October afternoons in the sun-drenched aspens chasing grouse are gone. November morning snow squalls and decoying mallards have passed. December left with just enough ice on the lakes to block the boat launch but not enough to start ice fishing. Slow transitions between my seasons suck. Makes me feel like I’m stuck in a rut. To snap out of my funk I spent a morning chasing birds at BT Joe’s.
Located near Dexter, MI, BT Joe’s is a shooting preserve and sporting clays course with good prices and a comfortable feel. Bruce runs the place. A friendly down-to-earth dude who splits his time between raising birds, maintaining clay launchers and about a thousand other things. It was my first trip to BT Joe’s so Bruce gave me the low down while he lit a fire in the potbelly stove. Outside the cabin Zeus and Tugboat harassed the cage full of birds bungee-tied to the back rack of the quad. Chukars, quail and pheasants. Our targets for the day. We signed some paperwork and headed out into the bright December morning.
We wound through the sporting clays course. Dodging mud puddles veiled in a thin layer of ice. The grass was frosted and folded over. The frozen mud was sharp and glittering in the sun. When the trail opened up to the field my jeans got a little tighter in the front.
A little 40 acre slice of South Dakota. Corn rows. Mixed with grassland. Mixed with sorghum. I wasn’t in a rut anymore.
Colleen joined Dusty and I with her fancy camera. As the proud mama of yellow-pup she was determined to document his adventure. I’ve never hunted or fished with my very own camera crew before and the results were great. Colleen snapped the awesome pics included below.
The first bird in the pouch was a big rooster that Tug flushed from standing corn. Then a quick crossing shot put feathers in my vest. My first (ever) Chukar. Then Zeus flushed a quail right at Colleen who got a great pic of the bird in flight.
A short break. A few pics. Back to work. Zeus got birdy near a big pile of rocks. We surrounded the area and Z made eye contact. His back stiffened. He crouched and started to stalk the pheasant. The bird exploded into the air and flew right past me. I turned, shouldered the gun and watched the bird fold-up on it’s way to the snow. By the time Tug got there the pheasant had burrowed into the grass vanishing without a trace. Tug’s first instinct was to search with his eyes. Made sense to me. He watched it drop. When that didn’t work he switched on his nose working the area over in a hurry. Suddenly, he reared back and dove into a pile of ice covered weeds. A short struggle later and he powered out of the cover with that pheasant like an old pro.
We ended up with 10 or 11 birds. A mixed bag of pheasants, bobwhites, chukars and a Tennessee red quail. Every bird flew high and hard making this trip feel more like a wild hunt. We paid about $140 for 12 birds which really is very reasonable. The field is a good size to work for a few hours but it isn’t huge. It’s perfect for a small group of hunters or training/running a couple dogs.
See what the place is all about at their website: http://www.btjoes.com/
I need to mention that I didn’t receive any compensation for writing this post by Bruce or BT Joe’s. I enjoyed the experience and decided to share. Simple as that.