Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Sandy Griswold. August 14, 1890. Forest and Stream 35(4): 70.

Upland Plover in Nebraska.

Omaha, Neb., July 28.—The gunners in this part of the country are having great sport just now with the upland plover. The birds came in one week ago and old hunters say in greater numbers than for many years. In some localities, principally in the high lands up from the different water courses, the prairie fairly swarms with them.

They are in superb condition, of course, and a more delicate dish than baked plover just at this time would be difficult to conjure up indeed.

Out here the old timers prefer a damp, lowering, even a showery day, for plover shooting, and many of them cannot be induced to go abroad when the meteorological conditions are otherwise. But, as is the case in many other instances, I disagree with the moss-covered old timers, and for a day with these birds give me one just like I had Friday, bright and clear, and hotter than blazes.

It is the same old story with the veteran duck shooter, but equally as fallacious. He declares that the day must be windy and storm-laden, with flurries of snow and other disagreeable concomitants, for success with the wildfowl. But he is "off," as I have demonstrated a thousand and one times to my thorough satisfaction, and I can never be shaken in my belief. To talk about certain conditions of the weather for success with the different varieties of game is all well enough, and adds a spice to the subject matter it could extract from no other source, but always, if possible, give me the pleasantest weather that can be ordered for any kind of shooting. I've seen it in all its phases, from elk and sheep in the rugged mountains of Wyoming and Montana to rail on the reedy Delaware. I have sat in a boat all day long, with the mercury flirting with zero, out in the sloughs of the lower Illinois, knocking the incomparable mallard right and left, and never though of the cold until the waning light ended the shooting and brought with it a realization that I was all but frozen, and thought it unexampled sport. Then again I have had just as grand shooting and made even bigger bags of the same birds when the atmosphere was at temperate heat, and know it was sport a thousandfold more enjoyable, and robbed wholly of the dangers of pneumonic and rheumatic visitations in the future. Oh, yes, give me a balmy air and a flood of yellow sunshine to shoot in, let it be deer, turkey, duck, snipe, quail or plover, and I'm content. It matters nothing to me then what the connoisseurs of the sport assert is necessary to success.

But my plover shoot. We drove out the old Oregon trail—Arthur Vorys, an old friend of mine, and I-—until we reached the Platte, where we halted and made preparations for a day of it. We had seen hundreds of plover en route, and when we stopped could hear their plaintive whistle on the right and left of us, and we were no wise uneasy about the result of our expedition. Why, already a dozen pairs of yellowlegs lay in the bottom of the buggy we had knocked down along the roadside on our way out.

We camped first back of a little bay in a grove of dwarfish maples, with a selvage of wild sunflowers and sumach, and a baldric of silver sand stretching down to the water's edge. It was yet early in the morning, and the gurgling Platte wore a dark green polish, with an intermingling of shadows full of sprinkled light, which made the outlook entrancing.

After the horse had been watered and fed and rested sufficiently we again hooked up, got into the vehicle and started up over the yellow grass for the top of the bluffs. We had no dog, nor did we want any. Dogs and plover shooting do not go together. The birds are always in plain sight, and easily gathered after being killed. They are wholly different from jacksnipe, which are the hardest birds in the world to retrieve without the aid of a good dog's nose.

Well, we had barely reached the brow of the ridge when we were electrified by a very chorus of twoo-twill-twees, and as many as four dozen yellowlegs, in bunches of seven and eight, curved their ash-colored wings in lazy flight. A bunch of nine, nearest to us, were the very last to arise, and Arthur and I had no difficulty in getting both barrels and but three of the flock escaped.

It is a slaughter, I know, but there is but precious little single plover shooting when hunting the birds in this manner. I have seen twenty-three plover fall to a single gun and at a single shot, and hundreds of times as high as six, seven, ten or a dozen.

But the birds are delicious, and none are ever wasted, for the man who would refuse a string of these luscious birds is not human, that's all. In the market to-day they bring readily $2.75 to $3.50 a dozen, even more than the matchless little gallinago in the spring and autumn.

Well, we drove here and there over the prairie in an aimless fashion for nearly three hours, and there were but brief cessations in the exhilarating sport which began at the bluff's top.

We always alighted after the first few volleys from the buggy, whenever we saw the birds running ahead of us over the short buffalo sward, or standing here and there upon one leg, like the outposts of some great ornithological army, and took our chances on single birds. And my! you ought to see that man Vorys with his twelve Colt. It seemed to me that he could reach a pair of yellowlegs at a hundred yards away. It mattered not to him—tailers, quarterers, outgoers and incomers, it was all the same. I did not see him make a miss the entire day, and in truth he made none. Oh, I know you will say anybody can knock down nineteen plover out of twenty, but you are mistaken. I have been in the field about as much as the next one and am able to hold my own at any kind of game with the majority of shooters, but you can bet a plover gives me the slip occasionally. Take an old cock and give him a good running start, then let him rise and skin off close to the sear-topped grass, and it's ten to one you or any one else will be very liable to overshoot him.

But to curtail what might be stretched into a long story, the total of our day's outing footed up just ninety-two plover, two big prairie hawks, a monster rattlesnake and an owl.


Omaha, Neb.—Omaha hotels are serving young prairie chicken under the head of upland plover every day, and yet the gun clubs have taken no steps toward stopping them.