Monday, December 5, 2016

Pheasant Hunting: Roux Discovers the Deep End of the Pool

Photo courtesy of Pheasants Unlimited
      Thanksgiving week spent with our grandson was about as perfect as can be.  We consider ourselves to be so very lucky having a 15 year old grandson that still likes to spend time with us.  We were blessed to be invited to dinner by our ex-inlaws.  The house was FULL and everybody always treats us as warmly as you can imagine.  Plenty of great food.......and FOOTBALL!    We were back on the road within a couple of relaxing days (to work off the feast) looking forward to another hunting adventure.  Roux was so very ready. 
      Pheasant hunting is different than just about any other type of upland bird hunting.  Why?  Because these birds would at times rather run than fly.  This can give even the most well trained pup fits.  Trained to hunt/point scent/not sight; a running rooster can confuse the snot right out of a pup.  The bird is right here!  Oh wait, he's not.......where the hell is he?!?!?  I have to 'refind' him.  Everything about this type of hunt is different.  There can more walking, heavier loads, longer shots, and more hunters.  This is the 'Cadillac' of game birds. 
      Roux performed about as well as can be expected on her first quail hunt.  In fact she performed pretty well despite dry, warm conditions.  For this hunt we ventured even further NW into the panhandle of Oklahoma and the SW regions of Kansas....near the metropolises of Hooker, Tyrone, Hardesty, Adams, Turpin, and Liberal.

      After 'watering up' at the Balko Truck stop we camped at Optima WMA in Oklahoma which is high (3000 feet elevation) broken prairie with lots of game.  Here we could find quail, pheasant, deer, and rabbits.  Quail season just reopened after it's hiatus agreement with deer gun hunters so we could pursue both birds.  The drought continues for much of western Oklahoma with little rain and humidity in the low 20% tops.  Dry and dusty.  As such, the entire WMA was posted no open fires due to the danger.  So much for a fire pit.  Also, on setup we noticed the RV antenna was very hard to raise so we decided to return it to the down position.  This proved to be the right answer cause when the antenna was lowered fully the entire turn-handle-gear mechanism broke off from the ceiling, completely stripped.  I guess we're getting a new antenna when we get back.  Stuff happens! 

      NOTE:  This is December so temps in the Oklahoma Panhandle were much colder with night time lows easily in the low 20s and teens.  This was 'boondocking protocol' and our first real test of the ENTIRE RV boondocking system in concert during frigid conditions.  We do have the Polar Package on our RV so insulation is increased.  We ran total solar between the 130W suitcase and the 230W truck panels all day to keep all batteries charged.  The RV utilized propane to heat and run the fridge while the RV onboard and truck battery bank powered the rest.  This included the holding tank heaters (part of the Polar Package to prevent freezing), which are also 12VDC.  We have only used these once and not 'off grid'.   It was interesting to see the difference in power draw overnight.  I like to limit the drain on the entire battery load to about 20% daily optimally before recharge, but our drains were more in the 30% to 40% range.  I am still satisfied with these results considering the RV heater fans and tank heaters DO DRAW THE JUICE when used all night long in these conditions.  Generator backup (with Battery Tender) and 13 extra gallons of fuel were on board for power and/or battery bank top off.  I did top off the battery banks nightly, using about 5 hours of generator time daily equating to 40 hours of generator time and $15.12 in gas.   It is always important to bring the battery bank up as close to 100% each day as possible.  Speaking of gas, diesel for this trip was $2.12 in Woodward and $2.28 in Guymon.

       We spent the day before the pheasant opener scouting locations.    Besides the WMA there are thousands of acres of farm fields throughout this county.  Many were marked LEASED LAND...NO HUNTING.  There are many areas of public easement such as railroad grades etc., but we knocked on our share of farmhouse doors as well.  We were able to hook up with permission to hunt some private land near Adams on the opener.  Darryl really only hunts deer, but knew where there plenty of pheasant and quail on both private and CRP land so he told us to show up opening morning and he'd take us around.  My 12 gauge Browning Citori chokes here were switched to modified over full with #6 shot.  These birds are easily 3 times the size of bobwhite quail.
      Roux did only fair work during this trip.  She ranged well and responded simply to the whistle for directions, but all too often needed voice commands.  She gave us no trouble retrieving birds as I think the size of the pheasant intimidated her a bit.  She preferred to bring the birds to 'Mommy Barb', but I got to carry them.  Quail were much easier for her and she always looked so proud of herself when she found one. 
Not a bad opening day
      Opening day was a memory in the making.  We hunted with the land owner on several pieces of property to which he had access.  Roux had her problems opening morning due to the first 6 things she found were jackrabbits and it really screwed up her nose and attention span for a few hours.  About half of day #1 was without Roux.  We managed to each get our limit of 2 roosters (4 total) during a couple of hours of morning hunting (in fact I was 2 for 3 shooting), but bumped many coveys of quail in the process and I harvested 9 Bobwhites as well.  I was less successful with my shooting ratio here, something like 9 for 21.  We decided to come back the next day and try our luck with them.   The pheasant were in large groups and flushed farther out than we would have liked, but there were plenty of them.  After cleaning, vacuum sealing, and freezing our bounty I gave both our pheasant to Darryl who was gracious enough to show us the hunting areas.  He and his wife pretty much live off the venison he harvests yearly and the chicken he raises, hardly ever buying meat.  They both enjoy wild game and pheasant was a treat.  Is this what is called 'networking'?   
Quail Opening Day
      Day #2 went just about as well with plenty of birds and shooting opportunities.  We were not able to hunt many pheasants as they ran fits around Roux and flushed well out of range.  One particular piece property where we had seen dozens of roosters was occupied by other hunters today.  So after a bit we concentrated on quail and 'sacked them up'.  We got more Blues than Bobs today and that is okay cause they are bit larger bird.  We limited out with our 10 birds in about 2 1/2 hours.  My shooting had not improved.  I ended up something like 10 for 19, but there were plenty of birds.  We ended our day early around 12:30 and then dropped Roux off at the RV while Barb and I ran into town for a propane refill.  With the COLD nights we're eating up a 30 pound propane bottle in 4 nights. 
Quail Day 2
     It rained all night after day 2 and after midnight sometime the temps dropped below freezing leaving us with a bit of surprise dusting of snow on day 3.  As the sun rose the mix turned back to rain.  We were doing well enough so treated ourselves to a day off and went back to sleep for a couple of extra hours, no matter what Roux and Bones wanted.  We did a bit of driving around scouting more land and other camping possibilities for the future.   The old National Wildlife Refuge campsites on the SW and West side of Optima Dam are still there although completely abandoned.  There are no facilities, but some grassy concrete camping pads and a few picnic tables in disrepair, but certainly still usable.  I have sent an email off to Army Corp of Engineers to check and see if primitive camping is still allowed there.  Another good boondocking spot. 

Bringing back that 'rascally rooster' to mommy
      The Daily Oklahoman had forecasted the best quail year in nearly 30 years and although it didn't turn out that way for us near Woodward and Fort Supply we certainly hit the MOTHERLOAD here in the panhandle.  There were bountiful pheasants as well even though we didn't sack them up like we did quail.  We had a great time and will certainly enjoy the bounty in our freezer throughout this winter.  At only 18 months old Roux did her best even though she is still immature and learning she seemed to really enjoy the work.  Yeah, Roux will get a couple of days off.   
     Roux did pretty well with the "Quail Thing"
      Every night was COLD and CLEAR and filled with the sound of Coyote Concerts.  We were really hoping they would venture closer to camp for some 5.56mm serenading.  Due to even more incoming (and much colder) winter weather we decided to break camp early and head back south towards Marlow and spend some more time with our grandson before heading out to our Cajun Christmas.  Our freezer is fuller and we had some good times, meeting a new friend.  We hope to get together with Darryl again maybe next year for some more 'birdy adventures'.  We scampered back about 178 miles SE to Watonga to Roman Nose State Park for a few days to hide out before the final 104 miles into Marlow, OK.  Our reservations back at the RV park in Marlow were still a few days off.   It has been a fun trip. 
Pitkin County Pork Chops, Biscuits, and Corn
      During the week we dined on Pitkin County Pork Steaks, Estrellita Sopita, BLTs, Ham & Bean Soup, Basque Oxtail Stew, Steak Ums and Eggs, Smashed Redskins, Chorizo, and Hvarti with Scallions, and Krauted Chicken Breasts.  Cold weather hunting takes a lot out of you so I made sure to prepare hardy meals nightly to enjoy and renew our spirits.   
Redskins, Chorizo, and Havarti w/Scallions
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.  You are his life, his love, his leader.  He will be yours...faithful and true to the last beat of his heart" 
WiFi courtesy of Hooker, OK Loves Truck Stop

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