Thursday, October 28, 2010

South Dakota Pheasant Hunting

South Dakota is the pheasant mecca of the U.S. (world?) for Chinese ringneck pheasants.  Any serious bird hunter aspires to make this pilgrimage at least once in their life.  We had the time and the dog so we made it happen this year.  We more or less blindly poked a finger at a map, only favoring the western half of the state (less driving) than the more famed eastern side.  We weren't at all disappointed.

More than once we would walk into a field and flush 100's of pheasants during a hunt.  The number of birds in this state is just mind-blowing.  We took 35 roosters (males) overall in our four days there and I'm not even sure we made a dent in any one field's population.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Oregon Bighorn Sheep

The hunt's over.  It all happened really fast.  My dad and I walked eight miles onto the end of a ridge the day before season and did our scouting from there, spotting some rams in a really terrible place to get to.  The next morning, after a minimally-prepared camp, the rams moved our direction and I was able to intercept them and make a 300 yard downhill shot on this ram:


[This is what the country looked like where I killed my ram]

[We had to check the ram in with a biologist within 72 hours of the kill.  He drilled a hole (above) and inserted a plug (below) that confirms the ram as having come from Oregon.  He also saved the shavings from the drilling and will send them to a lab where they will be kept for DNA evidence that the ram is linked with me.  Ram heads are worth serious money (he said $50-60,000 for a big one) so this DNA may be important in the case of a stolen head.]
[ODF 525]

[The ram was measured at 181 6/8 inches, or 1 6/8 inches over the minimum to make the all-time record book.  Unfortunately that's not the final call, as this biologist is not an official measurer and the horns have to go through a 60-day drying period first.  But either way - whether it makes it into the Boone and Crockett record book or not, it is a real nice ram and I am quite pleased with it.  He is really beautiful.]

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Sheep Hunt

I'm home in America for this, the rarest hunt likely to take place in my lifetime (I got the one license for 825 applicants).

I've been making phone calls every week all summer to landowners, former hunters, biologists, trackers, and this year's hunters.  With all of that information I've secured exclusive access to the best of three big drainages in my unit, permission to camp in a separate drainage, and the tip of where the biggest rams (which are pretty big) were living ten days ago.  We have as much of a plan as we probably could have at this point, though I will be competing with one other [Oregon resident] hunter and it sounds like he is also aware of the location of these big rams.  My biggest fear is that we are chasing the same ram on opening morning.

I want to try to explain the 'quest for the biggest ram' to the nonhunters of this blog.  Under normal hunting conditions - in a unit that offers unlimited 'over-the-counter' (non-lottery) licenses - I would be pursuing the first legal animal (usually a male with at least 3 points on one antler) I could find.  I would gladly harvest anything legal and be happy with the meat that I get - even happier if I happened across an older animal (because they're smarter and harder to get).  But in the case of this hunt, where there are 60+ rams in the unit and four tags per year, the species is managed under a microscope.  It might be presumptuous of me to say this, but the impression I get is that if I wanted to go out and shoot the first male sheep I encountered, that would be super easy.  The small ones hang out with the ewes or by themselves and aren't particularly hard to get close to.  But there's little challenge in that for me.  So given a tag with an almost 100% chance of a kill, I opt to make the hunt harder by killing the largest ram I can find.  The larger rams are also likely the oldest and smartest.  Just finding them is hard, but getting close is another task as usually they hang together in bunches with other old, smart rams.

There's also the Boone and Crockett record book, which records the largest animals harvested among each specie. They have a somewhat complicated method for measuring the horns or antlers, but suffice it to say I have a decent chance at making the record book off of this hunt, something that has been a dream of mine since childhood.

We're leaving Tuesday morning.  The hunt begins Saturday.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010