Category Archives: Hunting

Video highlights program that creates four-legged game wardens

Since about everybody hates poachers and about everybody loves dogs, this video of the Indiana K-9 Resource Protection Program.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO.

The video may be from Indiana but it has some close ties to Kansas. The very successful Kansas K-9 program is modeled after what’s been done in Indiana for quite a few years. In fact, the wardens within our program, and their dogs, get much of their training in Indiana. Several other states use the Indiana training program, too.

Kansas’ four-legged game wardens have played key roles in hundreds of cases, ranging from finding key bits of evidence used to help convict poachers to tracking down felons on the run.

Kansas game warden Chris Stout, of Wellington, makes an appearance on the video and furnished the link.

 

Blasts and Casts from hunting with Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas

I wasn’t surprised when I got the text on Sunday morning.  When I saw the name, I was pretty sure it would have a photo of Theresa Vail with a nice tom she’d shot just minutes before.

I was right on both counts. Knowing she didn’t fill her second turkey permit on Saturday’s second, and last, day of the Governor’s Turkey Hunt, I figured she’d be somewhere hunting for at least a while Sunday morning, even though she’d tagged a great bird on Friday.

Our current Miss Kansas really isn’t very good at failure. Then again, that’s not something she’s very familiar with.

Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, didn't like not getting a turkey on Saturday, so she went out Sunday morning and called one up on her own. COURTESY PHOTO

Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, didn’t like not getting a turkey on Saturday, so she went out Sunday morning and called one up on her own. COURTESY PHOTO

I’ve met a lot of 23 year-olds in my many more years. Probably none have been as impressive as Vail, for a wide variety of reasons. Obviously she’s very attractive, but that’s well down on her long list of attributes. I mean that very honestly.

Most people know she’s been an honor student majoring in chemistry and Chinese at K-State, while serving in the Kansas Army National Guard. She’s been into boxing, sky-diving, motorcycle riding and serious hunting. It was widely publicized, after she won the Miss Kansas pageant that she did all those things proudly, learned to sing opera off the ‘net for her talent and basically said, “This is who I am,” when she refused to cover her tattoos in the Miss America pageant.

I was blessed to be the first member of the media to really spend some time with Vail in her element.  A few days after she won the Kansas crown we met at a Wichita archery range for an interview and to talk bows and hunting. There was NO doubt the woman was serious about both. When I mentioned the Governor’s Hunt in El Dorado she was very interested and eventually jumped at the chance when an invitation was sent.

I spent Thursday evening, Friday and much of Saturday with Vail and her father, Mark at the hunt. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY ON SUNDAY’S OUTDOORS PAGE, AND SEE A PHOTO GALLERY FROM THEIR HUNT.  Some of the things I learned -

- She’s far more comfortable in hunting boots and camo than anything she’s worn on a runway or other photo shoot.

- She has a great sense of humor, and takes kidding well  but gives it back with just a bit more spice, most times.

- Like most intelligent women, Vail doesn’t like to judged by her looks and her title. She tensed up, but held her tongue, when a man basically suggested someone should help her load a shotgun.

- Don’t tell her she can’t do something unless you want to stand there and watch her do it…especially if you say she can’t do it because of her gender or age.

- You can tell by the way she looks at him that she truly idolizes her dad.

- When she makes a mistake, which doesn’t happen often, she owns it and fixes it with no excuses.

- She’s tough and dedicated. To get her to quit hunting you about have to carry her to the truck, which wouldn’t be easy if she really didn’t want to go. Years of serious physical fitness have her stronger than most men that outweigh her by 40 pounds. She belly crawled when asked to belly crawl and would have waded a deep, cold creek, if we thought it would have gotten her a better chance at a bird.

- She’s pretty strict about her Paleo diet, which basically means she only eats pure, unprocessed meat and the same with fruit and veggies. Ask, and she’ll tell you the many benefits the healthy diet have brought to her. The main one is that she simply feels better and gets better performance from her body. She will always stress that’s it’s not, in any way, to help her lose weight.

- Vail holds a grudge. When a flock of gobblers didn’t come to calls Saturday morning there was no doubt she’d be back, with guide/friend Pat Post, Sunday morning, if even only for a few hours.

- She prefers as much of a challenge as possible. When she and Post returned on Sunday, Vail insisted on doing all the calling, something she’d never done before. Like most of the challenges she’s faced and conquered, she said doing her own calling brought her great pride. She shot the tom at about 20 yards, with a new 3-inch magnum 12 gauge Franchi.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling, to go out and doing all of the calling,” she said. “I was way, way more excited than when I shot my first turkey (called in by Post) Friday morning.  I don’t have any more permits, but I just want to go out and call in some more birds. That was so exciting!”

- She’s excited about going on three elk hunts this fall, to film episodes for her upcoming series, “Limitless,” on the Outdoors Channel. She says she’ll kill an elk. That means out there somewhere, at least one nice bull is enjoying it’s last Rocky Mountain spring. Like I said, Theresa Vail really isn’t very good at failure.

- Finally, to the elderly many from Georgia who repeatedly acted and talked inappropriately to Vail at the Governor’s Hunt, I’d suggest you don’t do it next year when she’s not under Miss Kansas response restrictions. On second thought, go ahead…but make sure I’m there to watch the outcome. :-)

Patterning shotguns for turkey hunting important, fun

Jake Holem counts how many pellets from his 20 gauge made it into the kill zone of a wild turkey target. Five was considered a safe minimum.

Jake Holem counts how many pellets from his 20 gauge made it into the kill zone of a wild turkey target. Five was considered a safe minimum.

Preparation for most kinds of hunting and fishing are a lot of the fun in both activities.

For turkey hunting, that can include making sure you have permission on private lands and heading out to scout for birds and their daily patterns. My favorite way is to head out a few days before the season and listen for where the toms are gobbling from roosts, then try to check fields for travel patterns. I like to do the latter with binoculars from the distance, to keep from spooking birds from their routines.

Practicing with calls is fun before the season, though most who’ve been at turkey hunting for a few seasons have no problem picking up from where they left last spring with their calls. Buying a few new calls, or decoys, is about mandatory, too.

Trying new loads in shotguns can be a big deal, too.

A 2 3/4" magnum 20 gauge shell loaded with1 1/8 oz. of buffered 7 1/2 shot patterned extremely well.

A 2 3/4″ magnum 20 gauge shell loaded with1 1/8 oz. of buffered 7 1/2 shot patterned extremely well.

Last weekend my main hunting buddy this season, 11-year-old Jake Holem, and I set out to experiment with a few loads from his new turkey choke for his Tri-Star 20 gauge and I wanted to run a few new loads through my well-used Benelli. We printed a few special turkey head and neck targets we found online, the ones that show the location of the brain and the spinal column. A few empty pop cans also gave us an idea of pattern densities and where our patterns were hitting.

Our goal on the paper targets was to get at least 5 pellets in the spinal column and/or brain.

Some of the things we learned -

– Jake’s 20 gauge shot low, which means he had to aim at a bird’s head to insure the pattern was well distributed in a tom’s head and neck.

– As with many 20 gauges I’ve worked with, a Winchester 2 3/4″ shell, loaded with 1 1/8 oz. of #7 1/2 shot, with buffering in the shot column, patterned better from Jake’s gun than any three-inch load we tried. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find those loads in about 15 years, and I’m down to about 40 rounds.

– We also learned that Jake’s gun patterned well enough at 30 yards to easily make lethal shots at that range.

– Also, though my shotgun with a Carlson imp/mod. choke throws great patterns with 3″ #2 steel, it does very poorly with #3s of the same exact shell. Go figure?

– My shotgun is best with Hevi-Shot, 3″ #5s, followed by the old stand-by of 3″ #2 steel. I’m good to 40 yards, but would sure love to keep the shots under that distance, which normally isn’t a problem.

Having spent the time trying several loads in his shotgun, and practicing shooting left-handed, greatly helped Jake Holem make a great shot on this longbeard near Leon early Saturday morning.

Having spent the time trying several loads in his shotgun, and practicing shooting left-handed, greatly helped Jake Holem make a great shot on this longbeard near Leon early Saturday morning.

– Jake also learned that if he took his time, and shut his right eye, he could shoot his shotgun accurately left-handed…which was a good thing to know. Saturday morning the right-handed kid had to do just that when a flock of toms came in from our right.  The shot was 27 yards, and the shotgun, the choke, the load and the kid were on the money.

 

Ticks nothing to fool about

This may be April Fools Day and this blog is no trick, but anybody who ignores the threat of ticks is a fool.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE to read one of the dozens of articles and research papers published annually about the threat the world’s tiniest terrorists are spreading across the country.

This isn’t a scare tactic, it’s a fact of the outdoors for this millennium.

Coating clothing with permathrin is one of the best ways to avoid getting ticks, when used properly.

Coating clothing with permethrin is one of the best ways to avoid getting ticks, when used properly.

I’ve spoken with several people, including some in Kansas, who have survived Lyme Disease and all have said it’s taken them months for recovery.

A good friend, Luke Templin, contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever while turkey hunting on our farm last spring. Even though the disease was detected before any serious symptoms set in, it took him several weeks before he felt totally over the bad experience.

I’ve heard of people who have basically been crippled for life from Lyme Disease.  A young woman who several in my extended family knew died from the disease several years ago.

As someone who is in the outdoors a lot, I’ve been guilty of not taking the threat seriously enough. I’ve found more than 20 ticks on my body several times, I used to go entire springs and summers with no real prevention because I didn’t want to put chemicals on my body, and still don’t relish the concept, but…

Like many, now my favorite alternative is to treat my clothing with permethrin. It lasts for a few months, even through a few washings. I coated my camo, from boots to cap, with it on Monday morning and it’s been given plenty of time to dry. (You don’t want the stuff on your body when it’s wet!) I, and millions of others, recommend it highly, but be sure to read the directions before you apply it.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE FOR MORE ADVICE ON HOW TO AVOID TICKS. 

3-D Archery, great afternoon…even if you do get beaten by a kid

Jake Holem removes a well-shot arrow from a 3-D target. Yes, it's the one I missed totally. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PEARCE

Jake Holem removes a well-shot arrow from a 3-D target. Yes, it’s the one I missed totally. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PEARCE

Should you be wandering around out west of Clearwater anytime soon, please keep your eye out for an arrow.  It’s a Carbon Express, probably with neon yellow and green vanes.

It might be anywhere from five to ten miles west of town and about two miles either side of  103rd. I can get you no closer than that. I just know it’s not sticking into a foam antelope target like it should have been. But hey, that I only lost one arrow out of 48 fun, hunting-like animal targets won’t have me complaining.

Saturday I spent the afternoon, and some of the evening, at the Ninnescah Bowhunters 3-D archery range. My 11-year-old outdoor buddy, Jake Holem was with me, testing out his new bow. Kimberly, Jake’s mom, was along to enjoy the day outdoors, keep score, congratulate Jake on his mostly great ones…and console me on my many failures.

Once a month the long-standing archery club tucked down near the Ninnescah River, hosts a day or two of shooting at 3-D targets. They include foam, live-sized likenesses of assorted deer, caribou, mountain goats, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, bears, turkeys, a wolverine a super-sized cobra target Jake loved and the danged antelope target that seemed to have some force-shield that deflected my arrows.

Some shots were on open prairie...

Some shots were on open prairie…

Throughout the property club members have placed the targets in hunt-like situations. Some are down in nice timber and some are on tall grass prairie. Most are shot at ground level and a few from high ridges or elevated platforms.

Some offer complete views of the target. At a few stations you have to be about half contortionist to lean out, in, up or down to thread an arrow through a tiny opening surrounded by really big trees.

(To the member who  placed the shooting spot on a side–hill only a billy goat could climb, and only offered a tiny fraction of the standing bear for the target…nice try, I did NOT put an arrow into either of the Sequia-sized cottonwoods my arrow had to pass within inches of…so there!)

Different classes of shooters shoot from different places on each target. I enrolled in the “hunter” class, because that’s what I am, a bowhunter and not an avid target archer. Most of the shots were from 40 shots on in, with a lot around 30 yards. Much of the challenge is estimating the shooting range. Range finders aren’t allowed for those keeping score.

Jake was in one of the three youth classes, and had shots from about five to 23 yards.

Others were in river bottom timber. All were a lot of fun.

Others were in river bottom timber. All were a lot of fun.

The crowd was light, but the members on hand were very helpful and supportive. (And hopefully one will find that wayward arrow, too!)

We walked the course mostly on our own, Jake and I shooting while Kimberly kept score and tried not to laugh, (loud enough for me to hear, anyway,) at some of my shots.

Saturday afternoon the weather was stunning, and I particularly liked the walks down along the Ninnescah. With nothing but open air and deep water behind those ten or so targets concentration was important.

It was also just a danged pretty view, especially when Kimberly noticed a mature bald eagle sailing down the stream (the first she’d ever seen) and the bird perched on a limb across the river.

Darrell Allen, a member I’ve known for years, said it would take about three hours to do the course. Not our group of slow-pokes. They have you shoot the same 24 targets, twice, but they change the location from where you shoot. It took us more than four hours, with only a minimal rest in between, but a fair amount of time looking for my lost arrows.

My range estimation was a bit off on the first round, and I just knew I’d shoot better the second. But a lost arrow, and a couple of other total whiffs say differently. The angles and distances offered were harder on the second round. Fatigue also played a factor, too. Yes, Jake shot better than I did but I did OK, though.

Jake’s ready to go again, maybe back to Ninnescah Bowhunters or maybe a range by Hutchinson. Kimberly is also showing an interest in giving archery a try, and she may be rigged up with a bow in the next week or so.

Great, that means next shoot I may have two beginners putting me to shame. Oh well, …

photo 4As for the matter of that lost arrow. If you happen to live anywhere within a five mail radius of the 3-D course, and you happen to find an adult-sized arrow stuck in, say, your house, a tire on a automobile or a piece of lawn furniture…you have my sincere sympathy and complete denial. :-)

Click here for more information on Ninnescah Bowhunters.

 

 

Casts and Blasts about feral hog eradication

A few more points of interest to go along with Sunday’s Outdoors page story on how Kansas-based biologists are taking their war against feral swine into parts of northern Oklahoma.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE STORY, AND ACCESS THE PHOTO GALLERY.

– Sport hunting for feral hogs has proven to be one of the least effect methods for reducing the population. Such hunting pressure scatters populations and often makes the pigs become nocturnal. Of the 385 feral hogs eradicated at Fort Riley, only 15 were shot by sport hunters, despite several years of hunting.

– -The population of feral hogs in the U.S. is estimated to be at least 5 million animals, of which Texas has about 2.6 million.

– Kansas biologists have seen feral sows with up to about 12 piglets, and most all litters have had at least six piglets. Like domestic swine, feral sows can have two litters per year.

– Within about three generations, domestic pigs turned feral take on the looks of wild swine with smaller hams, bigger shoulders, longer and stronger snouts, longer tusks…

– Some herds of feral pigs date back to the 1500s, when Spanish explorers brought herds of domestic swine for a food source as they explored what’s now the southern U.S.

– The average Kansas adult feral pig weighs about 100 pounds. Some have been documented close to 500 pounds.

– Declines in many kinds of wildlife have been documented when feral hogs invade an area, destroying habitat, competing for food and, at times, eating the eggs of endangered species.

– Biologists  usually suspect illegal releases by humans when a population suddenly appears with several animals, including sows. Most natural colonization by feral hogs is first done by boars.

– Feral hog control biologists annually kill about 20,000 wild pigs in Texas. Some aerial gunning projects have killed up to about 400 in a single day.

– Texas studies indicate each feral pig may be doing about $200 damage to the state’s agricultural practices annually.

– Shotguns with magazines large enough to hold eight to ten rounds, loaded with 00 buckshot are the preferred weapon when shooting from a helicopter. All shooting is done by specially-trained government personnel.

– Dogs have contracted illnesses and died from contacting feral hogs. Some hunters have gotten severely ill from diseases after such contact, and human deaths could be possible.

– In many states, domestic swine have developed diseases when feral hogs come into their area. A wide-spread outbreak of some diseases carried by feral pigs could cause millions of dollars in damages to the domestic pork industry.

– More than 650 Kansas landowners have given U.S.D.A. eradication crews access to more than 1 million acres to eliminate feral swine. The compliance rate of more than 99 -percent is probably the highest in the nation.

– U.S.D.A. biologists in Kansas use some modern tools to help with their war on feral swine. They have used night vision equipment to look for nocturnal herds. Recently, they’ve used cameras in traps that contact the biologist when something is within the trap area, and shows the biologists how many hogs are in the enclosure. The biologist can then push a button on his phone and the gate closes.

Source – Curran Salter, Mike Bodenchuk and Tom Berding

 

Video shows locked-antlered buck saved by Wichita hunter/Another by Pratt County Students

CLICK HERE TO ALSO READ AND SEE how Pratt Community College instructor Luke Laha, and his students, also worked to free a whitetail buck that had been locked with another for up to two months.

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Evan McAnally spent days afield last deer season, as much to gather good video as to eventually put venison in his freezer.

But it was weeks after the season and McAnally, of Wichita, didn’t have his regular video camera along when he got footage of “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

On Feb. 10 the 29-year-old used his cell phone to video himself freeing a trophy-class nine-point buck that had locked antlers with another nine-pointer several days earlier. Coyotes, it appeared, had already eaten the other buck down to its skeleton. McAnally could have left and come back a few days later, after the coyotes probably would have returned to eat the second buck alive, and the avid bowhunter could have had both sets of antlers for his wall. He said that wasn’t an option.

“We’re hunters, not cold-blooded killers,” he said. “I hunt to harvest an animal to eat, and to share a connection with the wildlife.” McAnally , who bow-killed a 24-point buck in November, added the thousands of hours he’s spent afield scouting, videoing and hunting whitetail bucks has also given him a deep respect for the animals.

“It was quite the sight, what that one buck had endured,” said McAnally, “and I tried to put into perspective what that deer had already gone through, being locked with the other buck and then the coyotes eating it right there. I really wanted to free it if I could.”

McAnally had driven 90 minutes to a family-owned pasture in Stafford County to check on his remote trail cameras and put out some food for deer and assorted birds.  He was walking across the brushy pasture when he saw antlers on the ground. A closer looked showed it was two sets of antlers locked together. To one set he saw the mostly eaten remains of a buck, to the other he thought he saw the complete body of a dead buck. Then, that “dead” buck stood up as McAnally walked near, and the deer began walking away, dragging his dead combatant slowly along.

Whitetail bucks often put their antlers together for light sparring matches, or sometimes in full-fledged fights. Occasionally they push with enough force that antler tines (points) from the two bucks bend enough to become interlocked. Most such fights happen during the November breeding season, as bucks battle over a doe. “I’m not sure if there was a doe coming into late estrous or what happened,” McAnally said. “Something had them really going at it.” He also finds it unique that the antlers withstood such pressure at a time of year when antlers are naturally falling off must bucks so another set can begin growing.

McAnally recognized both bucks from his trail cameras, which are left in the field and triggered by motion. The dead buck had lived on the property for at least three years. The live buck had shown-up during the past season. The bucks were last seen independently on trail cameras on Feb. 2. “They easily could have been locked like that for five or six days,” McAnally said. “You could tell by the looks of things it had been a while.”

Rather than call his cousin, Heath Getty, for assistance, McAnally decided to not waste any time getting the live buck untangled. He set his cell phone in the branches of a plum bush and went to the rescue.

“I spent a lot of the 30 minutes just easing in, trying to keep the buck calm,” McAnally said. “It kind of kept pulling away and I kept kind of talking softly and petting its neck a bit. I’m not sure if that really helped.”

After trying to free the locked antlers with his hands, McAnally walked back to his truck and returned with a saw and cut one antler tine from the live buck and two from the dead buck. Not realizing what had happened, the live buck kept his head down until McAnally lifted its antlers a bit so it could feel that it was free. That left McAnally a bit nervous, wondering if the buck might charge him. It didn’t.

“It kind of stomped the dead buck a couple of times, backed up and then took off,” he said. “You could tell it was kind of week and off balance, but that’s probably because of all it had been through for several days.”

As he was leaving the property later, McAnally saw the buck about 300 yards from where it had been freed, walking towards a creek for water. “I’m pretty sure he made it,” McAnally said. “He was kind of gaunt, but he was really in pretty good shape. I hope I see him again this fall when I’m out hunting.” If he does, McAnally said he probably won’t reach for his bow.

“I don’t think I could shoot him,” he said. “We kind of have a connection.”

 

 

The war on feral swine continues

A U.S.D.A. helicopter works a heard of feral swine found in northern Oklahoma this week.

A U.S.D.A. helicopter works a herd of feral swine found in northern Oklahoma this week. MICHAEL PEARCE/PHOTO

For yet another year, the tide of feral pigs trying to spread across Kansas has been stemmed. That’s thanks, mostly, to on-going efforts by the state of Kansas and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Here are a few facts to hold you over until a March 9 Outdoors page feature on the subject.

– Feral hogs are the descendants of domestic pigs gone wild. The first appeared with Spanish explorers in the 1500s.

– The current U. S. population is estimated at more than 5 million feral hogs, of which about one half live in  Texas.

–  Feral hogs have been documented doing $10,000 or more damage to a farm field in one night.

– They are known to carry diseases that can be lethal to domestic swine, dogs and humans.

– Conservative estimates state each pig can do at least $200 in damage to crops, annually.

– Texas officials think feral swine do more than $100 million in damage to the state’s crops and other agricultural interests annually.

– Though Kansas only currently has a population of a few hundred within its borders, about 4,000 feral pigs have been killed in Kansas, or from herds just across the border in Oklahoma and Colorado in about the past seven years.

– Almost 1,000 pigs were killed over about a five year period in the Red Hills region west and north of Medicine Lodge. Biologists and ranchers feel that population has been wiped-out, except for a few scattered boars.

– Biologists credit outlawing sport hunting for feral pigs, which can scatter populations and encourage people to import and release pigs to create huntable populations, for greatly helping with eradication projects.

– Trapping has had a significant impact, with up to 42 feral hogs caught in a single night.

Part of 42 feral pigs recently trapped near the Kansas/Oklahoma border. COURTESY PHOTO

Part of 42 feral pigs recently trapped near the Kansas/Oklahoma border. COURTESY PHOTO

– More than 100 feral hogs per day have been shot via aerial gunning from helicopters several times by Kansas crews. Though impressive, that’s far below the many instances of 300 to 400 pigs aerial gunned per day in Texas.

– Earlier this week about 224 feral hogs were killed by aerial gunning just across the Kansas border, in Kay County, Oklahoma, including a herd estimated to be about 80 animals in one pasture. Further north, just across the Kansas border in Cowley County, only one lone boar was found and killed.

Again, for more details, check the March 9 Outdoors page of The Wichita Eagle.

More charges filed against celebrity hunter, Spook Spann

Television and video personality Spook Spann is again in trouble with wildlife law enforcement authorities. This is the third time in less than two years, for those who are counting.

Spann was originally charged and convicted in 2012 for illegally tagging a world-class, non-typical whitetail deer he shot in Kansas about seven years ago. Last year he was again in federal court for violating the part of his probation that stated he couldn’t hunt for up to a year in Kansas, and less time in other states.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE for a link to details about his recent arrest.

Pheasant photography not easy

My toes felt like icicles, and my arms were starting to ache from holding a heavy camera and big telephoto lens out from my body, cocked at a funny angle, for what seemed like an hour, but was probably an honest minute or so. A rooster pheasant five yards away had heard the tiniest scratch of the lens against the side of the pop-up blind and was on full alert.

A rooster pheasant is on full-alert after hearing the hum of a camera's auto-focus.

A rooster pheasant is on full-alert after hearing the hum of a camera’s auto-focus.

He left the scene, tail arrogantly cocked in the air leaving me vowing to be even quieter the next time.

Tuesday afternoon I spent three or four frigid hours in a blind near a deer feeder in western Harvey County. Both were set in an overgrown pasture of hedge trees and cedars. The feeder is intended for deer, but pheasants and a variety of songbirds eat the yellow grain. I’d also poured some sunflower seeds next to a nearby cedar to sweeten the deal.

An assortment of cardinals and Harris sparrows flushed when I walked on to the scene, and most were back by the time I was in the blind, and had my cameras turned on and ready to go. Piece of cake, I thought, when the pheasants showed up I’d fill a few hundred frames of the brilliant plumage glowing the in the late afternoon light, standing in strict contrast to the thick, white snow.

Boy was I ever wrong. I’ve had days when it’s been a lot easier to shoot them with a shotgun, compared to the photography challenges on Tuesday.

Problems included the blind being too close to the feed, which was largely because the pasture is so thick I couldn’t get more than about eight yards away.

The wind had also totally died, which gave the pheasants super-sensitive hearing every advantage.  Also because of the cold, the blind’s fabric was stiff and incredibly noisy.

A rooster pheasant that finally sneaked from beneath a cedar tree, to grab some food in the open.

A rooster pheasant that finally sneaked from beneath a cedar tree, to grab some food in the open.

The first pheasant to walk in heard the hum of the camera’s auto-focus, then went into some fast high-stepping when the shutter started firing and was gone in seconds.

The snow-coated pop-up blind was stiff and noisy Tuesday afternoon, when used as a photography blind.

The snow-coated pop-up blind was stiff and noisy Tuesday afternoon, when used as a photography blind.

At least six different roosters came to the feed, and all stuck to cover as best they could. They, and several hens, liked to stay under a huge cedar where some food had been scattered. Occasionally one would sneak out, peck a few kernels of corn then retreat back under the boughs.

More than half of the roosters spooked before I even got them in the viewfinder. Three or four frames is the most I got of any one bird, and my camera fires at about eight frames per second.

I’ll be out for a few hours early Wednesday morning, in another blind that’s further from a feeder and where the birds and the blind should be in warming sunshine. No matter, I’m danged sure wearing heavier boots  this time.