This was to be another doable but tough combination limits. I had taken snipe and sharptails with Bo a couple years earlier and over Critter about 25 years earlier, but i had never taken snipe and chickens. Russ Miller and his English Setter, Twister were along for the hunt. Russ and Twister had accompanied me in western South Dakota, central North Dakota and the Nebraska sandhills several times so he was no stranger to limits of sharptails, but he had never taken a chicken and was emphatic that he didn't care about shooting any snipe.
So the first morning I started them out in a predominately chicken field and headed to the far side of the section with Bo. I didn't get far when I heard Russ shoot so checked back to see if he got his first chicken. Russ had already pocketed the bird and was hunting along when I caught up. He pulled out a chicken to show me saying there were more birds and he forgot to check for species. I wished him luck and with separation, Bo and I hunted for chickens of our own.
Neither of us found any more birds in that field which concerned me. Biologist Bill cautioned that they had a poor hatch, which didn't concern me much because I always seemed to find birds somewhere.
I took Russ to another field of several sections that I had shot a lot of chickens in in the past and we hunted all of it, hardly moving any birds. Russ shot two grouse out of a small group and I finally gave in and shot a couple grouse as it was late afternoon and I still hadn't seen a single chicken.
I did get permission from a rancher to hunt a wet meadow for grouse and snipe and hoped tomorrow would be better.
On the way to the meadow the next morning, we passed a combined bean field with a mix of 60-75 grouse and chickens. We parked on the road and watched them cross to a private pasture. There were a couple of corn pivots bordering the pasture that were being picked the day before but there wasn't anyone present to talk to. So we drove to the wet meadow and seperated as I told Russ even with the ankle high grass, it's possible to still shoot prairie grouse. He was unconvinced.
Bo and I shot one snipe about half way down but there was little water so I wasn't expecting much. Then a lone chicken flushed at 20 yards from a narrow trickle of taller grass that the swath had missed. I dumped the see-sawing bird at about 30 yards and Bo carried it proudly for a few minutes. We met up with Russ and he hadn't seen any birds at all and was surprised when I pointed out the wisp of grass the chicken had been holding in.
I checked out the marsh for snipe while Russ and the dogs shared lunch. I only shot a couple of snipe before I realized that if most of the birds overnighted, I would have a chance at a limit tomorrow. We hunted a couple more private pastures with Russ shooting his three bird limit of sharptails but I didn't see another chicken. I did get a chance for permission on the pasture the birds flew into that morning and the owner wished us luck for the next day.
I started on a search for snipe to give the feeding prairie grouse time to filter back into the pasture. Bo and I picked up three in about an hour but hadn't worked the more open shoreline where I expected most of the snipe to be.
At the pasture RUss and I split up and both were into birds rightaway. Twister flushed a small group of sharptails and RUss was shooting as Bo flushed 3 chickens out of a light swale. I dropped a pair and Bo scooped up both birds with little trouble. I then headed straight away from the raod and made it about 100 yards and Bo had a larger group of chickens in the air. I missed with the lower but dropped my limit chicken, just over the crest of a hill, with the upper barrel.
Bo bounded over the top but when she didn't reappear in a couple of minutes, I started to climb the hill to help. There was Bo with a chicken in her mouth, running up the next hill with more birds flushing in front of her. I walked her to a water tank for a drink and swim while I sat in the minimal shade listening for Russ to shoot.
Back at the truck I turned it to face the field so I could watch for Russ and Twister while sharing a sandwiche with Bo. While still a few hundred yards way I saw Twister hunt into a short windbreak and a prairie grouse fly crossing in front of Russ. The bird folded, then a second later, I heard his shot.
RUss had a grouse and a chicken and was content to rest for awhile. I told him he'd have to rest at the marsh, cause Bo and I had to shoot 5 more snipe before dark.
I had to be careful about shooting any snipe over the wter because I knew Bo wouldn't retrieve them. It took Bo and I about 300 yards of shoreline to finish our limit of snipe and I circled back a little further from water to keep from getting any wetter, when Bo flushed a chicken at about ten yards. Then another single and 100 yards closer to the truck a third single chicken!
Russ had two comments, none of which were congratulatory for Bo's new combination limit, "You sure shot enough times", and "I thought you said we had to walk hills because grouse and chickens aren't on flat ground!".