Get Ready, The Birds Are Coming Back

Good news, the quail an pheasant populations are back up in the Mid West!

For years my passion for the outdoors evolved around upland bird hunting, specifically quail.  Growing up in Southern California, we had a lot of quail in Riverside County.  Actually we had two different sub species of quail to hunt, California quail and Gambel quail.  It was not unusual to find a covey of 150 birds, so you can imagine how disappointed I was when I went on my first bobwhite quail hunt, which was in Oklahoma!  A covey of about 25 birds got up, my brother in-law and his brother and I shot, of course I was waiting for the other 125 birds to get up!  Mac and Adrian both looked at me and said,”what are you doing”, I said waiting for the rest of the birds.  They both laughed and said, that was a huge covey, it doesn’t get much better than that.  I told them, you both would go out of your minds if you saw the size of the coveys we have in California.  Needless to say, my first lesson in bobwhite quail hunting was much different than expected.

After a couple of severe ice storms and heavy snow falls, followed by two years of droughts, the quail and pheasant population was nearly wiped out throughout the mid west.  Two other major factors for the decline of both quail and pheasants has been farming practices and predators. Now if you see a 10 bird covey you get excited.  It has been nearly twenty years, a lot of research and work, to get the bird counts back to somewhat normal.

The term farming from fence post to fence post was being used. It meant there wasn’t any cover left for the birds to nest in or to have protection from predators.  Now with CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) fields, the cover is being reestablished and the population of upland game birds are increasing.  Good news for all of us who grew up chasing quail and pheasants and watching good dogs work.  So get ready, the birds are making a comeback!   At least in the mid west.

The Outdoor Quarterback

2017 Elk Hunt, Is 8 feet too close?

Sometimes too close isn’t good. On this hunt it was a close encounter of the first kind!

I just returned from my annual archery elk in near Chama NM at Fishtail Ranch.  Over the years I have found it to be one of the best elk hunting areas in the country.  You may not find the biggest elk there, but the elk population in the Chama area is incredible. Even though I saw and heard elk every place we hunted, because of high afternoon temperatures the elk weren’t very vocal.  Which brings me to my story and the closest encounter I have ever had with a bull elk.

My hunting partner, Stanley Oakes, and I went to an area we both had hunted several times over the years, it was near a waterhole I had the privilege of naming.  Traditionally whoever discovers a new area and then takes a elk gets the honor of naming that location, so I named the waterhole “The Endzone”.

It was a perfect morning, temperatures were in the high 30’s with very little wind.  We called a little and listened and to our surprise nothing responded.  Then about 45 minutes later after a few more cow calls, we heard an bugle.  Although he was pretty far away, we decided to go after him.  We stopped after about a 100 yards because we both thought we heard another bull above us much closer.  We called and he answered, so off we went.  I have always been a stickler for keeping the wind in my favor, even if it meant walking twice as far.  As we were working our way towards the bull, he would periodically bugle giving away his location.  After several bugles from the same location we guessed he was already bedded down.  Now we knew we had to keep the wind in our favor and try to work up to the level where he was bedded.  Once we did that Stanley backed off about 50 yards, putting me between the bull and Stanley.  We both started calling back and forth until the bull got up from his bed and started towards us.  At that time I stopped calling and Stanley would cow call of and on.

As I took my position I was about 30 yards from the crest of a little mound.  I felt like if the bull came across the mountain on the flat above me I would never get a shot.  So I moved up about fifteen yards behind three aspen trees.  I stood back about four feet from the tree to clear them from my bow.  My thoughts were, if he comes above or below me I should have no more than a 15 yard shot.  It was obvious to me the elk didn’t read our script and instead of walking above or below me, he walked through a thicket straight at me.  When he stepped out from behind the aspen trees he was at EIGHT FEET!  Anticipating he was coming I had drawn my bow.  When I looked through my pep, all I could see is brown hair.  I shoot with both eyes open so I knew I was right on him, but what I didn’t see was two little branches off the aspen tree four feet in front of me.  Yes, I managed to hit one of the branches that wasn’t any larger than a pencil, deflecting my arrow about 6 feet from the elk into the ground!

We had worked that bull perfectly, did everything right and it was an awesome experience.  I have always come to the conclusion that you learn something new on every hunt, what I learned on this hunt was, 8 feet is way too close!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Kareem Hunt?

Kareem Hunt is a rising start in the NFL, if he keeps this up, someday the Hall of Fame maybe knocking at his door.

I played professional football for 9 years and had the opportunity to play against, or see in person, some of the greatest running backs that ever played the game; Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith to name a few.  Think about the players I left off that list.  Hall of Fame backs like OJ Simpson, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson.  Let me tell you about a rookie running back who’s name is being mentioned and compared to all of these great HOF running backs, Kareem Hunt, running back for the Kansas City Chiefs.

In the first three games of the 2017 NFL season, Kareem has tied or broken records for a running back, going as far back as the 1920’s!  I can say as an spectator and not as a former Chief, maybe with a little bias, that Kareem is the real deal and possesses the attributes of all of the previously mentioned running backs.  In addition to all those skills Kareem appears to have the leg strength of HOF players like Jim Brown, Larry Csonka and John Riggins, who were all known for their powerful running styles.

He is quick, fast and demonstrates great vision.  For his size he has incredible leg strength and balance, all characteristics of a great running back.  In college he had over 800 carries without a fumble, which is ironic because his first carry for the Chiefs, he fumbled.  That turnover must have lit a fire or turned on the light, because what he has done since is historic.  I am sure I am like many other fans of the NFL, I can’t wait to see what he does next.

I am not putting him in the HOF yet, that is determined on your career accomplishments.  I am just saying barring any career ending type of injuries, he has all the abilities of every name I have mentioned, all who are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not bad for a rookie!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Don’t Leave Home Without It, Use a Packing List!

Without a packing list you will forget something!

It’s that time of the year so I am getting gear together to head out to New Mexico for an archery elk hunt. Even though this is my 17th annual trip I still  put together a packing list of things I need to bring.  Normally I have put a first draft of items to bring and without fail I always find that I have left something off the list that I really need.  On this trip I will be staying at a lodge and don’t need things like a sleeping bag or camp gear such as a tent, stove, cooking utensils, food and etc…

That packing list is much more in depth and several pages in length.  Even the packing list I put together for this hunt is pretty detailed.  From clothes, light weight for warm weather and heavier clothing for colder days.  To rain gear which is always at the top of my list.  Out west you can count on rain usually every afternoon.  There is nothing worse then getting soaked and being a long way from your vehicle or camp, it makes for a miserable hunt.  Make sure it is a priority on your list.

I always consider the type of hunting I will be doing and that determines the type of boots I will be using.  Light weight for hiking and heavier and warmer for sitting in tree stands.  The obvious next items are socks, thick or medium.  Medium weight socks for hiking and heavier for sitting. There is nothing worse than getting cold feet and hands setting in a tree stand or in a ground blind.  I also take several types of gloves for the very same reasons.  I also take a couple different types of long underwear, again light weight for hiking and heavier for sitting or for very cold days when I am spot and stalk hunting.  I think you can see where I am going with my packing list, just one type or style is not enough.  That goes for your outerwear as well.

The biggest challenge I have is what extra equipment I need to bring for my bow.  I always bring a second bow just in case something serious happens to my favorite bow.  I do bring enough replacement parts to fix or replace just about anything that would go wrong or break like the peepsite, fletching, nocks and inserts for the arrows.  Extra releases, broad heads, D-loop string and oh yes, tools!  The list is much longer but I think you get the idea.  Without an extensive packing list, I will guarantee you will leave something behind that would be vital to your hunt or equipment.

Make up a packing list and check it several times.  I have found that laying everything out and checking it off my list is the very best way not leave home without it!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

Chiefs Ruin Patriots Championship Flag Ceremony

The Boston Tea Party replayed as the Chiefs spoils the Patriots celebration.

Make no mistake the Patriots and Tom Brady had a bad night against the Kansas City Chiefs.  Or was it that quarterback, Alex Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt both had great nights.  The Chiefs defense played really well most of the game.  They still have that bend but don’t break defensive philosophy, which works most of the time, but against a QB like Brady, normally he is going to get you if you keep giving him opportunities.  The Chiefs defense did a great job on two fourth down attempts by the Patriots, one of the many keys to their victory.

It was pretty obvious that the Chiefs needed to put pressure on Tom Brady, make him move in and out of the pocket, in other words, make him uncomfortable.  They did that in the second half which was the turning point for the defense.

The Chiefs offense was playing well from the start of the game.  Rookie running back Kareem Hunt played more like seasoned veteran than a rookie.  Now he will be a marked man!  He will also be on everyone’s fantasy team!

As a former quarterback I can tell you that Alex Smith’s performance was incredible.  80% completion, you can’t do that just playing catch on the sidelines.  368 passing yards and 4 touchdown passes, two of them over 75 yards.  But it was the situation he was playing in, Thursday night, first game of the 2017 regular season, the only NFL game for the nation to watch, against the defending Super Bowl Champs and Tom Brady!  I would say he handled the pressure way beyond expectations.

One of the better team efforts I have seen from the Chiefs in several years.  Like Alex Smith, “it is one of sixteen”.  I am sure what coach Reed said was, great win, now let this one go, learn from the good and bad, then move on to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Outdoor Quarterback

Early Season Elk, The Heat or the Moon?

Give me cooler temperatures and a full moon over hot weather and no moon anytime!

Early season archery elk season is under way and the reports I am getting are that temperatures seem to be having more of an affect on the elk than normal.  I don’t think the full moon is helping either.  So the long debated question is, would you rather be hunting higher than normal temperatures and the dark of the moon or much cooler temperatures and a full moon?

My personal preference is give me cool mornings and evenings and I will take the full moon.  I have always believed that if you have cool damp mornings and evenings, the cow elk start their estrus sooner.  I also believe that the bulls testosterone levels begin to elevate, when that happens their rutting activity is more consistent.

Just like us humans, when the temperatures are cooler we are much more active than on 100 degree days.  History shows the elk are the same way.  They stay out longer in the mornings and get up earlier in the evenings.  The one thing I have really noticed over the years are the bulls are much more vocal when cooler temperatures exist.  The combination of warm temperatures and a full moon is the recipe for success and lends itself to unproductive days.  In many cases the elk won’t even begin their activities until after dark and will be back in their bedding areas before daylight.  This is what I call a bad formula for archery elk hunting.

One of the only solutions to hunting in warm temperatures is finding the water holes.  Sometimes this can be very difficult to do based on current drought conditions in your hunting area.  In my opinion, it is the single best tactic that has greatest potential of success.  Find the water!

Sometimes we are dealt with both issues, warm weather and a full moon.  What I do know that is you can’t stick one sitting in the den watching TV and it beats the hell out of being at work!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Playing Two Preseason Games Is Enough.

Two preseason games is all that is needed, save the star players for when it counts.

Playing four preseason games in the NFL is two to many.  I see the NFL going to only two preseason games in the very near futures, how about next year!  There are too many injuries, too many players who would have never made the roster who are now on the injured reserve list, which means they are being paid, in many if not all the cases, for the year.  At a quick look of players placed on the injured reserve list for this season is 236.  If all these players were minimum salary players that would be at total of $106,200,000.  Many of these players would have never made a roster and several of those players listed are making well over the minimum of $450,000.

One solution is to expand training camp.  Because of the Collective Barging Agreement, there are limited full pad practices and contact which should limit the chances of season ending injuries.  What I see that comes from expanding training camps is ongoing conditioning opportunities.  There are always early training camp nicks, pulls and stains.  Two weeks of additional practice, conditioning and physical therapy should eliminate major injuries and allow players time to be ready for meaningful games.  One preseason game for your starters and veteran players is plenty, that’s all we get now basically, and one game to evaluate free agents, rookies and players who are boarder line.  Don’t forget, all the teams will have two additional weeks of video tape to evaluate players.

One of the major complaints I hear regarding preseason games from fans is spending money and not seeing the starters play.  That was very evident by the number of no shows for the Chiefs final preseason game.  Most of the season ticket holders I talked to about this agree.  They want to see starters play, even if it is only one game.  They also agreed that too many starters, league wide, are getting injured before the regular season begins, like Julian Edelman, Spencer Ware and Shane Ray.

So NFL, save everyone money, protect key players and let all the fans see a full compliment of starts in the regular season.

The NFL is the greatest show on TV, but only if the stars are playing!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

Texas A&M Board of Regents Member, Shut Your Mouth and Go Away!

Texas A&M Board of Regents member steps out of bounds with his personal comments after the A&M loss to UCLA.

One of the most disgusting comments I have ever heard in all the years I have played or been involved in sports, which totals 60, was that of a member of the Texas A&M Board of Regents this past weekend following the Texas A&M game against UCLA.  He tweeted and put on face book that the head coach at A&M, Kevin Sumlin, “when the time comes my vote will be that Kevin Sumlin needs to GO”.  How did this guy get placed in such a prestigious position, oh I know, family money.  He should be removed immediately if not sooner!  I will promise you he was singing coach Sumlin praises for the first three and half quarters of that game.  His comments were unprofessional, adolescent and most of all damaging to stability of the Texas A&M football program.  His comments were something you would expect out of a student not an administrator.  He has done more damage and harm to the program than anything the coach did or didn’t do during the game.  Let’s not forget that the staring quarterback got hurt, fractured his ankle, and the backup quarterback completed only 3 of 17 passes.  I am not putting the blame on him either, it is extremely difficult to stand on the sidelines for nearly the entire game and then to come in, when obviously the momentum has totally changed, and have an immediate impact.

I personally played in a game in college where we scored 28 points in the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter for a comeback win.  A lot of things happened for us to have won that game, turnovers, kick returns and big plays on offense.  So lets give a little credit to UCLA and their quarterback, Josh Rosen, possibly the number one pick in next years NFL Draft, for making some great plays.

So my comments to the Texas A&M Board of Regents member is to shut your mouth, go away and keep your opinions confined to the Board Room.

The Outdoor Quarterback

If You Have Bad Knees And Need Exercise,Take Up Cycling

Mountain Biking
Mountain Biking

Since I had both of my knees replaced the one activity that is easy and enjoyable with very little stress on the joints is cycling.  Cycling is a great cardio exercise and is a activity you can do well in to your senior years.  For me it is a quiet way to scout several of my hunting areas.  Many times I have ridden up on groups of deer undetected.

On most nice days, both morning and early evening, I see large groups of cyclist all around, it looks like a mini Tour De France!  I assume they are part of a cycling club.  They dress alike and seem to ride together regularly.  What a great way to inner act with a group of people with a similar passion.  My guess is they all find a way to socialize as well!

Cycling
Cycling

My neighbors oldest son just completed the Bike Across Kansas, 414 miles I believe.  I enjoy the exercise part of cycling but those riders who take on a challenge like that are very dedicated and determined.  I guess I was the same way about football, but 414 miles on a road bike, that is impressive.

The guys who take on the Tour De France are amazing, much like those who run marathons, like my oldest daughter.  I guess it becomes addictive.  I know I am not that much into it. For the casual cyclist in our area the county parks and recreation department, in partnership with local cities, have developed a trail system for walkers, joggers and cyclists.  You can ride, run or walk for more than 20 miles!  Well beyond my desired distance.

I ride a cross over bike, more of a mountain bike than a road bike, with a seat built for comfort.  I am one of those active outdoor enthusiasts who looks for any way to spend time outdoors. Cycling is one of those activities that can fill the void of no fishing, hunting or football and exercise at the same time.  Try it you will like it!

The Outdoor Quarterback

September Is The Best Month Of The Year

Arrowhead
Arrowhead

I have always felt September is the best month of the year for several reasons.  First, it’s the start of the NFL regular season.  College football also kicks off, no pun intended.  Second, the early archery seasons open around the country, which means archery elk to me.  Next, the start of fantasy football.  Even I can say that watching the NFL has become a lot more fun and entertaining because of fantasy football leagues.  Our draft is coming up soon and is always the best party of the year.

Fantasy Party
Fantasy Party

If you happen to live in a city that has a competitive major league baseball team, then a run at the playoffs is icing on the September cake!

Back to NFL football and the upcoming hunting season.  Hopes are high for every team, even the Cleveland Browns.  They have some young talented players who have already lived up to or exceeded expectations.  As excited as I am for the NFL season to start, I can’t wait to hear the first elk bugle in the woods, it is a adrenaline rush like no other!  The anticipation is similar to that of the opening kickoff to a new season, hopes are high.

Elk
Elk

There are the obvious players everyone will try and draft, Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell if he ever signs his franchise tag contract, which he will.  The trick is to find players that earn points who are hidden gems.  Tyreek Hill last year would have been one of those players.  I think a player who seems to fly under the radar is Golden Tate of the Lions.  He may be one of the best number two receivers you can pick up.  Another player I would take a close look at is rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp from the LA Rams.  He not a number one, but I think will catch a lot of passes, he is a sleeper.  Another receiver, who has a new quarterback throwing to him, is Ted Ginn.  His new quarterback is Drew Brees.

So what makes September so special?  I shoot my bow everyday, get ready for my fantasy league, train for the first hunt of the fall, watch the Royals make a run at the playoffs and prepare for the start of the NFL season.  What is it they say?  “It just doesn’t get any better than this”.

The Outdoor Quarterback