Part 1:THE HUNT
An Upland Bird Smorgasbord
With Grey Reef Wingshooting
by Dan Wennerlind
Huns! Huns! Huns! Cried out outfitter Jason Ostrander from across the Sage prairie. I turned to the left and saw a pair of beautiful Wyoming Hungarian partridge headed right for me. I raised up my Remington 870, took aim on the first bird and pulled the trigger. The little bird tumbled to the ground, as I continued to swing through on the second bird and just like that I had my first true pair of Wyoming huns on the ground.
My 11 month old Chessy pup Brandy was quick to pounce on the first bird, while Jason’s 4 ½ month old German Shorthair pup Jake who was just getting acclimated to the new sport, took care of the second bird. It was a real treat to have 2 birds in hand after what we had experienced on our first upland bird hunting experience in this area a couple months earlier.
Backing up for a minute to set the stage- today we were hunting with outfitter Jason Ostrander of Grey Reef Wingshooting located in Casper, Wyoming. This area is known much more for its World Class trout fishing on the Grey Reef section of the North Platte River, than the wide variety and abundant upland bird population that it has to offer.
Jason has been guiding upland bird hunters and fly fisherman in this area for over 15 years now and in 2005 he started up his own outfit- Grey Reef Anglers And Wingshooting. At Hunt The North we have been representing Jason’s World Class upland bird hunts since he started out and it was finally time to get out on a hunt with Jason and experience his phenomenal upland hunting first hand.
One of the big draws for me up front, was to harvest one of the area’s true trophy birds, the male Sage Grouse, better known as “The Big Bomber!" The state of Wyoming only allows a 2 week span for hunting these incredible creatures in mid September each year and Jason is the only outfitter I have found that specializes in this particular hunt, and for good reason I would soon find out. My hunting partner for this trip Matt Brooks, had also joined me on a hunt earlier in the year during the 2013 Wyoming Sage grouse season. Since Jason was completely booked up for the entire 2 week season months in advance, he was nice enough to point Matt and I in the right direction to give it a go ourselves.
Now many outfitters I know would be nice enough to give us a general description of where to hunt but to Jason’s credit he actually put us right in the area that he hunts himself. We knew this when we ran into one of his guides, Ryan around midday along with 2 of Jason’s happy customers. Although we were hunting with
Matt's experienced German shorthair pointer Doc and I had my young pup Brandy out on her first official upland bird hunt, we were utterly lost. Ryan was nice enough to share with us the best strategy for hunting these crazy desert Sage birds and his strategy was 100% different than what we were doing, which was hunting the thick cover in the draws like we would pheasants back home.
The “X” factor I would come to find out, is that Jason and all of his guides run 3- 4 big ranging pointers each hunt that cover over 10 miles a day. They also have 2 – 3 back up dogs and trade them off frequently so not to wear down the dogs during the long season. In addition to that, I found that Jason and the guides actually scout several months out of the year for Sage grouse roosting sites, which are simply a small bare patch of dirt near the top of a big draw. Both Jason and Ryan confirmed that the birds will roost on that exact spot every night, month after month. The birds also only have about a ½ mile home range so once you find the bird’s roost sites you can usually find the covey weeks later in the very same area. In fact Jason boasts that they have had 100% success rate for their Sage grouse hunters every year and they usually produce 20 – 80 bird flushes per day for their hunters. After 2 days of hunting on our own without even a single flush I was pretty sure that what Jason offers is worth every penny!
Back to today’s mission, we were hunting one of Jason’s private ranches that was plum full of Wild Hungarian Partidge and Chukar. With over 20,000 acres of private property accessible for our hunt Jason told us that we could hunt all day for a week and never walk the same ground twice. It didn’t take long before Jason’s big stud pointer Trump was on point and his little girl Pebbles was right there to back him up. Jason quickly instructed Matt and I to get up there and walk right through the dogs as the birds weren’t going to hold forever.
Just like that a covey of about 12 birds flushed and we dropped 3 more of the little buggers.
Never having the opportunity to hunt over an experienced and professionally trained pointer before, to be hunting over 3 at once was a real treat. I could see why pointers are the dog of choice in this country and why most hunters tend to leave their flushers at home. As fun as it was to have my pup with, she was pretty much there to help find the downed birds and rarely had a chance at a real flush.
Not 15 minutes later little Pebbles was locked up again. This time Matt had a shot at another 5 bird covey and dropped one bird and sailed another one across the desert plain. This would be the only bird we would lose during our 2 day adventure. As we headed back to the trucks with 6 birds in hand, Jason continued to amaze us with his vast knowledge of the birds. I found Jason to be more of an upland bird biologist as much as a hunter. He knew every detail about the bird’s life cycle from the kind of seeds they ate, to where to find their nesting and roost sites, along with how and when the birds would be where they were during each hour of the day.
After a quick drive to the next draw we were back on the hunt. This time we were hunting a thicker draw with a small creek running through it as Jason said the birds would be down here getting a drink of water this time of day. He was spot on again as 100 yards into the hunt my pup Brandy got her first flush of the hunt. Unfortunately I was paying more attention to Jason’s pointers than my own dog and missed the opportunity. However following Jason’s prior instructions I watched where the bird landed and 10 minutes later as we made a trek back through that area, sure enough Brandy flushed the same bird again and this time I was ready! What an amazing experience we were having this day. Other than pheasant hunting in South Dakota I don’t recall such an action packed upland bird hunting adventure. By lunch time we had over 6 covey flushes on All Wild Huns and were just about limited out on our 5 bird daily limit.
A Rare Find On The Wyoming Sage Prairie-
An Old Buffalo Horn From Back In The 1800's
Later in the afternoon Jason took us on a quick walk through another section of prime Hungarian habitat where we actually ran into some pheasant tracks along the bank, which made it feel a little more like home to me. However after Brandy launched herself into a thicket where the tracks ended, all that was left in there was a big pile of feathers. This would end up being the only hike of the day where we ended up without a flush.
With the sun dropping quickly on the horizon, Jason took us up to a rock ledge where we were now switching gears and chasing Wild Chukar. We were spread out pretty wide on this hunt, about 75 yards apart. We heard Jason yell out across the canyon that we had a flush. A pair of Chukar were sitting at the top of the rock ridge and Trump had another flush under his belt. The birds split and one banked left and the other right. Matt had a long crossing shot down the hill and failed to connect. We kept going as the sun sank lower on the horizon.
Jason told us that he had one more spot to hit before the day was over. He had a little roost spot that a specific covey of Huns liked to use. Jason said that he had hunted these birds several times in the past but the wary birds had always eluded his hunters. This time Jason picked up his over and under and we were off on our last hunt of the day.
I was on the right side, Jason was in the middle and Matt was on the left as we walked down a little draw towards the roost site. As soon as he dropped down into the main draw I heard Jason cry out again-
Hun! Huns! Huns! I heard one crack from Jason’s over and under ring out before I saw 3 of the little birds bank out in front of me. The closest bird was about 30 yards out and I quickly drew down on the bird and with my first shot it fell to the ground. The second closest bird was at least 45 yards out now crossing left to right. Even though it was a little outside of my comfort zone I took the shot anyway and it too fell to the ground stone dead. What an amazing way to end the day, just like it had started- with my second true pair!
At dinner that night back at the lodge I had a chance to get a better feel for exactly what Jason had to offer with his wide variety of upland birds in the area. While Jason’s full time chef Curt prepared a spectacular steak dinner for us that rivaled the partridge dinner from the night before, we enjoyed Monday night football on the big screen and quizzed Jason on his operation.
Jason went over his most popular hunting packages in detail. Jason stated that his 2 Day / 3 Night All Inclusive Sage Grouse Hunt is a big draw but he books that hunt out 6 months in advance every year as it is a short window of opportunity each September. This hunt, he noted is a trophy style hunt as the birds are terrible to eat and most hunters are just looking for the “Big Male Bomber” to put on the wall. Another one of Jason’s most popular packages is his Cast N Blast. With this
package his hunters spend 2 days hunting the area’s upland birds like we had today, and then spend a day on the river fly fishing for the big browns and rainbows. Jason said it is not uncommon for his fisherman to get at least one 25 inch trophy fish during a day on the river. Being an avid fly fisherman that really got Matt’s blood boiling!
However the real adventure for me was Jason’s 4 Day / 5 Night All Inclusive Upland Bird Adventure. This is the one Jason stated, that he has customers from across the country fly in for. With pre-scouted areas and leases on private ranches across the region, Jason can provide up to 4 different upland hunts in one trip. The first and most popular was the hunt we experienced today, the Wild Huns! With that hunt, Jason said he usually plants a couple hundred roosters on his properties early in the season and Jason tells his clients that they ARE NOT wild roosters. However it really adds to the enjoyment of the hunt for many of his customers and since they are planted weeks in advance it has the feel of a wild pheasant hunt. Jason also only allows his hunters to harvest 3 roosters per day along with their 5 Huns and 5 Chukars, which is the legal limit. Thus a preserve license is not needed.
The second hunt is specifically for Wild Chukar. Even though we got a crack at a pair on our first hunt, Jason has a specific area that he takes his clients specifically for Chukars as they are usually found in the higher, rockier regions of the Sage plains. The third upland hunt is for the area’s Blue grouse. For this hunt Jason takes his hunters about a half hour from the lodge, up into the timber line and they do very well on the Blue grouse. And finally, for the diehard upland enthusiast who wants it all, Jason can make a day trip of it and take his hunters about 1 ½ hour south of the lodge and hunt the state’s Sharptail grouse population. Thus on a four day hunt a hunter can literally do a different style of upland hunting each day in a totally different habitat and harvest 4 different species of upland birds and maybe even shoot a couple pre planted roosters to boot. I asked Jason how many hunters actually do all four hunts in one trip. He said that even though most of his hunters do book the four day hunt, most tend to spend at least a couple days strictly hunting the Huns and Chukars around the lodge and then take a day up to the high country and hunt the Blue grouse in the timber.
Jason ended by stating that one of the biggest selling points for his customers is that no matter what the group size, Jason ALWAYS splits his hunters up into 2 hunters with 1 guide and 3 dogs so it is A VERY PERSONALIZED HUNT for everyone! I had to agree that really made the hunt for me.
In my opinion the overall abundance of upland birds in this area of the country is still totally untapped. Add to that Jason’s vast knowledge of the birds and prime leased properties and you have the making for one fantastic hunt! In addition, every aspect of the hunt was top notch- from the excellent on-site lodge and chef prepared meals, to the pre-scouted roost sites, and professionally trained pointers. It was just a real treat to experience firsthand the caliber of upland bird hunting that Jason Ostrander and Casper, Wyoming have to offer.
Having hunted all across North America I can honestly say that this was the best Wild Hungarian partridge and Chukar hunting I have personally experienced. I felt honored to name Jason Ostrander of Grey Reef Wingshooting the 2014 HuntTheNorth.com Outfitter Of The Year!
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
We really enjoyed several aspects of what Jason has put together. First his overall demeanor was very enjoyable to be around. It was evident that Jason truly enjoys his lifestyle and in turn makes it very enjoyable for his customers. Second his vast knowledge of the birds we were hunting was uncanny. Jason knows his prey inside and out which makes for a much more enjoyable and successful hunt. And third, the fact that Jason positions his hunts as 2 hunters per guide really makes for a very personalized hunting experience. We give Jason a 5/ 5 in this category!
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5|
Since there really isn’t a lot of “Equipment” involved in an upland bird hunt, I will look at what Jason does have in that area. He has several private leased ranches totaling over 20,000 acres and scouts these areas frequently so he knows where the birds are. In addition to that Jason, along with each of his guides, run 7 professionally trained pointers. This really makes the hunt. Note: customers are more than welcome to use their own dogs but I would highly recommend allowing Jason to supplement the hunt with a couple of his dogs. On a standard hunt Jason will run 3 dogs and rest the other 4 for the next hunt. The dogs and grounds were amazing – 5/5!
|Score||5 / 5|
The opportunity to harvest game was excellent. Not only did we get multiple covey flushes on the first 4 hunts, Jason knew exactly where to go at each point during the day to make sure we stayed on birds all day. We had an ample opportunity at taking a daily bag limit of 5 Huns per hunter. In addition to that I will add in that when Matt and I tried to hunt the Sage grouse on our own in mid Sept we hunted HARD for 2 days and NEVER got a flush. During those same two days, in the same area Jason and his hunters harvested many birds and they flushed over 100 Sage grouse.
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
|Score||5 / 5|
The meals and lodging were excellent. Jason’s remodeled home is very comfortable and had all of the amenities that we needed, along with a gorgeous view. The lodge is located less than 100 yards from the North Platte River. The grounds were very quiet and scenic. Each hunter had his own room and there were two floors to the lodge so if there is another group in camp, they can get away to their own area as needed. In addition the meals were outstanding. Jason’s full time chef Curt did an excellent job of making sure we were fell fed and taken care of. We were also only 5 minutes from the hunting grounds which was nice.
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||4 / 5|
Jason runs a 3 day / 4 night All Inclusive hunt that includes: Lodging and meals, as well as a full day’s guided hunt and all bird cleaning and shipping as needed for $2,350.00 Jason can also offer transportation to and from the camp, for hunters flying directly into Casper, WY as needed. Jason also offers a 4 day / 5 night upland bird package for $3,150.00. Also Daily Hunt Packages are available as well as the Cast N Blast Package option. Jason is also willing to accommodate single hunters for a little extra for a very personalized hunting experience.
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
Overall we had an amazing experience. Again this was one of the best upland bird hunting adventures I can remember. It rivals the best South Dakota pheasant hunting. The abundance and diversity of birds in the area and the unique terrain and lack of hunting pressure combined made this a most memorable experience. We would not hesitate to recommend Jason to any upland bird hunting enthusiast!
Overall Grey Reef Wingshooting Scored 29 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!
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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 Upland Bird Hunts. He also offers:
- 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.
| more photos from the hunt...|
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