NEBRASKAland December 2018

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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40 NEBRASKAland • DECEMBER 2018 O n a frosty November morning, Dad and I dumped my English pointer, Tippet, into a short draw that reliably holds a covey of quail. As we walked the perimeter, the icy earth squeaked under our boots and we watched the dog bound through the brome grass. When she went on point in a tangled plum thicket, I stomped around, kicking branches and breaking limbs until a covey exploded from the backside. Neither of us had a shot, but Dad saw where the birds came down. When we brought the dog over, she instantly locked up on point again. This time the covey was spread out and flushed in two bunches about 10 yards apart. I shot a bird on the covey rise, then swung on a second that came down just out of sight. My dad also shot a pair, and I took my young pointer to where they had come down. She quickly found the first three, but after another 20 minutes of searching, we couldn't find the fourth. Finally, Tippet pointed 30 yards from where I thought the bird was, and when I kicked expecting to flush a single, I found the final bird. Even though the shot had looked clean, the quail managed to move a good distance and wedge itself under a thick layer of grass. If it hadn't been for the dog, we would have never found it. That day reinforced the importance of reading a bird's reaction to a shot. Nebraska has a wide range of upland hunting opportunities, and with this year's Nebraska Upland Slam, there has never been a better time to brush up on your upland hunting skills. The following descriptions should be helpful in determining how well you hit the bird, what it's likely to do after the shot and what you should do to recover it. Birds That Come Down Dead Puffball: These birds erupt in an explosion of feathers and immediately fold up and drop with their head down. They are the easiest to recover because they usually remain where they land and don't bury themselves in the cover. If you are hunting with a dog, get it slightly downwind of where you saw the bird come down. It shouldn't take much effort to find it. Pinwheel: The bird tumbles head over tail, tries to set its wings, but spins sideways like a pinwheel. These birds drop headfirst and are dead before they hit the ground. Anytime a bird drops headfirst is a sign it was a clean kill – the way you want them to be. Sky Rocket: These birds fly straight up in the air when shot. They can climb a good distance, but then fold up and tumble back to the earth. This is especially common with pheasants and grouse. It's a rarity, but this can also happen with gliding birds. On a grouse hunt several years ago, my hunting partner had a bird glide 200 yards before suddenly falling like it hit a wall. After a brief walk, it was laying right where it fell. I think these birds are dead but don't know it yet. They are running on pure adrenaline, but when it runs out it's like an engine grinding to a stop. Flinching: You think you missed, but the bird made a slight cringe before continuing on its way. These birds show little reaction to the shot. Flinching birds are a prime example of why you should watch as long as possible. They might not respond immediately, but soon their flight starts to become erratic. Larger birds such as grouse and pheasants will hit the ground running or be lying dead where they fell. The only way to find out is to make a good mark and get the dog downwind. More often than not, these birds were hit in a major blood vessel. Unlike a squarely hit bird that dies from trauma, these bleed out in the air and eventually die from hemorrhaging. Birds That Come Down Alive Cartwheel: Rather than the pinwheel described above where the bird spins sideways, these birds tumble head over tail. Many people take this to be a sign of a clean hit, but if the bird's head is up, it's still alive. A broken wing causes birds to cartwheel, but once on the ground birds can survive a long time with a broken wing. If you can't get a The difference between a clean kill and a wounded bird isn't black and white By Ryan Sparks Reading Upland Hits

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