In Montana and other states such as the Dakotas, some autumns our upland seasons end early, occasionally as early as Halloween. Snow can fill the grasslands completely, often icing over, creating a crust that is unfriendly to both dogs and birds. Sure, the birds are still out there, but often they congregate in farm yards, making them off-limits and just as well, if they are subject to five months of winter survival.
Thus far, 2011 has been a wingshooter’s blessing. There has been only one significant snowfall to date and the bulk of that has melted. Pheasants are still seeking refuge in tall CRP and Hungarian partridge are spending their time, well, where you find them. I am still seeing coveys in stubble fields and the shorter grasses, and on sunny hillsides. All of a sudden I am making up for lost time, days that were taken up by work, big game hunting and other necessities of life.
Despite the obvious added hunting opportunities for hunters and our beloved gun dogs, perhaps the biggest benefactor is the birds themselves. They are still enjoying the good life, having plenty of access to food and continuing to put on fat reserves to survive the winter ahead. Fortunately, we are already down to just three months of it.