Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Upland Bird Hunting: Season's Greetings

(click to enlarge)

Bird season is well along and as usual we've done most of our hunting on public and private lands enrolled in Montana's wonderful Block Management Program. And as usual a fair share of knockin' doors....the results of which have been as usual mixed--some good, some not so hot and some...well, nothing less than remarkable...Here are some out-takes from this season and seasons past on some of the more colorful events... 

You can hunt the river bottom above the house but not below. Apparently sensing our curiosity the rancher went on to explain. Ain't much up above the cows have got 'er grazed pretty thin but down below the pheasants is pretty thick and I wanna keep all I got. OK.

New Year's Eve, one more day left: tooling down a backcountry road outside Choteau as the sun is about to set on what has been a really tough day of wind, wild flushing birds, out of control dogs and impossible to run down landowners suddenly roosters everywhere--crossing the road, in the wheat stubble, in the ranch yard itself. No posters, a no brainer so...The nice lady answers the door says, Hello, can I help you then evidently noting my obvious bird hunter attire, adds..If it's hunting the answer is no. My husband and I feel the 15th (December, until a few years ago the traditional end of the Montana bird season) is long enough and so our season is ended. But if you want call us and set up a date for next season, no problem. Game Management. As you might expect we do indeed make the call  and not all that surprising the nice lady answers says, Sorry my husband and I think the bird numbers are way down this year and so...Well, thanks anyway.

Way out in the middle of nowhere are the Sweet Grass Hills, miles and miles of nothing much but, well, sweet grass and the occasional lonely ranch complex. Again looks good (no birds this time but lots of CRP better still no sign of other hunters ). So I knock and in due time the door opens, just a crack mind you and a not so friendly lady says, You wanna hunt go round to house out back my son's home I don't deal with hunters anymore...SLAM! At the house around back I hear obvious sounds of life but...knockin' loudly first on the front door, then the back, then the patio doors brings no response. OK lady your turn. Naturally she passes on the invite. Proving once again you don't ask you won't know only works if the askee cares to play.
Some landowners make it clear without asking partner you just ain't welcome:

Every other fence post splashed in FRESH orange paint usually equates to why bother? But not always so I tend to make it a project to be sure and test the waters anyway. OK mostly a waste of time but too much fun to pass up...sorry.

Others resort to clever signs to relay basically the same message:

South of Malta scrawled in ominous looking blood red paint, Go Ahead Hunt, But Watch the Damn Bull He's A Killer! One would think even the riffraff might have second thoughts, eh? A billboard outside Dillon in the Sweetwaters warns: No Tresspassing; No Hunting; No Fishing; No Hiking; No Peddlers; No Salemen; No Nothing; Don't ASK!!! C'mon man, you expect us true blue sports to ignore that one, no chance.

Speaking now really clever, the ranch gate over Waterloo way: the one with the six foot long pile of rocks with cowboy boots sticking up at the foot end and a wooden grave marker complete with worn cowboy hat tacked on at the head; the message loud and clear: Here Lies the Last Sonofabitch Left the Gate Open!

Among the most common posters are those read No Tresspassing, No Hunting Without Written Permission. OK but..Since at least 9 of 10 have no contact info (yes I know by design) lacking GPS and a plat book in your back pocket...OK you win.

Sorry I'd like to but I got the place leased...Really tugs at the ol' heart strings, eh? Sort a like, Ah shucks, I just told so and so to go ahead and the boss (pin the blame elsewhere, right?) only allows one party at a time, come back later maybe we can fit ya in.

Landowners with tales to tell of wrecked gates, cut fences, livestock shootings and other dastardly hunter deeds have every right to deny or grant access as they please; no excuses asked, none necessary. But some deeds it would seem the statute of limitations should have long since run out, to say nothing of those where the culprit was actually caught red-handed, yet continue to haunt generations mostly responsible orange clad hunters. No, we haven't let anybody hunt for 20 years or so, not since the sonsabitchin' poacher's truck burned up and our wheat field too. Fish and Game caught the bastard and fined him good, but that did it for us. Really, sorry for your loss but we live in Dil..Ah-h forget it.

Onward and upward.

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