As close to a wild pheasant hunt as you can get on a preserve!

As close to a wild pheasant hunt as you can get on a preserve!

Duck hunting has been slow at best, so I decided to treat Piper to a pheasant hunt.  If given the choice I’m sure Piper would prefer to be a upland specialist but time and opportunity dictate that she spends most of her time sitting quietly next to me in the marsh in pursuit of waterfowl.  I’m certain she understands the difference  because when we exit the truck on a waterfowl hunt, she is mostly all business; and,  in contrast, when we get ready for an upland bird hunt she is almost like a little puppy again, bouncing up and down and spinning with joy.  Our visit to Luckiamute Valley this past weekend proved my theory to be correct: Piper does in fact recognize the difference and her enthusiasm for the hunt matched mine as we left the field at the end of the hunt.  I had found a jewel of a preserve close to Portland!

Our first Luckiamute rooster.

Our first Luckiamute rooster.

I had been wanting to visit Chuck and Kendall Cates, owners/partners of Luckiamute Valley Pheasants,  for some time but just hadn’t gotten around to it until this past weekend.  With an open day, a rarity these days with all the kids’ activities, I loaded Piper up and we were headed south to Monmouth, Oregon.  Having heard great things about Luckiamute and their fast flying pheasants, my expectations for the hunt were sky high and Luckiamute did not disappoint!  As many of you know, the knock on hunting preserves typically centers around the birds.  Either they hold too tight, fly slow or in some cases don’t fly at all.  Well, I can tell from my personal experience that Luckiamute does not suffer from any of these shortfalls.  Their pheasants were fast fliers and ran like hell, making for some very challenging dog work.  There were times when Piper would pick up scent and 3 – 5 minutes would pass as she zeroed in on the running bird before she could finally force a flush.  Once airborne these birds were true athletes bursting from the cover and flying strong until they were either on the ground or out of harm’s way.   Piper and I were very impressed.

"Blind" retrieve!

“Blind” retrieve!

Luckiamute also offers three separate blocks of ground to hunt making it nice for multiple groups or a change of scenery on your return visits.  Piper and I hunted parts of zone 1 and 2 and both were perfectly suited to a flushing spaniel with great river-bottom ground and long narrow food plot strips that held plenty of birds.  Both of these zones are best suited for two hunters and a dog but can be worked effectively by a single hunter.  We did have a few wily birds scoot out the backside of the cover that a second hunter could have easily taken advantage of.

Lastly, Luckiamute also offers a comfortable barn area where you and your dog can hang out between the morning and afternoon hunts.    Unlike many preserves, when you book a slot at Luckiamute you have booked it for the entire day.  If you make quick work of the 5 bird per person limit that’s great; but if you are like Piper and I, you’ll want to spend some time in the field putting a few birds in your vest and then return for a snack and some refreshments.  Hot coffee and cider are always available throughout the day so we enjoyed a short break for lunch and warmed ourselves next to the wood stove.

So, if you need to get out from time to time to stretch your legs and treat your dog to some upland work close to the Portland area, do yourself a favor and book a hunt with Chuck and Kendall.  You won’t regret it.


Another beautiful Luckiamute pheasant.

Another beautiful Luckiamute pheasant.

A Boykin, a pheasant and  a side by side, does it get better?

A Boykin, a pheasant and a side by side, does it get better?

Piper with "tail" envy.

Piper with “tail” envy.

Great find, great flush and a great retrieve.

Great find, great flush and a great retrieve.

Piper and I with our five pheasant limit!  What a great day.

Piper and I with our five pheasant limit! What a great day.



Slowly but surely Piper’s retrieving numbers are on the rise, 88 and counting.  We are way behind last year but we are hoping that the end of the season brings lots of birds south and many more in the decoys.  Our early season was plagued with unseasonably warm and dry weather leaving us with low numbers of local birds to hunt.  Add to that the fact that the wildlife refuge was bone dry and you have a recipe for disaster.  With the exception of opening morning we were getting skunked on most every outing.  Finally, the cold arrived, but it arrived in force freezing us out for over a week.  Finally we cut a hole in 4 inches of ice and things started to get hot.  We took advantage of things for a few days but today things slowed again.  Just when you think the good hunting is hear to stay the Waterfowl Gods toss you a curveball.

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As we look toward the final push this season, I’m feeling like we are going to get a few big waves of birds that will make for some incredible shooting.  The club still has feed available so once things get wet the birds will find it.  As soon as that happens we will be one of the few clubs in the area with plenty of feed.  Here is to hoping that the rains hit the valley soon.  Forecast calls for rain to start Wednesday!!!!!!!!!!


Wish there were more mallards around because they are the only ducks willing to work the decoys.  Already tired of watching pintails circle only to drift off before presenting a shot.  Teal, well haven’t seen many at all and the widgeon are few and far between.  Weather and lack of water aren’t helping as your know by reading previous posts so what are we left with, Mallards!  Thanks goodness for the green heads because it would be a total bust to this point without them.

Piper Drake 2 1020_2 Piper drake 1 1020 Piper mallard 1124_2 IMG_6406 IMG_6417 IMG_6420 IMG_6424

Wow, the 2013 waterfowl season as been a tough go thus far.  Beautiful blue skies, mild temps and a lack of rain have resulted in very few birds in the area.  My club, The Boondocks, has plenty of food plots to attract the most weary of ducks but with no new birds arriving from the north and the unseasonable warm weather there is little need for them to be out searching for feed all day.  As a result, they are mostly night feeders that stuff themselves all evening and then leave before legal shoot to find a safe place to rest all day only to returning to feed again after shooting hours.  This video illustrated exactly what I am talking about.  All these birds started arriving minutes after shooting hours and left minutes before it opened the following day.  This is a 40 second video but this scene continued for over 30 minutes until it was to dark to see any more.

Well things had to turn at some point and earlier this week we got the much needed rain we have all been hoping for.  Sheet water started to show on the surrounding refuge grounds and just like that we had thousands of birds working the area again.  Shooting still isn’t lights out like I expect it to be when we have a 2 week stretch of bad weather but it is a start.  Just last night two of us enjoyed a 9 duck shoot in the last hour and a half of the day.  Singles and doubles work the dekes and we made sure none of them left!  So, here is to hoping this trend continues and we don’t revert back to nice weather and no birds.

Piper Drake 2 1020_2 Piper drake 1 1020

Piper and I made the finals and need your votes.  You can vote once a day every day until the window closes on the 24th.  Thanks for your support!
It’s finally voting time! Six finalists are vying for a chance to win a free quail hunt with the SportDOG team. We need your help picking a winner. Visit this page and cast your vote for who you think will represent YOU best in the field. The 2 finalists with the most votes will win! You can vote once a day from now through October 24th. Get your vote in now for who’s joining us in the field. http://contests.sportdog.com/workforus

Work For Us | SportDOG


Mark Reilly showcases his pup, Piper, in this look at why he should be chosen to make Gear the Way You’d Design it. For Mark and Piper it’s all about the magical moment when all the long hours pay off.

If anyone is interested in a great artist who does amazing work look no further than Newton Smith.  About 6 months ago I have Newton do a drawing of my late Chesapeake Reina and once I snapped this picture of Piper I knew it was time for another portrait.  Thanks Newt!

Piper pencil


Original image.

Original image.


If you are interested in contacting Newton you can reach him via his website at:  http://www.nssportingart.com

Besides the name this is a great product.  Invisaboykin has a much better ring to it.  Anyway, I just received mine this evening and after a thorough inspection I think they have designed a near perfect dog blind.  It  was built to be used in the field as well as in the marsh.  Adjustable legs allow you to hunt in shallow water or in water up to 34 inches in depth..  I’ll follow up once the season starts but at this point the construction and materials used seem to be top notch.  I don’t expect to have any issues even with hard use.  The blind itself would be very comfortable for a lab while being  a virtual palace for a LBD.  So if your in the market for a new marsh stand I would highly encourage you to take a look at one of these blinds from Momarsh.  You can read more about them at the following location:


Stand deployed for shallow water use.

I’ll be sure to update this photo with Piper as soon as I can get it into the field!

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