Calling the morning cold and frosty is like calling the Grand Canyon a hole in the ground.


Calling the morning cold and frosty is like calling the Grand Canyon a hole in the ground.

Back home, it was the coldest night of the year, in fact the coldest night in several years. In Big Bow, the morning dawned sunny and spectacular, with the thermometer reading in the mid-single digits. Joyce and I dressed as if we’d be sitting in a deer stand, which worked fine for the first couple hours. We were guests of Ted Goertzen, owner of Kansas Ringnecks southwest of Ulysses and had come to hunt pheasants with three members of the USD 261 Bird Dog Club, whose story I told last week.

There were five hunters and three or four German short hair pointers, depending on the area we hunted. The dogs were amazing bundles of pheasant-hunting energy that couldn’t wait to get out of the pickup at each stop and could not have cared less what the thermometer read. Todd Bush briefed Joyce and me on their safety rules and how they conduct their hunts and off we went.

In that part of Kansas, pivot irrigation is king, so not surprisingly our first several stops were pivot corners, those corners of fields not watered by the pivot irrigation systems. These CRP field corners were often loaded with birds earlier in the season, but this morning we’d been warned a couple things were against us.

This entire area of the state is hunted hard early, so by January, these pheasants have gotten lots of pressure. In fact, the guys consider a native pheasant harvested in January to be a trophy.

The second factor involved the weather. The colder and snowier the weather, the better the birds will hold for the dogs to point them, giving the hunters a better chance of harvesting them as they flush. Though this morning started out cold, there was no snow and the temperature was rising fast, so the birds were running ahead of the dogs and, for the most part, flushing well in front of us. Natural gas exploration crews also had strung seismograph lines criss-crossing the entire area, so they had been in and out of most of the field,s also.

We walked a few corners and the dogs pointed some birds which either ran ahead of us or flushed well out of range. Our next stop was a patch of what the farmers call “feed,” a mixture of sorghum and Sudan grass that is planted to be cut and baled for cattle feed. This crop also was irrigated, so the rows went in a circular pattern around the field. When cutting the crop, Ted had left numerous strips about 30 feed wide, so we let the dogs work those strips as we walked the field. On the second pass, Ildo Martin’s dog Maggie came to point and Ildo made a clean shot to harvest our first bird of the morning as it flushed.

Probably the most colorful wild creature in Kansas, its iridescent neck and tail feathers gleamed in the morning sun as Maggie dutifully delivered it to her master. We bagged a couple more birds then headed to Teds lodge to shed a few clothes and take some pictures. At noon we swapped stories and got to know each other better over a steaming roaster of hot chili compliments of Ted’s wife Ellie.

Ted also has 640 acres where controlled shooting is allowed through a special license from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. This allows him to maintain a constant population of birds on this acreage by continuing to release pen raised pheasants as birds are harvested. Our first stop after lunch was a field of feed in his controlled shooting area that also had been cut in strips, where several pheasants had been released just after lunch.

Ted worked his English setter Rusty through the strips as Joyce and I walked the edges. These pen-raised pheasants reacted totally differently than native birds and easily held for Rusty to point. Each time his amazing nose found a hidden pheasant in the thick, tall, jumbled grass, his body locked into position with his nose and eyes focused intently on what seemed to us to be just another clump of grass to stumble through. However, as Joyce or I stepped into the grass where he pointed, a cackling rooster pheasant erupted skyward. Our wing shooting prowess (or lack thereof) became immediately apparent as we only harvested one bird from the half dozen Rusty found.

At our last stop, we surrounded and sent the dogs through a couple old overgrown tail water irrigation ponds that were loaded with native pheasants, but once again, the blue-bird weather sent most of them skyward well out of gun range. We still ended the day with a harvest of nine Kansas Ringnecks.

New friends, new connections, a new adventure and bacon-wrapped pheasant breasts on the grill; it just doesn’t get any better than that! Check out Teds Ulysses’ operation on the Web at www.kansasringnecks.com, and his Cedar Vale operation, where he also has 1,000 acres, at www.kansascoveys.com. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve Gilliland is a syndicated outdoors columnist, and can be contacted by e-mail at stevegilliland@idkcom.net.