Monday, April 27, 2009

Hunters Welcome

With the ongoing debate over land access, to both private and public lands, it was refreshing to be wanted. Wanted by ranchers who were seeking hunters to help thin out their turkey flocks. While the problem isn't statewide, there are a number of folks in the southeastern part of the state who are tired of having 50-100 birds on their haystacks all winter.
When Ryan Y. had arranged for us to hunt on a few large "spreads", I was a little pessimistic, assuming we would be directed on where to hunt, probably asked to shoot our birds as they entered the farm yard for their nightly feed. While a bird is a bird, I would rather try to lure the bird in with a call and a decoy.
Fortunately, I was dead wrong. We were set loose on a 20,000-acre ranch, with rolling hills and timbered draws. It was definitely turkey country that was made for the foot hunter wanting to cover some ground. Our only limitation this trip was weather. A bird was tagged each of the first two days and the third day was a "snow day". We had three inches of wet snow and we didn't want to rut up the wet, greasy roads, possibly ruining our good relationship with the rancher. Hopefully, we will be welcome again next year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Passion Afield

I will always be convinced that my father was the best fly fisherman I’ve had the pleasure to share a river with, and he was no slouch when it came to wing shooting either. I have an image in my mind that fly fishing his favorite spots on the Boulder River, in Yellowstone Park, or on the many lakes in the Cooke City country were his one true passion.

But as he aged I found out that fishing was neither his passion in later life nor in his younger years. He just loved to fish and was very, very good at it.

But when you talk about passion and hunting and fishing you have to look no further than the guys at Montana Sporting Journal. This blog space isn’t designed to sing the praises of the magazine nor to build up those who bring it to you. Still, if I’m a fan of something I like to see all sides of it.

Though there are a number of people who make this publication go around, I’m going to single out two of them: advertising director Will Jordan and editor Jay Hanson. When we talk about a passion for hunting and fishing, it goes beyond for these two guys.

They don’t just live the lifestyle of hunters and fishermen, it truly is their passion. These are the guys who work on their elk bugling in the summer, who tie flies all winter, who hunt and fish every possible opportunity that presents itself, and then spend their work weeks promoting a magazine that promotes such passion.

I’ll always think I’m passable as a fisherman and have been privileged to fish many more spots in this great state than most people you’ll come across. I also consider myself a darn good waterfowler.

But I can only tie a few flies, and my goose calling never gets better.

As readers, you can be grateful that Will and Jay are this passionate because it shows you the dedication that they put into every page of the magazine. When you read through each issue or peruse the advertisements, you are taking in a little of the passion that they are sharing with you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Business & Pleasure

It's about this time of year, when the rivers in MT become increasingly fishable, that my job as a traveling ad salesman takes on a whole new appeal. As the days lengthen and there is daylight both before and after business hours, it's easy to mix business and pleasure. Here's an example of my work/play schedule the past few days...if I'm lucky the lines between the two really blur.

4/11 - Hit the Stillwater River with Bruce Whittenberg, owner of MT Troutfitters in Bozeman and an advertiser in MSJ. We found the river off color with little more than a foot of visibility, but as Bruce said, "It is what it is" and so we fished. We even managed to catch a few trout on a variety of flashy streamers, nymphs and even dries. Some nice BWO and March brown hatches were coming off, but rises were practically non-existent in the stained water.

4/12 - Got up early, packed my fishing gear and business attire and made the drive north to Lewistown where I met up with Jay for an MSJ photo shoot for the Cooper Rifle review in our upcoming issue...what a beautiful and accurate rifle! Big Spring Creek was high and off, but fortunately there is yet another substantial spring creek nearby, this one flowing clean and clear. We both caught a few rainbows on dries amidst some decent hatches. We were both frustrated by a couple of good size rainbows that eluded us.

4/13 - Had a meeting in the morning in Lewistown and then was on my way to Livingston. Midway, at Harlow, I decided to detour west and fish the's always intrigued me. The river was very off color, with less than a foot of visibility. For various reasons I stayed and fished anyway. After working my way through my streamer box I finally found the ticket and landed a couple of nice browns. I'll be interested to check out this stretch of river this summer and see how it fares once irrigation outflows begin. After my "lunch break" on the river I was back on the road with a stop in Livingston and then onto Chico Hot Springs. After business was taken care of I fished the last hour of daylight on the Yellowstone below a brilliantly lit Emigrant Peak, there was nowhere I'd rather have been...except maybe soaking in the hot springs back at the historic lodge.

4/14 - Awoke early to find a couple of inches of snow on the lawn outside Chico and steady snowfall. Knowing that I had to negotiate the pass en route to appointments in Bozeman that morning I quickly got dressed and on the road. I had hoped to wet a line briefly in the morning around the mouths of the PV spring creeks and again on the way home that evening on the Boulder, but the winter weather suggested otherwise. It was all about business today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring Training

When the calendar turns from March to April, I yank the dogs off the couch and give them the fresh air they deserve. While I have stayed in perfect physical condition over the course of the winter(ok, I may have slipped a little bit),the dogs have definitely put on a few pounds. When I grab their hunting collars off the shelf, their excitement screams, "Its about time, buddy!"
In this latitude, I prefer to wait until April 1st to run the girls. Since I chase grouse, Huns and pheasants until the very bitter end of the season, I cut the birds some slack by not pestering them until I know the worst of winter is behind us. While we received snow AGAIN last night, it melts quite rapidly from this point on. April is actually a fairly important month from my perspective. Once the middle of May rolls around, the dogs are kept on leashes since nesting season is approaching. While I don't pass judgement on those running their dogs all winter, especially in regions where the snow doesn't pile up, I am adamant about staying out of the uplands when there are eggs and chicks on the ground.
It was great to see the prairie mostly unchanged from when I last walked it in December. However, the grass was a little flattened from snows and the ditches still held some hard-packed snow drifts. And the Huns the dogs pointed were mating pairs, instead of coveys. But, when a rooster squawked at me from the same brushy draw as one did in November, I felt like I hadn't missed a thing.