The planning phase is already in high gear. I have marked days on the calendar, warned my employer and spouse that certain dates are non-negotiable. Last fall, I used the excuse of aging dogs to get afield every possibly moment. I did pretty well, hunting about 50 days in four states. But, if you consider that was over the course of six months, I could have hunted more. Should have hunted more. Now, with my same two dogs approaching ten and twelve, my rationale for hitting the road is even more solid.
Montana blue grouse and Idaho/Wyoming/Oregon chukar are at the top of my list again. The endless public land hiking in rugged, beautiful country keeps me awake at night. Abby, the youngster at 10, may be my only dog on the ground for those long treks, unfortunately.
I will probably spend five or six days in MN hunting grouse and woodcock, as that is more forgiving ground to hunt and Tess can partake in shorter hunts if needed. I missed the bulk of the woodcock flight last year, so I hope I time it better this year. I also hope I don't have another timberwolf encounter mid-point. That could have been the tragic end for one of my setters.
I have added Colorado ptarmigan to my fall agenda. I guess the P is silent? I really don't know what to expect, except for the fact that you hike uphill, take a left, continue to hike uphill and then the birds are only a couple thousand feet in elevation above you. Should be interesting, but again, I don't think my old girl can safely accompany me on those all-day hunts.
Sure, I will hunt Montana pheasants, sharptail and Huns plenty. Might even take someone out to shoot their bucket-list sage grouse. But, those birds don't offer the mystique and the challenge of the others right now. And, I can hunt them next season, when my dogs are really old.