Gone Hunting 2-22-10 | TheFencePost.com

Gone Hunting 2-22-10

Jim Vanek
Greeley, Colo.

I think Nat King Cole may have said it best – “Unforgettable.”

The only way the 2009/2010 hunting season could have been any better would have been to draw that special unit elk tag that has eluded me for several years.

The Division of Wildlife needs to factor in our age along with the preference point system. It becomes pretty hard to hunt elk, in the mountains, from a person’s walker carrying their bottle of oxygen.

In spite of an elkless freezer there were many unforgettable hunts last season.

One of the more amusing occurred in the Sandhills of North central Nebraska. Good friend Jeff Cogburn was hunting with me. This was his first ever sharptailed grouse hunt.

At sunrise we were in the middle of a sea of sandhills north of the Dismal River. The temperature would climb to near 90 that day.

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I was sitting on the edge of the pickups tailgate watching Jeff load up for the day. It looked like he was really enjoying himself. He had enough gear strapped to his fanny pack and shell vest to start his own sporting goods store.

I hated to spoil his fun so I didn’t tell him that all he needed was water and plenty of it.

Climbing up and down sandhills for nearly five hours will tax anyone. When you add 90 degree temps and several birthdays over the 50 mark it becomes a quest just to get back to the truck.

Three hunters took limits of grouse that day – nine birds. Needless to say, the next day there wasn’t quite as much gear walking around those sandhills.

I will remember last November as a month that marked the “changing of the guard.”

To paraphrase the Duke, John Wayne – “There are times that make me tight in the throat. The same tightness a man gets when his baby takes his first step or his first baby shaves and makes his first sound as a man. These times can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm.”

The opening day of pheasant season saw the six sons take over. Six fathers and our sons have hunted together for nearly 25 years. I must admit that it made me tight in the throat to watch our sons take over and do the same things we’ve done for the past quarter century.

The music was good but not as good as ours.

They were still going strong Saturday night when I turned in at 10 p.m.

The most incredibly unforgettable memory came just last month – mid January.

Dapper Dan Reece and his daughter, Nicole, were hunting with us east of Holly.

Nicole is a senior in high school. With her hunter’s safety card in hand and new 20 gauge over/under shotgun she was looking to bag her first ever rooster pheasant.

We had just stepped into a very weedy wheat stubble field when it erupted with brightly colored, cackling, climbing for altitude pheasants.

Dan screamed to his daughter to “SHOOT!” Nicole picked out a target and fired both barrels.

That rooster flew a half mile before it crumpled. My German Shorthaired pointer, Penny Lane, retrieved that rooster for Nicole.

Great memories – when dad and daughter hunt together. It gets even better.

Right out of “Dances with Wolves” when Kevin Costner ate the heart or liver of his first buffalo, dad Dan and fellow hunter Laurence Stanton, convinced Nicole that she needed to eat the heart of that rooster. Failure to do so would result in years of bad luck hunting.

With a cup of water in hand, Nicole downed the heart that I had just cut out of that rooster pheasant.

I’ve only seen that done one other time when old buddy Lou Berning downed the fresh cut heart of a grouse he had just shot in Montana.

I told those fellows where they were going for coaxing Nicole into eating that heart. I guess I’m an accomplice since I cut the heart from that bird.

A person just doesn’t come up with memories like these sitting at home watching the NFL.

I’m sure Nat King Cole never coaxed his daughter Natalie into eating raw heart. None the less, they had “Unforgettable” times together too.