for a great 2012-2013 waterfowl season.








DOGS


Training sessions continue almost on a nightly basis. I get the old girls, Dani and AZ, out at least once a week. AZ managed to tear a toe nail on her front right paw (must have been from her blinding speed) and in doing so she suffered a tear in the web. The injury, however, has done nothing to diminish her enthusiasm for retrieving dummies. For heaven's sake Z you are almost eight years old, act your age!

Dani is Dani. What more can I say? Dani is clearly not for everyone. At nine years of age she remains wired as tight as Pelosi's face. On blind retrieves she takes lines as straight as Mitt at an ice cream social in Panguitch. She would prefer the dummie launcher would fire the footballs half-a-mile to up the degree of difficulty. She is an amazing dog.

Molly continues her education.  She is currently taking aquatics classes at the After Bay, Black Beach and the Dumbell Ranch. Her land classes are being held at the Pathfinder Ranch and the Alcova Municipal Park. Molly may have the best nose of any lab I have ever had. I have to be very careful when I set up her blind retrieves. I have to make sure the blinds are far enough apart so she won't wind the wrong pile. At the Ranch the other night, we had a wind shift mid-session and she winded a dummie from 100 yards! Pretty sure if she gets downwind of a bird...done deal. She may never be a Rhodes Scholar but she will graduate.


Tommie will celebrate her six-month birthday on July 1st. She loves water retrieves and hits the water with unbridled enthusiasm. No more puppy-paddling. When she gets planed out she is a very strong swimmer. We are having a few issues with delivering to hand with land retrieves but I am not worried.
       
Molly

Molly

Tommie
Dani & Molly

YOUNG FLY FISHERMEN



The past three days are the essence of why I love guiding fly fishing. For the past several years, Lee and Al have driven from Pasadena, CA, to stay at the Lodge and fish the North Platte with JJ.

Lee and Al had three unbelievable days of fishing. Lee and Al don't throw the tightest loops. They are not the quickest on the set. But their love for the trout and the river is unsurpassed. Watching them rejoice in the thrill of the pull on the end of the fly line is magical.


Lee and Al always bring along six beers, three apiece. The first is in celebration of the first trout to the net, no matter who catches it.  The second is consumed during a river-side lunch. As we approach the takeout at the end of the day, the two remaining beers are held high in toast to the trout, the river and the majesty of Wyoming.


Lee and Al are 80 years young. And yes, I said they drive from Pasadena. God bless 'em!
Lee and Al





Wednesday, June 13, 2012

THE DEADLIEST CATCH

This will undoubtedly come as a shock to many of you, but the wind blows (read sucks) in Wyoming. Actually blows is an understatement. The wind howls in Wyoming.

Day after day we deal with 30+ mph winds. Day after day the wind gusts exceed 40 mph. Of course it only blows upstream so we have to push into it all day. If the Reef was at 800 cfs we would have to pull the boat downstream! When 3' rollers are breaking over the bow of the Clacka, it can be very interesting. The boys on the Wizard and Time Bandit couldn't handle it.

The trout could care less about what is going on above the surface. Their world is filled with prolific amounts of PMD nymphs, Baetis nymphs, scuds, worms, leeches, yellow sallies, golden stones, fillet Mignon, stone crab claws and a '97 Silver Oak. A feast for everyone. (Actually, my Dad will not share the Silver Oak. Sorry)

Fishing has been absolutely spectacular! here are a few pics from recent trips. Pay special attention to the 10" rainbow. Michele would not approve.

Deb Farmer 22" Rainbow

Wis, Guide and 22" Pig

23" Rainbow

10" morbidly obese Rainbow





Tuesday, June 5, 2012

BOWS AND LABS

My days have been filled with guiding fly fishermen on the Grey Reef and the Miracle Mile and training my Labradors.

Fly fishing has been off the chart! The "Reef" and "Mile" are the most prolific waters for big Rainbows in the West. Day after day, 50+ fish with many over 20".  In spite of many of my anglers being novice fly fishermen, trophy "Bows" are routinely brought to the net. Two experienced anglers will frequently have 100+ hookups in a day.

This past Sunday, my good friend Chris "Wis" Wisner, from Park City, joined me on the Miracle Mile. Also in our flotilla were Chris' friends Patrick and Matt as well as my Dad, Michael. The only way to describe the day was "Epic". It seemed someone from our two drift boats was hooked up all the time. We rotated  the Park City guys so everyone had time in the front of my Clackacraft. Wis certainly made the most of his time up front. In the "Rainbow Run Hole" he hooked something north of 30 fat rainbows in just over an hour. From the rear seat, Michael hooked up often enough that double hook-ups became S.O.P.

Park City friends on The Miracle Mile
Labradors

Although fishing consumes the bulk of my time, my evenings are filled with working and training dogs. Dani and AZ get enough dummie work and exercise to keep them sharp and physically fit. Their desire and drive is a joy to witness. Tommie is now six months old and exhibits all the qualities you hope for in a retriever. She is doing 150 yard land and water retrieves and never gives up on a retrieve. She busts into heavy cover to find the dummie like an addict looking for her next fix. All retrieves are delivered to hand with unbridled enthusiasm in anticipation of the next.

If you have been following the blog, you have read several installments concerning Molly, my 2 1/2 year old lab. After her "glacial creep" start, Molly continues to progress at tsunami speed. Whether it is triple 300-yard marked retrieves or multiple blind retrieves, Molly continues to amaze. She is taking lines like a seasoned veteran. She nails her hand signals and demonstrates a keen nose. I have seen her wind a dummie from 100 yards! We still have work to do, but it appears she will be ready to take over when either Dani or AZ decide to retire. After seeing her work, Wis commented that Molly reminded him of Brooks, the best lab I have ever had. Fine praise to be compared to Brooks, the "Wonder Dog". While there will never be another Brooks, Molly is indeed developing into a fine WyoBraska Waterfowl retriever.




Saturday, April 28, 2012

LABOR DEPARTMENT FARM BILL AND MALLARDS

I trust you are aware of The Labor Department's proposed regulations concerning children working on farms.

It is painfully obvious that today's farm families cannot make decisions for themselves. It takes a skilled community organizer from the farm rich area of metropolitan Chicago to do for them what they cannot do for themselves. How did our Republic survive the last 250 years without him?

You may not have been aware of a proposal buried deep within the regulation that would affect duck seasons for years to come. (Stretch Pelosi proclaimed "We have to implement the regulation to find out what is in the regulation. Away from the fog of the controversy amid the fact we make up this crap as we go along.") 

Deep (read hidden) within the Labor Department’s proposed Child Labor Laws protecting the proletariat  children from the parental bourgeoisie on family farms, was a proposal to protect young mallards from the grueling, oppressive rigors of the migration. 

The young mallards of the current year’s hatch will no longer be allowed to be in the air for more than eight hours in any twenty-four hour flight period. Night flight is strictly prohibited. Mandatory rest periods of a minimum of one hour must be allowed every two hours during the eight hour flight day. Adequate food and water must be made available during said rest period. 

In addition, the migration must be supervised by adult birds in a ratio of no less than 2 adults for every 8 juveniles. If the ratio falls below this level due to adults having a confrontation with Mr. Benelli, Mr. Beretta or Mr. Browning, juveniles must wait for replacement adults before continuing migration.

Hilda and Potus trust these regulations will be accepted in the spirit intended. The duck population cannot be trusted to govern themselves.

Addendum: Secretary Saladbar has instructed the US Fish and Wildlife to continue research on replacing steel shot with mini-nets. The move will facilitate a catch and release component heretofore missing from waterfowling. To date tests have been very encouraging. Dogs may be used to retrieve captured birds providing their teeth have been removed. Retrievers must be approved, inspected and registered before they are allowed in the field. The following are approved inspection sites: Humane Society, PETA or the following PETA representatives:  Alec Baldwin, Pam Anderson or Metta World Peace (watch out for the elbow!) When asked for a comment on the farm bill and the proposed 'mini-net' shotgun shells, Harry Cattails replied, as an aide wiped the spittle from his chin, "I am going to check on my fig and pomegranate trees on my way back from the Cowboy Poetry Contest in Elko."

God Bless the USA!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

2012 TURKEY SEASON

As I am penning this post at 10:30 am on April 19, we just completed the sixth day of the 2012 Turkey Season.

I am pleased to report seven hunters have bagged twelve turkeys. If you count the tom I bagged this morning that would be lucky 13!  Perhaps not so lucky for the turkeys, but very exciting for the hunters.

I had the most amazing morning I have ever had while hunting turkey. I did not have hunters scheduled today so I went out by myself. I settled into one of my blinds and waited for the sunrise to illuminate the Nebraska landscape.  As the morning grew brighter, the stillness was broken by the sound of turkey leaving the roost.

I had placed my four Dave Smith decoys (three hens and a jake) fifteen yards from the blind. After allowing a few minutes for them to get settled, I let out a soft chirp. A gobble immediately rang out in response. A couple more chirps followed by a seductive purr and the tom was on the run. Not just one tom, but an eight-man football team! They ran up to the decoys and proceeded to kick the hell out of my jake decoy. They took turns jumping on his back beating him with their wings. The decoy was soon on the ground but the scrum continued.  It was if I was watching the All Blacks pummel Les Bleus.

Assuming they had convinced my decoy to abstain from any coital bliss, they began to parade for the lovely ladies. As the biggest tom separated himself from the melee, Mr. Beretta sent a calling card of #2 shot his way. The gesture was unwillingly accepted. The remaining seven casually sauntered 30 yards away and remained there for another twenty minutes before moving off.

I have been blessed to witness another scene in God's magnificent outdoors.

8 toms on my jake decoy
Nate Houle 2 toms with bow

The one that did not get away

"Nobody who does not appreciate the majesty of the hunt should be allowed to disgrace the bird by killing it."
Paraphrase from Norman Maclean



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

RECAP 2012 SNOW GOOSE SEASON




The abnormally warm weather of winter 2011-2012 presented us with new challenges. Two years ago we arrived to find three feet of ice on our ponds. When I arrived on February 15th, two of our ponds were completely open and the third had just a light layer of ice. The first scout flocks were already in the area. We applied a full-court press in order to ready our spreads as quickly as possible.

What occurred over the next three weeks was truly epic. Our hunters harvested 980 snow geese. On March 1st, three hunters harvested 62 snows! March 5th was our largest one day total with 112 geese from our three locations. On March 9th we killed 66 birds and on March 11th they were gone.

We had a banner year on banded birds.  We had two neck collared geese. In addition we had six leg banded geese. All the geese were banded in the far north of the Northwest Territories of Canada.

I have been hunting spring snow geese in this area since 1996. This was the first year we did not have any snow. It always snows in early March in southeast Nebraska!

100% of our groups have re-booked for the 2013 season. I am adding another location next year to accommodate our increased demand.

I invite you to join me for a waterfowling adventure of a lifetime. We are now taking reservations for the 2013 spring snow goose season.

Scenes from the 2012 Snow Goose season.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SIEGFRIED AND ROY SUCK

 If you think pulling rabbits out of a hat or making white tigers disappear or having a tiger eat you for a snack is real magic, you would have to be impressed by the waterfowl season that we pulled off last year.

Our mallard hunting was very consistent throughout the season. My hunters bagged limits or near limits from mid-November through the end of the season on January 12th. The totals for the season saw a 15% increase over the 2010-2011 season.

The Canada goose season was a different story. We experienced unseasonably warm weather during the entire fall and winter. The geese did not follow their normal migration patterns because they didn't have to. The majority of our geese never made it past Montana. Some geese stayed in southern Saskatchewan the entire winter!

The annual Goshen County 2-Shot Goose Hunt is held the second weekend in December. During this year's event twenty seven geese were harvested compared to ninety seven geese last year. (This year's winning team hunted from WyoBraska Waterfowl's Lingle pit!)  At a recent Wyoming Game and Fish meeting, the Chief Waterfowl Biologist reported the annual aerial survey of Goshen County showed the lowest Canada goose count since 1993. In spite of the dismal numbers we harvested over 600 hundred geese.(sshh...lets keep that between us) Under those circumstances that is way better than making a stupid white tiger disappear.

I can't thank my incredible clients enough. Your support over the years is truly gratifying. Nearly every group has re-booked for next season, and several groups have added additional days to their hunt.

Thank you for making the 2011-2012 a very successful and rewarding season.


Monday, February 13, 2012

LAST DAY!

The 2011-2012 waterfowl season drew to a close on Sunday, February 12th. We had an incredible season in spite of warm weather and a less than impressive Canada goose migration.

The decoys are in storage. The blinds and pits are cleaned and secured until next fall.  As usual, my good friends from Park City, Eric Lobdell, Jeff Sporley, Garrett Klein and "The Polish Pistol" David Kalinski were here to help with the cleanup. We hunted in the mornings and then put things away in the afternoon.

I am off to Fairbury in a couple of days to prepare for the spring snow goose season and the turkey season. My Administrative Staff and apprentice Brayden are off to Phoenix for a couple of weeks for a well deserved vacation.

I will post a more complete wrap-up at a later date.

Thank you for a great season!

Eric, Jeff, Joe, Polish Pistol, Garrett

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AND THEN THERE WERE "SOME"!

The second annual Tom Harpstreith Memorial Youth Hunt was held on Sunday, January 22nd. Forty area youth, ages 10-17, were treated to a day of Canada goose hunting. In the tradition of avid goose hunters everywhere, the day began early.Registration at 5:00 AM was followed by a complimentary breakfast at the Pineapple Grill.  The breakfast was provided by a wonderful client of mine, Jeff Meyer of Jacksonville, FL, owner of Pathfinder Ranch in Alcova, WY.

I am humbled by the support of my clients in making this a memorable day for the kids.  Friends of WyoBraska Waterfowl contributed over $4,000.00 to support the hunt.

Twenty local hunters who donated their time and pits served as guides for the kids. The Youth Hunt is not a competition. It is our way of introducing kids to the sport of waterfowling.

If you have been following the blog (and if not, why not?) you know that we have had an unusually warm winter. Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan and all of Montana have been warm as well. The geese never migrated in the numbers we are accustomed to seeing. We were all concerned about the quality of the hunt for the kids. More than one volunteer guide told me a tale of woe regarding their goose hunting so far. One pit normally has harvested over 200 geese by this time and they have shot 5! Some pits have not had a shot all year. Until Sunday.

I am certain that my good friend, Tom Harpstreith, was responsible for the storm that hit Montana last week. Snow coupled with below zero temperatures for several days pushed a number of fresh birds into our area. Many pits that had not bagged a goose all year shot limits on Sunday. Every pit had shots at geese.  More geese were bagged during this hunt than were harvested during the Goshen County 2-Shot Goose Tournament in December. Thank you my dear friend, I know you had a hand in the storm. The kids thank you as well.

The two hunters I had with me epitomize the purpose of the hunt. Ten year old Cade Herring had a hunting accident in December. Cade lost his thumb and little finger on his left hand to a shotgun blast. His desire to hunt and experience the outdoors has not been diminished by his accident. Joining Cade in the pit was his good friend Jared Myrtle. Cade and Jared did not want a parent to accompany them on the hunt because they wanted to experience a guided hunt on their own.

Think they were excited? The boys slept in their layout blinds the night before the hunt. How cool is that?

On the way to the Lingle pit, I explained the pit we would be hunting was Tom's favorite pit. The designated retriever for the day was Tom's Lab, Awesome, aka Aussie. Both young men were quick to grasp the significance of the honor that had been bestowed upon them. Once in the pit, Cade was informed that he was sitting in Tom's chair. His response was "I can't believe I am hunting in Tom's pit, with his dog and sitting in his chair. This is the best day of my life!" Quite impressive for a ten-year old.

The hunt ended at 12:00. Everyone gathered for lunch at The Little Moon Super Club in Henry owned by Ben Hager. Ben served on the organizing committee and guided in the hunt as well. The complimentary lunch  for the hunters and parents was provided by Bret Van Rensselaer of High Plains Wingshooters. Thank you Bret. Following the lunch a goose calling contest was held for the young hunters. Brett Guth won the 14-17 year old age group and Kash Kaufman  won the 10-13 year old age group. The winners were presented with Zink goose calls. The highlight of the day was a drawing for a new Benelli Black Eagle 20-gauge shotgun. This is the exact gun that Tom shot for many years. The winner of the drawing was Hannah Woster of Torrington. Hannah  had to borrow a gun for the hunt. Is it coincidence that last year's winner of the shotgun also did not own a shotgun? I think not. Thanks again Tom!

We had very few geese and then there "SOME"!




Trent Tatum Photography




Sunday, January 15, 2012

AN EPIC LAST DAY

The duck season closed in Nebraska on January 11th. I had one of my long-time groups from Park City, UT, here for three days. We hunted the river that day. It was an epic mallard hunt.

We woke that morning to light snow and blustery NW winds. There was a certain amount of anxiety on my part on what the day might hold for us. In the six years I have hunted the river in Nebraska I have never had a bad hunt in the snow. Today was no exception.  The designated retriever for the day was Dani, the Platte River specialist. There is not a dog anywhere that can hunt the river better than Dani. 

From first light the sky was filled with mallards. The ducks were very responsive to the calls. My Dad, Michael, was with us in the blind. We make a formidable duo on our Carlson duck calls. We have been responsible for the demise of many mallards over the years. As legal shooting time passed we had several flocks of 20-30 birds inside ten yards over the decoys but because of the poor light conditions we didn't shoot because we could not tell the drakes from the hens. We practice "Green Only" at WyoBraska Waterfowl. 

We did experience an occasional lull but it would not last over twenty minutes and the ducks were back on us in full force. My hunters had their limit of 15 drakes by 8:30. We also bagged six Canada geese that morning. For the next couple of hours we called in  hundreds of mallards.  It is a joy just to watch them.


video


It was a great finish to a great season.



Sunday, January 8, 2012

BETTER THAN SOME?

If you have been following the blog (If not, why not?) you know I often write of friendships, belief in God and other cerebral musings. Friendships are a gift from God. If you are fortunate enough to have one or two close friends in your life you are truly blessed.

I have been blessed beyond mortal comprehension. I have unequivocally the best clientele in the world. Some of them have been hunting and/or fishing with me for years. Some go back to my days in Park City. Some have been hunting with me since I launched WyoBraska Waterfowl in Torrington. Some are good shots. Some are not. Some have become very close friends. In fact, Some have become spiritually close friends.

Some come to enjoy the spectacular sunrises. Some relish in the majesty of decoying mallards and Canada geese responding to the call. Some come for the stories and the 'man-time' in the pits and river blinds. Some come to enjoy the dog work.

Suffice to say I am blessed to have Some friends who pay me to take them hunting and fishing. Those Some are the perfect friend.

Better than Some?  None are better than my Some.



Allen Barber - Dr Lynn Wilcox
Better Than Some

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH.......yada...yada

WyoBraska Waterfowl continues to have a good season in spite of the low waterfowl numbers. Our goose numbers are well below normal. This time of year the Lingle Refuge would be holding 25-40 thousand geese. I estimate we have around 7 thousand. That being said, we have had only one total strike-out day. Our hunters have managed to bag many limits from the Lingle pit. Limits were taken as recently as 12/29 and 1/1.

Mallard numbers remain strong at Lingle, the river in NE and the lake. We hunted the river on 12/30 and 12/31 with the Hall brothers, Paul and Mike, and Alan Blum from Estherville, IA. They shot limits of mallards (all greenheads, I might add. Except for one 'friendly fire' hen. I won't say who shot it, but his name starts with P and ends with T) both days along with three bonus geese. This group was one of only three first time groups this year. I simply did not have room for anyone else. All other groups are return clients and for that I am very grateful.  By the way, both of the new groups who have hunted so far have re-booked for next year.

The weather has also been a real challenge this year. As I pen this report it is 61 degrees with light winds. As is common in most of the Midwest and West, we have had virtually no snow this year. We have had two rather benign snow events and surprise, surprise we had great mallard hunts on the river during the snow and an epic Canada-mallard shoot at Lingle. The lack of wind has been the other challenge. Day after day with little or no wind. Come on, this is Wyoming! The wind always blows here.

The mild weather is also responsible for our greatest challenge. Little or no migration. My contacts in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta report they still have open water and no snow.  They are covered with geese and ducks. Montana has 'stupid' numbers of geese and mallards. My sources there are having their best waterfowl season ever. I am so very happy for them. NOT! Send a few this way please.

No snow causes concern over lack of water and spring nesting success. We may go from record duck numbers to not so good in a year. However, things can change very quickly. So lets all pray for bad weather in Canada and especially Montana.

As always, you have my guarantee that WyoBraska Waterfowl will do our very best to provide you with a memorable hunting experience.

Pat Hall, Max, Rookie Guide, Alan Blum, Mike Hall, Nellie

"Jason & Michael, Thank you for a great hunt. You both did a great job of calling no matter what Al said about you. It was a very memorable trip and has to go down as one of my top hunts of a lifetime. Thank you again! Mike Hall."
 "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the mallards and geese that take our breath away!"
                            





Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 HUNT PHOTOS

A few pictures from the 2011 waterfowl season. Thank you to all my amazing clients. It is a pleasure and an honor having you hunt with WyoBraska Waterfowl.