Gone Hunting: Each hunting season is a new learning experience
February 25, 2013
Bring on the turkeys! That is what hunters have to look forward to right now. Most hunting seasons have wound down or are completely over.
Turkey seasons generally opens around April 1, and runs for about eight weeks. Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas all have seasons with fairly liberal bag limits.
Before April Fool's Day rolls around, however, all we can do is reflect on what fun we had for the past five months.
With more than 40 years of hunting adventures under my belt, each hunting season continues to be a learning experience.
I learned this past year that we'd better get more rain and snow or we may not have an upland game bird season next fall.
Habitat is what it is all about. If we have a good spring and early summer, we may have chick reproduction and survival. Without some significant moisture, we will not have the habitat that is so vital to sport hunting.
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Upland game bird numbers were down as much as 80 percent in some of the "pheasant belt" states.
Bird numbers were down so much in some areas that farmers were either restricting the number of hunters who had access to their land or denying them access.
I also learned that hunters and fisherman are alike. Neither one is adept at using a scale or tape measure.
For several years now, I have listened to pheasant hunters talk about the 26- to 27-inch tail-feathers they took from a rooster they killed that season.
Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I measured each tail-feather from roosters that we killed in several different states.
I learned that the average tail-feather length fell in the 21-inch range. Yes, even in Texas where everything is bigger, the average length was about 21 inches.
I became completely anal about this topic and measured every tail-feather that I own. I have three that top 25 inches by just a whisker and one that is 25 inches.
My wife, Virginia, continually reminds me of Jimmy Stewart's line in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "When legend becomes fact, print the legend."
I was saddened last October when I learned that the hostess of the bed and breakfast that we have stayed at for the past 25 hunting seasons was retiring to become a full-time grandmother.
Peg Ahlmeyer ran a first-class operation near McCook, Neb. The hunting experience was always great in south-central Nebraska, however it never came close to equaling the food that Peg put on the table. Her chicken-fried-steak was world class and her peach, apple and cherry pies would compliment any five-star restaurant's dessert menu.
I learned that if I want to have elk in my freezer consistently, I need to hunt September's black powder season again with Gary Odenbaugh. He has the knowledge of Colorado's big-game natural resources of someone twice his age and his ability to use a game call is second to none.
Gary is the Michael Jordan of big game hunting and also a first-class person. I think about Gary every day when I walk by the 6-by-6 bull elk hanging on my wall.
Ed Heim sells red farm implements and Reinke sprinklers for an outfit that he, his dad and brothers own. During a recent hunt with Ed, we did lunch over the armrest in his pickup truck. An hour had passed before I knew it. It was just the rest my 64-year-old body needed.
We both shot limits of pheasants in wheat stubble with the benefit of some terrific dog work.
Even if you are not a hunter, you have learned a little about hunters and habitat. Join me at 5 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Island Grove Regional Events Center for our annual Pheasants Forever banquet.
I guarantee it will be a learning experience for you. ❖