A Family Vacation……..With an Add-On

It started in February, 2017 when my wife asked me, what I wanted to do for a vacation this year. Now I have been married long enough to realize that some questions are best answered with another question. “I don’t know, what do you want to do”? Her short answer literally sent a chill through my body, “I want to go to Alaska” she replied. Talk about a curveball that completely caught me off stride!
OK, the discussion was over and it was now up to me to pull something together. With one of my guiding principles in mind, it is just plain RUDE to go to Alaska and not hunt something, the keyboard and phone got a workout. Her number one priority was to see the Northern Lights and I soon discovered that the best month for that activity is February. Since neither of us have the clothing necessary to handle Alaskan weather in February, a compromise was going to be in order. To avoid the cloud cover and city lights it was imperative that we get away from Anchorage. We gambled and settled on the last week of September with a journey to the arid interior between Anchorage and Fairbanks which was also prime habitat for Ptarmigan. We had a plan.

I have shot Ptarmigan on previous big game hunts to Alaska and in fact an August Ptarmigan was # 4 in my quest for the eight major species of North American grouse. One of those birds now rests in my office for friends to view and to rekindle memories of a cold, damp, windy week spent in a tent north of the Arctic Circle. Since it was taken in August, it has the reddish-brown plumage with only a little white showing on the legs and wings. A totally white one would be a nice contrast but my suspicion was that late September might be a little early to meet that objective.

A week in Anchorage doing “tourist stuff” was well spent. The 26 Glacier Cruise in Prince William Sound was fantastic in terms of scenery and wildlife. Don’t’ miss it. The visit to a sled-dog kennel and training facility is a must for any dog owner. It included a training run with a group of new recruits. The harness was connected to a multi- passenger ATV that was put in neutral and away we went. Of the 9 dogs on the training run, the back 7 were sometimes pulling straight ahead, occasionally pulling at right angles to one another, and always running at varied speeds. However, the two lead dogs just seemed to glide along effortlessly. When I asked the Musher about it, a veteran of 5 Iditarod Races herself, she said that those two lead dogs were Iditarod veterans too. Most of you can spot the difference between a 6 year old bird dog and a new recruit on his 1st pheasant hunt. Sled dogs are just as easy to spot!

A seven hour drive north of Anchorage took us to Alpine Creek Lodge which was about 70 miles east of Denali Park. Yes, the trip could have been made faster but this was a vacation and we were enjoying the scenery. I might also mention that in Anchorage Fall was just arriving and the vegetation was beginning to turn. In the tundra it was closer to winter and all the leaves were gone from the dwarf willows and alders and the fresh snow on the mountains made for some spectacular vistas.

Susie and I were both hunting on the breezy, dreary, often rainy first day. She was successful in taking 3 Spruce Grouse and 3 Ptarmigan so she felt like she had a successful hunting leg. The remaining 2 days she and the outfitters wife would head up into the mountains west of the lodge while I chased more Ptarmigan off to the east. The weather on day #2 was similar to day #1 but the hunting was just as good. Good Day!
Day # 3, was the kind of day we upland bird hunters cherish. There was fresh snow on the mountains but only a dusting at 4,600 feet where the ATV train began. We had a clear sky, calm wind with a temperature in the lower 20s and 12 miles of trail ahead of us. My optimism was about as high as it could get. We had probably traveled 3 to 4 miles without seeing any birds when suddenly there were 40 to perhaps 50 mostly white birds flying off to our left. They were about half mile, perhaps further away, when they settled onto the third low ridge from us. The cold weather and snow overnight caused the birds to begin flocking together in preparation for winter. Previously, most of the Ptarmigan had been singles or doubles, this was a bonanza.

The next three plus hours were better than a dream. Once we got onto the ridge where the flock had landed we found them busy feeding on the blueberries that covered it. Then it was a matter of flush a group, make the shot and watch the others go down. A Springer would have helped with the retrieving but as it was a white bird on the tundra was an easy find. This game continued for a little over three hours and when we stopped for lunch I was a single bird short of another 10 bird limit. Had I been in Ruffed Grouse woods, I would still be lost, but the open tundra allowed me to find the ATV.

Lessons learned; (1) Ptarmigan rarely land in dwarf willows but will find clearings or grassy areas among the willows, (2) They like to land on the green banks of the dry potholes between the water and the brush line where they are easy to spot, (3) they don’t run as in “run like a pheasant” but they will simply walk away from you if you get too close, as in 30 yards or so. Most of us can’t keep up with them on the tundra and willows. To get them into the air you will have to push them, again a Springer would help, (4) a big white target against the azure blue of the sky makes for a relatively easy shot. I did not find them to be overly fast and during the course of 3 days of hunting I managed to pull off 4 doubles and I’ve never been accused of being a “quick draw” artist. My 12 gauge O/U bird gun choked Improved Cylinder & Modified, shooting 1 ounce of # 7 ½ target loads at 1,300 feet per second (my standard FITASC load) worked great.

Before our discussion last February, I never thought I would ever return to Alaska but since our trip was a success by every measure, including the Northern Lights ………I’m wondering what a Spring-time hunt on snowmobiles would be like?

Phil R. Hechler
NSCA Level II Instructor,
Houston, Texas

Is it a Trend?

During the past two weeks I have been fortunate enough to have been able to shoot in two different state Sporting Clays Tournaments. That in itself is not particularly note-worthy, a lot of retired shooters do as much on a regular basis. However, what makes these tournaments unique is that neither were on Real Estate that throws regular NSCA registered tournaments. They were on somewhat “virgin ground” if you like.

Several questions can be asked, why? Is this good for the local clubs who offer monthly or at least quarterly tournaments for their customers? Was this an anomaly or is it a trend that points a new direction for Sporting Clays tournaments?

As I commented in a previous Blog, State Championships and many Regional tournaments have gotten very large in both total participation (New Mexico had 197 shooters and Oklahoma had 417 shooters) and in numbers of events being offered. For example, there is usually;

  • 200 target Main Event shot on two separate courses simultaneously
  • 100 target Preliminary and a 100 target Farewell that can share a course
  • 100 target FITASC with 4 Parcours each having 3 shooting positions or “pegs”
  • 50 to 100 target sub-gauge events using the same course with multiple machines and shooting positions
  • 50 to 100 target Super Sporting on a course with 3 machines per station
  • 50 to 100 target Side-by-Side and Pump Guns often sharing the same course
  • 100 target 5-Stand with 4 layouts all used simultaneously

Of course the number 1 priority for all of this is SAFETY so shooting positions and the shot fall zone must be considered so Side-by-Side shooters are not raining shot on sub-gauge shooters and so on. All of this requires Real Estate not needed for the weekend 100 target 10 to 12 station tournament. Also consider transportation shooters need while on the course. At some events the Clubhouse for registration can be a legitimate ½ mile or further from station # 1. If the particular course is in a somewhat straight line, we can only guess how far it is from the last station back to the Clubhouse. Can you say exercise? As our shooting population ages and temperatures warm (it was 99 degrees plus in Oklahoma this past weekend) transportation on the course is no longer a luxury but increasingly, a necessity.

The use of Golf Cars and multi-passenger ATVS has also dictated the need for Real Estate. At one time a club could allow 20 feet per vehicle for parking. That distance has now increased to 50 feet for the vehicle and trailer with room to unload and reload our Clays Car. Parking alone has become a big deal. Many local clubs simply don’t have the Real Estate to sponsor the kind of event larger Sporting Clays tournaments have become.

Hence, the use of locations (ranches and farms) outside the traditional gun clubs. Often these ranches have land holding measured in sections rather than acres and very often terrain and vegetation that is totally different than what we are accustom to so it makes for challenging and entertaining shooting. Since these locations are temporary and only setup for a specific event a benefit, perceived or real, is that there isn’t a home-field advantage. Everyone is shooting over new ground for the first time.

The two examples I encountered this summer may be just isolated instances and it is certainly too early to see if this is going to be a trend but it does warrant watching. Have any of our readers observed similar tournaments in other parts of the country? My two experiences were both enjoyable and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 has to offer.

Pull………..

Phil R. Hechler
NSCA Level II Instructor
Houston, Texas

Let’s “Walk the Talk”

We have all heard them, in some cases we know several of them. The person who is the greatest hand with a shotgun since Nash Buckingham, Herb Parsons, or even Tom Knapp. They are certainly the best around the campfire, at the holiday cocktail party, in the local “watering hole” of even in the workplace break room or around the coffee pot.

It’s the guy who used the same box of shotshells for two years on a 3-day South Dakota pheasant hunt while taking a limit of roosters every day. The person who consistently takes his 15 dove limit and has shells remaining out of the box of 410 shells. Ditto for his 15 bird limit of southern Bob White quail. With Ruffed Grouse he finishes his season with more days of limits than anyone in hearing distance no matter whether the cycle is up or down. With waterfowl, it is always the same story, the most limit outings with the minimum expenditure of ammunition. The only problem is that no one has ever been able to witness this shooting prowess. We all have our own opinions that we usually keep to ourselves. Good approach!

Have you ever wondered how you (we) would stack up against this self-proclaimed expert? At this point, I will go on record as stating that I am totally opposed to any type of competition that includes the taking of wild game. It has no place in ethical, recreational hunting. Hunting is a personal activity and I see no benefit to allowing it to deteriorate into some sort of competition.

However, there is a Politically Correct, socially acceptable, and FUN way to evaluate our shooting proficiency against others and even our expert. It is call clay targets and can go by the name of Skeet, Trap, or Sporting Clays. Now I’m not thinking about a trip out to your local club or range on a Saturday but rather a full-fledged tournament. During the summer months we are in the season for State, Regional and larger Charity tournaments with multiple events during each so why not plan to participate in one. Note: I include the various wildlife conservation events as Charity tournaments.

I’ll focus on Sporting Clays for this discussion because that offers the greatest target variety for bird hunters but similar structures are found in both Skeet and Trap. The typical State Championship Tournament will offer a Main Event with 200 targets shot over 2 days. Then there will be numerous sided events to keep us hunters occupied. There are usually 20 gauge, 28 gauge, & 410 bore sub-gauge events along with 5-stand and often the relatively new game called Super Sporting (offering 2 shot singles and pairs). If you go early there is usually a Preliminary Sporting Clays event and for those who just can’t get enough shooting there is some kind of farewell event. And did I mention Side-by-Side and Pump Gun Events? Such a tournament can give you over 500 targets to test your skill and can provide a long get-away weekend.

The results can be both eye opening and a learning experience. Hopefully, you will discover that relative to the other several hundred participants you are actually much better than most. Or if not better you are at least in the middle-of-the-pack. If you fall on the other end of the standings, you can identify where you need a little work or at least realize that some conversations are best avoided. If you do enter multiple events, you will probably learn that your performance with some guns was significantly better than with others. This could be grounds to clean out the gun safe or perhaps pave the way for a new purchase! You will likely observe that your performance on some days is simply better than on other days.

A large tournament where the cost is in the $1.00 per target range is not a trivial expense but even with overnight lodging and travel meals it will still be substantial less than a 3 day bird hunt at some lodges and you will get to make the gun go “Bang” 500 times or more vs less than 25 times on a 3-day pheasant hunt. And you do NOT need to be a National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) member to shoot, you can register in “Hunter” class.

Sure there will be some challenging targets, as there should be in a state championship, but I can assure you that won’t be the case for every station. Range owners don’t want to scare customers away, they want to entertain them and entice them to return. It’s called good business and breaking targets is good for business.

At most big tournaments you will find that the targets are not really that hard to hit but are often easy to miss. They will test you skill and isn’t that one of the reasons for going, to compare your skill against other sportsmen and sportswomen? That and the fact that it is FUN. Fortunately, I’m in my 23rd year of enjoying the fun of tournaments and over the years I have proved that there hasn’t ever been a target thrown that I can’t figure out some way to miss – missing is part of this game but you learn and move forward. I can also guarantee you that if it wasn’t FUN, I would have quit a long time ago.

Now if you could only get Mr. Expert to go along to prove that he can Walk his Talk. That may be more difficult than breaking a 35 yard quartering away midi!!

Phil R. Hechler
NSCA Level II Instructor
Houston, Texas

The “ Good Ol’ Days”

It’s not every day or even every year that you can take a 15 bird limit of Whitewing Doves in slightly over one hour. No, that wasn’t in Old Mexico in the 70s or early 80s but just outside the city limits of San Antonio, Texas on September 1st thru 3rd, 2016. As is the case with many events, to fully appreciate the significance of my success we need to back up a few decades and explore the Whitewing Dove and the expansion of their range.

There are several species of doves that reside in the United States including the diminutive and protected Inca and Aztec doves, the widely distributed Mourning Dove, the White-tipped Dove of the lower Rio Grande valley, the exotic Eurasian Collared Dove, and the subject of this article, the Whitewing Dove. Of this group the Whitewing Dove is by far the most gregarious; nesting in huge colonies, flying in large flocks and often feeding in swarms.

They called large tracks of native thorn brush and scrub trees home. In Mexico, their nesting colonies may approach 1 million birds. However, with “progress” and the clearing of the native brush along both sides of the Rio Grande River it could be anticipated that the number of doves would decline. Alas, this was not the case. Here in Texas much of the land was replanted with citrus trees which provided nesting cover similar to native brush. The tree species may have changed but the habitat essentially remained the same. Thousands of acres of native brush were gone but thousands of acres of citrus trees replaced them so the Whitewing population remained stable. As a result of the stable population the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with the blessing of the federal migratory bird council authorized a 4-day Special Whitewing Season to be conducted during the first two weekends of September in four counties bordering the Rio Grande River.

It was during one of these seasons in the early 70s that I got my introduction to the Whitewing dove. As an invited guest of an oil company with extensive operations in the area I hunted Whitewing doves for the first time. During the 70s and early 80s I continued to enjoy, both in Texas and Mexico, the quest for this abundant resource. And then…….Mother Nature stepped in with a severe winter blast on Christmas Eve of 1983. That cold front drove temperatures into the lower teens and lasted long enough to freeze some areas of the saltwater marsh along the coast. It also wiped out almost all of the citrus trees in South Texas. The results were a devastating financial loss for the farmers and habitat that was going to take years to rebuild if it was actually replanted.

Reports were coming out of South Texas indicating the farmers were removing acres of dead trees and they were not going to replant, at least not citrus trees. The area was about to undergo a major agricultural shift to in-the-ground food crops with a much shorter production cycle. As political and criminal instability issues began to grow in Mexico and the major nesting cover removed in Texas I all but resigned myself to the fact that my Whitewing Dove hunting days were over. I would have to be content hunting the tremendous number of Mourning doves that call Texas home.

Of course pockets of birds remained along with the 4-day season but as hunters often do they self-regulated and there was little or no hunting in their traditional stronghold. To restate the obvious, Texas is a big state with very diverse habitat from pine forests in the east to Chihuahua desert in the far west. All sections have Mourning dove populations and the western portions (west of I-35) has pockets of Whitewing doves. As a result the Fish and Wildlife Department maintained a 2 Whitewing dove limit in the aggregate with the traditional Mourning Doves season. To help wardens assure that hunters adhered to the rules a feathered wing must remain on all harvested doves until they reached their final destination.

During the late 80s and into the early 90s my Mourning Doves hunts on ranches south of San Antonio began to include one or two Whitewing doves. A pleasant surprise.
But then…….on a mid-summer shopping trip with my wife in the Galleria area of Houston I heard the unmistakable cooing of a Whitewing Dove and ultimately spotted him in a Live Oak tree above Westheimer Road (one of the busiest shopping streets in Houston). Before our day was over I had spotted a dozen or more. I was a good 7 hours from Mexico so WHY Whitewing Doves in Houston?

It seems that people had inadvertently come to the rescue. In our effort to beautify our cities and provide some shelter from the brutal Texas heat we landscaped. One of the choice plants is the Live Oak tree. The Live Oak is a relatively short species of Oak not usually growing more that 20 to 25 feet tall with a lot of limbs and extremely thick foliage, perfect for nesting and shelter for wildlife. Note: Live Oak trees actually do lose their leaves but not all at once and new leaves sprout almost as soon as the old ones drop so they look alive all year. A visitor from the northern climates in February might think they never lose their leaves.

What I observed in Houston was also happening in San Antonio, Austin, and small towns all across Texas. Texas was experiencing an explosion of Whitewing doves as the bird’s moved into suitable habitat wherever they could find it – to town! The Parks and Wildlife recognized this and upped the limit to six per day in the daily 15 bird limit. Then the limit became fifteen doves in the aggregate without a restriction on species and of course the feathered wing requirement was eliminated.

That is where we stood on September 1st, 15 doves of either Mourning Doves, Whitewing Doves or some combination of the two. For the record, I was shooting within sight of Interstate 10 and could see the San Antonio sky line. Over 3 days my possession limit contained 44 Whitewing Doves and a single Mourning Dove. I will also mention that the first opening weekend I enjoyed on this field, about 10 years earlier, my possession limit contained but a single Whitewing dove.

I’ll also mention I was only a couple of miles from Randolph Air Force base, a major training base that was established during WW II. And it is landscaped with, you guessed it, Live Oak trees. Estimates have placed the nesting population on that base at 15,000 birds give or take a few hundred. There are so many doves that collisions with our training jets have occurred all too often and caused the military to adjust training flights to minimize the probability of wrecks. To date, only the birds have been casualties but there have been some hefty repair bills for the jets.

So much for the history, what about the birds? They do have a white patch on the leading edge of their wings, but their coloration is similar to the familiar Mourning Dove. They average about 1 ounce heavier but on the grill they can be very difficult to differentiate from Mourning Doves. Their speed is about the same as a Mourning Dove 30 – 60 miles per hour. (Note: Regulation Skeet targets leave the house at 45 – 47 miles per hour.) They do look slower than a Mourning Dove because they are larger and with a squared off tail gives them a “chunky” appearance as opposed to the streamlined Mourning Dove. I personally find them a little easier to hit than the Mourning Dove because their flight is less erratic. They also tend to fly higher. Because of the greater range I opt for # 7 ½ shot and have used # 6s on occasion. (# 6s work well in 1 ounce loads but with a liberal bag limit (you will shoot a lot) forget the 1 ¼ ounce loads unless you enjoy being pounded all afternoon). As has been stated by scribes’ way smarter and with more experience than me, there is no place for the 410 Bore when the field contains mostly Whitewing Doves. I enjoy shooting my 28 Ga. for doves as much as anyone but if I know the hunt is for Whitewing Doves it stays home as I opt for the 20 Ga. or better yet, the 12 Ga. with 1 ounce loads. And if really pressed, I’ll take my 12 Ga. Competition Over/Under with 34 inch barrels weighing about 8 ½ pounds with Skeet and Modified choke tubes installed. If the first shot results in a miss, the Whitewings generally don’t flair like Mourning Doves but will often continue in the direction they were headed. That means the second shot may actually be closer so I shoot my barrels “backwards” meaning tight choke first and open choke second. Of all the gamebirds we hunt this is the bird designed for the Pull Away technique. Other techniques and combinations way be as good or even better but these work for me.

As I have mentioned previously on this site, hard body decoys placed near the ground can be very effective but the spinning wing decoys are generally a waste of time for Whitewing doves and can even be detrimental. My advice, leave them in the truck until you have a field of Mourning Doves.

Now that you have your limit how do you cook them? Ask 100 dove hunters and 95 will say the same thing. Breast them, place ½ a jalapeno pepper against the breast and wrap with bacon, cook on hot mesquite coals until done but if you want to error, do so on the side of under cooking rather than over cooking. Remember they are skinned so they can dry out without the bacon and will do so quickly. As a twist to the above I have added a small piece of cream cheese with the pepper before wrapping and grilling.

Like usual, I try to grill more than we could eat so there will be leftovers. A couple days later I filet the meat off the bone and dice dove, bacon, pepper, and creamed cheese and sauté in butter but only enough to heat everything because it has already been cooked. Then add a jar of medium spicy queso dip. When everything is hot, spoon it over bowtie pasta – delicious! Perhaps even better than fresh off the grill.

It is often lamented by hunters that they wish they had lived during the “good old days”! When talking about hunting Whitewing Doves in Texas, the good old days are right NOW!

Phil R. Hechler
NSCA Level II Instructor
Houston, Texas

Rio Shot Shells

It is time to clean up after a long and enjoyable hunting season. I start with my late season vest. As I was going through the pockets, I found the normal stuff: shells, dog leads, first aid kit, extra e-collar, etc. When I got to my game pouch I had to smile. There were a lot of yellow hulls, all empty. The pile of bright hulls brought back many good memories. The dogs the birds and the awesome sights and sounds of the north woods came flooding back to me. As I was thinking about  all the good times, a thought came to me, one of the reasons we can have a good time is that we pick quality equipment.

As I was staring down at the pile of Rio shot shells it occurred to me that shells are one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment we use. And I do consider them one of the most important. We need to match the loads to the game we are hunting. We need to know where we are hunting. Does it require non toxic shot or can you use lead? Also we need to match the loads to the people using it. Too big a load and you could cause flinching problems.

For me, I like Rio shot shells. Rio gives me the versatility to hunt any game with any gun that I chose to use. I can count on the Rios to perform the way I want, they are very consistent. Here is a added bonus to using Rio shells. Rios are the cleanest shells I have ever used! Less cleaning time makes this hunter very happy! I have hunted many kinds of birds with Rios, from woodcock to geese, Rios have never let me down. Check Rios out, I think you will be happy. I know I am!
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Thomas K. Poorker
Focus Outdoors TV Founder
Owner Midwest Gundog Kennels

Evinrude

As I was cruising around the Boat Show, I came across the must unique looking boat motor on the market today in my opinion. The motor is the Evinrude E-TEC G2; it is a modern marvel! As I was staring at one of the demos on the floor a nice guy from Evinrude came over to ask if I had any questions, boy did I. Kevin Kerkvliet is the man’s name and he is a wealth of information. Kevin told me when they started designing the motor they broke everything down and decided to start from ground zero and make a complete new engine.

I will hit the highlights that caught my interest. The E-TEC has more horse power then any other outboard of same of same rating. The G2 has a ton of torque while expelling low emissions. With an engine so powerful you would think fuel economy would stink, not the case with the G2. It gets top marks for fuel economy. Being a guy that is not very handy with mechanical things of any kind, I was extremely excited about the G2, it is a motor that needs the least amount of maintenance of any outboard motor on the market today. It is fun to have the power and big torque, and lets be honest with ourselves, we like to look good on the water as well. Thus, the unique looks and quick adaptability of the cowl are awesome! You can match any color of boat made without custom paint jobs. When you have rough water you need a boat that handles with ease. So what does Evinrude do? They came out with power steering for outboards. If you think this is all talk, you are wrong. Evinrude will back up their motors with the 5 year or 500 hour warranty. On top of that warranty now until March 31st you can negotiate on the warranty or financing or free rigging, they are trying to give you options. Check their website or with your dealer for more info. I would like to thank Kevin Kerkvliet for all the interesting information. It really is a new era in outboards.

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Thomas K. Poorker
Focus Outdoors TV Founder
Owner Midwest Gundog Kennels

Minneapolis Boat Show

I had the opportunity to spend a cold winters day attending the Boat Show in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is a great way to dream about the upcoming spring. This is one of the biggest boat shows in the country. There is a reason for this, they have a great deal of variety at the show.

As I walked around I came across an awesome display of antique boats. It was very interesting to see the craftsmanship in these old wooden boats, artwork really. There were also a wide choice of pontoons; which in the last 10 years have become more popular then I would have imagined in my wildest dreams. Also there were boats that you could use for hunting ducks and catching fish. You could find any kind of boat you wanted and any kind of accessories you may need to enjoy your boat. There were docks that looked more like home decks. What better way to enjoy a summer day then sitting on your dock enjoying a cold one! So if you have a boat show in your state, go and enjoy. It will help you have fun thoughts of the upcoming summer.

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Thomas K. Poorker
Focus Outdoors TV Founder
Owner Midwest Gundog Kennels

Boat Show

I recently attended the Minneapolis Boat Show in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is one of the biggest shows in the country. If you love summer and being on the water this show is for you. I was focused on the fishing end of things. That is my passion and also my job for Focus Outdoors TV.

As I was going through the rows of toys and boats, I came across a Warrior Boat. I have a fondness for these boats and the people that build them. My feelings are from the time I have spent in these boats and with the folks that build them. Warrior Boats are made in my home state of Minnesota, which means a lot to me! As I was looking at the rig they had at the show Kent Anderson showed up. Kent is one of the key players at Warrior. It gave me a great opportunity to ask Kent what was new for 2016.

Kent was very excited about the V208 boat. This boat sounds awesome; it will have a 99 inch beam and will be 20’4” long, a real big water tamer. The interior sounds super comfortable as well. It will have set back consoles, jump seats, etc. If you are familiar with Warrior you know that they are one of the most fishable boats on the market. A couple other items that Kent brought up was also are very interesting. Warrior will factory rig your boat to your specs. They work with all the brand names.

I have fished with Kent and his dad Dave Anderson and found them to be down to earth and good people. But even more important for the potential buyer is that they are hard core fisherman. They have skills that are good enough to participate in the tournament fishing world. Who better to build your dream fishing boat than people who spend thousands of hours in them? Interested in becoming part of the Warrior Boat family? Contact Kent or Dave Anderson at WarriorBoatsinc.com.
Kent Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas K. Poorker
Focus Outdoors TV Founder
Owner Midwest Gundog Kennels

SportDOG Brand

I have been training dogs for over thirty years. In that time I have used just about every major collar brand out there but one. This year I vowed to try SportDOG. Mark Fouts from the Ruffed Grouse Society was a good reference for SportDOG, he had been using them for a long time and thought highly of the company. Mark thought I should start with the SportHunter 1225 for the kennel and the SportHunter1875 for the grouse woods.

We shipped those models in and here is my assessment of these two models. We train just about everyday at the kennel, so the collars were put through the mill. The 1225 was used on many different dogs in the uplands and for water work. The SportHunter 1225 was durable and very concise with the stimulation level in and out of the water. Also the 1225 has a lot of super adaptability with it’s stimulation levels. The 1225 and 1875 both have a base level of stimulation: Low, Medium, and High. On the transmitter you have dial control 1 through 8 levels of stimulation, you can fine tune the stimulation level for each dog.The ability to adapt is huge, every dog is different.

On both transmitters I liked the fact that they were put together the same. If you train as much as we do, you get to know a piece of equipment. After awhile you do not even have to look to find the buttons on the transmitter, you know by touch. This gives you the advantage of quick clean corrections, training is all about timing. The collars have been put together with the trainer and hunter in mind.

As we headed through the training season into fall I started to play with the SportHunter 1875 more. Love the beeper on the 1875, it is super adaptable. One feature I fell in love with is the locate button. Lets say you’re hunting late season pheasants in thick cover. You do not want to put the collar’s beeper on run mode, but you need to locate the dog quickly, hit the button and one beep, there is the dog. It is awesome! Those are the kind of features that make these collars a treat to train and hunt with. These two collars caused us zero problems. The SportHunter 1225 and 1875 have all the features and adaptability you need to work with just about any kind of dog. We are glad we tried them you will be two!

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1225 System
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Rosie wearing 1875 Beeper

 

Thomas K. Poorker
Focus Outdoors TV Founder
Owner Midwest Gundog Kennels

Chapter 2 – Montana Grouse (2nd State – 3rd, 4th & 5th Species)

It was mid-morning on September 15th by the time my wife, Susie, and I had our 3 dogs, my hunting gear, her “hubby stuff”, and all the other things we would need for a 4 week trip loaded.  The journey would eventually cover over 6,500 miles.  In addition to my two Llewellin Setters, Rikki Lynn & Dixie Belle, we had her little Maltese, J.R.  Now J.R. had just turned 12 a few weeks earlier and had lost about 90% of his sight a year prior so this trip was going to be a challenge for him and us.  I’ll say right now we shouldn’t have been concerned, he came through in flying colors and provided us with a few smiles along the way.

Four days later we pulled into our cabin in the far northwestern corner of Montana. (West of Glacier National Park)  As Susie stepped out of our truck and took a deep breath she commented, “I like this trip already, it smells like Christmas trees.”  This location/hunt was not selected at random.  In October 2013 I successfully hunted Blue Grouse in Wyoming.  A big male was the 5th grouse in my quest for the 7 major species of grouse in North America.  The target (pun intended) in Montana was the Spruce Grouse.  Before some of you think that a Spruce Grouse is easy to kill and not a worthy challenge consider this.  I would be hunting for 3 days with a 3 grouse limit per day and I was looking for a mature (2 year old) male.  Montana lumps all the forest or mountain grouse together for an aggregate limit of 3 per day.  I had 9 chances for 1 bird and since Ruffed and Spruce Grouse share much of the same habitat I couldn’t have many mistakes and still meet my objective.

Day one began with success about half an hour after Rikki hit the ground.  We were in open regrowth fir when my guide shouted “over here, we have a point”.  Like usual, I managed to make enough noise getting to the location that I missed the point and flush but not my target.  The juvenile female was my first spruce grouse.  Over the next hour I had a limit but, alas, no mature males.  We obviously got into a family covey that hadn’t dispersed yet since they were scattered our over about a half-mile of hillside.  Luckily, one was the mature hen so she was saved as a back-up to go to the taxidermist if needed.  Day one was short on the hunting but long on enjoyment,

After lunch Susie and I spent the afternoon exploring and taking fall foliage photos for our Scrap-book.  An activity as enjoyable as the actual hunt.  For this leg of the trip the only meals provided were lunches, we were on our own for breakfast and dinner.  The cabin where we stayed had a fully equipped kitchen for our convenience.  Breakfast was easy with warm cereals and fruit (typical home breakfast).  But dinners would be a challenge, enter “Chicken Helpers”.  We filleted and diced the “kill of the day” and then sautéed it in butter and placed it in one pot with the “helper”.  Delicious and the clean-up amounted to 2 pots and our eating utensils.

If you read closely you noticed that Dixie didn’t get any ground time on the 1st day but she provided one of the highlights of the trip early on day 2.  We decided to have a go at Blue Grouse on an old clear-cut ridge about 10 miles from our cabin.  As we rounded a bend in the logging road there was a male Spruce Grouse getting grit in a truck pull-out.  (We knew it was a male by the black color)   We proceed on as if we hadn’t seen him and as we rounded the next bend he went out of sight.  A couple hundred yards down the road we stopped so I could fumble around with vest, shotgun, and shells.  The plan was for me to hug the edge of the road and trees on the right as I snuck back so that when he finally came into view and flushed he should be in range.  The plan worked to perfection, almost.  The grouse flushed, took a steep angle toward the top of the conifer forest but as my load of 7 1/2s connected he began tumbling through the limbs to the ground.  That is when I discovered that I had a problem.  Those were the tops of mature fir trees he was approaching and now he was somewhere at their dark bases a good 80 to 100 feet below me.  I wasn’t sure how I would get down there and getting back up wasn’t even a consideration.  Send me Dixie I hollered back to my waiting guide.

Dixie was still in her crate in the truck and hadn’t seen or smelled anything.  All she knew was that I had shot.  When she arrived I motioned her off the road and down the slope with the commanded “hunt ‘um up”.  This would be a true “blind retrieve” to make Lab owners jealous.  She pulled it off.  About 3 minutes later she clawed her way back up to the road with my grouse, a male bird but another juvenile.  The quest was still on.

The morning and early afternoon had Rikki on a ridge looking for Blue Grouse with no success unless you consider “dusting bowls” and feathers success.  They had been there, we just couldn’t locate them.  Reluctantly we trudged back to the truck arriving about 1:30.  The sandwich and bottle of water and a soft truck seat sure were welcome.

Since the day was warming we decided the birds would be in the coolest, dampest, and heaviest cover around so we went from the ridge to the creek bottoms.  Dixie had been on the ground for about half an hour when she got birdy off to my right.  I found a clearing (I use that term loosely) and waited for her point or wild flush.  The flush came from about 5 yards in front of me by a red-phase Ruffed Grouse, the first one I had ever seen!  Of course it continued from right to left and as I raised my shotgun for what would have been a relatively easy shot, it turned between myself and my guide, NO shot.   That bird eventually eluded us never to be seen again.  About 10 minutes later the scene was repeating itself with Dixie becoming birdy so our thinking was that we had another Ruffed grouse from a family group.  But to my joy when the flush came it was a mature 2-year old male Spruce Grouse.  Mission accomplished, I had Grouse # 6.  At that point 2 birds were fine with me so I called it a day and we headed back to the cabin.

Day 3 was just going to be a “fun” day of taking whatever the “Grouse Gods” handed us and we were ultimately blessed.  We started on an old military microwave installation site that has been completely dismantled and removed.  However, that ridge had been clear-cut and is now in the regrowth stage.   It would be a brief hunt no longer than about 45 minutes.  Rikki got the nod and just before we reached the end of the ridge we had a Blue Grouse flush and she was off at the shot to complete the retrieve.  I had been successful in taking 2 species of grouse in northwestern Montana.

I then suggested the impossible!  I wanted to return to the covert from yesterday to see if we could find the proverbial needle in the haystack.  That red phase grouse along the creek bottom would be our illusive target.  All you dedicated grouse hunters know how this one would turn out.  With Dixie on the ground we started “mission impossible.”  Close to an hour in I heard a flush to my right but saw nothing.  As Dixie continuing working a Spruce Grouse flushed in front of her and headed for the tree tops.  My shot stopped it short and when Dixie completed her retrieve I had two grouse in my vest and they were each a different species.  Following a 10 minute break she became restless and wanted to continue hunting.  Within 5 to 10 minutes she got very birdy.  She went through a nearly impenetrable thicket of regrowth fir trees while I skirted it on the right and took up a position at the end next to the edge of what would be an alder slough in a wet year.  Dixie continued her animated search for the strongest scent when a Ruffed Grouse flushed about 25 yards in front of me.  At the shot Dixie was off for her retrieve but as she proceeded, grouse started erupting from the slough as if they were popcorn.   Ultimately, there were six grouse in that family group.  I’ll never have such an easy opportunity for a Ruffed Grouse double but that first one completed my limit for the day.   As I admired that mature female bird it began to sink in what I had just accomplished.  A mountain grouse trifecta – in one day!

The first leg of our adventure came to an end with more success than I had even imagined.  Now the only remaining grouse in my quest was the Sage Grouse.  Wyoming here we come!

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Phil R. Hechler, NSCA Certified Level II Instructor
Winter 2014