Upland Season Checklist – 2017

UplandCheckList.jpg

I get a lot of questions from new hunters about what gear I carry into the field every season. If you read The Beginner’s Guide to Upland Hunting – Part 2, you may have a good idea of what gear I consider essential on my hunts. Much of the gear I use is affordable or can be acquired secondhand. You don’t have to go broke and a lot this can be acquired over time and will last a lifetime if taken care of properly.

Here’s a peek at the gear I am using for the 2017 California Upland Opener:

 

Guns & Ammo, etc.

Ithaca Model 37 (12 Gauge)

Remington 870 Express (12 Gauge), w/extra chokes

Federal Ammunition “Game Load” #6, 1 oz

Federal Ammunition “Heavy Field Load” #6, 1-1/4 oz

Clenzoil CLPClenzoil CLP

Cleaning Rod, Cleaning Tools and patches

Buck Knives 194 Skinner (discontinued)

Benchmade 810 Contego

 

Clothing

Pendleton Outback Hat

Shooting Glasses

Filson Tin Gamebag (Classic Version)

Pendleton Board Shirt

Under Armour Tech Shirt (x3)

Under Armour Compression Shorts (x3)

Dickies Carpenter Pants (Duck Canvas)

REI Wool Hiking Socks (x3)

Orvis Kevlar Lined Upland Gloves

Orvis Water Bottle Holder

Redwings “Irish Setter” Non-Insulated Boots

Bandanas (2 to 3)

Gadgets

Android Note w/ OnX Hunt Maps

GoPro Hero5

GoPro Batteries (x2)

GoPro Head Mount

Goalzero Flip 30 charger

Black Diamond Headlamp

Extra AAA batteries

Weaver 10×42 Binoculars

BLM/Forest/Trail Maps

 

Comfort & Sleepy Time

Foldable Camp Chair

Sleeping Bag

Hudson Bay wool throw blanket

Traditional Mexican Falsa blanket

 

Camp Cooking

Igloo Wheelie Cool

Coleman Triton Stove

Coleman Propane Bottles (x2)

Box of matches

Lodge Cast Iron Pan

Cooking Tongs/Spatula

Reusable Plastic Plates and Utensils

Ceramic Enamel Camping Pot and Mugs

Stanley 24 oz Classic Food Jar

Two 20 oz water bottles

Frozen Gallon of Water

Coleman LED Camp Lamp

Large ZipLoc Bags

Latex Gloves

Trash Bags

 

CYA Gear

Basic First Aid Kit

Ibuprofen

Allergy Medicine

Tweezers

Eye Glasses

Eye Glass Repair Kit

Extra Rx Contacts

Basic Tool Kit

 

The above gear fits easily in two duffel bags (aside from the shotguns, which have their own cases). Quail Camp is a 2-3day excursion for me and I carefully plan out meals and ensure that I bring enough water, which is especially needed on those warm early season days in October. As mentioned in a previous blog entry, it is a great idea to create a checklist for all your gear, before your upland hunting trip. This will help ensure you do not forget loading any gear into your vehicle. just check it off as it is loaded!

 

God Bless and Happy Hunting!

-J.R.

 

Beginner’s Guide To Upland Hunting – Part 4: The Hunt and After

 

agreatseason_2017.jpg

Excitement and adrenaline. It’s normal. The sleepless 5 hours passed by like molasses on a cold day. The alarm blares and you snap out of bed and hit the alarm before it wakes a grumpy bear in your bed. 3am! Up and at ‘em! If ever there was an Olympic sport for International Quick Dressing, you would be a Gold Medalist!

You meticulously picked out every bit of gear and had the truck packed the morning before. You have been waiting nearly a year for this moment! You jump into your rig start the engine, as it idles your mind goes through a checklist. Shotgun. Ammo. Vest. License. Cooler. Stove. Blankets. Do I have enough food? Water? Crap… I gotta stop for gas before hitting the road…

The morning is chilly. No one is up at 3am. You hope your neighbors don’t call the cops, thinking you are a robber as you sneak through your equipment in the back of your truck, giving it a once and twice over. You try your best not to rattle pots and pans. The neighbor’s dog starts barking. So much for leaving quietly and unnoticed.

You glance at your watch. You’re running late. You head back into the house. You kiss your loved one’s goodbye while they sleep and feel just a little guilty for leaving them for the weekend. You are going to have blast. You just know it. Regardless if you come back with birds or not, you’re going to get to spend some time in some beautiful country… for what? Birds? Adventure? Maybe to reconnect with nature, yourself, or maybe even God. It’s a time to reenergize. A time to get back into your groove. Let off some steam. Wrestle with some ideas. Look for direction. Reinvent yourself. Challenge yourself. Or do a spiritual overhaul. Whatever it is. It’s going to be good. The birds. The land. The journey. All of these will shape you. You will fall in love. You will obsess about chasing birds through the uplands the rest of your life. And that day is finally here.

Opening day!

 

 

This might very well be your first time heading out on your first DIY upland hunt. Assuming that you followed along on the previous articles of the “Beginner’s Guide To Upland Hunting” (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), chances are that you are pretty new to upland hunting, although you seasoned hunters may also enjoy reading this and hopefully walk away with some tips you never thought of. In particular, this guide caters to new upland hunters and especially those hunters that have no bird dog. This is likely the case for most upland hunters who are just getting into the art. Or you just might be a stubborn guy like me and enjoys hunting without a dog (nearly 15 years). So, hang on tight! Take some notes. And have some fun out there.

 

The Hunt

First things are first. Be sure you carry your license on you at all times while hunting. You took that hunter-safety course… remember what you learned! Safety first! Keep your safety on and keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot! Always be sure about what you are shooting at and beyond! Wear blaze orange, especially if you are hunting with others. If you happen to be hunting with others, be clear about where you will be positioned and do not deviate from your agreed shooting lanes if you are hunting near buddies. If you are hunting with someone who is allowing you to shoot over their dogs, be sure you are clear about how and when to shoot and never shoot at ground level. Bring enough shells. If you are planning on being out a good part of the day, bring two boxes worth of shells in your pockets (about 50 shells… what? I never said I was a great shot!). Remember, it’s not about bag limits. People that brag about that are missing the point of upland hunting. Lastly, this is an art. This is wing shooting. Never ground sluice a bird. You may be new to this, but it is no excuse. If you want to do things the easy way, get a dog. Now onto chasing some birds through the uplands!

So… Hopefully you were able to get some scouting done well before heading out on opening day. Chances of successfully seeing and getting opportunities to shoot some birds drastically fall if you have not scouted prior to the season starting. This is true of any species. Big Game. Small Game. Or Upland Game. Period.

Wait. What? Don’t tell me you didn’t scout?!? Well, it’s not completely FUBAR if that was the case… life happens and we get busy… but next year do your best to get out scouting! Say it with me… “I will scout next season”. We’ll chat later about this. I’m not mad. Just disappointed. For those of you who did your due diligence, HIGH-FIVE! The odds are in your favor.

Now, if you are spending a few days out, I always recommend heading out the day before the season starts if you can manage it. This gives you ample time to set up camp and even do a little scouting. Yes. For those of you that did not scout prior to the season, you have a chance to do a quick crash scouting session. Keep scouting within a small general area and try not to waste too much time scouting areas wide and apart. It’s a waste of gas and will only lead to frustration (this is why it is important to scout way in advance!). Hopefully, you are very lucky and see some birds you can hunt the following day. If not, opening day will be a scout while you hunt kinda day and won’t be as fun.

For the rest of you, arriving a day early allows you to do some scouting in surrounding areas, or maybe you had some doubts about the area and want to check some other areas. This far into the game, I do not recommend switching spots. Try to stay within the vicinity of the original area you had planned to hunt. If you scouted there prior and saw birds, chances they will be in and around that area. Circumstances may change, however. I get that. If you do some scouting on the day before the hunt, ensure that you are not doing any hard pursuing of the birds and try to make as little noise as possible. Completely refrain from shooting at other game that might be in season in this area. You are sure to spook birds and get them moving out of the area before the season even starts!

The main reason why I come out a day early before the opener is to get a feel on how much hunter pressure will be in an area, as well as claiming a camping spot. As a public land hunter, we have to contend with these factors. Even when you think you are far out enough and there is no guarantee other hunters will not show up. Do not put it past a Lazy-Hunter seeing your truck and parking in right behind you, joining you in the field. I also, as I mentioned, use the time to lightly scout the areas surrounding my chosen hunting spot. This allows me other areas to hunt in the case other hunters have shown up at my spot. If I see a bunch of trucks on opening day, I just head down the list of other areas as needed, instead of scrambling to find a new spot.

On that note. Be respectful of other hunters and give them space if you encounter them in the field. When I see other hunters, I wave, say hello and ask where they are hunting. I will head the opposite way. Safety is paramount. There are more than enough birds. And these lands are here for us to share. To all the Lazy-Hunters out there… quit being lazy! If you see someone’s vehicle parked on the side of the road, head down some ways. Do not enter the same field where other hunters at are at. Yield to other hunters already there. Find another spot or turn away in another direction! Oh, and pick up your damn spent shells!

On opening day, I like to set out for my spot well before the sun rises. I am usually at my hunting destination by 4am or 5am at the latest. This not only ensures my spot is “claimed”, but also gives me time to warm up some coffee, eat a little breakfast and get my gear together, quietly. I will get out of my car anywhere from 30-45 minutes before legal-shooting time and be very quiet when closing doors, etc. I do not want to overly alert birds to my presence or educate them to sounds of my arrival as best as I can. Birds get educated to sounds as the season progresses. So, keep that in mind. Taking time and effort to be quiet will improve your chances of getting into birds before they are fully aware of you being there.

You may choose to walk into the field as soon as you can see, but be aware of legal shooting times per your hunting regulations. I normally will walk into the uplands about 5-15 minutes before legal shooting time. Most birds are still roosting, but my experience is, as soon as the sun comes up, they are moving. I know many people who prefer to hunt in the later morning, catching the birds at breakfast. As a hunter who does not use a hunting dog, I find that catching the birds as unaware as possible works in my favor and I prefer to hunt them earlier just as they are moving out of roosts.

Quail are small and only appear smaller at a distance. A keen-eyed hunter will scan the bottoms of brush and open spaces. They move surprisingly fast on their feet. Their coloration is a perfect blend that allows them to hide in areas that are often in plain view. Look for quick, jerky movements. As a predator, your eyes are sensitive to these movements. Take your time as you scan the landscape. Look from side to side and behind you at times. It is very easy to walk past these birds and once you have, they take advantage by running or flying away. I cannot express how slow and easy you should go. Take your time!

You should take time to listen to recordings of different quail sounds. Listening is something many upland hunters do not often do and instead trudge along making noise and babbling on about football and other crap. SHHHH! Stay quiet. Listen. Be deliberate. Move slow. Quail and other upland birds can be very vocal. Quail, especially, give off nervous pips and assembly calls that will alert you to their locations. The nervous pips of quail tell me that they are about ready to bolt by running or flushing and are aware of my presence. That’s when I move in fast! Quail often huddle in thick brush and bushes. These shrubs will often have a bit of an opening for them to run under, but thick enough up top to keep predators from reaching in and grabbing them.

Quail will flush as a group. This is one of their best defenses against predators aside from running. The flush is designed to confuse predators (that’s you!) and works. Effectively. The flush still gets me. It’s loud and fast… and instead of allowing you to focus on one bird, you focus on the mass. This is how you miss. Instead, resist the temptation to shoot at the “blob” and focus on one bird. Easier said than done. But with practice, you will start knocking birds down.

After a covey flushes, they will usually split off from the group. You may think you are chasing the covey as it runs, but secretly birds are peeling off in other directions and you will soon be chasing a nothing but dust. This is your opportunity to shoot some “singles”. After I bust a covey, I usually let them scatter if I feel they are flying too far off and away. Instead of chasing them up and down hills, I will make them come to me. I hunker down and get real low. I will find an area where I can sit and try not to get spotted by “sentries”. These birds sit high on a perch and will warn other birds of your presence. The second part of this strategy after busting up a covey is calling quail back. Quail are communal birds and they do not like being left alone for very long. Valley Quail and Gambel’s Quail both have a similar “assembly call”.  When they think the coast is clear, they will call to other quail, which sounds like someone whistling “Chicago”. In some variation it kinda sounds like: “Chi-ki-Chi-ki-Chi-ca-go-Chi-ca-go”. You will hear it when you are out there, but take some time to sit at home on front of the computer and look up these calls on YouTube. Try to emulate it. I will call for about 15-20 minutes after a covey flushes. In this time, you may hear other quail call back, you may see singles actually run all the way back to you. You can pick off singles by standing up quickly, which startles them, and hopefully they flush. If not, they will likely begin to run, in which case I safely run towards them in an attempt to get them in the air. I have picked off 5 quail in a row (my all-time best) trying this strategy.

If you have been sitting longer than 20 minutes, chances are birds are moving in a different direction, or they may be moving towards you and you cannot see them. It’s time to get back on your feet and after them. You may be surprised to see a few birds you had not seen suddenly appear and flush surprisingly close where you were just sitting. In order to take advantage of getting into some singles, you will find that going slow and steady is the way to go (again). This pace often makes birds flush. I like to think they find your slow and deliberate walk unnerving. Since you are hunting without a dog, you have to cover a lot more ground than a hunter with a dog would have to cover. I hike in a zig-zag pattern, backtrack and I will often kick the base of shrubs to get birds to flush. I stop often and listen and look around for where birds may be moving, which may be only a few steps ahead of you. In those moments where I see birds and they do not flush, I again use the tactic of carefully running towards them to get them flush (this is why it was important that you worked on your cardio!).

For birds that are stubborn and stay lodged in heavy brush and kicking or shaking the bush will not get them to budge, I will often throw a stick or small rock into the bush. If this does not get them airborne, and you have shells to spare, I will sometimes let off a round right over the bush and this usually gets a stubborn bird into the air. Use this technique sparingly, safely and only if you are 100% sure a bird is in there.

There is nothing like a bird flushing, a perfect shotgun mount, and a blast of feathers. The end result is a harvested bird in your hand and that means you did everything perfectly. Let’s get real though, you are taking a life, albeit a small life, but a life nonetheless. Be respectful of your quarry and do everything in your might to ensure there is little to no suffering. I tend to use heavier rounds like #6’s to ensure I get minimal cripples. In my early days of upland hunting, I used primarily #7-1/2’s and saw many cripples and unfortunately some that I was never able to recover. Since using #6’s I have reduced the number of cripples dramatically. That is not to say, it does not happen.

If you encounter a bird that is crippled, do your best to run up to it and grab it (this is where gloves come in handy, especially if you are hunting in the desert). You may have to mercifully dispatch a bird that is suffering. There are a few methods out there, but I prefer to grab the bird by the base of the head/neck between both my index fingers and thumbs. While your index fingers and thumbs are touching and grasping the bird by the neck, you can twist in opposite directions or gently but quickly pull apart. This does a great job of snapping neck or severing the spinal cord. Quick and easy. That is our aim.

In the event that you smack a bird down and it goes running or attempts to flap away into some rocks or very dense brush, and there is just no way you will recover it, I say that it is okay to shoot a bird on the ground. Take note, that this should only be done safely and at longer distances. This is the one and only time I believe it to be acceptable to ground sluice a bird. People may not agree or like that I condone this, but I would rather ensure that I put bird down for good and that does not suffer or go to waste. Hunting without a dog does have its challenges and many would argue this is the prefect reason why you should hunt with a dog. I respectfully don’t agree and do just fine without a dog and I take every step to ensure I recover birds and sometimes those methods are a little extreme… but effective.

A great rule of thumb to ensuring you recover all birds you shoot, is to mark the bird after you connect with it. Watch where it falls and ensure it is down. It is easy to get distracted and lose track of a bird after you shoot it and lose it. Their camouflage is that good! Marking a bird as it goes down can be done by looking for the nearest landmark where it landed. If the bird is not in plain view, you may even want to refrain from shooting other birds until you recover the one you just shot. If you lose track of a bird, try to stay within the general area and give it a thorough combing. Ask yourself, did you see a puff of feathers, did you see it land? Did it move much after? Quail are tough birds, despite their size. It is essential that you do your best to mark and retrieve before moving into more birds. It takes a lot of discipline. Some birds may move to the closest shrub and die shortly after, so please keep this mind if you end up searching for a downed bird. I have spent nearly two hours looking for a bird I was sure I hit. Quail were still flushing all around me but I kept a level head. I never found that bird and it killed me inside a little. But at least I can honestly say to myself, my ethics and diligence were not lost that day.

 

After the Hunt

So, it is mid-afternoon and you are packing it in! Your game bag is a bit heavier than it was this morning and you cannot wait to crack open a beer and grill some bratwurst back at camp. There is some business at hand before the festivities and celebrations, however. Those little trophies in your game bag need to get cooled ASAP. The early days of the season are likely to be in a weird weather transition. Early autumn days are cool in the morning and hot during the afternoon, typically. The birds you harvested should be okay for a few hours, but as soon as you can, they need to be thrown on some ice.

I will let birds cool off by inserting them into a large Ziploc bag. Whole. Feathers and all. I then stick them into my cooler and ensure they do not get wet. Enjoy your lunch and beer. After about an hour or so, I take them out and prepare them for processing. Having a good sharp knife and portable cutting table will save you a ton of hassle. Cutlery shears are optional, but very helpful for cutting through wings and legs.

Before I start… it is my duty to tell you that the proper way to process a quail or any other upland bird is to keep the bird intact and with the skin on. Yes, that means extra work, but it’s the best way to honor your quarry! Besides, breasting birds is a waste of perfectly good meat. Skinning saves you time, but you are eliminating a barrier of thin fat that keeps the bird moist when you cook it. Your choice. But in my opinion, it cooks better and tastes better.

After your birds are cooled, you may begin the process of plucking (or skinning). I usually leave the heads intact and start from the chest down. I will also leave legs and wings attached just in case a game warden wants to see them (see your local regulations for similar requirements). Plucking is a bit of an art form itself and requires some patience. I pull small patches out and go with the grain to ensure minimal damage to the delicate skin starting from the chest down and to the back. The back skin tends to be a bit more sturdier and you can go against the grain if necessary. The larger feathers on the tails can be pulled out as well. Depending on your preference, you can cut the wings off when you get home of take the time to pluck them. I usually cut them at the first joint and pluck the rest. From here on, your bird should be mostly plucked. You will find there are many thin feathers that look like hair that you cannot just get off. It is perfectly safe to cook and eat these birds as is, but if it bothers you, a small torch can singe them right off.

Some people collect these feathers, as do I, for crafts or for fly tying (another hobby I hope to try out when I retire…). You may choose to do the same for yourself or maybe give them as gifts to your favorite fly tier. Make sure no blood, skin or meat is on them and stick in small baggies.

Now that your bird is naked, you may now remove the head. Now is a good time to start becoming a great upland hunter in the making and search for the bird’s crop. A crop is a small pouch that is part of a bird’s digestive system where food is stored. The contents, if any, will tell you what the bird was eating prior to death. Now that you have some clues, you can now play detective and figure out where birds may be hanging out geographically! This information will help you immensely in the future.

You may now proceed to remove the “guts” of your bird. The best way to get into the innards is by cutting just at the base of the sternum (breast) with your knife. This opens the cavity up and with a gentle pull, you can separate the hip area from the breast, giving you better access into the body cavity. By hooking your finger inside, you can pull out the majority of the entrails down and out. They should now be hanging at the base of the birds tail. I then cut a v-shaped notch on the tail, which eliminates the cloaca (butthole… for lack of a better term) and the entrails (This year I may cut some quail down the back for grilling. I will let you know how that turns out!). I personally feel that the gizzard and heart of quail are just too small to keep so I usually just throw those out. Bury everything you are not keeping as far away as possible to keep vermin and other scavengers from prowling your camp.

Birds should be given a decent rinsing initially after processing to wash out small feathers, blood, etc. Take some time to pull out any embedded shot that you might see at this point as well. I like to dry my bird with some paper towels before putting them back into the cooler to delay bacteria growth as much as possible. When you get home, give them a more thorough rinsing, cleaning and drying. By now you should remove feet and wings. I like to wrap my birds up in wax paper and label the dates they were harvested and place them in freezer bags. In the next few months or so, I will post some recipes, but you can find some great recipes online. There are various ways to cook an upland bird, be adventurous (no bacon)!

So that’s it! Enjoy your adventures out in the uplands! I hope this series was helpful to you! I don’t claim to be an upland master, but hope that some of the tactics I use and that work for me help make your upland hunting endeavors enjoyable. I would love to hear about what worked for you and what didn’t! I am also here to answer any questions or provide more clarity! I hope you have a great season this year and many more seasons to follow!

As always… 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 3: Scouting and Preparation

howto3b.jpg

By August and September, we are only a couple months away from Upland Hunting season. By now, we established that you want to be an Upland Hunter and we have gone over some of the gear you might need (see Part 1 & Part 2). Hopefully, over the past few months, you began to stockpile ammo and maybe even purchased a new shotgun! You may have been antsy throughout summer, wondering what you could do during the anticipation before opening day.

Prepare.

Opening day will be here sooner than you think! Chasing birds through the timber and the hills until sundown sounds great and all, but certain things need to be done to make your hunt enjoyable and successful. Are you in shape physically? Have you dusted off the shotgun and taken it to the range? Do you have all the gear you need? What about your license? Do you even know where to hunt? Do you even know if birds will be there? ARE YOU READY???

Well, as always, I am here to help! Read along and I will cover some important steps and factors that should be done or considered before any season starts!

Scouting

Most of us get into some type of hunting by having someone introducing you into it. I grew up deer hunting, but I was completely oblivious to upland hunting until much later in my life. Those of you that have any type of hunting background already know that scouting is an integral part of a successful hunt. Those of you who may be completely new to hunting have an opportunity of taking your first few steps into this lifestyle and getting into some coveys! You’re going to love this journey! I’m excited for you… I praise you, but would also like to warn you, especially if you have zero outdoors experience… get some first aid education, maybe even a outdoors navigation course at REI, or take someone with you the first time around! It took me a few years to learn how to navigate the wilderness on my own. Safety first!

Better yet… invite a salty ol’ veteran hunter on a scouting trip or ask if you can go along with them on their scouting own excursion. Most hunters (including myself) guard their hunting grounds with ferocity. I will tell you now… don’t ever ask a hunter where they specifically hunt and expect them to spill the beans. You haven’t earned it. You did not put in the time or the gas money. Many seasoned hunters would love to take you along with them scouting, however, you need to prove yourself and your passion. Show them that you are dedicated and not just trying to be a lazy hunter sniffing out spots to hunt. Get to know this veteran. Get up early with them. Plan where to scout. Learn the in’s and out’s. Help by buying gas or picking up lunch. You just might make a lifelong friend and hunting partner. You may even get to hunt those secret spots. So be sure to nice and courteous. These guys and gals are invaluable assets to your new upland hunting career.

Some upland hunting seminars area available to newbies. Check your local Bass Pro Shop or Cabela’s for dates. These often cost a minimal fee and provide you with tips and locations of where water guzzlers are.

Join your local Quail Forever Chapter (or other Upland bird related conservation groups) and get to know some of the people there. Again, these ol’ veterans can sniff out lazy hunters who are just trying to pry away secret hunting spots. Most will stay tight lipped until you can prove yourself. Become a full-fledged member. Volunteer. Head out to some of the habitat and guzzler restoration projects and soon you will find yourself rubbing elbows with some upland hunting masters! Quail intel is bound to come! You may even find some guys that are willing to let you hunt over their dogs (if you are into that kind of thing)….

For the rest of you loners (like me) … you are gonna have to earn it on your own. Sweat. Blood. Tears. Gas.

First thing is first. Check your states hunting regulations. Most of these tell you what kind of birds are around your area and where to find them. That’s a great first start. Using the internet or social media is also a great way to get pointed to the right direction if you do not have a mentor, but keep in mind that most people are not going to tell you exactly where to go. Aside from that… any leads or information you might find, just remember it’s on the internet, where literally millions of people congregate for information! Unless you are desperate and want to risk crowded hunting grounds, I would avoid hunting these areas. Use it for general information. There are plenty of wide open public land to hunt birds, especially out west!

Your local BLM office should have plenty of maps where you can hunt and you can also buy them online. Look for hunting/shooting maps at sporting goods stores. These will tell you specifically where you can hunt and shoot and other limitations. I also pick up a few National Forest road maps to find long lost truck trails that lead out further.

As you study these maps, you might also want to introduce some technology into your pre-scouting. I use a combination of Google Maps and Google Earth to get good ideas of the landscape. I can identify water sources and even habitat that birds might use.

Once you identify an area you may be interested in hunting, it’s time to go test your theory. It is vital you give yourself enough time to scout these areas well before the season begins. So, give yourself plenty of time. I personally believe that scouting too early in the year will not give you the results you always want when hunting season begins. Most birds have seasonal ranges, even in arid habitats. The prime time to scout is in August and September (even early October if your season starts a little later). Quail begin to start congregating into larger coveys by the end of summer. Finding birds closer to the season usually means you will find them again, right where you left them just in time for the season, especially if water and food is near.

People are going to think you are crazy… but bring out some binoculars or a spotting scope. The name of the game is to identify if birds are in the area. It helps to physically see them in their natural habitat and you may learn a thing or two about their behavior. Glassing for quail also serves another purpose. These are wild and suspicious birds. Tromping around and spooking the birds may make them super weary by the time you are ready to hunt or may outright scare them over to the next county. Keep your distance.

Understanding what quail or other upland birds need to survive is important to the scouting process. Begin to identify what your quarry considers ideal habitat and food. Do some research. What do they use for cover? Where do they roost? Etc. Where I hunt quail, I know they love juniper berries and other plants that produce seeds or green leaves. Ant mounds also make good fast food joints for quail. I look for areas below foothills that our sandy and offer dense scrub brush for predator evasion. Try to identify roost areas by scouting early before the sun comes up, but, again, be sure to not spook them too much. Like turkeys, quail and other upland birds have one or a few dedicated areas that they roost in. They will return there throughout the season, in most cases, unless they are too pressured.

Listen for quail calls (other upland birds have their own distinct calls, so research!). Their assembly call sounds like “Chi-caa! Chi-caa-goo! Chi-caa-goo”! It is one of the most iconic sounds of the west! Depending on your state, it may be illegal outside of hunting season, but if not, try a quail call to locate birds.

If you are able and have the time, try to scout the area you plan to hunt at least a couple of times before the season starts, just to be sure the birds are holding.

I personally do not like hunting around water sources (some regulations even make this practice illegal, or there are limitations on how long you can hunt an area that has a water source… check your regs). I like to identify where these areas are for my FYI, so I know what direction birds might travel to and from throughout the day when the season starts.

Another tool that tech-savvy hunters might want to consider is onX Maps. It utilizes many of the informational tools and maps mentioned above in one app for your phone. You can save maps for offline usage in the event you have no mobile signal. Mark waypoints and points of interest. If you already have a GPS, they also sell their map-cards at some sporting goods stores. Great tool! I still use a combination of physical maps just in case, however, because batteries do run out!

*Note: The further you walk away from the roads and the more miles you put in the better, says I. Stay within your comfort level, however, and be sure you are comfortable navigating the terrain or you have a buddy with you, especially you beginners. If you are willing to get furthest from the roads (where most lazy hunters will stay within a mile of) you are more likely to bump into more birds that some hunters are unwilling to hike and work for. “Low hanging fruit” is great, but there is also a lot more competition there. Work for it. You will be much more satisfied with your results!

 

Get into “Hunting Shape”

I like tacos. I like pizza. I like nachos. I also partake in a cheeseburger or two. I also do not work out as much as I probably should and those bush pants are feeling (filling) a little tight just right before the season. If you are like me, you need to start kicking things into high gear… like now!

Even those of you who are diligent enough to always be in tip-top shape (or perhaps you have not discovered GREAT tacos… come see me!) can still benefit from ramping up your work out regiments!

Now, I do not claim to be a nutritionist or even a health guru (clearly!), but as a former Junior High and High School Wrestler and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, I feel I might know a thing or two about getting ready for competition (and cutting a little weight)! First thing is first! Cut out the junk food! Eat cleaner. Try to stay away from pastas, bread, sugar, and yes…. even beer! That’s hard. I know. You are speaking to the choir! But, I promise you… after a hard-earned opening day, you can throw up your feet, we will crack open a beer together, slap each other on the back… and heck, I will even share one of my infamous camp style Papas y Chorizo burritos with you… it will be worth it! In the meantime… eat lots of lean meats like chicken and fish and fresh vegetables and nuts! Modify as necessary, but don’t give into the junk food!

A focus on cardio and stamina is a must. Do not underestimate these birds or the terrain. They will have you going up and down hills and running, especially if you are after western birds! Happens every year and every year I wished that I would have put in a little more work! Running is a good option. I hate running, so hiking or even walking briskly with a full backpack on or pushing a stroller with a 20-odd pound toddler in it will suffice. Whatever you do… push yourself! Get that heart-rate going! Sweat! Cardio at the minimum should be done at least twice a week… but push yourself to do more if you can. Use that gym membership if you have it and go to town on the treadmill or on that stationary bike!

I have never been big fan of weights. You may have a regiment of your own that incorporates them… GREAT! Go on with your bad self and pump some iron! Shoulder and arm strength fatigue may occur after a long day in the filed carrying an 9-pound shotgun and gear-filled vest. I personally focus on plank walk-outs and push-ups for my upper body and over-head presses with a light weight/high rep (kettlebells work great for this work out).

Leg work is often overlooked. If you want to avoid having trembling legs halfway up a hill, you would be wise to add some leg work outs to your upland hunting preparation. I keep it simple and do a good number of squats and lunges. This build a lot of those bending and kneeling muscles you might encounter on those hills! There are several versions of these exercises, so find the one that is best for you. YouTube is great source for finding some great workout ideas.

Ideally, you want to give yourself anywhere from 6-8 weeks for your body to accept the changes in your diet and activity and to see results!

Range Time

Well, here is a fun part of the preparation phase! Who doesn’t like to shoot? Now I am not talking about taking a bunch of watermelons to the range and shooting them to smithereens! I am talking about sporting clays or any other variation of clay shooting sports. Sporting clays, in general, mimics live bird shooting. I prefer this type of shooting… because it keeps you sharp and prepares you for some likely wild bird scenarios! You are exercising your senses and building muscle memory. The more you shoot, the better you will be at shooting the target you intend to shoot.

Not all of us have the time to head to the field every weekend. Not an issue. At minimum, have at least one refresher course to knock the dust off your bead sight and to get yourself used to the feel of your shotgun’s weight and recoil.

Practice mounting your shotgun often. I was given some advice that I feel has improved my overall shooting. Try to mount your shotgun and aim it in one smooth motion. You can even practice this at home, being sure that your shotgun is unloaded and pointing it in safe directions, of course!

Check Your Gear

In our last segment, we went over what kind of gear you will need for your upland hunt. By now you should have everything, or be close to having everything. Don’t wait to the last minute. It would be a great idea to check your gear and ensure it fits or works properly, if you have not done so already. Check for wear on your clothes and boots. Ensure items like your vest, jacket and pants are waterproofed, if necessary. Anything that needs to be replaced should happen soon!

Make sure you have enough of everything like batteries, ammo and socks. Those are very important items that get overlooked!

Buy a License

Did you forget something? Hopefully by now, you are a fully legal hunter and already took your hunter safety course. If not, what the heck are you waiting for???

Once that is done, go out and buy your hunting license! Walmart, Bass Pro, Big 5 all are major license agents. Make sure that you purchase any necessary upland game stamps. Here in California, it is an additional cost.

Now that you have your license, stick it in your wallet and do not remove it until the season ends!

Planning Your Hunt

At this point, you should start planning the specifics of your hunt. You did some scouting and found some birds or at least some signs that birds are in the area. Your gear is tip-top and now you have your license. You are getting into hunting shape and you are also practicing at the range.

If you are hunting with anyone, be sure to be on the same page about times and dates. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting around for someone to show up at your meeting spot on opening day and everyone else is already out hunting. Verify and re-verify! Make them commit. Be clear about expectations.

Be 100% sure what areas you will hunt. Give yourself an alternative location just in case the first one is a bust, but I always urge people to at least hunt their area a few times in the day before calling it quits. Be familiar with the areas as much as you can. Stick to your plan. Last minute and rash decisions lead to frustration.

If you are camping out and staying out a few days, ensure that you are prepared to have enough food and water and appropriate clothing and shelter (sleeping in your vehicle or tent, etc). Know what days you plan to be out and let your work and family members know ahead of time.

I always leave a note with my wife that provides info about where I am hunting, for how long and when to consider me overdue. I also add information for the nearest ranger station and law enforcement, just in case. It is a good idea that you do the same. As you research and scout, many of the maps have this information or you can find it online. Provide basic info about where you will be hunting and any alternative sights you may go to. Do not deviate from your plan unless you can let someone know.

Make a List… Check it Twice!

Lastly, it is a good idea to make a list of all your equipment and gear. This list should be used to check off equipment as you load it up or stage it on or before opening day. It will save you a hassle! A cautionary tale: This past Spring, I headed out on a turkey hunt and loaded all my gear. List? “I don’t need no stinking list”! 3 hours away from my home and civilization, setting up camp, is when I realized that I forgot my sleeping bag and blankets. It was an unusually cold Spring day… the night, even colder! I spent the night in 38-degree weather freezing my butt off. Yep. I won’t ever think I am above having a check list, again. Ever.

As you begin to compile your list, you may find that you forgot something crucial, so these lists work great in that way too!

 

Are you excited? We are almost there! Just a few more weeks away! If there are any questions you might have on topics regarding preparing for your hunt that I may have missed, please feel free to leave me a comment or shoot us an e-mail at uplandjitsu@gmail.com, I love helping out people who are new to the Art of Upland Hunting!

 

God Bless and Happy Hunting!

-JR

 

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 2: Essential Gear

HowTo2

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?

Blog

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 and months we will cover the following:

              Part 2: Gear

              Part 3: Scouting and Preparation

              Part 4: The Hunt and After

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!

hr621.jpg

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

habitat

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!