Tis the Season – to Cast and Blast!

“He’s getting birdy!”

Matthew and I watched as his orange Brittany, Murphy, started wagging his tail at double speed, searching the cattails with unswerving attention. Moments later we watched as his body froze, pointing toward a bird that we couldn’t see. The pheasant, unnerved by a forty-pound Brittany staring him down, decided to take flight and make an escape. “Rooster rooster!” called out Matthew as we saw the distinct tail feathers of a nice rooster behind the rapidly flying bird. Being closer I drew my over-under 12 gauge and took the shot. Feathers flying the bird flew for another twenty yards and crashed to earth. Murphy broke his point and pulled the downed bird out of the brush, bringing him back to our waiting arms.

Fall is upon us and with that comes my favorite activity – cast and blast adventures. Cast and Blast combines my favorite fall activities - fishing and hunting. My definition of “Cast and Blast” is a trip that combines both hunting and fishing in one day/trip. It can be ducks, pheasant, turkey, chukar – heck, I guess someday I may even expand it to include deer!

I was first introduced to the Cast and Blast experience a few years ago when Shelby Ross of Ross Outdoor adventures invited me and Rob Holman to join him for a day of shooting and fishing on the Potholes Reservoir. On that day we got up before sunrise as Shelby navigated us across from the Mar Don resort boat launch to his favorite spot of on the dunes at the Potholes Reservoir. There are few guys I would trust to motor out in the pitch black darkness of pre-dawn, and Shelby is one of them.

After we placed the decoys, we awaited with anticipation the coming sunrise and arrival of that day’s incoming ducks. Soon enough daylight revealed our decoys floating serenely on the calm water. Shelby started duck calls and it wasn’t long before our first ducks descended toward our blind. On cue Shelby called out “Take em!” and the hunters shotguns erupted, disturbing the quiet morning. In short order the group’s labs were wadding out to retrieve the first birds of the day. A morning of duck hunting, including an amazing mid-morning snack of duck poppers (duck, green peppers, and cream cheese grilled over hot coals) was what memories are made of. But wait – there’s more! After a productive morning of shooting lots of ducks, we picked up the decoys and moved on to “phase two”, walleye fishing on the Potholes Reservoir. The walleye fishing in the fall is consistent and steady and by the end of the day we had a nice live cooler full of keeper walleye, with a couple 26’” plus walleye released back to preserve the fishery. Good times, good eating and great memories of a fall day well spent with friends old and new.

Since that first Cast and Blast adventure, I’ve had the good fortune of many adventures come fall season.

Another memorable adventure combined chinook salmon fishing and chukar hunting on the Snake River with Snake Dancer Excursions. Owners Gabe and Julie Cassell run an amazing Cast and Blast adventure in the fall, taking advantage of excellent fishing for salmon, bass, and sturgeon with what is truly a hunter’s supreme challenge – chukar. Chukar, for those not familiar with this bird, live along the Snake River, moving up and down the steep hills and cliffs of the Snake River valley. They are the ultimate test of endurance for a hunter. Gabe has an amazing knowledge of the river and chukar habits, and well before we saw any birds he knew where they where and when to drop us off. From there it was up to the hunters to work their way up the steep hillsides, dogs in the lead, in search of these tasty birds. Once flushed, we had shots at fast moving birds that challenged our shooting skills. With a bit of luck (skill?) I managed to get my first chukar! I’ll be honest, this hunt was tough and not for the novice. That said, what amazing scenery and the fishing – crazy good! We hooked multiple chinook salmon to twenty pounds. If you hunt and fish, this is a trip you should add to your bucket list!

So what do you need to participate in a Cast and Blast adventure? In addition to hunting and fishing licenses, you need your own shotgun and shells. Fishing gear is provided by the guide outfits. You’ll also need whatever hunting education classes are required in your state so be sure to check the regulations for your area. In addition to Ross Outdoor Adventures and Snake Dancer Excursions, there are other guides that are open to doing these Cast and Blast adventures. You may even be able to talk your favorite guide into setting up an adventure in your area. When in doubt – ask. You may be surprised at the number of guides that are willing to design your own Cast and Blast adventure.

Meanwhile back in Montana Matt and I continued our morning hunt, slowly filling up our vests with tasty wild Montana pheasant. At the end of the morning’s hunt we headed over to Nilan Reservoir and spent the rest of the day catching beautiful native rainbow and brown trout on the fly. The trout grow big and feisty in Montana and we had a “blast” catching as many fish as wanted, keeping a couple for a nice trout dinner.

Cast and Blast adventures are a great way of scratching your fishing and hunting bug. They require a bit of planning and flexibility, but once you get into the mindset of combining these two outdoor activities you’ll look soon be enjoying the best of both worlds!

By Mike Carey