Saturday, July 13, 2019

Back from the dead

Can't believe it's been over 3 years since I dropped a post on here. It's not that I gave up bird hunting, just that the time and energy I used to pour into this site have been going to a couple of other projects, which is the point of this post.

More Bobwhites

The first is something I'd been working on in the background for a few years and then we actually got it off the ground and it's been going wide open ever since. The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative started as a never-say-die effort to restore wild quail populations in our state and it turns out that what was missing in previous attempts was having everyone on the same page and working in the same direction. Sounds simple, but when we assembled a partnership of what is now almost 30 federal and state agencies and NGOs things took off in a hurry.

I'm extremely proud of what we've achieved in a little over four years. For the last three years, whistle counts statewide have increased, a string of success we haven't seen since the 1970s. The model is working and momentum continues building. We've gone from zero full time quail biologists to four and will be hiring a fifth in the coming months.



Our partners include the SC Department of Natural Resources, the US Forest Service, NRCS, Quail Forever, Tall Timbers, Clemson Extension, the NBCI, NWTF, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Audubon and others. If you're interested in what we're up to, our Facebook feed is a good place to keep up with the latest. Our website has some general information but honestly is in need of makeover. In hindsight, having an agency IT department host it wasn't the best idea given the lower priority it receives, the dated technology they're stuck with and strict limitations on who can update it. Hopefully we'll have it freed this year and really start putting it to use. There's also an Instagram account.

All in all this effort is delivering amazing results at an early stage and the enthusiasm from bird hunters in our state and neighboring states is overflowing.

Bird Dog Owners

The second project is an idea I've been tinkering with for a while but only sat down and started putting in honest work on this year. Bird dogs have been part of my household for over 25 years but unfortunately for me and I assume many others, they don't come with an owner's manual. Sure, there are plenty of books and videos out there about how to train your bird dog, many of them quite good, but there's nothing that talks much at all about how to keep from screwing up your bird dog.

More specifically, there are many things we do unknowingly that hold our dogs back or undo the work of pro trainers. I know because I've done all of them and learned the hard way. Things like setting timelines, talking too much to the dogs, letting emotions get in the way, and generally lacking awareness of ourselves, our actions and situations in the field. I did most of these, and in some cases kept doing them, because no one gave me a heads up that I shouldn't. They're common sense if you just know to keep an eye out for them.

BirdDogLogic.com is a discussion of all these things we do that get in the way of having a really good bird dog. My hope is that they become part of the everyday conversation in the way that e-collars and check cords and pigeons are.

Bird Dog Logic home page


I'm really interested in what you guys think about it since most of you are dog owners and avid bird hunters. You can leave comments on the site or email me through the links on the Contact page, and I want you to be honest. Is the information helpful or confusing? Is this a benefit to the bird dog community or a lame idea on my part? The handful of people I spoke to beforehand thought this was badly needed, but you never know how myopic your focus group might be until you put it in front of your intended audience. The site went live late in the day on July 12, so ya'll will be some of the first visitors. 

There's also a Facebook page that's mostly there to let you know when a new post is up on the site. Give it a follow if you're into that.

Lastly, this is not a return to regular posting on the Wingshot blog. I may jump back on here if there is something that might be of interest, but for now the time will go to the two projects above and the occasional piece for someone else (thanks Chad and Nick). 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Project Upland

If you haven't stumbled onto it yet, this a site worth checking out:


A partnership between the Ruffed Grouse Society and Dangerous Cow Publishing (I know, strange name but talent often comes wrapped like that), this series of films shot in grouse and woodcock coverts really gives the flavor of hunting these birds. 

While fishing films abound, good videos about bird hunting are rare. This is no collection of staged shots by guys clad in brand new gear. The subjects wear flannel and hoodies and their gear is often as worn as yours and mine. And they love to hunt birds.

I'd really recommend watching "Why Project Upland - Behind the Scenes" first, then moving on to the others. It gives a pretty good background and sets the tone for what you're about to see.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Negligent would be an understatement

I just realized I hadn't posted anything, not one word, since Sept 2. Ok, I actually realized it a month ago but just got around to doing something about it today. It's not like nothing's been going on or so much has been going on that I haven't had time to talk about it. Lots has been going on and I have had time to talk about it, I just spent that time doing something else.

So here's the last 3 months in review....

Dove Season(s)

The first dove season was the best we've had in years. My freezer is slap full of birds, partly due to more targets and partly due to me shooting better than the recent norm. Over the summer I did a little work on my gun mount (thanks for the tip Chris Batha), mounting in front of a mirror about 100x a day. It's easier than it sounds and it's made a world of difference.

We're not really sure why there were so many more birds, but our best guess is that dry conditions over the summer ruined a lot of corn crops, leaving fewer places for the dove to eat. Whatever the reason, we had numbers every time we went into the field and even when only a few of us showed, we figured out how to put away a limit.

Mojo dove
Shrinks the playing field considerably
The second season was a bust. Completely. Many of you heard about the Biblical rains we had in early October, but what didn't make the news was the 3+ inches we got every week after that for the next month. By the time the second season opened the weekend before Thanksgiving the ground was soggy and the feed was rotten. Any bird that came through here slowed down long enough to see that he was gonna get real hungry if he stopped.

It's dried out some and we have a nice millet field that hasn't been cut yet, so there's still hope for the third season.


The Great Bobwhite Revival

I keep promising to post an update on this, and I've been waiting until we had a little more publicly available info in case anyone's curious, but that's been slow in coming so I'm gonna talk about it anyway. This little project now has an official name (The SC Bobwhite Initiative), a logo (I'm not supposed to share that yet), a group of 24 state and federal organizations participating, and 4 focus areas where work is under way.

To say I'm excited about this is putting it mildly.  We've been working on it for 4-5 years and to see it finally take flight is both a relief and a realization that now the hard work begins. The enthusiasm has been overwhelming, and I'm pretty optimistic.

Website should be active before Christmas (fingers crossed) and I'll post a link when it is.


About that pup...

Holy cow I'd forgotten what it was like to have a bird dog pup around the house. Even though my backyard looks like the moon it's been a joy. He spent 6 weeks with the trainer letting the genes bloom and his bloodlines are no joke. 





He'll get steadied next spring and summer and right now we're just gonna look for birds. The drive is astounding and the endurance for an 8 month old is unbelievable. He's fine with the gun and will even hold a point for a little while. Smarter than a 4th grader, too. Should be a fun season.


Shot a deer last week. First time I'd been in the stand all season and 30 mins after I sat down they walked out. Every now and then I get lucky like that. I'm not a trophy deer hunter, just meat for the freezer and that means does are top of the list. This was a nice one, almost 100 lbs. 

I've been much more productive with the camera than the pen and some of that work is on the Instagram account (@spentcartridge). Even had a shot in the Orvis Digital Hunting Book (p43) a few months ago. Having a lot of fun with that. Stay tuned.