As summer temperatures cool down and leaves begin to fall and change color, Superfeet ambassador Edgar Castillo gears up for hunting season. Edgar lives in Kansas and is happiest chasing the birds of the upland fields in the Midwest. Since hunting season is upon us, we decided to invite him to a Q&A to get some of his pro tips for a successful hunting season.
Thanks for joining us, Edgar! When is your next hunt slated to happen? Where will you go and what will you be hunting?
I will be hunting throughout the month of October, for one of upland hunting most prized and difficult feathered quarries: the Greater Prairie Chicken. I will be hunting the Flint Hills, a roughly 50-mile-wide band of tallgrass prairie that extends from the Oklahoma border northward nearly to the Nebraska line in the eastern third of the state. The Flint Hills play an important role as they are the largest area of tallgrass prairie remaining in North America. Its vast landscape and unbounded skies are the perfect backdrop for wing shooters to walk long distances in the hopes of flushing the iconic prairie grouse.
Describe a typical day in the upland fields. How does it begin? Describe the procedure/process of hunting in a way that folks unfamiliar with hunting would understand. How does your day end? How long do you generally stay out?
A typical day starts by watching the sunrise and hearing the woods come to life on a crisp, autumn morning. Hearing the grass brush against your upland pants and boots with each step, and seeing your breath form a cloud around you as you walk the fields and uplands makes the soul come alive. The addition of a brass bell clinging across the land as the dog casts back and forth searching for feathered game is like a rhythmic beat. This is what drives me to return to the uplands every season.
The hunting for each gamebird is different for every species. The habitat and landscape they live in is as different and diverse as the birds themselves. To be successful in upland hunting, one must be familiar with the type of habitat that is needed and / or required by each species. This in turn determines how a hunter and dog will "work" the area. Knowing what the birds need to survive and where they will be at certain times throughout the day and season helps in finding birds. There are different tactics for different game birds.
For example, if hunting bobwhite quail, habitat is the key in finding coveys (a flock or group of birds). Quail generally live out their lives within a home range of about 40 acres. This area requires all the habitat components (nesting, cover, brood habitat, covey headquarters, and food plots) to be in close proximity. This may consist of hedgerows, treelines and plum thickets. Depending on the direction of the wind, which allows the dog to pick up scent and the lay of the land, will determine how one hunts.
What are some of the crucial pieces of equipment that you bring along for a backcountry endeavor?
Boots, bird vest and shotgun.
Boots: The diverse landscapes our boots trek across vary as much as the gamebirds we hunt — each area bringing its own rigors and physical obstacles. A good pair of high-quality boots are essential for a bird hunter to have in order for he or she to pursue their passions.
Bird vest: I think of the bird vest like an orange sail affixed to my back and I am a small ship drifting across the prairie sea. Its multi-purpose use serves to identify me in the field for safety reasons, as well as allowing me to carry essential pieces of gear, such as a first-aid kit, gaiters, gloves, food and water. More importantly it carries the birds I've shot. I lean more towards the use of a technical bird pack with a variety of pockets for storage as opposed to the more traditional bird "vest".
Shotgun: obviously this is a given, as one cannot hunt without a weapon. But the shotgun I carry mostly afield carries a special meaning to me. I carry a Ruger Red Label 12 gauge over-and-under shotgun. It was my fathers and he passed it onto me several years ago. It holds a plethora of memories spent with my father hunting wily pheasants amongst rows of milo and corn, to bobwhite quail along old fence rows, and ducks in the marsh. The dark colored wood with dings and scratches signifying past hunts to the cold metal barrels that brought down many of birds while we hunting together.
What do you eat and drink while you're out?
I typically eat homemade deli sandwiches made up of Hawaiian rolls, mayo, honey-ham and Colby Jack cheese with a little of oregano and pepper sprinkled on. Recently I have added what I consider the ultimate hunting snack: crunchy peanut butter, bacon (four strips) and pure natural honey spread out onto a flour tortilla then wrapped in foil for easy transport! I will also take Ritz crackers, salami, trail mix and maybe a banana.
Water. Water. Water.
After you kill a bird, then what happens?
As soon as I know I have shot a bird, I mark it. It is crucial for hunters to make every effort in locating downed birds. It's not only ethical but mandated by game laws. Once the bird is found, I give it the respect it deserves. I admire it for its beauty and wildness. The bird is then placed into my bird pack until returning to camp or the truck, where it will be cleaned according to regulations and placed into plastic bags for transport with the required identifiable features required for possession. During that time, recipes are being thought of as to best savor the bird in a splendid dish.
Describe the feeling of tracking a bird.
Following the dog and watching your four-legged companion work the terrain, searching for that scent cone and then suddenly go on point, indicating that gamebirds are afoot and then walking in and experiencing the flush excites and startles all the senses. The explosion of birds from cover at almost incalculable rate of speed is nothing short of spectacular.
Whether it's from a long-tailed pheasant rooster bursting into the sky like a rocket from a milo field, or a covey of bobwhite quail exploding into a star burst pattern in all directions, or sage grouse bursting from the high desert floor – it is a feeling and sight of beauty. It startles the mind and jump starts the heart into a feeling of connecting with the outdoors and the wildness of the birds I hunt and chase.
Describe what it is that makes you so passionate about hunting.
I enjoy the peace that I experience when I am in the field. It's a connection back to the outdoors, nature, man's history and the feeling I get providing my family with food. I cherish my times in the uplands as I walk and hear that unmistakable whistle of a bobwhite quail or raucous cackle of a rooster pheasant and ultimately,if both the dog and I do what we are supposed to do, in the end we experience the explosive flush of birds.
I also understand that, as a hunter, it is my responsibility to be a good steward of the land. I do this by being active in organizations that help protect, restore and improve habitat through conservation efforts, education and land projects.
What are your hunting plans for this season?
I like to experience a variety of terrain and different landscapes,all on public land, so I will hunt throughout the state of Kansas. However, Cheyenne Bottoms, located in central Kansas, is always on my hunting calendar. There, I will hunt for a variety of upland game birds like pheasants, bobwhite quail and snipe, as well as ducks. A return trip to the Cimarron National Grasslands may be in order to chase scaled quail in southwest Kansas.
I also plan to hunt the states of Iowa and Nebraska.
If you could hunt anywhere for anything, what would you hunt?
A very good friend of mine recently returned from an amazing backcountry bird hunt in Nevada for the elusive and extremely hard to hunt Himalayan Snowcock. The pictures looked spectacular and full of adventure and adversity. I want to experience such a hunt.
What does a successful hunting trip look like?
The quality of the hunt can be judged by a variety of factors, these are often immeasurable to those that weren't there. In fact, it's often difficult to describe a successful day afield as there are many subtle perks that make up the most memorable days in the uplands chasing birds. It is and never will be about limits. It is more about the experiences I share with animal I pursue. The respect I have for the chase. Hunting carries a deep meaning for me. It is those times that I share with friends, family, and dogs. Yes, the heft in my bird vest is a plus, but never a factor in determining the success rate of a hunt. It is the surroundings, the companionship, the hunt itself.
How do your insoles support your hunting endeavors?
In order for me to hunt longer and farther, I need insoles that properly provide support and comfort to my feet as I endure the environment I hunt. Insoles are an often overlooked item by hunters. Most hunters fail to invest or upgrade to a high-quality hunting insole like Superfeet. Superfeet insoles help my feet stay healthy and functioning.
As bird hunters, we chase our plumed prey in a variety of environments. The locales we end up in may be the same for miles, never changing. Other areas may change every so often. Each area bringing their own rigors and physical obstacles. Its silent partner, Mother Nature, working to either make our moments memorable or miserable. Regions we hunt could include habitat anywhere from grasslands to mountains and everything in between. The diverse landscapes our boots trek across vary as much as the gamebirds we hunt, therefore it's important for me to use Superfeet insoles to help me in my upland adventures.
What else should Superfeet readers know about you?
In the past year, I have added writing to my list of things that I enjoy pertaining to upland bird hunting. I currently write for Project Upland, Orvis, and Pursuit International Magazine. I write articles, essays, and short stories about upland hunting. I also have collaborated with other known writers on topics related to upland hunting. I enjoy this new aspect and extension to my social media presence, especially when I can provide someone with information that may help them afield. I am in talks to possibly doing a short film for Project Upland.
What should Superfeet readers know about hunting?
Hunting is an integral part in conservation. Hunters play an important role in managing wildlife and are at the forefront as conservationists and environmentalists. Hunters through their passion for the outdoors help in wildlife development, management, protection, restoration, enhancement and access to public lands.
For more from Edgar, follow along on his adventures via Instagram and Facebook.
Shop Superfeet insoles made specifically for the demands of hunting.