Thursday, December 31, 2009

Skunked.

No quail. Saw plenty, but the birds were flushing either 1) well out of shotgun range, or 2) all out of heavy cover and of course opposite of my avenue of approach. I'm guessing by this point in the season, especially with folks hunting closer to home, that these birds are pretty skittish. I know the pheasant were acting pretty much the same way up to the end of the season.

Normally I see quail holding in cover, both in the trees and on the ground. The ones that ground flush usually give you a shot, as they aren't immediately in or behind cover for 2 or 3 seconds - enough time to shoulder, draw a bead, and at least put one round downrange. Other than than the odd single flushing out of thick ground cover (once or twice the whole trip, at most), everything flushed up high, far and away.

I have a theory that if the pressure lets up with the holidays and the recent rains, the birds may return to ground and ease up. I was able to call to coveys and locate them, but that's about it. Saw some turkey kills (coyotes or other predators), a coyote, and plenty of coveys on the ground everywhere by the property I hunted (typical). Plenty of rabbits (cottontails and jacks) for stew as well.

Maybe I'll get one last trip in before the 1/31 closer. Maybe not. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last minute items...

So, does anyone have suggestions for quail loads, especially when the birds are more easily spooked later in the season?

I usually shoot 7.5 or 8 shot in a low base shell (high brass or larger shot tears those little guys up too much in my experience) through either a modified or improved cylinder choke. The IC makes doubles a distinct possibility if I shoulder the shotgun quickly enough. If the birds are busting way out, the modified choke helps me reach out a little further (that extra 5 or 10 yards can help), but with lots of single birds down (assuming my shooting is good enough.)

Hoping the weather holds.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chi-ca-go!

Nope, not going to that putrid metropolis. I'm talking about the assembly call of the California quail, which sounds like a staccato pronunciation of the word "Chicago." I'll be trying my hand at mimicry just after Jolly Old Saint Nick has left the area and returned to his 0N, 0W lair.

The call I'm going to try is made by Primos. It's a clear, orange plastic with some sort of a reed inside. I've been practicing with it off and on for the last few months, so we'll see in a couple of weeks how well it does (or does not) do (assuming I do my part of the job right).

I know people use calls for ducks and geese, turkey, coyotes, deer, elk and moose. This is not news. But, I have yet to run into a person that uses one for quail. Someone must use them, or Primos and a few other manufacturers wouldn't be selling them. At worst I'm going to spook the birds (OK, that's a pretty bad "at worst") and at best I might draw them out of cover.

I figure on getting more calling practice with duck calls next season, as I plan to take up blind hunting for ducks, or at least give it a good try to see if it's something I like. I mean, it's hunting. It's ducks. It's shotguns. It's out in the field. So what could possibly be not to like? I don't know - that's what I'm going to find out, if anything.

So the full report after the hunt will follow. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A year older....


Talking about a birthday really wouldn't have much to do with the great outdoors. But I received a couple of really nice gifts that I'd like to review for those who follow this blog. Again, as always, I don't get paid for writing this stuff - these are just my general thoughts and impressions on the gear I use and/or buy for myself or otherwise receive.

The focus of this post is the Streamlight MicroStream flashlight. It's a little sucker, about 2.5 inches long, black, anodized aluminum body with a pocket clip and a tailcap switch. At first I was a little concerned the light output would be sub-par for such a little light. Right now a Maglite Solitaire rides on my keychain and even with fresh batteries it's output is barely adequate for doing or seeing anything in the dark.

This MicroStream is like a blowtorch compared with the faint ember-like output of the Solitaire. With just a single AAA battery (like the Solitaire) it lights up even the darkest spaces. The tailcap switch makes it easy to manipulate with gloved hands, and it can be used in a temporary on-off fashion, or with a little more effort, clicked all the way to the 'on' position. This is much easier than trying to work the bezel switch on the Solitaire, which requires the use of two hands (one to steady the body of the light and one to twist the bezel).

I was a little worried about its overall size as well, as little things get lost easily around here, and although it arrives with a lanyard and a split ring, this particular unit has nowhere to attach the lanyard or split ring. This is either some sort of manufacturing oversight or a design flaw. But, the pocket clip (which can be removed with a little effort) makes up for this. I keep the MicroStream clipped to the inside of my front pocket, next to my wallet. I just have to get used to it being there so as to not knock it out of the way and lose it.

Bear in mind that this form of 'carry' is just for every day use. When out in the woods a flashlight is invaluable for any number of uses - inspecting the bore or action of a firearm; reading your compass or GPS in the wee hours of the morning before sunrise; looking around in your truck for whatever random item it is you can't find with the aid of the pitiful dome lights the car manufacturers clearly install as a joke; making your way back to the trailhead after sunset, or any other time you might need a little extra light in a compact package. Its size means I can stuff the light in any number of smaller clothing or pack pockets.

The light shines bright enough to make a decent tent light when turning in for the night or getting up to start the morning. While not a dedicated hanging light, the beam pattern is just wide enough to make it useful for throwing light into a gear bag, duffel or backpack to find that spare set of wool socks you Just Know You're Going To Need later on.

Overall, I call this little gem a win-win in terms of size, price and features. The only downside I have is that there is no provision (that I can find) for a red lens filter. Short of being some sort of mall ninja, a red lens is really useful at night so you don't blast your night vision all to hell and back. By stimulating the retina less than white light, the red illumination preserves your night vision and also shocks the eye less, allowing you to focus on the task at hand and not worrying about visual adjustments. Aside from the lack of a way to securely attach the lanyard and the lack of a lens filter kit, I'll give this thing 4 out of 5 (antler) points!

Next up (and with better pictures) will be the new hearing protectors I received. I think a proper review requires some range time, so let me get that out of the way (oh darn) and report back!