1. Save and Savor Pheasant Legs/Thighs
Submitted by Howard Heatherwick
In the world of upland hunting, nothing is more irritating to me than watching a limit of roosters being breasted out while a pair of tantalizing, mouthwatering legs/thighs are tossed away haphazardly. This rich and flavorful muscle, which helps pheasants pound the prairie floor at miraculous speed, also delivers choice soups, tacos, enchiladas and the like. Found in many kitchens throughout pheasant country, a pressure cooker is all you need to prepare this delectable table fare, stress-free. “An Instapot pressure cooker does a great job with pheasant legs,” reports Howard Heatherwick. “The meat is tender, separates easily, and the tendons stay intact with the leg/thigh bones. Makes great soup!”
2. Homemade Concoction for Pepé Le Pew
Submitted by Dave Mayers
“Skunks only have two predators: great horned owls and stupid dogs!” ~Professor Bill Clark, On the Wing Podcast - Episode 73 In all seriousness, many upland hunters have had or will have run-ins with the infamous “polecat,” each more foul-smelling than the last. And in most cases, dog owners are unprepared to deal with the overwhelming stench. Thankfully, our followers chimed in with the best homemade “skunk off ” money can buy in the 21st century. “I have used this skunk odor remover on several dogs with great success,” says Dave Mayers. “It’s a low-cost solution you should carry in the truck at all times!”
3. Instant Dog Booties
Submitted by Tom Krsnich
For those who have trekked west of the Missouri River in search of upland bird Valhalla in various locales of the West, you soon recognize all too well that the condition of your bird dog’s feet controls the hunt. When sandspur, cactus, cholla, prickly pear or icy conditions shred the mobility of your fourlegged companion, prepare to pack your bags for an early departure home. But as they say, the best offense is a great defense. Be ready with economical dog boots made of innertubes for bicycle tires costing mere cents on the dollar: “Emergency boots when you need them,” writes Krsnich. “Buy a bicycle innertube. Cut, tape, and you’re good to go.”
4. Power of the Pumpkin
Submitted by Nick Dula
“Last fall I started mixing in two tablespoons of pumpkin with water to float my dog’s food,’ says Nick Dulas. “It’s a good probiotic, it helps encourage a meal after a long day in the field, and the extra water helps replenish lost fluid.” Spot on, Nick. Canned pumpkin (NOT canned pumpkin pie mix), is a tasty treat, a great source of fiber, and can help with digestion for hard-working bird dogs. Also backed by pet care leader Purina, “Pumpkin is also a great source of potassium, Vitamin A, iron and beta carotene.” Do your hairy hunting companion (well, your dog specifically) a favor this fall and grab some canned pumpkin for 79 cents at the grocery store; dinner time just got simple.
PRO TIP: Since pumpkin is low-calorie, it’s also a great substitute for a portion of daily kibble if the pup needs to shed some weight during the dog days of summer.
5. Bad Hair Don’t Care!
Submitted by Ryan Baumgartner
If you’re the owner of a spaniel, golden retriever, setter or other breed with a beautiful mane, cockleburs or barbs from a variety of vegetation has, at one point, caused headaches for you and your pup. Untangling the jungle caused by matting in longerhaired bird dogs can be laborious and time-consuming. Thankfully, one Pheasants Forever follower has the solution. “Spraying down your dog with horse mane and tail detangler before the field eliminates a majority of the burrs,” says Ryan Baumgartner. A quick search online reveals that Chewy.com — a major American online retailer of pet products — sells a 16-ounce bottle for under $7.
6. Clever as the Devil: Pumice Stone
Submitted by Scott Mackenthun
“Son of a gun, it happened again!” I used a similar yet distinctly different set of vocabulary to describe my hunting gear after exiting a field last October covered head-to-toe in black stickers. You guessed it: devil’s beggarticks. A flowering plant in the aster family, its “fruit” is a flat black-brown barb with two obvious hornlike prongs; hence the “devil.” And picking them off your clothing one-by-one is slow torture at best. Thankfully, Pheasants Forever supporter Scott Mackenthun has the answer: “Save yourself hours by brushing them out with a cheap pumice stone. I highly recommend it for beggarticks and other nuisance plants.”
7. Take the Road Less Traveled: Packable Hip Waders
Submitted by the Author
Three days ahead of our departure for a spring black bear hunt in the remote island mountain ranges of central Montana, several of my colleagues and I spent an evening discussing how to traverse the ice-cold mountain streams which could have kept us from our quarry. The answer was presented to us by next day delivery from Amazon Prime: packable hip waders. Since that time, Hodgman® packable waders have also served great purpose for my early-season upland hunts (primarily ruffed grouse), but they really get me back into those secluded pheasant honeyholes. Packable waders are a cost-effective, lightweight solution for crossing marshes, streams, creeks or other wet obstacles, and they fit perfectly in a hunting vest. Try a pair and take the road less traveled for undisturbed birds.
8. Just like Poker, E-Collars are Best Close to the Vest
Submitted by the Author
I’ve done it twice in my upland career and I know I’m not alone. That’s right: I’m referring to the bonehead move of misplacing an e-collar transmitter at the bottom of an undisclosed Waterfowl Production Area. Losing a pair of SportDOG GPS+ E-Collar transmitters over the years amounts to a nearly $1K mistake. But as they say, “Third time’s a charm,” and I invested in a great, low-cost fix: expandable lanyards for all my transmitters. Whether pulled off your neck or dropped from a pocket in the past, this a great safeguard against lost electronics and a steep bill.
PRO TIP: Sportsman’s Guide carries military-style expandable lanyards — the last one(s) you’ll ever need to buy, and they’re at a great price.
9. Beating the Dog Days of Fall
Submitted by Bryan Schanze
Let’s face it. Early season upland conditions can test the grit of hunters and dogs alike, especially when heat can roast a day’s outing like a Thanksgiving turkey. Keeping dogs cool to get the most out of their performance is critical, and it all starts during transport. “On a hot day, I put a frozen two-liter filled with water in the box to help keep the dog cool. When it melts, plenty of extra cool water is available for you and the dog,” rays Schanze. Simple. Cheap. Effective. I too have experimented lately with frozen 12-ounce bottles placed under a thick pad within the crate, with similar results.
10. Old School O’Clock
Submitted by Anthony Hauck
“I’m anything but anti-technology, but in the waning minutes of the ‘Golden Hour,’ you won’t find me reaching in my pant or vest pocket trying to check my mobile for the time,” says Anthony Hauck. “Seems like a great way to dump your phone in the cattails and worse yet to miss your best chance at a tight-holding, ready-to-roost rooster.” Instead of a cell phone, Hauck counts on the hands of time — those on a simple, old-school field watch: A quick glance lets you know the time without getting caught fumble-handed reaching into a pocket or with a cell phone in hand … instead of a shotgun at-the-ready. In fact, that’s critical at any time of day, not just the golden hour.
PRO TIP: For those without an old school watch, harness 21st century technology before the hunt: Set an alarm for the closing bell on each day of your trip. There’ll be no doubt about quitting time.
11. Instant Upland Fuel: Peanut Butter
Submitted by Jared Harbot
Nobody consumes more Butterfingers or Snickers than me. My sweet tooth is undeniable. But hey, I need the energy to keep hunting, right? On the flipside, nobody is more annoyed than me to see those shiny wrappers in a public hunting area parking lot, or free-floating in a sea of bluestem. Additionally, I’ve seen a hoard of late winter roosters exit cattails I’m setting up to traverse … precisely at the moment I decide to unwrap some candy and send those paper-crackle sounds through the air. “A fishing guide in the Florida Keys once gave me a tip to carry or a small jar of natural peanut butter accompanied by a snapped off spoon for quick-energy pick-me-ups in the field,” wrote Jared Harbot. “It’s shelf stable, provides nutritious calories, and is easy to carry. Plus it keeps a guy from heading 35 minutes into town for pizza or gas station food. Just fuel up on the spot and keep hunting.”
PRO TIP: Dogs love PB too. Just make sure it’s natural peanut butter and doesn’t contain harmful additives like xylitol, commonly found as an additive for sugar-free products.
12. Cure for Ripped Ears
Submitted by Robert DeLashmutt
I saw an incident last fall in a southern Minnesota pheasant field that was reminiscent of a battle scene from the American movie classic The Patriot. A yellow lab chased a winged rooster down an old fenceline of barbed wire ... and emerged victorious with the prized ringneck plus a body blood-stained red from head-to-toe. My suspicion of a ripped ear was confirmed upon inspection. “Coban (vet wrap) and ace bandages for bloody ears are the ticket,” says supporter Robert DeLashmutt. “It holds the ears tight and uses compression to slow and then stop the bleeding. Vet wrap has a variety of other uses to keep bird dogs in the field longer, and it is a great addition to any dog medical bag.”