Please note that if you are shopping for a puppy, I am currently full on reservations for my 2016 litter. Due to several other things taking my time, I am a few weeks behind on kennel e-mails. I will respond to them as soon as I can. I am also behind on returning phone calls and have taken my phone number down again due to the volume of calls that we’re receiving. If you would like to be placed on a contact list for this year’s litter in the event that there are additional pups (which is fairly unlikely), if you have questions about the breed, or would like a recommendation on a breeder, please e-mail instead of calling. I am not responding to anything in a timely fashion right now. I hope to get back on track and getting all of the phone calls and emails returned once the holidays are behind us.
Yesterday was nearly a perfect day for hunting: around 50 degrees with a solid cloud cover but no precipitation. It was a bit breezy, but nothing compared to some of the gale-force winds we encounter farther west and north. The corn and soybeans are all harvested and the southeast Nebraska winter farm-scape makes for a rather bleak picture without snow.
The Lakota have a legend or a prophecy that one day the earth as we know it today will all roll back and will return to what it was before all of this industrialization. It fascinates me that so many people in this country are wrapped up about the Amazon rainforest or the African savannah, but don’t realize that the most endangered ecosystem on the planet is right in our own backyard.
The tallgrass prairie of the North America is gone. If you have ever driven US interstate 80 between Grand Island, Nebraska to around Cleveland, Ohio, you know that it is wall-to-wall corn and soybeans. That all used to be a beautiful blend of native grasses that grow up to 8 feet tall.
Aside from limited government land and one Nature Conservancy preserve in Oklahoma, it is only through US Farm Bill Programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that pieces of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem still exist. Even if you are not active with a local chapter of Pheasants Forever, it is important to keep your national membership up so that we can maintain pressure on the folks in Washington in order to preserve this national treasure.
Our hunt yesterday took us to a half-section of private CRP thanks to Charles’s friend, Matt. I saw more bobwhite quail yesterday than I have in the whole rest of my life put together. I have encountered a handful of coveys over the years, but was never able to put together a shot. Our hunt consisted of Matt on the left outside, Charles in the middle, and me on the right outside, with Fire and BB as our dogs for the day. We were probably 15 yards from the truck when one got up on my right and flew to my left. I swung on it and connected on the first shot. I had to grit my teeth to keep myself from screaming out loud. But there was definitely a “Yesss!” and a fist pump in there.
Matt was on the edge of the brush, then Charles, with me out in the middle of the grass.
Another 40 yards down the line, a full covey got up with none taken since most of them flew right over my head. Then another 30 yards down, a covey got up and Charles took one out of it. As we worked our way around, we got up another two coveys and no birds taken out of them (but great pointing action from the dogs regardless). When we got to the far end of the property, we were probably 45 minutes into the hunt and had seen 80 birds. Right as we had changed direction, BB went on point not too far away from me. I hustled up to her and fully expected to kick up a pheasant in the tall grass. But instead out popped a single quail and once again I took it down with one shot.
Then it was Charles’s turn for a singleton.
As we were nearing the truck, Charles took one more single bird for his total of three. There were more birds getting up right before the truck that we missed. This got Charles all fired up, so he took the dogs and headed back through a small area that we hadn’t thoroughly covered. Matt and I were like, “Go for it,” and stood there chatting as we watched Charles and the dogs work the area over. Sure enough, Matt and I were dive-bombed by three and Matt took his single bird right over our heads.
The dog work was excellent on this trip, lots of great points and downed bird finds that we never would have gotten without them. Even on the blind retrieve on Matt’s bird where they were 50 yards away on the other side of a hedgerow, once Charles brought them around, BB and Fire wasted no time in locating our quarry. I need to carry a notebook with me on trips and write more details about the dog work on our drive home to share with you all. The shots always stand out in my mind, but even though their hard work is extraordinary, it all becomes a blur.
Even as we were approaching the truck and unloading, there were birds getting up. I bet that we saw close to 100 in total. Completely amazing, to have a bird that was almost completely gone from our area of the state come back with such power. The incredible forces of nature at work.
Since these were my first quail, I had to get a photo with the dogs. It took me 17 years, but I having finally completed the Nebraska upland bird hunting grand slam. A Nebraska upland bird hunting grand slam (in the order that I harvested them), is: sharptailed grouse, greater prairie chicken, rooster pheasant, and bobwhite quail.
Last night, Charles and I were talking about what a North American Upland Game Bird Grand Slam would consist of. Here is what we came up with (I am doing this as much for myself as I am for you, I’m afraid I’ll lose my list):
Prairie Grouse: Sage, Sharptailed, Greater Prairie Chicken (the Lesser Prairie Chicken of Kansas is no long able to be hunted as of recently) 
Mountain Grouse: Ruffed, Blue, Spruce, Dusky 
Quail: Bobwhite, California (Valley), Mountain, Mearns, Scaled, Gambles 
Partridge: Hungarian (Gray), Chukar, Himalayan Snowcock 
Ptarmigan: White-Tailed, Willow, Rock 
Is that a bucket list? I think so. Charles has one on me that I don’t have: the Hungarian/Gray Partridge he took in North Dakota in 2014.
Several of these we’ll have a chance at during our trip next year to Montana for the AWPGA National Specialty. There will be some trips to Wisconsin, Arizona, California, and Nevada for sure in this lifelong effort. The long shots will be the ptarmigan and the Himalayan Snowcock.
But alas, it is time to prepare for some Christmas travels. I do have some pupdates, but they will have to wait for my return. May the peace and joy of Christmas be with you all, here is a photo of “Chief” and Caleb from earlier this week, who didn’t quite make it through the movie of “A Christmas Carol”.
The merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year to you all!