I can still remember my fist trip to the incredible Nebraska Sandhills with a shotgun in hand. It was nearly 25 years ago and it literally changed my life.
The Nebraska Sandhills are home to many species of game birds including the northern zone of our ducks coming from the Dakotas into the central part of the state as well as my favorite game bird of all time, Sharp-tailed grouse. There is no better place to chase this bird in the U.S. than the Sandhills. Mixed bag hunts such as these are one of the many benefits of hunting in this great state (did I mention I am a devout Husker fan?).
Ecologically, the Sandhills represent a pretty harsh environment. Cold winters, hot summers, heavy winds with blowing sand make the flora and fauna highly specialized. Blowouts, areas void of vegetation, are common as even minor disturbances can cause the soil to begin moving here. This can be a good thing as it favors some species that only survive in these areas such as the endangered Blowout penstemon. This region is also king of the beef industry with thousands of families ranching the area for many generations.
We saw decent numbers of birds overall. We use layout blinds on the potholes and of course burn boot leather on the grouse. A Typical day finds us on the water in the morning and then, around 1o a.m. we are hiking hills for sharptails. Did I mention these birds love to hide high up in the hills just below the crest? I swear there were days I suffered from altitude sickness. Yet for all the hiking, the picturesque Sandhills somehow makes it seem easy. A good day finds you with ample sharp-tails and a few ducks. A true mixed bag for those who like to mix things up. Of course, pheasants can also be part of the bag when you come down from the hills to the cropped fields where weedy fence rows and wetlands can abound.
Want the ultimate experience? Take the trip on while camping. Those crisp nights around the camp fire lamenting about the days adventures become the perfect cap to each hunt. Not to mention there is no clearer night sky. Evening meals included grouse and dove breasts.
Cut the breasts into one inch pieces and dip into mill and egg and then into a seasoned batter. I like Lawrys mixed with steak seasoning. Then toss on the skillet and cook until the batter is done. On a separate skillet, saute sliced potatoes, a sweet onion, green pepper and whole mushrooms in butter, salt and pepper. When done, combine them all and enjoy. It is delicious.
Bourbon Dove Recipe
My brother-in-law, Dave, applied our venison marinade to dove breasts and they turned out incredible. Marinade 15-20 dove breast halves in bourbon and brown sugar. Saute the breasts in butter on the skillet with a little salt and pepper. Serve with potatoes, onions and peppers. Outstanding!