Sunday, December 20, 2009

IL Pheasants Missing - Found in SD

Those who have lived in Central Illinois longer than I tell me there was a time when seeing pheasants was commonplace and finding enough birds to hunt wasn't a dream. While there may be a few areas within the borders of IL that hold some pheasants, they are certainly few & far between and known only to a small number of bird hunting fanatics and accessible to an even smaller number of hunters.

For almost 24 years of residence in the upper-half of IL, I've seen a few pheasants on occasion but none the last couple years. Perhaps, like seeing deer 50 years ago, seeing a pheasant in recent years is an event worth noting. And seeing more than one would be worthy of diary notation if I were so inclined to keep such a journal. The reasons for the pheasants dramatically reduced numbers likely are varied but loss of habitat due to no more brushy, grassy fence rows, the increasing population of the wily & despised coyote and perhaps large numbers of raccoons are among the chief causes.

Included on my list of things to do while still of sound mind and body (although the body isn't quite as sound as it once was and the mind? Well, I think it's reasonably sound but I know my kids wonder sometimes.. but then I wondered about my Dad some too when I was a bit younger!) are elk hunting in CO or NM and antelope hunting in WY. Moose, caribou and perhaps bear are on the list as well if the opportunity ever presents itself. Pheasants in SD is/was on that list also and that seemed doable this year.

Looking for a hunting partner was one of my first issues. That quickly became a non-issue after talking to fellow hunter/gatherer Don with whom I've recently hunted turkey. We also enjoy talking at length about our respective deer hunts (we don't deer hunt in the same place), we have camped outdoors together, and best of all, Don knows the responsibility of providing food for his family which includes four hungry and growing children.

On Dec. 8 we headed to SD. Through one of the most exciting blizzards I've ever driven. The trip out is another entire story and worthy of it's own blog. But I don't have photos nor the time to give the details but suffice it to say, it ranks in the top 3 for most severe winter conditions in which I've been. With 4 wheel drive, no family to be concerned about, our winter sleeping bags in the back of the Tahoe we were ready for the adventure! We drove almost 8 hours in blowing, snowing & occasional white-out conditions before climbing into our sleeping bags inside the truck at 3 AM just off I-90 near Rochester MN.

Without going into all the details, perhaps the highlights of our hunt could be summed up as such.

1. Hunting public land without dogs in the part of the state where we hunted is not easy. We had to go with Plan B which included hunting areas of grass & brush in ditches along roads, state right of way, etc. Getting permission to private ground was not easy as so much of the land is leased to hunting clubs & outfitters.

2. SD residents said this may have been the best year in memory for pheasants. In South Central SD, there has been an infestation of mange among the coyote crowd and they have died off in massive numbers. The pheasants are crowing about their good luck! Numerous times we saw (mostly on land near the road that we couldn't hunt) not 5 birds, not 50 birds but 200, 300 or more birds contentedly watching us drive by or flying from cover if it was an area we could hunt. I've never seen anything like it.

3. Pheasant hunting is enormously enjoyable. Given the chance to do it again, I'm there!

One day's limit for two hunters...

Thurs AM the temp was -13. With a north wind. During the day temps were closer to zero. The wind was biting but the walking & insulated coveralls made it easy to overheat except for the exposed areas of the face.

The picture doesn't do justice to the beauty of these "Chinese Chickens".

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Brenda & I were delighted we could all 5 be together for Thanksgiving along with my parents. Additionally, we had Kim, Jeff & Greg to round out a wonderful day of feasting & fellowship!

We also enjoyed games, some music, hikes in the woods, target & trap shooting, a wiener roast and to top it all off, we were honored with our own personal package of lefse to take home, courtesy of the head of lefse production and resident Norwegian... my Dad.