Chapter 1 – Texas Doves (1st State, 1st & 2nd Species)

2014 —– A Season of Memories
2 Bird-dogs
4 Months
6 States
21 Hunting Days
10 Species of Upland Gamebirds

I have long dreamed of a multi-state, multi-species upland bird hunting adventure. The works of some of our contemporary outdoorsmen fueled those dreams and several factors came together to almost mandate that 2014 needed to be the year to “just do it.”  Figuring prominently in the decision to go now was my wife’s retirement and the persistent rumors that the Sage Grouse would likely be placed on the Endangered Species List.  This series of Blogs will chronicles my 2014 Fall.

September 1st started like almost every other year since I went afield with my first shotgun, a used Remington Wingmaster 20 Ga, purchased from a neighbor when I was a sophomore in high school.  That season began a love affair I’ve had with doves that lasts to this very day.  They are my favorite “feathered target”.  For the record my total bag for that inaugural season was 3 doves but I can assure everyone that I got in my fair share of shooting.  No, not actually shooting, it was more like making the gun go bang and there happened to be 3 unfortunate doves who just flew in the direction I was shooting.  Also, for the record there were 4 limits in my vest to start this adventure.

Dove “hunting” is more a shooting activity than it is a hunting activity.  In much of the country, and most of the world, doves are associated with agricultural production and are one of the few species who benefit greatly from man’s farming and development practices.  Because of their concentration around farming and ranching activity hunting them almost always takes place on private land.  Access can be gained by asking for permission, paying a daily usage fee or increasingly by using commercial operators who have leased property over a large geographic region.  I opt for the later since the outfitter I have used for the past several years has fields in an area approximately 70 miles long and 40 miles wide.  He always has fields that hold birds.

For those who are new to dove shooting or who are considering giving it a try come September 1st, what follows are a few suggestions learned over the past 40 plus years.

  • Gun and shot selection is not critical. Any gauge from 12 to 28 will work, any shot size from # 8s to # 6s will do the job with loads ranging from ¾ ounce to 1 ¼ ounce.  And whatever action you have is good, it need not be expensive.
  • Camo can be useful but not essential. Just wear clothes that won’t contrast with the surroundings.  Note: Desert Camo is too light for most locations.
  • MoJo motorized decoys (if legal in your state) are very effective on Mourning Doves but are almost detrimental to success on Whitewing Doves.
  • With decoys, think like a “duck hunter” and he who has the most usually wins! All things being equal, a single dove will be more attracted to a group of 10 to 15 decoys than 1 or 2.
  • Over the years I have acquired 6 MoJo motorized decoys, 2 wind activated decoys and 18 full-bodies clip on decoys. (Santa Claus has been good to me.)  Like duck decoys, deployment is important so here are my secrets to differentiate my spread from the other groups of hunters in the same field.  Those hunters are your competition.  (1) Make a do it yourself “tree” constructed of PVC pipe so you can get at least one dove about 12 feet into the air.  Adding a couple of T connectors near the top will allow you to add “limbs” to your tree and this is a big help.  (2) Again, from your local home improvement store you can purchase lengths of 1 inch square tubing that can be screwed and/or glued to the top of the stakes provided with the MoJos.  By staggering the length of those extensions you can give your spread diversity.  (3)  Your clothes-pen clip on decoys can be raised above the ground for better visibility with another trip to the home improvement store.  3/8 inch round aluminum rod can be cut into 2 feet lengths and then easily bent into a “L” shape with one leg 6 inches long and the other 18 inches.  By inserting the long end into the ground you can use the short end as a limb for the decoys.
  • One of the more difficult challenges for the dove shooter is judging distance. If you place your tallest decoy at a paced off 40 yards you will know any dove between the decoy and yourself is in range.
  • As mentioned earlier Mourning Doves are more susceptible to moving decoys than are Whitewing Doves. On the third day I was hunting in a special Whitewing Zone.  Thankfully, the Wildlife Dept. allows us to make 4 “mistakes” with Mourning Doves and still be legal.  About an hour into the hunt I had made 2 “mistakes” on doves that came over from my back and headed directly for the decoy.   I simply turned off the MoJos and that greatly reduced the “wrong doves” from being lured to my location.  The following day in the same field I used only the full bodied decoys near the ground.  Problem solved!
  • A British shooting stick makes standing much easier than does the traditional bucket or shooting stool.  By reducing movement as I stand to shoot, doves are less likely to spook.
  • Weather in September will usually be warm so think about your dogs. Shade and water will keep them cool and prevent overheating. I use both of my Llewellin Setters and by keeping them on leads they can take turns with the retrieving chore.  This was an important warm-up for the remainder of our adventure.  By taking 4 limits of doves (60 birds) over a short 7 day period each dog was given 30 retrieves on real birds.  They loved it!

Finally, dove shooting is a social activity and is a wonderful way to introduce youngsters, spouses, or even non-hunting friends to the outdoors.  The weather is usually pleasant (compared to late season pheasants or ducks), there is a lot of action and it doesn’t matter if you miss because another target will be by very soon.  Give it a try, I believe you will find it enjoyable but a word of caution ………. it can be addictive.

Doves Dogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Hawke Optics

I just received my second rifle scope from Hawke Sport Optics. Let’s start with the customer service: I ordered my scope on Monday and received it two days later. This was during a very busy time since it was the week of Shot Show in Las Vegas. The person I talked to was very helpful  and when I received the scope and rings, everything fit and worked as promised.

The quality of the optics is really nice. The clarity is exactly what I expect out of a high quality rifle scope. When I went to site it in, it was one of the easiest scopes to site in I have ever owned. When I adjusted the dials it did what it was supposed to do. I am very impressed and I will not use anything but Hawke Sport Optics ever again. Thanks for the great quality and the excellent customer service. In this day and age it is very hard find both!

Jeremy's Rifle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Lawson
Focus Outdoors Pro-Staff Member

Down Time

As an active bird hunter,there is a period of down time built into my recreational schedule. I am referring to that stretch of time from the close of small game hunting until the spring thaw. To fill that time I decided to take up coyote hunting,and purchased an AR-15 rifle and a Hawke Optics scope with bullet-drop-compensator. Three things about this scope and Hawke Optics stood out to me.
1. The mounting of the scope, (on Hawke Optics rings),went really well. It sighted in nicely.
2. The accuracy of the scope and the bullet-drop-compensator is spot on.
3.The technical staff and sales staff were very helpful in selecting the right scope and rings for my gun and anticipated use.

I am happy with this setup and am planning a trip to shoot some prairie dogs with it. Thank you Hawke Optics.
Hawke Optics Logo

 

 

Mark Haslup
Focus Outdoors Pro-Staff Member

Dakotas

Things are finally beginning get to the point where I can catch my breath and pass along a quick rundown of how the pheasant season has gone to date.

We saw a good hatch throughout all of the locations in both North and South Dakota and headed into the season with optimism. Unfortunately as is often the case, we started out quite warm with the vast majority of the corn crop still unharvested. This made hunting more difficult than it should have been for a couple of very unavoidable reasons. With the warm temps the birds were averse to congregating in any type of traditional cover and all of the standing corn gave them the perfect place to feed and loaf all day- as well as easily avoid our efforts to bag them.

As in typical fashion here in the Dakotas the weather finally did change in a dramatic fashion. We went from sweating in shirtsleeves to walking in several inches of snow and below zero temps in a mere matter of days. And quite frankly, it was a blessing. Literally overnight the pheasants began bunching up in cover and we ended up walking far less in order to get our limits. This lasted for a couple of weeks at best and we now are swinging back to much warmer temps and the snow has receded. Meaning, the birds are once again roaming freely. There is sufficient feed anywhere you look and little need for them to seek any kind of heavy cover. Back to more of a hunting rather than shooting situation. Temps will bounce back down soon enough and the small heavy cattail sloughs and tree claims will make for impressive flushes and quick and easy limits to finish out the season.

I am happy to report that with sufficient effort, wise hunting practices, and good dogs that limits have been and are still being attained in all locales. I have received glowing reports from the self-guided hunters in the Timber Lake, SD and Bowman, ND locations. These are new properties that have proved themselves and will be utilized much more in the coming seasons.

If you are interested in a late season hunt, there are still plenty of opportunities available.  If you are interested check out www.dakotapheasantguide.com then give me a call.  If you would like to book an Ice Fishing Trip or plan ahead for an open water trip, check out the newly re-designed www.eyetimepromotions.com and then give me a call.

Dennis Foster
Foster Pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dennis Foster
605 887-3451

Winter Wonderland

Minnesota is a land of extremes and this fall was no exception. Fall turned nasty in early November. From the central hardwoods going north, we got hit with heavy snow, bitter cold and wind; no fun at all. Then a ray of sunshine and I was excited; I had spent too much time moving snow and in the house. I was not the only one apparently.

My phone started to ring and before I knew it we had a grouse hunt scheduled. I met pro staff members Mark Haslup and Jeremy Lawson of Any Good Reason Kennels. Jeremy is a breeder of excellent German Shorthairs and English Setters. I have had the privilege of training many of them for Jeremy and his customers, have enjoyed every dog! He and his wife Amy do a great job.

We met in East Central Minnesota. Mark had his Gordon Setter Duncan, Jeremy had three of his English Setters, and I had four of my German Wirehairs. We were looking for good late season grouse cover, late season cover is a niche find. You can cover a lot of ground trying to find birds this time of year. We looked for pines with southern exposure, Alder swamps with heavy grass, and the best is to get pines on the edge of an alder swamp. Remember to look for horizontal cover such as blow downs within the pines and swamps also. These types of cover are used  by grouse to conserve energy by sheltering themselves from the elements and also as protection from predators. It worked for us we moved a good number of birds and our dogs had fun.  That is what a winter wonderland should be! May all your points be true and retrieve to hand.

Winter Wonderland

IMG_20141205_112850_217 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Transitions

Transition is a part of fall. If you don’t keep up with it, the contact you have with the birds will suffer. We were at the point in our bird hunting season were almost all the leaves were off the trees. Because of this, the grouse were transitioning to different types of cover.

This time frame in the fall season makes grouse very nervous. All the leaves on the trees provide overhead cover which equals security. As the grouse look for new secure homes, remember they like to have a roof over their heads most of the time. Really no different than us. When hunting this time of year I look for edges between the young cuts and older woods. Within this corridor I look for horizontal cover. This cover can be blowdowns, brush piles that are thick and grassy, or logs the birds could slip underneath. Anything that can afford them security from predators. We have had a good amount of success hunting this type of cover in the time of transition.

Speaking of transitions, there are none more enjoyable to a dog person than watching a young pup learn the way of the world when it comes to hunting birds. I have a young German Wirehaired Pointer named Kono.  She is just a little over a year old. When we started the fall season I was concerned because she was working very close to me. This was despite all the preseason training we put in, but we just kept getting out every chance we could. Soon, she stumbled on a bird, then another and then she pointed her first wild bird! A Woodcock. I shot it and she retrieved it. Wow, what a positive transition occurred after that. She was working away from us and hunting hard! The slow timid hunting style of the early season transitioned into “I love to hunt! Look at me go!” Hunting season are full of transitions for man and beast. May all your points be true and retrieves to hand.

Tom Poorker

Transitions

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

Hometown Hunt

After a great start to the bird hunting season in the northern Minnesota, we headed out to hunt our hometown covers in the central part of the state. This is the area where the big croplands of southern Minnesota change into the big woods of the north country.

Pro Staff member Mark Haslup came to hunt with me on this annual foray into the central Minnesota woods. The leaves were still hanging on in a heavy manner due to our warm fall. So we hunted a lot of trails and edges of the thicker cover in hopes of being able to get shot at a grouse or woodcock. The dogs worked well. The birds cooperated to the point were Mark got a grouse and woodcock as did I.

The bird of the day was the grouse Mark bagged. We were walking a trail when I spotted a grouse ahead of us standing on a corner were the trail went to the right. Grouse on the trail is usually the kiss of death for us. But you have to try, right? We had Kita, my German Wirehaired Pointer, on the ground at the time so Kita and I went into the woods way to our right in hopes of putting the bird across the trail for Mark. And for once it worked! Kita and I pushed the bird towards Mark, and as the bird went left it climbed extremely fast, when it crossed the trail it was tree top high going mach ninety! Mark had to bear down and make a tough shot, he did! We were elated as this hardly ever works for us. What a grand day we spent in the woods that are the gateway to the North. May all your points be true and retrieves to hand.

PoorkerHaslup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

From prairie chickens to ruffed grouse. After Mark and I bagged our Prairie Chickens we still had a day to hunt. So we headed east into the big woods of Northwestern Minnesota. There are areas in our home state we don’t get to ruffed grouse hunt much and this is one of them. So we relied on Pro Staff members Jeremy Lawson and Doug Schoenborn. This is Doug’s home area.

We got our plan together and headed east of Doug’s kennel business, which is called Glacial Retriever Kennels. The weather did not fit the glacial part of Doug’s kennel name at all, it was still abnormally warm. We decided to split up to cover more ground, Doug went with Jeremy and I went with Mark.

As we traveled the many logging roads in the area we found many cuts in which to hunt. The cuts looked good and our hopes were high! So after much discussion we picked a cut Mark and I felt was big enough to split up and hunt. We had the dog power to beat the heat and we also had enough cover to hunt all day. Mark picked the lucky cover he had a couple of grouse in the bag early. One young bird and a beautiful adult male that had very unique color on it’s fan and ruff, gorgeous!

We picked up and moved onto the main road were we met Doug and Jeremy. Doug had to head back to his kennel, so the rest of us found some covers big enough to hunt three guys and their dogs. We found a nice run of woodcock, twenty timberdoodles in all. We also found about six more grouse. Everybody came out of the woods that day with multiple birds, happy dogs and smiles on their faces. The temps weren’t the only hot thing that week! May your points true and retrieves to hand!

IMG_20140928_104912_605IMG_20140928_105204_288

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Minnesota Prairie Chickens

We started the upland season with great news! Pro Staff member, Mark Haslup and myself were drawn for prairie chicken permits to hunt in the northwest corner of Minnesota. The application and drawing are for residents only and have a limited number of permits available; we were very excited! The prairie chicken is a bird that has eluded me for twenty years and we were prepared to put in as much time as it would take for us to bag a bird (the limit is 2 if you’re drawn).

As the season approached, we were concerned with the weather forecast. Most years Minnesota is cool and is ideal for working dogs in the field, but this year the forecast was unusually warm temperatures in the mid 80’s to low 90s. We would need a lot of dogs and even more water.

Opening day arrived and we hit the fields; temperatures were already in the 70s, but undaunted we were ready to go. Mark and I each got our two birds, it was a great experience for both of us! We ran a lot of dogs that day, rotating them during short runs. The key to our success and the dogs’ success was keeping them hydrated and rested; by the time we left the field, the temperature was 88 degrees.

This prairie chicken hunt was a wonderful experience and a great hunt to start our upland hunting season! May all your points be true and retrieves to hand!

Tom PoorkerMark Haslup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Game Fair

Game Fair

 

 

 

Focus Outdoors will be at Game Fair in Anoka, MN! Founder Tom Poorker and pro staff members Jeremy Lawson and Doug Schoenborn will be giving seminars on gundogs, answering all questions A to Z every day at 12:30. You should come and visit many members of the Focus Outdoors family at the Focus on Gundogs booth! Join the fun August 8th through the 10th and August 15th through the 17th.