This' was likely the question both would've asked; if they could speak...
Though I made it clear I missed them too, and loved em up something good, Suzie especially seemded kinda pissed as to "why I left her in a kennel for the past two weeks...?!"
With a visible tan and the smell of sea salt and airplane food it was clear I'd gone somwhere they'd never been before; so without the benefit of actual two-way conversation to explain I'd been in Florida visiting my folks; I instead just loaded them both up' and headed toward where birds were as quick as I could..
Within two hours we had arrived at the preserve and had our first bird in the bag and 'both were over-joyed at being back amongst their best buddy' (me)...or at least I like to think so..
We took four nice roosters and each were actually challenging; given the occasional 30 mile-per-hour gusts, and if it weren't for a complete dimsantle and cleaning of the old pump-shotgun, I'd have never likely hit a one; as 'all four were taken on the second shot' each (meaning I shot 8 shells and still scratched down four birds).
"%$#@ I need a new gun"!?
Regardless of my limted finances, and now lack of steady employment, along with shorting myslef on groceries a bit to pay this month's rent; I wasn't gonna cheat my girls out of a day where we actually see and shoot some birds.
..Tomorrow and the next day (last two of the season) are another story, as its raining like a son of a gun out there right now, but I'm addicted to this shit and have a full tank of gas ....so we're headed toward the Southeast of Montana first thing in the morning
We got and early start this time too, leaving Bozeman at 6AM
Suzie gets a little scratch behind the ears from Alex..
Unfortunately she was mauled by a dip shit Golden Retriever that tore up her precious face, not ten %$# damned minutes after we arrived?!
I knew when Alex casually mentioned there'd be another dog present when we departed that morning something like this would probably happen, but I kept my cool (and lived to regret it). It never fails, other dogs just love to dominate the little gal whose about as innocent and nieve as they come, and its usually when she simply goes up to strange dogs to introduce herself like all doggys do and all hell breaks lose when that dog is agressive. It doesnt matter whether they be males or females they tear her face open and she looks up at me everytime with that look like "WTF"?
"...why did he do that?"
It also never helps to ask the dogs owner whether their dog is agressive as they always lie and say no; even though they know damned well it is. Then after the inevitable attack, they act all like:"..Gee thats weird he's never done that before..?"
Never again. I will never again have another dog near her. I owe it to her to protect her from these animals and the next dog that does it is dead.
So poor Suzie got the morning off and had to sit in the truck most of it, so her bleeding would stop, the EMT ointment would dry, and the three open punctures wouldn't get too dirty.
And Mocha was ready to go...
Unfortunately the river bottom on the ranch is nearly void of pheasants this year too, due to a poor wild hatch; so though she did point one single rooster it made an escape out the backdoor and we never even fired a shot.
She later pointed two hens which held tight for me to flush, then stared at me puzzled I didn't shoot at those either, and we went back to have lunch...no birds bagged thus far.
During the day we stumbled upon no less than 30 dead deer, usually around water, as EHD took a heavy toll on the ranch this year (refer to one of my earlier posts on the subject for more info).
Now it was Suzie's turn and she put on a good show considering her ordeal earlier in the morning (me constantly checking her wounds, making sure they were well cleaned).
We walked until our feet hurt and even switched dogs again, as tired as each got, but didn't find birds till the last light of day..
And boy did we find them. We entered what amounted to a field of dreams that held well over twenty sharptails easy, and scattered fifty yards apart, along with singles here and there; so a few actually held for Suzie and us to shoot at.
While most 'flushed wild' way out of range, given its late seaosn and they've been hunted before, more than a few should have come to bag; but we just couldn't connect. What was pure comedy at first; with both of us being caught with "safety on" when we pulled up but no shot came on chip shots, it soon was rather depressing as our combined shooting-skills sucked. Not to mention my old beater pump finally failed me and jammed repeatedly while trying to eject shells, but thats just another excuse for my misses on two more easy chip shots.
I tagged and bagged one single bird and then we headed home. Bad bite, bad shooting, but one cant complain when its 38 in December and we get to hunt the ranch; a priveldge I dont take lightly and thank Alex once again.
Got one more hunt planned this weekend, then off for Christmas holiday, then back for one last 'road trip' on the closer (Jan 1st).
First of all, let me apologise for my last 'abreviated post' where some of you likely reached a blank page this week; if coming off another blogs' link...
- Reason for this was kinda cool, for me at least, as the last photo essay I posted only lasted a couple days before thankfully I was contacted 'via email' with someone wanting to buy it (the photos); on the condition they be "originals" as far as the internet goes; so I was forced to pull them.
Hey man's gotta eat and I'm as broke as they come these days.
So this' is whats left of that Photo-Essay...LOL
More than a few caught the original pics on that Sunday I posted it, and even a couple actually "commmented"; which I always appreciate (even though doing-so is a huge headache, I understand; given the spam blocking requirements on these blogs).
It was a fun time for sure, for both me and the girls, and we did it again the next week as well (Part 2 coming soon)...
We'll all see those pics again come February I hope, and nobody will be too concerned about this I'm sure cept me...till the check arrives as payment (to heat my single-wide that is).
A special thank you to Alex for inviting me both times (part 1 & 2); as it makes living in Montana during Decemeber bearable; knowing 'we'll hit the ranch a few times after birds'..every year!!
Though for us clad in orange, and carrying guns, thing were not quite as tragic of course...
- Montana' this past year recorded one of its worst ever EHD outbreaks' affecting whitetail deer; and in many regions kill-offs were as many as 50% of the herd!
EHD stands for 'epizootic hemorrhagic disease'; which is why hard-core deer hunters call it "EHD" or "blue tongue"; otherwise we'd all sound smart instead of crazed lunatics obsessed with killing big bucks for their antlers.
While death to said deer is ultimately the goal in 'deer hunting', no one wants to see any animal die this way; but such is nature; and she's often as cruel as any of us...(bitch)!
EHD does a real number on deer and its not kind as far as ailments go. It's a virus transmitted to white-tailed deer by biting gnats and once infected takes the life of the deer within a week to ten days usually. Its not transmitted from deer-to-deer as many think, but shows more of an impact when the biting gnats hit in regions over-populated with whitetail deer..as many parts of Montana are (or were) before the outbreak.
With this year’s wet spring and late fall (in Montana), it created conditions for large numbers of the midges to hatch and linger late into the season.
This meant dead deer were found quite regularly by hunters and even anglers this year; as the infected deer go to water as a way to replenish in response to a depletion in body fluids caused by hemorrhaging. Some were even reported found dead beneath the waters' surface; as its theorized they submerge themselves 'to fight off the fever associated with the infection'.
Obviously some survived (as pictured in this PE) and even deer-hunting continued as Montana has had a large population of whitetail deer and they will certainly rebound.
Muledeer,antelope, and elk, also are affected sometimes, but apparently have better imune systems to fight the disease than do whitetails (or so I read).
Some of this was from memory when I dabbled in Fish and Game, but since my memery is about as good as my spelling I gathered a bit too from recent news articles in the local paper to share what we now know about this outbreak.
Some parts of Montana, like the area I actually live in (Region 3), saw no EHD outbreak and wildlife biologists are still trying to figure that one out; as to 'why we are immune on this side of the hill' (Bozeman Pass).
Common sense - at least from my southern perspective would steer toward it being balls cold most of the damned year, but aparently that's not it.
Regardless of the actual reason, I'm still using EHD as an excuse as to why I did not take a monster trophy buck this season; nor an elk either (big surprise on that last part).
In fact, I didn't even take a doe for the freezer since a dozen people offer me venison (and occasionally bison and elk) every year; and then of course had to dodge at least five of the crazy things standing in my driveway - when I pulled in from my last 'hunting trip'.
So I might have to fill one of these 309 antlerless surplus-tags before the year is completely up I guess...just for the sake of doing my part on earth as a deer hunter (can hunt them in Region 3 till Jan 1)?!
Oh and for the record: I'd have shot any of these bucks I photographed above (except that little fella in pics 3 & 4), but of course these bad boys all stood there boldy and only let me take their pictures; as they knew they were on private property and I couldn't shoot them with my gun.
- That and these were all taken within the last three days of the season and the rut had turned otherwise elusive bucks into hormone crazed morons.
With snow drifts up around their elbows:"..A Much deserved' Road Trip" was just what we all needed too I think...
And we found warmer climes and some success, in a certain favored corner of Southeastern Montana..
But as things usually go with my spontaneoues plans; the next morning, following a great evening-hunt, was in fact a complete bust.
So we headed elsewhere, and that afternoon things got much better!!
A nice find' for sure...
And a couple nice birds too..
"What's all the commotion about...!?"
Oh my God what a buck this fella took...
Tired and weary we pulled in for the night and slept at a random motel near Big Timber, Montana; before heading north the following day. ......
Anther day, another part of Montana...
"Hey come back here with that"!
Great Falls, MT. ...............
Headed toward the Missouri Breaks..(I'm kinda chasing big deer too, but dont tell the girls..okay..?)
"SHIT" drove all this way and cant shoot a muley after the 13th?". Being my nature I blamed Montana FWP again for having regs so convoluted in their bloody booklet then ever admit I was wrong damned it!?'...
We road around to see what we could see anyway; even though I held no tags for elk in the region either.
"Looks like an easy climb doesn't it...in 4 wheel-drive.?" - This is what's commonly known as: 'a slide'.
- Until you're on one, you really have no idea what they are when folks' describe them; so I'll just let you find out once you get here...(and good luck)..
Let's just say I had to back-track over 22 miles.
We eventually settled in the old wasteland of Lewistown, MT (actually a pretty nice place except I have an unfortunate history here; I'd rather not dwell on..).
Suffice to say I still, after 3 years, dont feel too comfortable even being seen there in daylight...
So the next morning, as early as we could, we left that part of central Montana and headed for home' (chilly as it was)...
I knew of one good-spot though along the way, and let Suzie out to prove her skills on a few nice birds 'that always seemed to be there; when I needed them the most...'
...She did great on-point and then ran wild with her success; although I'm not sure she could even see where she was going at one point???...
Still no Huns for the effort on this trip, as their numbers in the two coveys we found were already well depleted and few. So we stuck with the sharptails and roosters that seemed more plentiful and came home with near a half-dozen of each.
At the conclusion of our 'road trip' Suzie seemed content, though looked toward the horizon and setting sun as if to say: "I hope this isn't the end of the season..?!'
So I gave her a scratch behind the ears and assured her it wasn't, and then reminded her..."we still have a whole month left to go..."