Welcome back weekend warriors!
We are finally getting some fresh snow falling back down on us in Michigan and it reminds me of all the options we have as hunters. To often I think we get caught up only think about those two weeks between Nov. 15 and the 30th were we will hopefully take down the buck of our life with our rifle, and all the other hunting options go unexplored.
So, as a way to expand my hunting season, I took up bird hunting.
Thanks to my good friend Zach Creswell and his young spaniel, Carson, I had an amazing hunt. My whole experience started off on a day similar to the one we had last night, snow falling in big flakes and a little bit of a wind blowing. As we hit the field walking, it didn’t take Carson long to sniff out our first bird of the day. Now, I want to be very clear that Carson did a fantastic job and scared up about 10 birds, but needless to say we only went home with three. I learned a few lessons that day:
1. If you are bird hunting, you need a great dog!
2. If you are looking for a good way to go through a box of shells, go hunting for some birds.
3. Be okay with missing, it happens–a lot–when you are first starting.
4. When you do get a bird, you will feel like Billy the Kid in the Old West who just won a quick draw showdown!
Really it was Carson who started the day off and caught the first bird. It was amazing to see him literally grab the bird out of the air as it was starting its flight. We forget just how much dogs are made to be hunters and this is a pure reminder. Since he is still a young pup, he doesn’t quite have the whole, get the bird and then give it back to your owner thing down yet, so we probably spent a good 5 minutes trying to convince Carson that he should hand the bird over.
Eventually Carson did, but I think he regretted as soon as he did it, because we went on a dry spell after that. It is not that we didn’t see any birds, it was that we just kept missing! One bird discovered that the best flight path to avoid our bird shot, was the path that flew straight at us. Of course the other six birds that got away also learned that flying any direction really, was a safe bet to not get taken down.
But, as the day went on we got better and both Zach and I were able to take one down. Zach made it look easy and followed the bird with his side by side and took it down right as it was crossing in front of him. To see a bird flutter from being hit by your hunting partner, comes in second best only to seeing a bird flutter from being hit by your own shot! My bird, must have know I was new to the game and decided he would make it easier for me. Instead of taking off in the normal left or right flight pattern, he just jetted straight up. It surprised me so much that I almost didn’t get back on to him in time, but I was able to get a bead on the the bird and on my first shot (about 20th shot of the day), I saw feathers fly, the bird flutter, and I saw Carson bounding to it before it hit the ground. At that moment, I felt like a 100 bucks. It was amazing to see that on my first bird hunt, I was able to successfully take one down. I thought for sure, it wouldn’t happen, but I think we hunters (just like Carson) have some of that natural instincts that take over in the moment and I am glad they did.
Before we knew it, it had been 2 and half hours of walking through the field and we had 3 birds for dinner.
Since this is a hunting blog, I thought I better start putting up some pics of our success, before you start to think that I don’t know what I am doing.
These are the Chuckers that we ended up with. Very beautiful colored birds who’s pattern by their eyes and their orange beak are what make these birds so distinctive. They are smaller than a pheasant, but a decent size bird. In the picture below I have the bird breasted. It is a very easy process and provides you with all of the breast meat. I did take the legs as well.
I ended up cubing the breast meat and cooking them up with some carrots and celery. To add a little more flavor to the birds, I marinated them overnight in a store bought garlic and herb marinade.
If you are looking for a great alternative to the rifle season or small game hunting on the ground, birding’ is the next best thing.
Try something new, be safe, and as always…
Enjoy The Weekend Hunt.