Utah public land hunts 2023

I was out dove hunting with a friend this season and working a line to the north when a car drove past us on a dirt road, stopped about 50 yards ahead, parked and jumped out and starting hunting right in front of us heading where we were going. I was livid. I caught up and found two young men whose story was they had already been hunting that piece and just went to take their birds back home and came out to resume their hunt. I tried to explain that wasn’t cool at all and tried to educate them on being better sportsman. They refused to learn and grow and it was really hard not to let my anger get the best of me and escalate the lesson until they learned. Especially when they had parked their car right in the middle of the road almost next to where I was standing. You see at first I thought they just didn’t have a dad or uncle or grandpa or mom or anyone else to teach them better manners and better sportsmanship. But after talking with them for a bit it was clear someone may have tried, they just weren’t interested in learning manners and sportsmanship and to them shooting another dove when they had already shot plenty meant more to them than safety, sportsmanship or manners.

Opening day for pheasants this season I was taking a relatively new hunter out and we were going to a public land piece that is normally a war zone on opening day. Literally. We have avoided it because of safety concerns, because of jerks and selfish people and because it zaps the fun out of what should be fun. People shooting towards each other or towards dogs… It is a nightmare. Dogs being let out in a field with no control or training that have bene kenneled all year just to be let out for these few days. Dogs with bad attitudes that want to fight other dogs in the field. I really hate the situation as a whole. But I took my friend out anyway. Do you know what happened this year? People lined up and walked into the field spread out and headed in the same direction to keep everyone safe. Birds were getting shot but people and dogs weren’t. I met a guy in the field who had shot a bird he couldn’t find and asked if I could use my dog to help him. I hadn’t limited out yet, but I stopped my own hunt and tried to help him find his bird. We did by the way. I looked around and saw other people doing the same thing. People with dogs helping people without dogs instead of getting all upset that their hunt was getting interrupted or cut short. I put a bird down my little French Brittany couldn’t get to between the deep water and thick phragmites and a guy with a lab offered to help. When his dog didn’t find my bird he jumped in the mire with his dog and gave up probably 20 minutes trying to help me find that bird. We didn’t find it but I was impressed with his willingness to help. The whole field was full too many people for one area, yet everyone had a good attitude and worked together instead of against each other. I couldn’t believe it. It restored my hope in our local sportsman. I think everyone left the fields that day with a good experience and most of them with birds. It was great.

I was working a public land parcel heading north with a friend and two dogs. I saw two people coming from the east to the west with one dog. I then wondered are they really going to just cut across our line? They just keep coming. Right when they got in front of us they did a 90 degree turn and took our line heading the direction we were going just 100 feet in front of us. I was stunned. I really couldn’t believe it. 25 yards later they put up a rooster, shot it, retrieved it and then resumed a line heading west. It was the only bird I even saw that day. They never said a word even though they were within earshot. They just continued on as though they hadn’t done anything wrong.

I was so mad. It was such poor sportsmanship. I often take the opportunity to educate people but I was too upset to be nice or reasonable.
I kept hunting unsuccessfully.

A week later same friend and I were working north through a different field. In the field just east of us a group of four with one dog were putting up bird after bird and we were seeing nothing. It was frustrating to say the least. They were reaching the end of their field about 50 yards ahead of us then turned and headed our way.
I thought to myself here we go again… I was starting to get upset and just on the heels of watching them find all the birds while our field was empty.
When they got to our field they simply called out “Hey there is a running rooster running your way along the fence!” Then they turned and went the other way.
Sure enough we found that bird and it was actually a winged bird. One they probably had hit and in my mind had every right to pursue so their dog could see it through. All it would take was communication “Hey we hit a bird and he’s running your way do you mind if we finish the trail?” And I would be excited for them because for me it’s about dog work.
They were great sportsman in my mind and we watched them put up another two birds.

This weekend I saw a bird come up and marked where it went down up ahead of me. I decided to hurry up and go try to find him. Then I saw another hunter in pursuit with a dog and realized they must have put the bird up.
I directed him and his dog to where it landed and they found it and got it up again. It started flying my direction and I wondered why he wasn’t shooting it.
It landed not far from me my dog went on point I went over it was tucked in deep and couldn’t get back up. The dog picked it up and handed it to me. I then carried it over to the original hunter and handed it to him saying he and his dog had got it up twice they deserved it. He thanked me and said that finished his limit. I asked why he didn’t shoot and he said he didn’t want to risk hitting my dogs. I was so impressed and it made me feel so much better about the choice I had made.

Lastly at these public land areas I have been pheasant hunting this season, there is some idiot out there who keeps breasting out his birds and leaving the carcasses right in the parking lot. It makes me so angry I have no kind words left. This idiot whoever they are, is creating a dog owners nightmare. Those birds are right there where any dog can wolf them down as they jump out of the truck and have the risk of obstructions, perforations etc. It also teaches a good dog the worst habit. See the inside of a bird doesn’t smell or taste like the outside of a bird and once a good dog learns this they often start opening up and eating birds on their own in the field. It is horrible! Also they are leaving behind half of the good meat when they leave the leg quarters there to waste. Man I want to find out who this and first try to educate them how it harms other sportsman and second how it is wasteful and third how it is just plain stupid! Then I want to escalate my behavior to the point they never do it again! But alas that isn’t the answer. Education might be. It might be that this person really doesn’t know better, it may be they are jerks and don’t care. But for others reading this, it is no big deal to dress your birds at home, save feathers for your fly tying friends or local crafters and dispose of the birds in a tied bag so they don’t make your garbage can stink. If you want predators to eat the carcasses, why would you attract predators to the area you are hunting? Throw the carcass’s somewhere you may want to hunt predators instead and where game is not at risk. Whoever you are just stop it!

Back in the late 90’s I loved watching a group leave a field, then going and working the same field they had just worked because I believed my dog was better and would find birds they missed. Most of the time I was right and it was so satisfying. I never crowded in on anyone else’s hunt or where they were working or heading. Back then there were plenty of birds and plenty of land it just didn’t matter. You could simply go a bit further and still have a great experience.

But land, birds and opportunity are dwindling quickly and the number of hunters we have in the field is growing almost exponentially. Safety concerns are growing, cooperation is starting to fail. Selfishness often prevails and Fear of missing out guides decision making for a lot of people. I remind myself all the time, I am hunting public land and all the public has the same right to be there.

One of my training areas is near an ATV/dirt bike trail and when I am setting birds and working dogs I try to stay out of their way for safety, courtesy and effectiveness of the dog work. If I got there first and set up and someone comes along, I let them know what I am trying to accomplish where I might be shooting etc, and may ask them to avoid certain areas so they don’t flush a bird or get downrange of my muzzle. But you know what? It is public land and they can choose to be jerks and rip through the same area if they want to, they have the legal right and I try to keep that in mind when I choose to use an area like that and when I meet a few jerks I try to remember they have a right to be a jerk. I just hope they won’t be.

But the hunting community is just that it is a community. We should watch out for each other, be courteous to each other even helpful to each other. It is our responsibility, it should be our morality and ethical behavior with each other, but remember there is the law, and there is doing what is right or wrong whether or not is legal/illegal.

So I guess given these stories and others from your own experiences as well as the experiences of others, you have to decide what kind of sportsman you want to be.