My NE opening venture was short, not all that sweet, but had one perfect moment. We - Jen the Brittany and I - went solo, starting in the Ogallala area but realized we were too far west: very little cut corn and bone dry. With a forecast of highs in the high 60s to low 70s, we needed better prospects. Looked over the NE hunting atlas at breakfast in Oga at the TA Country Pride (excellent) and picked out a new area with circle corners in CRP between North Platte and McCook.
Met two hunters from New York at the new area. They said they had put in some serious effort but saw one bird. Hear many gun shots? No. See any other hunters? Only two vehicles all morning but they left. If there was good news, it was that there was no one else around. It was already 11:30 and time to start our NE opener. Temp 60.
The wind was SW so we took on a SE corner of CRP by a circle of corn stalks and pointed ourselves into the wind. Based on looks alone, my hopes were up. On my second step into the CRP a hole sent me down to one knee, shotgun flying. Fortunately, the gun was within reach, and I used it like a cane to regain my feet. Before clambering up, I knelt for a minute wondering what might have just happened to my recently doctored knee that was now jammed into the ground. Done for the season? Done forever? Senior hunter thoughts.
I could still walk, so we took a line through the middle of the corner up to a slope where the cover thinned. No birds nor did Jen get birdy. We turned toward the stalks and worked the edge, our backs to the wind. A lone cock blew out of the cover and streaked out over the stalks. Jen and I were both surprised by the flush which was behind me and to the left. I spun and fired twice. Gun in good working order haha. Jen whoaed and wistfully watched as the bird disappeared over a rise in the stalks. We continued along the edge of the stalks and another cock flushed, but out of range, and took the wind to the uncut corn across the road.
The preseason report, appearance of cover, chat with the New Yorkers, and lack of other hunters and gunfire gave me the idea that this might be a one-day hunt. Funny how quickly my legs tire under such circumstances. Back to the atlas, I set sights on some patches east of Alma which were also on the way home. It was midafternoon when we reached Alma and time for a nap. Temp 68. I had lodged in Alma a number of NE openers over the years and always enjoyed cutting the dust and dining at The Station next door to the Arrow Lodge Motel, a home away from home. The Harlan County reservoir used to have excellent installed habitat, all of which was wiped out by flooding some years ago.
Checked a few spots and then saw on the map what looked like about a 60-acre patch of CRP walk in that stretched south from a road, a good feature because the wind had shifted to SSW, and we needed everything going for us including the wind in our faces on our first line. Across the road along the west edge of the patch was a narrow strip of uncut corn. All good except temp: 70, so Jen went afield without her chest protector. We took a line straight south about 40 yards from the road along the west side. Old corn stalks and rather sparse grasses along with lots of mare's tail and forbs indicated this was newly planted CRP/habitat. Jen was working it hard. We were halfway down the patch with nothing going on and then . . . POINT! Off to my left Jen's head was high and tilted slightly up which suggested the bird was a bit distant. I hustled to where I thought it might be and FLUSH! A cock jumped up and flew hard to the east at a slight angle but went topsy-turvy to my first shot of an ounce and a quarter of no. 6 lead through an IC. Jen was immediately on the flapping, flipping bird and subdued it. Suddenly my legs were no longer tired. In fact, I felt years younger haha.
We were on high ground and as I bagged the pretty bird, I looked around at the gorgeous scenery, the trees in fall colors. A paraglider flew along the southern horizon. It was a perfect moment. Sundown was coming so we headed home. Once home, a double martini cut the dust real good. Jen has been sleeping nearly nonstop.