Beginner’s Guide To Upland Hunting – Part 2: Essential Gear

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In my last blog entry, Beginner’s Guide To Upland Hunting – Part 1, we learned a little about what upland hunting was and how one might even explore it further. Some of you may have decided that you are all in and are ready to get started for the next season! I applaud you, but also want to be clear that there is a bit of preparation that is involved to have a successful upland hunting experience. You want to enjoy yourself. Your enjoyment is largely dependent on preparation and ensuring you have the right equipment to perform. Without preparation and good equipment in the field, you risk sabotaging a perfectly wonderful experience. Why would you ever want to try anything again that you a bad time doing? Don’t risk that! Go in prepared! Get the right gear!

In this entry of the Beginner’s Guide To Upland Hunting, we will focus on gear. Gear is an essential part of upland hunting. When you think of an upland hunter, you probably think of a plaid-clad, blaze orange wearing, double gun toting, pipe smoker with earth toned briar pants. That is a very classic picture, isn’t it? Although I tend to believe that most upland hunters are practical folk, some, including myself, have gone off the deep end when it comes to gear. You don’t have to necessarily look a certain way and you don’t need every little gadget. I have been guilty of going “gear-crazy” in the past and there were some costly mistakes! It is easy to walk into your local Bass Pro Shop and walk out spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on non-essential gear or looking like an Orvis catalog model. We will stick to functional gear and keep it simple! You’ll thank me later!

The Shotgun

The shotgun is the most iconic and probably the most important piece of your gear. Without it, you are just a bird watcher! Many of you probably have a romantic picture of yourself setting off at dawn through the briars, toting a classical double-gun. I did too! That stubborn vision I had of myself and lack of knowledge led me to make a very bad shotgun purchase when I started upland hunting, however. The more research you do before purchasing a shotgun, the better.

Choosing a gun for upland hunting comes down to preference (and your budget). Keep in mind a shotgun is in an investment. Like all investments, careful planning needs to occur to ensure the best return (ROI). A whole book could be written about the various platforms of shotguns, gauges and chokes (I’ll reserve that for another day). Do you need to spend a lot of money? No. Should you spend a lot of money? Not necessarily. Like cars, shotguns can have economically-minded and practical uses, or have many expensive bells and whistles, and even represent status. If you can afford the nice $10,000 heavily engraved double or Olympic grade Semi-Auto, more power to you! A budget shotgun can put away as many birds as an expensive shotgun. At the end, it is a tool. The wielder ultimately makes the shots happen.

To the dismay of many and at the risk of being lynched, I am going to simplify things for those of you who are new to upland hunting. If you do not already have a shotgun, try to get something that has the capability of switching out the chokes. Stick to a 12 or 20 gauge (I can hear the mob grumbling), which are the most common gauges. This will ensure that ammo is plentiful and cheaper. 16, 28, and 410 are all great and fun gauges to shoot, however, there is a bit of an issue of finding ammo at times. Smaller gauges like the 410 also require quite a bit of mastery to shoot effectively as well. Women and smaller stature hunters may prefer a shorter and lighter 20 gauge.

The most common chokes are Full, Modified, Improved Cylinder, and Cylinder. If you can, stick with Modified and/or Improved Cylinder. These are ideal for most upland hunting scenarios.

In my opinion, a brand spanking new Remington 870 is one of the most reliable, versatile and economical shotguns out there. With an option to change out chokes, you can have an upland gun, a pass shooting gun for dove and waterfowl, long range turkey and coyote gun, and self-defense gun all rolled into one. The pump platform is super reliable and can be easily field stripped if needed. You cannot go wrong. Used 870’s can often be purchased for a couple hundred bucks.

When all is said in done, pick a gun that fits you. There are no rights or wrongs.

Ammo

Regardless if you choose a 12 or 20 gauge, you will find that most vendors carry #7-1/2 shot size in abundance. In my opinion this is the bare minimum size you should use, especially if you are hunting wild birds with no dog to retrieve your downed birds. Having said that, my personal preference is #6 shot. I have used #6 shot for years after seeing that many birds I was shooting with #7-1/2 were still flying off and running a bit after being shot. To me, it appeared when I used #6 shot, I was getting less cripples/runners. I never have had a bird mangled with #6 shot. It is very effective and humane. That’s my $0.02.

As mentioned, you can pick up “sleeves” of shotgun shells at your local Wal-Mart for some great prices. $20 for 4 boxes of 25 rounds! People will tell you these bargain bundles of Remington, etc. are garbage, but I have never had jams or misfires with this ammo in any of my guns and they still put birds down just as same as the premium brands.

If you hunt often or shoot clays often (and miss as much as I do!) it is a good idea to begin stockpiling some ammo before the season starts. It may be worth your while to attend some gun shows. You can score some good deals on whole cases of ammo!

Cutlery

At minimum, you need one good quality and sharp knife. I usually carry a pocket knife and a multi-tool out in the field. I have a spare in the car. I always end up using them at some point, whether cleaning out birds or making small repairs, etc.

What to Wear

It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement when those pre-fall catalogs arrive from Orvis, Filson, Bass Pro and the like. I am guilty of flipping through the collection of catalogs I have in the restroom for hours, dog-earing pages. I usually end up not buying a lot of it.

When it comes to clothing for upland hunting, I like to stay practical and functional for the most part. Although I enjoy ogling at the $100 Orvis outdoor shirts and $300 Filson Tin Pants, I have accumulated a lot of quality garments that have lasted me for years for a fraction at the price. Premium prices do not always equal quality. That’s not to say those durable Filson pants are not worth it, a good pair will last you years. But I would personally much rather use that money to buy more ammo or gas to go hunting. At risk of creating competition for myself and losing out on some fine clothing, a little tip I will share with you is to check out your local thrift stores for some of these items. If you do not mind lightly used items or pushing aside a few hipsters to get to a couple shirts and pants, you can score some quality upland hunting clothing! Aside from that, I urge you to stick with quality vendors like Orvis or Filson.

The Upland Vest:

The upland hunting vest is an essential piece of gear for upland hunting. You can make due without many of the specialized garments below, but the vest is a Godsend to us upland hunters. Firstly, most vests have some sort of blaze orange present on them (I urge you to try to stick with a vest that has this option). Even when (seemingly) hunting alone, the blaze orange will alert others of your presence. I have been out in the field and was sure I was the only hunter out there, only to bump into another hunter a few hours later. Better safe than sorry. Wear blaze orange. If not on your vest, at least your hat or shirt. Somewhere.

The upland vest also serves a practical use. It carries your birds and your ammo. Some have multiple options, with multiple pockets, etc. I have used the same Filson game-bag for years. It is minimalistic. Two pockets in the front where I can get to my ammo quickly and a roomy game-bag in the back (that’s where I store my water bottle too). Simple. That’s the way I like it, but there are some cool options out there if you like a ba-zillion pockets for your gear and such.

Shirts:

As far as shirts go, I am a big fan of light wool shirts. Wool has many benefits, will keep you warm in the cold and regulates to your body temperature when you heat up, wicking away sweat naturally. Wool shirts are perfect for the early days of the season, where the weather is brisk in the morning and the afternoons can be quite warm still. Long sleeves are a must, especially in the uplands, where birds live in habitats filled with pokey and prickly vegetation. If you ever reach for a bird that flew into a thorny bush, you will be thankful for long sleeves. Canvas or flannel shirts are great alternatives to wool, although they tend to feel heavier and do not breathe as well as wool. I use these shirts later in the season when it’s colder. There are many high-quality shirt manufacturers out there. Try out Orvis, Filson, Pendleton, & Woolrich. Watch for sales!

Layering shirts is a good idea. Again, during early season hunting, the mornings can be quite cool and get gradually hotter as the days drag on. Under my wool shirts, I usually wear a light shirt with wicking capability like Under Armour or similar brand. When rolling up sleeves is not enough, I can take my wool shirt off and toss it in the back of my vest. During the winter months, I will bundle up a bit more. As you are standing there freezing before your hunt starts on a winter morning, you may be tempted to wear a thick coat or jacket. Please keep in mind that once you start moving, you are going to warm up. Having a thick coat on after a hiking a few minutes will have you feeling like you skipped winter and jumped right into summer. Layer smartly. During the late season, I have worn thick canvas or flannel shirt over a light wool shirt/under shirt combo or thermal. Lately I have been favoring lighter shirts that allow me more movement in the shoulders with an ability to shed off layers as needed. Last season I wore my Pendleton wool shirt with a light “Heat Gear” Under Armour shirt that kept me toasty in the 29 to 40-degree weather. I only wore a jacket once and I ended up shedding it off within a few minutes of my hunt. Some of you folks back east experience colder weather, however, and might find it necessary to carry the extra bulk.

Pants:

Pants that are suited for upland hunting need to be thick and durable. The uplands are filled with thorns, briars and cactus spines that are just itching to pierce through your drawers into your fleshy legs. There are specific “briar pants” that can be picked up at various merchants. These briar pants usually have extra material sewn on in strategic points on pant legs and keep many of the pokey-sharp things from getting through. Some guys I know wear chaps made of thick canvas and they seem to work out well. As you plow through miles of brush pursuing birds, the clothes you have on will begin to wear over the months and years. Canvas work pants like Dickie’s, Red Kap, and Carhartt have been making durable pants for working-class folk for generations, and they work well for upland hunting in my experience. During the late season, you might find it beneficial to wear thermal under pants.

I get asked a lot if I ever wear snake resistant chaps or pants. I don’t wear them. If you hunt in the wild, especially in the west, you are bound to see a rattlesnake or other venomous snake. It’s a given. My experience is that there is no substitute for awareness. However, the reality is there is a possibility that you could be struck by a venomous snake (however, very unlikely). It may be your preference to wear gear like snake resistant pants, but please continue to be aware of their presence and respectful of their space. We are hunting in their home after all.

Hats, Gloves, Glasses & Bandannas:

In the early part of the season I usually wear a lighter baseball cap style hat. During the fall, there are still many bright and sunny days and a hat will protect you from the elements and the sun. Later in the season, I might switch over to a wool wide-brim fedora/cowboy style hat with waterproofing which keeps m head warm and dry in case it rains/snows.

Gloves have become a happy addition to my gear over the years. After getting thorns or spines in my hands multiple times and hopping over barbed wire fences, I wised up and started wearing leather gloves in the field. Simple deer leather work gloves work great! You might decide not to wear gloves because of dexterity issues when handling your guns. In that case, you may want to reconsider and maybe cut out a hole for your trigger finger.

Shooting glasses protect your eyes. I am very guilty of not always wearing shooting glasses when I am out hunting and I should probably be a better example to you all. Particles from firing or ejecting shells have been known to hit shooters and hunters in the eye. Why risk it? Aside from that, wearing yellow tinted lenses has been known to enhance vision outdoors.

The bandana is an often overlooked and underutilized piece of fabric. The bandana has many uses such as emergency signaling, bandage, tourniquet, sling, hot-pot holder, handkerchief, napkin, emergency TP, etc. I always carry a couple. If they get dirty, they can be easily washed and are reusable.

Boots and Socks:

Without a proper pair boots on, you may as well go home. You may have to go miles to see a few birds and if you do not have the proper equipment on your feet, you are not going to go far. There are many boots out there that are designed specifically for upland hunting. You do not necessarily need a boot specific to upland hunting, however, they should be quality and durable, with good ankle support. Most of all, they should be comfortable! Take your time in choosing the right boot and when you finally do, be sure to break them well before the season starts. You do not want to wear a brand-new pair of boots out in the field for the first time. I would recommend a boot that is waterproof. Non-insulated if you are hunting out west. You guys back east will have to decide if it is worth getting insulated boots.

I had a pair of Bob Timberlake Uplander boots (discontinued) and they lasted me for years. I bought them in 2009 and just now switched over to Redwings/Irish Setter Wingshooter boots. Do yourself a favor… go to your local Redwings store. Try them on. You will walk out with them!

With proper boots, a proper pair of socks go hand-in-hand. Thin and loose socks in even the highest quality boot is a recipe for disaster. Friction is the main cause for foot blisters and they can ruin a perfect day of hunting. Wool hiking or hiking specific synthetic socks are life savers. Be sure to pack extra clean pairs, just in case.

Camping/Cooking Gear

You gotta eat! On the season opener, I will camp out a couple of days. On those weekends, I spend outdoors living like a hobo, I ensure that I have enough food for 3 meals a day and a couple of cold beers for dinner and guests that might drop in. A portable Coleman stove ensures that I have a hot meal at least a couple times out of the day (breakfast is usually a bar or some beef jerky). Simple foods like hot dogs or pre-made burritos can be easily heated up on a cast-iron pan. Be sure to bring more than enough water for yourself. Always carry water with you in the field along with a few snacks like energy bars.

A cooler keeps your food and any birds cool and from spoiling. Freeze a gallon of water a couple of days before heading out and stick it in your cooler. Keeps everything from getting wet and it can be defrosted for emergency water.

On single day hunts I will usually leave the stove at home in favor of a thermos full of hot soup. Returning to your truck for clam chowder and crackers after chasing birds for miles is heaven. A thermos is also useful if you are coffee drinker. A hot drink on a cold morning or night can be a great treat!

In order to keep myself as mobile as possible, I usually just camp out in my car (SUV). It is roomy enough for me to lay out a blanket and pillow and sleeping bag. You may choose to use a tent if you camp out. The days of over complicated tent set-ups are mostly gone. Today just lay out the tent and pull a loop in the center and voila!

Last, but not least, a folding chair and a good book are an awesome combo at the end of the day.

Gadgets

Early mornings and evenings can be dark. I like using a multi-function headlamp that allows me to be hands-free. This is especially useful when working around camp or while holding your shotgun in the field. Be sure to check your local laws when using a head lamp. There are some laws that prohibit the use of high intensity lights which that may disturb wildlife. My headlamp has a “map-light” function that emits a low-intensity red light and I use that to get around in the early morning. Having an extra flashlight and batteries is always a great idea as well.

Quick Chargers are a great tool in this day and age of technological wonders like the smart phone. We use our phones to record video and take pictures and many of us want to share our outdoor adventures. This kills a lot of battery life and could leave us without a phone to call anyone in the event of an emergency. I carry a quick charger that gives me about 3 full charges on my phone. While driving I am always sure to hook my phone up to the car-charger.

Navigating out in the wild can be tricky, especially if you are newer to hunting. Although I do not own one, a GPS is a great tool to help you better and safely navigate out in the wilderness and they also have cool functions like marking waypoints and points of interest, like where you spotted that covey or where you left your vehicle! Although, I advocate the use of a GPS, you should not solely rely on one. Having a good sense of your surroundings and having supplemental map will outlast the battery in your GPS.

Automobile

Aside from not having a dog, the other reason I hear people tell me they don’t or think they cannot hunt is because of limitations of their vehicle. Sure, having a high-profile truck with 4×4 can be very useful when trying to get out to the uplands. Some areas will only be accessible by a good old 4×4 in low gear, unfortunately. However, there are multiple areas that any vehicle can reach right off of paved roads. You just may have to hike in a little further to get to the spots where the birds are.

After I got rid of my Nissan Titan, I got myself into a small Subaru Impreza. Although the vehicle had All-Wheel Drive, the clearance limited me sticking to areas in the lower elevation. So, I parked where I could legally and hunted just off of the main highways. I was surprised to find many spots where no hunters ventured and actually bumped large coveys of quail minutes from car. This was just off of Highway 10 in California heading toward Arizona. I also made similar hunting trips with my front-wheel drive Ford Focus (what a hunk of junk). When my daughter was born, I upgraded to a SUV with AWD. In my opinion, it is more convenient (I can actually sleep in it without waking up the next morning with a creak in my neck) and economical than my truck ever was.

 

With that, you should have a good idea of the type of gear you need. As you become a more seasoned hunter you will learn what works for you and what you can live without or even add a few things (I’d love to hear what works for you). In our next installment, we will cover preparing for upland hunting. You have (or you are getting the gear), so now what? See you in a couple of weeks!

God Bless and Happy Hunting! -J.R.

 

 

This blog expresses the opinion of the author. All information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. UplandJitsu.com makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

Beginner’s Guide To Upland Hunting – Part 1: So you want to be an Upland Hunter?

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So, you thumbed through your buddy’s old copy of Double Gun Journal. You have seen the countless pictures on Instagram of hunters posing with their limits of quail, pheasant and grouse. You just saw the latest Project Upland video. Man… if only that could be you!

You close your eyes and imagine yourself walking through a field during late October. The sun is still clinging to summer and you feel the warmness of it on your back. Sweat beads roll down your neck, reminding you of how satisfying good-ol’ hard work feels. You breathe in air and catch a faint smell of metal and wood that has soaked up decades worth of sweat, blood, and Hoppe’s No. 9. That old shotgun in your hand feels good. Natural. It’s beautiful. You wonder if its previous owner admired and enjoyed it as much as you are right now…

The brush in front of you erupts with whirring wingbeats and nervous pips! A flash of feathers and beaks! Your heart is pounding from legitimate fright! Excitement and goosebumps take over now, threatening to leave you dropped jawed and your barrel stuck straight up in the air! Wings are still splashing against blue sky. You think, “How long I have I been standing here”? This is your chance! You shift the heft of your shotgun forward. Almost too hard, you slam the butt of the shotgun to your shoulder. Your bead swings to catch up to the last bird in the covey. Your finger meets the trigger…

 –

Your eyes open. You got it bad my friend! So, are you ready to do this? Are you ready to become an Upland Hunter? Some of you might be wondering if you even can at this point in your life. You have no mentors or anyone to hunt with. No dog. You might even not have a shotgun. You may not know where to start or where to look for birds. What exactly is upland hunting anyway?

Upland hunting is a type of hunting that typically involves hunting various gallinaceous birds such as pheasant, quail, grouse, chukar, etc. Some may also consider the wild turkey and rabbit a part of the upland hunting circle, but we will stick with the former group of birds for this guide. It is typically not considered sporting to shoot these birds on the ground or perched. The goal is to flush these birds into flight and shoot them while they are airborne (wing shooting). It is fast. It is exciting. You get to see a lot of beautiful country in between the action.

So, still interested? GREAT!

I want to help you! I did the roadwork. You can benefit from my experience and avoid some of those pitfalls I stumbled into! Like you (possibly), I started my upland hunting career a bit later in life. Although, I had heavily hunted deer since I was a kid, my true experience hunting upland birds did not begin until I was well into my 20’s. In those early days, I had many questions about upland hunting, not enough answers and very few mentors. On that journey to become a full-fledged upland hunter, I did a lot of research, tried to learned a whole bunch and picked up some great tips and tricks. It was not easy. I made a few mistakes along the way, missed a lot of birds, wasted ammo, and bought unnecessary gear.

You do not need to buy everything out of the Orvis catalog. You don’t need a fancy gold-plated shotgun. You may be asking yourself right this minute, “Well, don’t I need a dog”? No. One of the silliest reasons people tell me why they don’t go upland hunting is because they do not have a dog. I hear hunting with a dog is great and all, but it is not necessary. Especially at this point. Glad that is out of the way! In time, you will need specific equipment and preparations to make your future endeavor into upland hunting enjoyable and (somewhat) successful, however. You don’t need anything fancy and you can do it on a budget if necessary.

First thing is first. If you are new to hunting altogether, please do this… Go sign up for hunter safety course and learn about general safety and etiquette for hunting and handling a firearm. If you have a shotgun already or if you can possibly borrow one, I urge future upland hunters to consider a pheasant preserve after they complete their hunter-safety course.

Pheasant preserves are a great introduction into upland hunting as they provide a somewhat controlled environment and allow new hunters to apply the etiquettes and safety requirements they just learned. Pheasant preserves allow a person or party to pay to have farm raised pheasant, chukar, quail, etc. released into designated fields where the shooter (you) will dispatch them. Let me be clear. Pheasant preserves are a great tool for those wanting to train their dogs (if you end up going that route later) and to keep hunters frosty and in “shooting shape” during the off season. Again, it also a great way to introduce new hunters, but it may not be your cup of tea. I personally cut my teeth on a pheasant preserve and gained valuable experience and knowledge from doing so. I personally have not been back to a preserve since that day, but many choose to continue to use them as a beneficial tool and that is okay too!

For all intents and purposes, this next series of blog entries are designed to help those people out who are interested to start their first few steps into upland hunting. In general, these practices can be applied to all forms of upland hunting/wing-shooting. In the next few weeks we will cover the following:

              Part 2: Gear

              Part 3: Preparation

              Part 4: Scouting and Planning Your Hunt

My goal is to pay it forward and help some of you get started in upland hunting. We are a community whose voice is getting louder thanks to social media and technology. Little by little our passion is being exposed to the outside world. Many are unfamiliar, but intrigued by upland hunting and we must all come together and share our knowledge and pass on our legacy to the next generation and I hope I can get some of you on your way to chasing some birds by October. Stay tuned and subscribe!

God Bless and Happy Hunting! -J.R.

 

 

This blog expresses the opinion of the author. All information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. UplandJitsu.com makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

 

The End of Another Season…

If you are like me, the past couple of weeks have been dreadful. I am sad. I am mad. And I am feeling a little empty inside. Sunday, January 29th, 2017 marked the final day of upland season here in California. My thoughts are dwelling on the fact that I did not get to hunt as much as I really wanted to this season. I am also a bit perturbed at those birds I missed with my poor marksmanship (when I actually saw birds). What would I not give for one more autumn day in the field chasing wild quail? A chance to redeem myself?

Alas. Fall is over. Winter is in full swing. Winter is death. The end of all things. The ender of seasons. The boots and vest are packed away. The guns have already been cleaned and oiled. The light is getting dimmer. Darkness…

But there is promise of light!

Over the past few weeks, California has seen a decent amount of rain, even snow in some areas. Along with California, other western states have seen record rainfall! We have had so much rain in California that some sources are stating that we are no longer in drought! Rain does wonders! With the rain comes promise of life… and promise of great quail seasons for western states in 2017-2018!

I was out on the final day of upland season and there were a ton of green weeds sprouting up. These weeds can be essential for winter survival for quail. If this rain continues, winter temps remain mild, we could have a good batch of birds headed into the breeding season. It looks like the perfect combination for a great season! Cross your fingers! Say your prayers!

I ended my season chasing after a large winter covey of quail. My short, stumpy legs did their best to catch up with the singles breaking off from the main covey. Up and down the steep terrain. Huffing and puffing. Wishing I would have refrained from eating that whole 1-pound burrito that morning. It was either my crappy aim or the bent sight on my Ithaca 37 (I discovered this after my hunt) that prevented me from ending the season with a heavy vest. Seeing 5o plus birds in a covey and missing every bird I saw was a humbling experience.

Beaten. Tired. Forsaken. With trembling legs on the side of a hill, I cursed and shook my fist like some villain in a movie. The sun made its descent behind the mountains. No more chances. My face was frozen in a scowl. About hundred yards out I saw a pair of Valley Quail rocket out from brush into the ravine below. I threw the old 37 across my shoulder. My face melted into a smile. I would not trade this in for anything.

Sitting here, two weeks later, I am still missing days like that. Time to pull those guns out of the closet. Wipe off the excess oil. Time to hit the range. See you in October.

Happy Hunting and God Bless!

-J.R.

No on H.R. 621! Sign the Petition!

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The politicians in Washington DC did not waste any time! Rep. Jason Chaffetz is spearheading the diabolical H.R. 621 bill. This bill is designed to allow the Secretary of Interior to sell off federally owned public lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming! This is a major move against western states that have traditionally boasted million of acres of public lands that hunters, anglers, and all outdoor recreationists have enjoyed for generations! H.R. 621 is going to allow the theft of public lands. THEFT! There is no other word to describe this.

As I have stated before, this is our responsibility as hunters and outdoors enthusiasts to stand up for our public lands. Make no mistake, if we allow them to step over us and do this to our public lands now, they will only steamroll us for the rest of it! Call or e-mail your House Representatives! Find them on social media and blow up their feeds! Tell your representatives how you feel about H.R. 621 and the theft of your public lands! While you are at it, jump on Rep. Jason Chaffetz’ social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and politely tell him you are opposed to H.R. 621! Make it rain! Make it rain! And tell him I sent you!

While I have you all fired up… sign the petition! Join Backcountry Hunters & Anglers! Join Quail Forever! Donate to TRCP! United we can push back. We hunters have a thunderous voice when we have a common enemy. Let’s show these guys they cannot mess with our heritage.

Happy Hunting & God Bless.

-J.R.

 

***EDIT***

As of February 1st, Rep. Jason Chaffetz claimed to have heard the voice of all sportsmen and other public lands advocates. Citing that he was an avid hunter and outdoorsman himself, Rep. Jason Chaffetz claimed he would kill bill H.R. 621 for good. Things move very slowly in Washington and we have yet to receive official notice that this bill has died. Another bill, H.R. 622 has gone unnoticed by many and threatens to terminate the law enforcement functions of the Forest Service and the BLM. Clearly, these bills were meant to compliment one another if passed. Rep. Jason Chaffetz’ next logical step should be to kill this bill as well! Please remind him!

The Future of Upland Hunting

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Mars or the High Desert?

I grew up in a dusty town in Southern California’s High Desert. The area was typically described as a boring dustbowl by the kids who were dragged out by their parents from the cities an hour south. My family, like many others, moved out from the inner cities of Los Angeles to more affordable and safer areas in the High Desert in the ‘80s and ‘90s. As far as I was concerned, my parents may have as well moved us to Mars!

Gone were the busy, crowded smoggy streets of Whittier, California. Goodbye green grass! Goodbye, Taco Shop! Goodbye, Paletero-Man! Hello, Joshua Trees! Hello, Goat Head Thorns! Hello, sand! Hello, Hesperia, California!

In those days, there were more empty lots and less neighbors than there are now. Those wide spaces opened into endless desert. The landscape was alien to me. And brown. The local wildlife was plentiful and you often had encounters with them in and around your home (to my mother’s dismay). Wildlife was plentiful! Cottontails, jackrabbits, coyotes, tortoises, horny toads, tarantulas, centipedes, just to name a few. As I got to know my new town and its inhabitants, I was introduced to a funny little bird. It often traveled by foot in small groups. In the High Desert, they ran across the streets in formation before cars could mow them down. I did not know it then, but this little bird would change my life forever. In those days, you would see a mix of both California (Valley) and Gambel’s quail everywhere! I am not exaggerating when I say they were everywhere.

Today, I reminisce of those days. I moved away from the desert over a decade ago. Since then, people have kept on moving up there. The small sleepy town has grown. Crime actually exists there now. They have more than one movie theater. Driving around these days I scoff at the luxuries that today’s residents take for granted. Public transportation? Major food chains? Back in my day I had my two feet and had to travel 10 miles for a burger!

Another thing I notice is that my beloved quail are no longer as prevalent as they were in those days. I have hunted in and around the area well over 20 years and have seen the change since then. Over the years, I have seen bad quail seasons and some so-so seasons come and go. Here in California, the drought and lack of habitat has done a number on quail and other wildlife. I talk to old timers that speak of the days when 100 bird coveys were the norm on opening day in California. Surely, some of those mega-coveys exist somewhere out there, but they are far in between. What is causing the decline of quail populations? This is a question asked time and time again and again. Many factors exist. Lack of predator control. Drought. Greedy politicians. One of the main culprits is habitat loss.

It is evident that the human population is growing at a rapid speed across this nation and there is no sign of it slowing down. As people multiply in these cities and towns, they are bound to spill out from overflowing cities and suburbs. They have to go somewhere. Expansion of people means encroaching onto already sparse habitat for wildlife, including upland game. With such a large population to feed, agriculture has become a booming industry. An industry that takes up precious land.  While we cannot dictate what the weather does, protecting wildlife habitat is something we can do. When it comes down to it, if wildlife does not have habitat, they are going to cease to exist. Period. What can you do? I am glad you asked!

To Be a Passive Conservationist or Not to Be

If you are reading this, you are probably a lot like me. Just a normal guy, with a job, a family and a love for hunting. What can an “Average Joe” like me do? Well, as a sportsman and a carrier of hunting licenses, stamps, tags, etc., you do quite a bit without you even knowing it. Buying a hunting license and paying any taxes towards those fees, for example, is your passive participation in conservation. Your well spent money not only affords you the ability to pursue your wild game of choice, it also contributes to conservation efforts in your State. Easy as pie, right? Well, that is a great start!

Hunters and anglers have always been the main contributors to state and federal preservation and conservation efforts and these agencies rely heavily on our cold hard cash. Money makes the world go ‘round! You pay. You Play. The government puts that money to work. But wait… do you know how that money is divvied up? Are those funds going to legitimate programs that are going to enhance and protect habitat for wildlife? Great question, right? My home state of California has been accused of not having the best interest of habitat or hunting programs in mind when they decided to fund some questionable programs (I think climate change studies are handled by another department, right?). Some people have even accused California Fish and Wildlife officials of (gasp) unethical conduct and fraud. Is this where your money goes? Now this is an extreme scenario, but my point is, as the major contributors to conservation, we should in some way be more involved and know what is happening with these funds. Check with your Wildlife and State agencies. Disagree with it? Tell them! Are they doing it right? Tell them you are proud of what they are doing! Hold them accountable to managing conservation funds.

So, what’s my point? You already throw hundreds, if not thousands of dollars towards licenses and fees? Great! Again, we are the only ones on the front line. We as hunters are the only groups who throws millions of dollars at conservation in hopes we can enjoy wild places and wildlife for a long time. We are the true warriors of conservation. Not the bird watching non-hunters. Not PETA. Not the judgmental vegan bagging your groceries at Whole Foods, who throws out way too many non-solicited Morrissey quotes (MEAT IS MURDER!). My point is we must be active participants in this. Conservation is the only reason why we can enjoy hunting today. Today more than ever hunting, habitat, and the species we pursue are in even more danger of disappearing altogether! We cannot just obtain a golden egg and expect it to hatch into another golden egg-laying goose without more work. It needs to be looked after, cared for and raised. I think our hearts are in the right place. But there is more we can do. Becoming more involved is the key and there are a few ways to do it.

A Call to Arms

So, my brothers and sisters. It’s time to do something. It’s time to get involved. Paying for a hunting license will not cut it. Don’t have time? All you have is money to throw? If that is all you can do, then there are many great organizations out there that you can join for a minimal fee and you probably score some cool swag. They do the fighting for you. Think of them as mercenaries. Conservation groups like Quail Forever, Pheasant Forever, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers have made it their mission to being our voice when it comes to habitat conservation and advocacy. They educate the public, landowners and are involved with the nitty gritty of acquiring habitat and preserving said land for conservation, recreational and hunting use. There are many great likeminded organizations out there that represent just about any species out there. If you want to get a little more involved, there are many volunteer opportunities that focus on repairing wildlife guzzlers or enhancing habitat and more. Join and contact them for more details!

If habitat loss by human population growth and mismanagement of funds has not riled you up, then knowing that your very own public land ownership is being pulled from your very hands, might get you red-hot-mad. Were you aware that you and I and everyone in between own millions of acres of public land? Well, stop the presses, I am here to tell you that as a US citizen, regardless of your creed, background or wealth or lack thereof, you have inherited public lands for your use. That includes areas you can hunt wild game in their habitat. Currently there are greedy industries out there who have pals in Washington DC that have nefarious plans for your public lands. No heads up. No chance to protest. They are making it easier to sell off land that is rightfully yours to fill their own pockets. And you won’t even be aware that it happened! Many of the organizations I mentioned to you will keep you informed and help you fight these greedy bloodsuckers, but at some point, you are going to have to risk getting a little political! Call and email your State Representatives… hell! Call or e-mail President Donald Trump! Tell him you’re pissed (in a very nice and professional way) about this and you will not stand for it! Keep public lands public!

Lastly. Take a child or a someone new to hunting or fishing out with you one of these days. Without future interested generations, no one else will be left to fight for this legacy that was handed down to us. Today, hunters are nearly a nostalgic thing of the past. If there are no longer hunters around, hunting disappears. No one will care about a little species like the quail. They will disappear. Although some regions claim better or steady hunting license holders, much of the country has seen a decline in hunters. Today’s youth is inundated with technology that is quick and easy to use. Can you blame them from just googling about seeing the beauty of a sunset in the Arizona desert without having to actually do the work and experience it firsthand? How many adults do you know that do not hunt? Remember the awe and wonder you had your first year of hunting? Think about the time where you knew nothing about hunting and where you are now. If no one was there to guide you probably would not be here today. There are many future hunters out there that do not have the know-how or understand the difference between a shotgun and an activity that involves a set of keys and a beer can. But they have that same awe and wonder you did. They need mentors. Guess what? That is you!

As hunters, we all have a responsibility to pass on our legacy to future hunters. This is a call to arms. The future of Upland Hunting and all other Hunting and Fishing activities are at a risk. The above are just some ways we can get more involved with protecting this legacy not only for ourselves, but for future generations to come. Theodore Roosevelt, like some our other heroes, was a pioneer for conservation efforts. He ensured that the steps were taken, policies written, and the land he set aside would benefit others and future generations to come. It is time for us to stop riding on the coattails of what others have done and to start making our own impact for conservation.

What does the future hold for Upland Hunting? That depends on what we do today. I don’t have a clear answer. I know what I want though. I long to see quail running across the street again. But mostly, I long to know that the land I hunt on will exist for my daughter when she finally picks up a shotgun and goes wandering around for quail on her own.

God bless and Happy Hunting. – JR

 

PS – If you are looking to get involved, these are some great organizations to get involved with:

https://quailforever.org/

http://pheasantsforever.org/

http://www.backcountryhunters.org/

http://www.trcp.org/

What is Upland-Jitsu?

What is it about upland hunting that gets us all hopped up and frothing from the mouth? The vintage shotguns passed down from previous generations? Training dogs and seeing the work pay off?  The birds flushing?

Some take up upland hunting as a hobby. Or just a form of hunting that fills in field time between deer season and duck season, etc. Something that they do a couple of days out of the month in October. Casual upland hunters. Nothing wrong with that! God bless those guys! But a select few of us take it a bit further than just a hobby. People like us have a hard time sometimes describing to others why we have this passion. Our loved ones have long given up understanding. It’s not just a hobby for us.

The Japanese word “Jutsu” or “Jitsu” can roughly be translated to “the technique of” or “the art of“. The Japanese people and culture have a long history and dedication to the arts. Whether that art be floral arrangements, tea ceremonies, or the fighting arts, the Japanese have always dedicated themselves to whichever art they pursued. In general, Japanese arts all share similar goals and attributes that the student would pursue. Serenity. Body & Mind Harmony. Awareness. And a sense of connection to others and nature. Have you ever seen the meticulous attention to detail in a tea ceremony or the preparation and training involved in martial arts? Complete dedication, respect for the art. The pursuit bettering oneself in the art is never-ending. I can relate.

If you are reading this blog, you probably get it too. Upland hunting is an art form. A way of life. Bettering ourselves in a world that has forgotten that art goes beyond paintbrush or music. Some of us, like the Samurai of Japan, have dedicated a part of our lives in preparation. No. Not for battle, but for the pursuit of the various species of flying-feathered rockets in our neck of the woods. Like a Shogun Warlord, we strategize and scout the territory in search of good habitat months in advance of the season. Throughout the year we hone our skill, not with the katana, but with shotguns and clay targets. Our boots get oiled and our vests get waxed, much like how the Japanese warrior paid meticulous attention to his own armor.

This is Uplandjitsu.

This blog will follow my own journey in the Art of Upland Hunting. I will cover my own personal experiences, thoughts and ideas. I will also take time to review some gear for upland hunters. And if interested, I will provide tips for hunting. I hope you all enjoy these endeavors with me. I would love to hear your comments or questions about this blog or about upland hunting!

May you all have a blessed and prosperous New Year! God bless!