Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Product Review! Pet Insurance- Yes or No?

Cap and me in Idaho- Chukar
 I hunt all over the country.  When a new area piques my interest, I do the research and load the dogs to check it out.  I often think, my dogs must think their dog boxes are the most amazing machines- they go in at home in Georgia and they pop out somewhere else!  The only thing they know for sure is that there is some gamebird at the end of the trail.  It's pretty interesting to see how quickly they figure out the bird and the particular way that works best to pin them down.  My older dogs jump out of the box, look around, and say, "Hunh! Alfalfa fields, dikes, warm, dry, wide open.....must be Montana and Sharptails, again.  But, I'll bet I get another shot at Huns, today, too!  I just hope the Bossman can hit 'em this year!"

bird dogs and bird hunting
Hunter walking trail, Wisconsin.
All that said, not only are there rewards for the traveling hunter (and that may be just an hour away- not necessarily across the country), but there may be many hazards, as well.  For example, snakes in September in Montana (Prairie Rattlers) as well as porcupines and skunks, porkies in Wisconsin/Minnesota, snakes and Javelina in NM, lava rock in AZ and barbed wire everywhere!

bird dogs and bird hunting
The Boys have them nailed- NM Blues.
 I had always figured I'd suck it up when a dog was injured.  Commonly, it was barbed wire cuts, ear infections, colitis (from the delicious cow splats and stock tanks- yummy!), or porcupine encounters for the dogs unfamiliar with them.  Country vets usually charged way less and I considered it a "cost of doing business".  And, I have a theory that one reason there is so much disparity in the cost of human health care is due to insurance.  I talk to my MD's and they shake their heads at the control of medicine exerted by the insurance companies. I think, if pet insurance becomes more popular, the same dynamic will assert itself.  Prices will rise, service will decrease, etc.  Of course, I can't make a financial comparison, but I can just imagine how much I would have been charged for this procedure on my eye with human insurance!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Young puppy, Cap, and me in NM.
 A few years ago, I looked at Pet Insurance and did some pretty extensive Internet research into the companies offering the product.  I found a pretty diverse premium range and range of what was covered or not.  For example, I was only interested in accident insurance.  Mainly, I figured my main hazards would be porcupine, snakebite, barbed wire, animal encounters, roadway crossings, etc.  Big stuff that would cost thousands to fix. All of that was covered in all the policies.  I asked a vet in ND, one time, what did she mostly see in the clinic as far as hunting dogs?  "Barbed wire and cruciate ligament tears", was the answer. So, I looked for the exceptions.  In fact, cruciate tears are not covered in my policy, nor in most others' standard policies.  Nor are genetic defects, etc.  It's so important to read the exceptions and apply that to your particular case! 

Ace and a few ditch chickens in ND
I decided to go with a company called Pets Best.  I covered 4 Brittanys- 2 male, 2 female (none altered), ranging in age from 3 to 6 years old. My policy is for 20% deductible with a one-time/year/dog charge of $100.  They pay 80% after the $100 (once per year) charge.  My premiums are $272.64 every 6 mos, auto charged to CC. Total of $545.28/year.  I did get some discounts for number of dogs, military retired, auto deduct, etc.  There are lots of options there.  You can go all the way to 100% coverage, or up to $1000 deductible, etc.  I have no doubt the care would have been done, adn I would have paid,  but this coverage made the repair of my dog's eye much more palatable.

So, to my particular example.  Cap, my main man now, took a spine of something to the eye in NM this year. It entered the eye, passed through the lens and went out the back!  Evidently, he jerked back, because while the track was there, the spine was not.  My local vet wisely referred me to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist immediately.  I got a referral the same day and was sitting in the office by 1pm.  Apparently, these guys are rare as hen's teeth, but one opened an office 30 miles away.  Normally, I would expect to go to the University of GA or Auburn Vet School (both 2+ hours away).  Cap was treated successfully with surgery (I won't go in to detail since this is about the money) and is back running field trials with great success.  I guess 3 weeks wearing a cone wasn't too debilitating.  So, the numbers:  The total for surgery was $3810.79.  After the one-time $100 ded. and the 20% deductible, the amount deposited in my checking account was $2968.64.  The claim was filed on 19 Jan 2017 and the money was in the account 10 Feb 2017.  There were other charges along the way for different meds during recovery (they were changed due to a stubborn infection during recovery) and they were all paid at 80%.  Along with Cap, Pearl, Brit female, also had corneal damage and was seen at the same time as Cap.  Her treatment was done with eye drops, was in the $450 range and was paid into my account at the same time as Cap's.

Cap on the way to a NSTRA First Place 2/11/17

All the paperwork was filed online. (I have an app on my phone that will take a picture and convert it to a .pdf document.)  The company did request some records from the specialist for Cap, and his staff provided them.  They did not request records for Pearl, the difference due to the disparity in cost of Cap's procedure, I assume. 

I guess the question is this: Is $540/year justified by the likelihood of incurring a covered injury.  For me, the answer is a conditional "yes".  If I was only running field trials, or hunting the family farm, maybe not.  But, my policy paid off three times now (also, barbed wire for Pearl last season in ND).  I'm happy, but I still check around.  Recommendation:  IF you decide this might be for you, I can recommend this company- Pets Best.  I had an excellent experience with them.  They did everything they said they'd do- on time. 

Full Disclosure:  I received no consideration from anyone at Pets Best. I have not corresponded with them, other than to file claims, obtain the policy, etc. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Scrubbing out public land transfer myths

I hunt, almost exclusively, public land.  I can't afford Texas, or, in
some cases, I don't want to be tied down to a lease I've paid a pile of
money for.  I hunt many states every season, for numerous species of
birds, and, if I had a sweet Texas lease, I'd feel that pressure to "get
my money's worth".  

So,given that I hunt public land a lot, I'm very attuned to any effort to
"sell, dispose, transfer" public lands to the states.  Why? Because
states have done an abysmal job of managing their lands, including
excluding any hunting, fishing, recreational use.  To be fair, the
primary use for the states' land is to raise revenue.  The ways I've
seen them do that is to lease to farmers, ranchers, etc.  Some states
only restrict access when there are standing crops in the field.  Some
states restrict assess all the time.  Federal lands, by law, are
required to manage for many uses, including hunting, fishing, camping,
off roading, mountain biking, etc. 

bird dogs and bird hunting

Also, Federal lands (BLM, Nat. Forest, etc.) can be protected by the Feds-
for example forest fires.  A huge western forest fire could bankrupt
some western states.  They really can't afford it.  So, the obvious
solution for them is to SELL it.  And, you can rest assured there are
individuals out there who will buy millions of acres one day and post it
the next. 

bird dogs and bird hunting
Rick and Gigi

The states have a solid track record of selling their land.  To my mind,
it's best to ensure the Federal Government keeps, manages and protects
our land.  To those of you that have never hunted a state with BLM land,
it is an amazing experience. With very few restrictions, if you see it,
you can hunt it- not something most Easterners are used to.  But, you
can also camp on it, hike on it, fish on it, get closer to your kids on
it, honeymoon on it.  Don't let this incredible resource slip out of our

National Forest Minnesota

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Mexico Blue Quail....Round 2

Click Here for GoPro video.

I'm taking some pretty good pictures on my travels. However, I'm missing easily 50% of the best pictures,  because I don't have a zoom lens.  I have a GoPro and, with the editing software, I think I may have found a solution, short of spending  $2000.  I'm going to give it a shot.

Love these Blue Quail in New Mexico!

For some reason, I love hunting these frustrating birds! Back home, in Georgia, I'll mention I'm on my way to New Mexico to hunt Blues and I'll get lots of comments about how they run and are hard to get up to shoot.  Exactly!  They are a tough, challenging bird.  As much as I enjoy hunting a Texas lease with 20+ coveys per day, for the walking hunter, these Blue Quail have their own mystique.   I wish all birds were as cooperative as Bobwhites- a true gentleman bird. I finally realized I must not be that gentleman.  I truly enjoy the challenge of chasing the Blue devils.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Shack has a covey pinned
These tough, blue SOB's are anything but gentlemen. They will run away so fast a West Texas pointer can't keep up with them!  Then, the next covey will split up and hide in every bush, or fly and land in a cholla cactus tree, of just hold tight while the dog runs past looking for a sprinting covey.  They will flush in front of you, behind you, under your feet.  They will flush half a covey and run the rest!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Shack catching scent a ways off.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Shack with a snoot full of Blue Quail scent.
One thing I've learned about these guys.  Many times, they will return to the same bush they flushed from!  Go figure.These birds are tough.  When I'm not shooting my old 20 ga. A.H. Fox, using RST shells, I step it up to 20 ga. 3" 6's.  Many guys I know shoot 7 1/2's.  Most locals I've talked to shoot 6's.  Blues deserve a good strong shot shell. Dropping one doesn't mean one in the bag.  In fact, it's a rare cast that produces "6 hit, 6 in the bag".  They will crawl in a hole or run like a pheasant when they hit the ground, if they are not dead.  I know that your dogs are awesome and can find a wounded bird anytime, anywhere.  I'm just saying, these birds can disappear in seconds, if not dead when they hit. I would rather overkill a bit on the shot size, than leave food for the coyotes. 

bird dogs and bird hunting
Pearl says, "When you're done fooling around, I'm ready!"

bird dogs and bird hunting
Ethan and his first Blue Quail- He did a good job!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Them Texas Boys is shooters!
 The weather can go from 80 degrees to 40 degrees and gusty winds to just a flat out rain in the space of three days.  We saw temperatures range from 11 degrees up to 80 degrees in a four day span. 
bird dogs and bird hunting
Cap finds a swimming hole!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Lunch on the tailgate- wind is brutal from the front of the truck!
 We hunt too far out to return to anywhere for lunch.  Tailgate lunches, using the JetBoil, were a lifesaver in the cold and wet.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Ending a successful season with Robert Siler!

Finally, at the end of the last day, a bottle of good bourbon appeared and two, old birdhunters lifted a glass to good dogs, good friends and a worthy opponent!  (Hey, Honey, only 7 months until bird season!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Re-Post Review of GO CLAWS Mud, Snow, Sand traction devices!

They are a special type of polymer. Tough as nails and legal everywhere. 

That's a bunch of gripping action!  

It's a common problem when hunting out west, or even here in GA on the red clay back roads we have. Out west, many times, the roads will be frozen heading in to the back country, and will thaw during the day, making getting out somewhat problematic. In the south, even a slight rain turns the red clay roads into a form of slick snot. I don't care how many wheel drive you have, you ain't going anywhere.  Tires are a factor, but I like to have some form of chain to put on my wheels, in the event I need to get somewhere, like bed and a hot meal. I've used actual chains when getting stuck on some North  Dakota roads, and it was a pain, and muddy.  But, eventually, they worked and I got myself unstuck and on the way. Twice in my hunting career, I've relied on the largess of a local farmer to pull me out with a tractor. (Both times those tractors were so big, they could have pulled the dark out of the night, I think.). 

I knew there had to be a better way. Go Claws. ( Google searching produced this interesting little article. I followed up with a call to the company and the owner, designer picked up. Nice guy!  I ordered a set, then another set. I figure, if I put one of these on each wheel, I'll be able to go anywhere, anytime. 

They are incredibly easy to put on. Literally, after you do it once, it will take less than 5 minutes per tire, more like a minute. You can drive with them on bare road for many miles and not damage the tires or the road. And they grip like a tick on your best bird dog!  

Recommendation:  go to the website and watch the videos. My recommendation is a buy. I have a set for each tire and it gives me great piece of mind while on a trip and seeing storm roll up the valley. "Bring it!" I think. "At least I'll make it back to the motel."

(Full Disclosure:  I was not compensated in any manner by anyone selling, manufacturing, or marketing the subject of this post.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mearns Quail, Blue Quail, Desert Birds and snakes.. December 2016

bird dogs and bird hunting
Mearns Country

bird dogs and bird hunting
Male and Female Mearn's Quail

bird dogs and bird hunting
Ruby has a covey!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Shack backing Cap backing Spirit on the birds!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Ruby, me, Pearl after a nice retrieve by Pearl!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Wally and Spirit cooling off.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Cowboy statue in Senoita, AZ

bird dogs and bird hunting
A lost visitor needs  humanitarian assistance. Antonio.

Trans-Texas Highway Scenery

bird dogs and bird hunting
Blue Quail/Scaled Quail/Cotton-top

bird dogs and bird hunting
Shack has the covey!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Sunning on the road by our parked trucks....sorry.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Nastiness.  Cholla cactus.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Quail Valley

John headed to the point!
The Posse

Merry Christmas, my bird dog friends!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

South Dakota! Roosters Sharps and Chickens!

November is the time of year for pheasants!  The colorful "ditch chickens" are fun to hunt, fun to shoot and can be a challenge when you get one that's a little knowledgeable. 

bird dogs and bird hunting

 South Dakota lets out of state hunters hunt for two 5 day periods. The cost is approx $121.  If you want to hunt longer than 10 days, you get to buy another license.  While the price is climbing, the hunting is worth it.  Lots of public land is available, the land is fairly benign and easy for the first-timer or novice.  As I write this, November is coming to a close.  The heated rush of the opening day crowd is slacking off, the weather is cooler (maybe colder than a well-diggers back pocket, at times!) and I will wager that nary a dent has been made in the bird population. In fact, December is a great month to chase pheasant!
bird dogs and bird hunting
Rick and Gigi and Pheasant

 We hunted out of Pierre, the state Capitol.  (It's pronounced "Peer".  That information, alone, is worth the price of admission.  If you talk to the locals and mention the town like the name of a Frenchman, they'll get a good laugh at your expense.)  When we called to reserve rooms at a local motel, we found the pickings slim and expensive.  We were pretty close to opening week, and the demand was still pretty high.  I called a friend of mine at a hunting lodge north of Pierre and he hooked us up with some pretty good rooms for about the same price as in town and we were close to some of the best food in the area. (
bird dogs and bird hunting
Two Bedroom at Spring Creek

I had my 4 Brits and my hunting partner had sweet black Lab.  Both dog breeds worked equally well! While I'm partial to vast, grassy areas with my big running Brits, Rick takes his lab into the cattails and along fence lines.  We seem to have about the same amount of success.  It's all about what tickles your fancy.  

bird dogs and bird hunting
Ruby and a cagey, old Rooster.

I do have one bit of advice for the novice pheasant hunter.  Unless you are a world-class wingshooter and can consistently kill a rooster with your .410 side-by-side, be sure to use the correct shells.  I shoot a 20 ga. and I'm a huge fan of the Prairie Storm ammunition.  I shoot 3" 5's and find the vast majority of my downed birds don't feel at all like running when the hit the ground.  They kill pheasant- dead.  Long ago, I was knocking them down with 7 1/2's and chasing them and losing them. I went to larger loads and ended up with the Prairie Storm.  Of course, that means I'm not using my 104 year old A.H. Fox for shooting pheasant, but that's the price I'll need to pay to cleanly harvest the big birds.  I switch to my Ruger Red Label 20 ga. for Roosters. 

bird dogs and bird hunting
Morning over Lake Oahe
If you are contemplating a December hunting trip, maybe your first traveling trip, some good choices are always Kansas and South Dakota.  I have a warm spot in my heart for South Dakota.  I do love the wide open wheat and corn fields and the cackle of the Roosters at sunrise and sunset.  "I'm coming, boys! You are about to meet one of my Brits soon!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dancing with the Wolves

      This is a reprint of an article I did chronicling my adventures with Bocephus.  The subject of wolves has come up, again, mainly due to the tremendous success of the re-introduction and growth in wolf population. Many bear dog encounters are ending badly.  

NSTRA CH / QU National Champion Julia's Bocephus (Bo)
 Last year, I was introducing some friends to the Northwoods. I would point to a trail head for them to   hunt in the morning, tell them where I was going to be, wish them luck and agree to meet for lunch, or,   failing that, dinner back at the motel. As luck would have it, the warm fall day started turning dark a   little early, and it was almost black by noon. The rain started as a sprinkle and then gradually got worse.   We put out on a trail that produced a lot of birds over the years. I was the only one on it and I determined that a little rain wasn't going to interfere with a grouse hunt. I did swap my guns out,   though, and the little Fox went back into the case, replaced by a 20-ga. SKB Model 100, I used for   weather like this. Bo and I started down the trail with him running ahead to veer off to one side. And   that was that. He was gone. I walked and whistled and listened for his beeper for about an hour. The rain was heavy at times but merely a downpour at others. He could have been 20 yards out in the thick growth, on point, and I would not have heard or seen him. Finally, I returned to the truck, dried off,   cleaned, dried and oiled and cased the gun, put on some dry clothes and headed out to find my dog.  The trail was about 3 miles long-6 miles out and back. It was getting darker now and I was getting a   little more concerned about the old boy. The good thing was the temperature was quite warm-in the 60's. If he did have to spend the night in the woods, I was sure he would be able find a dry spot and stay warm.  
The Knothead was a wonderful bird dog!

Walking, whistling, listening and bouncing between anger and concern as I walked down the trail, I   rounded a bend as the trail dropped off sharply. I stood for a minute listening and staring down the trail.   Suddenly, a big, gray shape stepped out on the trail about 50 yards away. He was looking down the trail, away from me. After a second or two, I recognized him as a Gray Wolf.  Instantly, I realized he and I were looking for the same thing. I was looking for   my old bird hunting companion. This big, gray boy was looking for dinner, and it downright pissed me off!  "Hey" I yelled, "Get out of here!" (Or words to that effect and edited for content.) I expected him to jump and run like the coyotes I'd encountered   numerous times out West.  His reaction was quite a bit different than I anticipated.  That huge, majestic canine slowly turned his head to the right and looked me right in the eye.   Then, he slowly turned back to the left and trotted down the center of the trail without so much as backward glance. Even now, I'm impressed with him.  He was huge-easily three times the size of my bird dogs, which would make him over 100 pounds! And as he trotted off, in the direction of my lost dog, he more glided that ran.   Just then, I came to the realization that I was completely unarmed!  It was one of the few times in my  life I really did want a gun in my hands-and it was resting, dry and well oiled, in my truck over a mile away. Not thinking all that clearly and remembering the literature I'd read about wolves not bothering   humans (yeah, except for the thousands of years of history and stories about wolves devouring little kids and old men ... the big, bad, wolf, and on and on ....) I pressed on down the trail calling and keeping a   careful eye behind me.   An hour or more later, at the end of the trail, I turned and headed back to the truck. Concern now was for my ability to make it back before dark.  I picked up the pace. Head down in the rain and moving along pretty quick, I rounded a bend and there he was.  A 35 pound bundle of shaking, wet Setter!   I'm not sure who was happier to see the other, but I got down on my knees and hugged that mutt and thanked Jesus for the one more time he answered my prayers.   We didn't stay long on that trail in the rain, and I put him on a lead and headed out. He was so tired he tried to lay down a few times and, finally, I had to pick him up and throw him over my shoulders. We needed to get out of those woods-now!   The sun was long gone behind thick clouds and darkness was settling in. The GPS said we had more than a mile of up and down to go.  I remembered that song from the '60's-"He ain't heavy, he's my brother...."   as I carried him up and down hills, slipping on the up slope with rain dripping down my neck and wet  dog scent in my nose.   Song or not, don’t believe it, he got heavy as this old man got close to the road.  I put him down and we finished side by side-both of us limping and panting hard.   Back at the motel, I checked the old campaigner over for cuts, bruises and ticks.   It was then I noticed   blood on my hands when I ran them over his haunches. I turned him around and gave him a closer inspection.   On his right rear leg, just below the tail, was the perfectly round hole of a canine tooth!  Bo wasn’t talking, but to this day I think he encountered my big, gray friend, too.   I think we were being watched during our little reunion on the trail, in the rain, in the Wisconsin grouse woods. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why I NEVER Brag About My Bird Dog

Recently, I was hunting in the great state of Michigan, chasing the King of Gamebirds, the Ruffed Grouse.  (It's always referred to as "chasing" grouse, for some reason.)  The habitat was perfect.  The day was a little warm, in the 60's, the sky was overcast and we had a little breeze.  All in all, a perfect day to be in the grouse woods. As I unloaded dogs and proceeded with the goat-rope involving excited bird dogs, tracking collars, vests, water, guns and trucks, I noticed an older man with worn boots, scarred leather gloves, battered hat and patched trousers walking down the road. He was toting an old double in one hand and had his other hand tightly gripping a lead attached very high energy liver Brittany. Seeing as bird hunters, generally, are a small group and Ruff hunters are an even smaller group, I took the time to corral my dogs and greet the old man.  We made some small talk about the birds, cover, weather, and even old shotguns. 
Finally, the conversation turned to bird dogs.  Since he was obviously a man of discernment, as I could plainly see the beautiful, male Brit at the end of the tether, I asked if he thought the pup was going to be a great dog. He smiled ruefully and said, "In my youth, I would brag on my dogs like they were part of the Second Coming!  Now, I keep my mouth shut.  I found the moment I bragged on any dog, the die was cast and I was in for a real adventure with him!  Let me tell you about one morning, right here in these beautiful, Michigan woods......" 

The old man turned out that fateful morning with his two males on the ground.  It was a good combination of dogs- the 6 year old superstar, and a 3 year old up-and-comer.  He knew these woods held grouse and he was ready for an enjoyable morning. The 6 year old, was his best dog, and everyone who knew him, knew his dog.  He wasn't shy about about bragging about the liver Brit (some may say it approached obnoxious, but any bird dog man would say that's impossible!).  So, off they went down the trail, the old man with double in hand.  After a half-mile or so, he noticed the young dog was still working well, crossing the trail and working either side, but the other boy hadn't checked in for a while.  A glance at the Alpha told him he was .21 miles out.  Not concerned, he toned him and expected him to turn back and check in, as he worked with the younger dog getting him in to some great cover.  A short time later, he glanced at the GPS again, and saw the other dog (Let's just call the wonder-dog "Cap" for sake of clarity.) was now .42 miles out!  Slightly alarmed, the old man blew his whistle and switched his Garmin Alpha to map mode to see where the boy was headed.  Relieved, he saw only a creek and an old dirt road in front of the moving triangle. .75 miles out now.  He raised his double and fired twice, and blew his whistle again, while watching the map.  Cap stopped, circled and headed out once more! At 1.2 miles out, Cap hit the dirt road and started back to the truck. Whew, thought the old guy, he's come to his senses and will joining the party in a little bit.  Then Cap reversed course and headed away down the dirt road, 1.5 miles out and running down a road.  
Said Alleged Offending Dog

The man yelled to his other pup, reversed course and moved as fast as his old legs could carry him back to the truck. He crated the young dog, removed his vest, stowed his gun, closed the tailgate- all in record time.  He cranked the diesel and turned around on the two-track, throwing leaves and dirt as he accelerated to the dirt road his dog was running.  1.75 miles out and approaching some private parcels along the road, now, Cap's little marker seemed to stop and then run in circles.  The old man turned a corner just in time to see his prized, champion, perfect bird dog holding on to a big yard chicken by the tail feathers!  He slammed to a stop and glanced at the house, noticing the big picture window facing the alleged altercation.  At this point, the feathers came out of the chicken and she made some very tight right and left turns- to no avail, as the highly trained BIRD dog pounced on her. Cap looked up, saw the truck and the agitated, old man running to him, and made a perfect retrieve to hand.  "Where in the world have you been?" Cap said.  "Here, I've got something for you!"  The man took the chicken as Cap jumped into the front seat of the truck, now covered in feathers, mud and slime.  As the man climbed the steps of the house, he could only worry about how much this now-expired chicken was going to cost him.  

Since that episode, the old man explained, he's refrained from bragging on any dog, because, at any given moment, any dog can lose his mind and act like a complete fool.  

Image result for chicken
Alleged Deceased Yard Chicken

Friday, September 30, 2016

Photo Calendar

Click the link to find out more about and/or order the BDFF Photo Calendar!

This is a definite "Buy"! A great Christmas gift for the birdhunter or fly fisher who is impossible to find a gift for.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sharps and Huns!

 It took long enough!  A desk-bound, city dweller will tell you the time it takes to get from April to September is the same, no matter what. I disagree!  It stretches out like infinity to the bird hunter.  Three lifetimes it takes to endure those five months! Throw in some heat, a dash of humidity, a sprinkling of responsibilities and you have one grumpy, old man.  


The nasty summer was filled with planning.  Routes, motels, camping sites, bird numbers, friends to visit, dogs to prepare, guns, shells, nutrition.  All the stuff that needed attention, but really didn't.  I'm amazed to find that, when the day arrives, I invariable end up throwing what I think is important in the back seat with guns and dogs and head out.  But, all the planning made the waiting bearable. 

Field Trial in Great Falls, MT.  

I towed the camper (above) and, frankly, I was thrilled with the entire evolution. Other than a minor inconvenience finding a suitable hookup, it was a perfect setup for me and the dogs. In one small Montana town, I called the Chamber of Commerce and found the names of three small parks, all suitable for my needs, for $10-$12/night.  I'll tow the camper again to Arizona and NM this season.  As long as diesel is cheap, there is a $75 penalty, in fuel, to tow 1000 miles. Figuring a 2000 mile (one way) hunt, I'd need to find suitable motels for $300 or less for the trip to make up for the fuel difference.  Of course, figuring the cost of the camper amortized over the length of ownership, and insurance, etc., will jack that up to $400 for the two weeks.  It  seems the motels are now charging at least $50/night now (with some notable exceptions).  For 14 nights, that's at least $700 in motels! So, for now, it makes economic sense to take the camper.  Besides, I just like it. 

Pointer backing Cap.

Cap returning the favor!
Before the Great Falls trial, I stopped in Eastern Montana for the Opening Day.  I met a friend there and we hunted for two days.  We couldn't hunt past noon, either day, due to the heat.  It reached 90 degrees by 11 or 12, so we drove and scouted.  The first day, the birds were cooperative and we had some good dogwork on Sharptails and Huns. The second day, we went to a different area and never moved a bird, even though the habitat was perfect!  I subsequently found out about the summer hailstorm that moved through the area, damaging homes, barns and towns.  It was postulated that the hail may have hurt the bird population.  I believe it.  
A double on Huns. Cap had them pinned.  
After the trial, I struck out on my own for a week or so.  I hunted about 50 miles north of Great Falls, hitting BMA and Open Fields areas, with some notable success.  However, there is a lot of pheasant planting by the state going on in these areas and, while I'm not averse to popping a ditch chicken occasionally, in season, the season was not open and I didn't need any running birds for my pups at this point.  So, after a day or so, operating out of Conrad, MT, we pulled up stakes and moved to a more Sharptail and Hun friendly area.  Before we left Conrad, I noticed these fenced enclosures around the area and asked a few locals what they were.  "Oh, those are old missile silos.  They're all filled in with rock and gravel, now.  We've tried to buy the land, but they won't even talk to us.  They have generators and everything down there, just buried it all and walked away!"  I had to chuckle.  No one was worried about the fact that a nuclear bomb was targeted at the mound 200 yards from the house, just upset they wasted all that good equipment!  The ever-practical American Farmer.  

Command Center

We hit the mother-lode for the Sharps and Huns.  Five days of hunting areas with no other hunters in sight.  Of course, we were, literally, 1000 miles from nowhere, but it was perfect.  Vast stretches of public land, alfalfa fields, cut wheat and lentils bordering grassy hills.  Miles and miles of easy walking.  Once, driving along, I noticed a thick alfalfa field alongside the road with a border of grassy hills along the other side.  Sharps in the alfalfa and Huns on the hillside, I thought.  I put Shack (Brit/M) on the ground and we went at them.  He locked down several times and I just knew those birds were there. We covered the field and went to the side hills and still didn't find them!  As we were heading back to the truck, Shack went up over the side hills and stayed up there. I eased up over the top, just to see.  I came upon the largest alfalfa field I've ever seen in my life!  Easily a section, probably more.  Laughing, I called Shack in and we went back to the truck.  We were both tired by then.  I marked the spot for future exploration and would have liked at least  another dog, if not another hunter, with me to cover that expanse of perfect food and cover.
Cap has some Sharps.

Pearl retrieving a Hun.

Prairie art.

Shack and Cap have a large covey of Sharps pinned.

Homestead Cabin.

 I met up with a friend from the area and we hunted for a day.  I enjoyed his male Brit, who had a lot of heart and a great nose.  We moved quite a few birds that day- a tonic for the soul, no doubt.

Me and Thomas

Shack and some Sharps.
Hunting in the this area would be impossible without good maps, gps, etc. and the knowledge of how to read them.  In fact, here is the border between Canada and the US.  Just because there's not a physical fence, both countries indeed frown on cross border hunting. I asked.

The line.

A road crossing checkpoint.

 After a few weeks on the road, I was awakened, one 28 degree morning, with the dreaded, "It's time to head back, cowboy!" call from the Boss back home.  I took two and half days of steady driving, with a breakfast at the Norske Nook in Osseo, WI thrown in, but we hit the 99 degree heat in Chattanooga and knew we were back in the September South.  Images of Pearl locked on a covey of Huns as another covey flushed behind her in the wheat, she turned to look, and her pointed covey flushed in front! (I just couldn't get upset with that!).  Shack locked up on Sharps, Cap working perfectly on Sharps in the Alfalfa, and Ruby methodically finding and pointing covey after covey of Huns one afternoon.  All these images were drifting through my head as I unpacked The Beast and readied everything for October!  Planning and more planning......right up until I throw what I think I'll need in the back of the truck....

Ruby and Cap