Part 1:THE HUNT
OPERATION: SAGE GROUSE
By Dan Wennerlind
After naming Jason Ostrander of Grey Reef Wingshooting the 2014 HuntTheNorth.com Outfitter Of The Year upon completing a truly World Class caliber Wyoming upland bird hunting adventure the previous November, he told me I HAD TO get back next September for what could likely be the last Sage grouse hunting season EVER!
Jason shared with me that due to the fact that the Sage prairie habitat across the country was quickly being depleted, in combination with the fact that the Lesser Sage grouse species was not doing well at all, the government was getting ready to pull the trigger on listing both the Lesser and Greater Sage grouse on the Endangered Species List. And once that happens nobody alive today will most likely ever have a chance at hunting this magnificent bird again in their lifetime.
Fast forward to opening day of the 2014 Wyoming Sage grouse season. I pulled into the lodge located on the North Platte River just west of Casper, Wyoming just in time to watch the sun set over the hills. Jason truly has a small piece of heaven right here in the great state of Wyoming to share with his hunters.
I got settled into my room and had a chance to meet several of the other groups of hunters in camp, here for opening day as well. Hunters were coming in from across the country in quest for the “Big Bomber” male Sage grouse to put on the wall before the opportunity may be lost for good. After a couple cold ones next to the new fire pit Jason installed this past summer, it was off to bed with dreams of flushing “Bombers” in my head!
The next morning rolled around too fast. At 6:30 sharp I heard the sounds of excited hunters preparing for the hunt. Jason arrived at 7:15 sharp with a truck full of anxious dogs and a bag full of hot breakfast burritos for everyone. We were out the door by 7:30 and set foot on the Sage prairie just before the 8:00 am bell rang. Now even though the Sage prairie habitat overall is in jeopardy of being lost, the area we were hunting today was as far and vast as the eye could see. Jason stated that by the end of the day it may feel like we covered 10 square miles in chasing these crazy birds when in fact in reference it is about one square inch on the floor of an entire basketball court. That one may catch up with you by the end of this story!
The only challenge we would be in for on this gorgeous late September day, was the fact that it was heating up quickly and the wind was a slight updraft at best. Thus Jason’s 4 German shorthair pointers were going to have their work cut out for them, with the scenting conditions being minimal and the weather being hot.
I had no fear, after hunting with Jason’s dogs the previous November and harvesting full limits of Wild Huns and a few wild Chukar to boot, this was going to be a cake walk, or so I thought. In fact Jason’s dogs have been known to flush over 100 grouse in a day. And trust me this is not by chance, Jason works hard the months leading up to the hunt by scouting, scouting, scouting miles and miles of sage terrain to pin point the different coveys of all upland birds in his area, in preparation for the upcoming season.
After two hours of walking without a flush Jason had to admit that these were some of the toughest scenting conditions that his dogs would face all year, as the temps reach upwards of 80 degrees and still no wind across the prairie.
We arrived back at the truck and took a little break on the way to the next sea of sage. This time Jason brought out the young guns- his 12 month old pup Jake and counterpart Libby, two more of Jason’s amazing shorthair pointers. We worked hard for another couple of hours before Jake went on point, only to flush a wild covey of Huns just a little too far out ahead of us.
At that point Jason started checking in with the other groups to see how they were doing. It was exciting to hear that the two gentlemen I was bunking with each had a Bomber in hand and were working on their second of the two bird limit, to finish out the day.
Now all of the dogs had been on an extensive walk and were getting a little tuckered out. As we pulled up for the last walk of the day Jason decided we would let the rest of the dogs rest and gave little Pebbles a chance to have it all to herself with the assistance of my dog Brandy for back-up. We weren’t 100 yards from the truck when Pebbles went on point. Brandy and I hurried up for the flush and just like that we were on the board as Brandy retrieved my first ever Sage grouse to hand! A great way to end an amazing day in the field with a good friend and top notch outfitter!
Day 2 we were up and ‘attem early today as it was going to be another hot one and Jason wanted to get an early start. This time we headed north to what Jason calls his playground. A place he said he won’t take just anyone, I felt honored.
Right off the bat Trump and Jake cornered a covey of about 12 birds next to a watering hole, most likely a hen with her brood and a couple of last year’s chicks. But no Bomber in the group so we let them go. Today we were on a mission!
As the day progressed the heat started to sink in and everyone was getting a little worn out. We worked hard for another couple hours but with hot temps and no wind the scenting conditions were terrible again!
We finally pulled up to what would end up being our last push of the day. We were off to an impressive start as we found sign everywhere across the prairie. Jason said there has to be birds in this area, we just need a little help from Mother Nature and just like that wouldn’t you know it a gust of wind came up and both dogs caught the scent. They worked their way up to the top of a rise and Jake went on point again. Now my heart was racing as I knew we were closing in on the end of the hunt, and what could be the season for good, for this guy…
Pebbles came up behind Jake but honored his point. As I got close two birds flushed, both young birds, then another one popped up and two more, I was just waiting for Jason to say the word that we had a bomber in flight. Finally after three more birds took flight, the last bird that flushed was “The Bomber”! I raised my old 870 but the bird swung right over the top of Jason’s head and I was forced to let it go.
However all was not lost, the birds banked over the back side of the hill and dropped down quickly. We raced behind them as fast as we could. We made our way over the crest and watched old Jake at it again. This time Jake locked up about 50 yards in front of me. Jason encouraged me to “Get on him!” I walked through Jakes point and a big bird flushed I swung and pulled the trigger- Bird down! Jason raced over to pick up the bird before the dogs got there, to save the potential wall hanger. It was a very nice young male and a solid potential mount, but not the Big Bomber
we were after. Jason advised that we head back to the truck for a fresh set of dogs, for the grand finale. We had a covey on the ropes and they weren’t going anywhere.
Outfitter Jason Ostrander
Of Grey Reef Wingshooting
After A Long Day Afield
About a half hour later we were back with the truck and a fresh pair of dogs, Trump and Libby were going to take us home! We worked our way across the prairie plateau to where we anticipated the covey landed. The dogs got birdy again and gave chase down into a ravine. Jason yelled “There goes the Bomber” as one bird flushed early. I looked down and saw another 6 birds making their way up the back side of the ravine. The dogs tried to catch up to them before they flushed but it was too late. The chase continued……
This was it, we made our way to the top of the hill and had a 300 yard plateau before the fence line to private ground. Jason said this is it. We got close and the dogs got birdy. Trump went on point- I came through behind him and flushed a young bird- no go. Then Libby went on point behind me. I flushed 2 more of the young birds of the year. We were right in the middle of the covey and they were popping up like popcorn!
Trump circled back around and 3 more birds flushed, still no Bomber….
Trump pushed on and went on point again. This time 4 more birds flushed, this was it… the last chance, I pulled up and dropped the last bird stone cold! Trump made a gallant retrieve and I felt a sense of relieve. I finished the day with my limit of two nice Sage grouse in hand taken over an incredible pair of pointers.
Then it happened, Libby was on point to my right and the Big Bomber flushed…..not 15 yards away. I had my two birds in hand and had to watch “The Bomber” make his away across the prairie, unscathed.
I thought I would feel more of a sense of disappointment at that moment, that the big one got away. But I didn’t. I reflected on what an amazing journey these past 2 days had been, hunting with a great friend and incredible outfitter with 4 AMAZING dogs. With the sun sinking lower on the horizon we made our way back to the truck. I told Jason what an incredible adventure this had been and I don’t know if I would have changed the ending if I could have…. Well maybe.
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
After naming Jason the 2014 Outfitter Of The Year from our previous hunt the fall before, I felt confident in Jason’s experience and ability to put me on birds but as with every hunt I join Jason on, his laid back nature and ability to make the hunt just as rewarding without pulling the trigger is what I enjoy most, in addition to hunting over his UNBELIEBABLE shorthairs. As always Jason gets a 5 / 5 in this category!
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5|
In this game the real “Equipment” if you will are the dogs. Without a set of well trained pointers you virtually have no chance in this vast sea of Sage. Jason’s dogs are AMAZING! I had my dog with just to have her there, but Jason’s dogs are true professionals and really made the hunt an overall success! Another easy 5 / 5!
|Score||5 / 5|
The opportunity to harvest the wiley Sage grouse turned out to be a little more work than usual but even so, I was successful both days. After hunting the same area the year before, without using Jason’s guiding services and walking over 10 miles without even one flush it was a real treat to join Jason on this amazing hunt. Also everyone else in camp was successful as well. 5 / 5!
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
|Score||4 / 5|
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||4 / 5|
Pending the fact that the Sage Grouse season is even open again in 2015, Jason can accommodate most any length of stay. Most hunters hunt a 2 to 3 day hunt package but Jason offers Single Day Hunts, up to 5 Day Hunting Packages. Jason now also offers several packages that include lodging only or lodging and meals, depending on the hunters budget and group size. And don't forget to ask about his amazing hunts for wild huns and chukars later in the season. Call for more details.
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
Overall the trip was an absolute success in my eyes! Jason worked as hard as anyone I have hunted with to make sure I had a most memorable hunt. He also worked hard to make sure the hunt was exactly as I wanted it and was not afraid to keep hunting when most outfitters would have called it a day to make sure the trip ended well. Jason’s hard work definitely paid off again and I give the hunt an absolute 5 / 5!
Overall Grey Reef Wingshooting Scored 28 Out Of 30 Giving Them An "A" Rating. We Would Not Hesitate To Refer Jason For His Spectacular Wyoming Upland Bird Hunts / Cast n Blast Adventures!
Part 3: Booking Information
Contact Information For: Grey Reef Wingshooting
Outfitter: Jason Ostrander
Phone: 1.888. 552.3179
Address: 2094 Glendo Street Casper, Wyoming 82604
Additional Hunts Offered:
In addition to Jason’s World Class Wyoming Sage Grouse Hunts. He also offers:
- Wyoming Upland Hunts For: Wild Chukar, Hungarian Partridge & Blue Grouse
- Wyoming Summer Fly Fishing On the North Platte River
- Wyoming Late Season Fall Waterfowl Hunts
- Kansas Spring Snow Goose Hunts
For more information on any of these hunts be sure to give Jason a call ASAP as many of his hunts are pre booked each year from his repeat customers.
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