Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hunting 101

It's been awhile since I've updated my blog, but I've been pretty busy. Now that things have settled down a little bit, look for me to post a couple times a week.

The real reason for this post is to share an unbelievable hunting trip that I was lucky to experience with my dad and my nephew at Swanson Hunting Acres in Niobrara Nebraska.

We left Sioux City on Wednesday afternoon after an hour of clay pigeon shooting. We felt like we needed to warm up a little before we set out to kill the real thing. We made a pitstop at the Castle Bar in Newcastle, Nebraska. The town where I spent the first 10 years of my life. When we entered the bar, everyone in there knew dad, of course. I think they actually have his stool that he used to sit in, gold plated. After some refreshements, we were on our way to the lodge in Niobrara, about 65 miles west of Newcastle.

To our surprise, the lodge was unbelievable. Stuck out in the middle of nowhere at the end of a questionable dirt road. This place had 6 rooms upstairs, and 8 rooms downstairs, all with double beds, and their own bathroom. Tyler and I bunked up, and left dad to snore by himself across the hall. If I had to guess, I would say the lodge is probably about 6,000 square feet.

This is a picture of the main dining / TV area. From left to right it's Betty (the 75 year old spitfire that runs Swanson Acres), Craig "Rooster" Nelson (our guide and dog handler), the Cook, Dad and Tyler. This place was more unbelievable then I can explain. This picture does absolutely no justice to the cedar cupboards and the knotty pine ceiling. To our surprise, we ate prime rib for dinner... which nobody complained about.

This is Betty and JR(a Jack Russel Terrier) and Tyler looking at some squirrels out the window. Betty runs a tight ship there, and she is one of the nicest hosts I've ever met. You'd never know that she's 75 because of the amount of work that she does in a day. JR also earns his keep at the farm. It's his job to kill the rats in the pheasant barns, and the day that we were there, he killed 12.

This is the other wall of the lodge, with Jimmy's (a guy who works at Swanson Acres) trophies mounted. He went on an African Safari last year for 9 days and bagged 6 different animals. The Caribou in the middle was attained on a hunting trip he took to Alaska. It was a pretty neat spread. Neat enough to make dad, Tyler and myself want to take a similar trip, probably around my 35th birthday, because the trip, along with mounting the animals, runs along the lines of $10,000.

This was my absolute favorite trophy of Jimmy's. It's a Golden Pheasant that he bought from a pheasant farmer a couple years ago. It's Cyclone colors, and if I ever come across one, I'm definitley gonna have it mounted for my game room. Look at it, in all it's beauty. I love it.

Hunting was great. We had fantastic weather in the morning and afternoon, and Rooster's dogs performed flawlessly. Here's a shot of me in the field with a pointer and a 2 year old black lab named Gabby.

This is Gabby's dad, Shadow bringing a bird back to Rooster. Shadow is THE best hunting dog I have ever seen. He's a pointing lab with a nose like a canon. He was very well behaved, and retrieved all 18 birds that we shot while he was working the fields.

This is Tyler displaying the results of our morning hunt. You can tell it's the morning hunt because his Rambo like shell holster is only 1/2 empty.

This is all of us after our afternoon hunt. Notice Tyler's shell holster is completely empty at this point. A pretty remarkable stat is Tyler shooting 36 shells that day from a single shot .410. All at different birds. He's holding up the black pheasant that he shot all by himself. A pretty good shot from about 75 yards away. One thing the picture is missing is a good view of dad's swollen hand. This will probably be the last picture you'll ever see of dad holding this gun, because it did a number on his hand that earned itself a permanent place in the gun cabinet, never to be touched again. I see a new semi-auto in dad's future.

We left Swanson Acres around 3:30 with a cooler full of birds, a flock of stories, and a promise to Betty that we will be making a return trip next year. We decided that this could be the start of a new tradition for us. A fantastic time was had by all, and I couldn't think of a crew that I would rather be hunting with, then the 2 fellas wearing hunter orange in that picture above. I'm counting the days till our next trip out there.