Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thought stream of a bird hunter.

Do you listen to yourself in the field?  I've come to realize bird hunting is a constant conversation with myself........

10 minutes in the life of a bird hunter:

She's heading in the right direction. . Can I get over that fence. Where is she Where's the sun Is she in that grass  Boy, my right boot is dirty! This rock is Scorio. Weird name. Like Caliche in New Mexico.  Where is the wind  Where is she  There she is. What time is it? What time is it at home? Where is she? Do I really need to go up that mountain I can go around it. Where is she?  Where's the wind? Grass. Why do cow pies have an indentation in the middle?  My legs burn. I'm thirsty. Where is she? Where's the wind?  The birds should be right over there. Where is the wind? If we go on out and turn left we can come down to the birds upwind.  Where is she?  There she is  She's running easy. My right leg hurts. I hope these boots last rest of the season. Ok, her pager just went off! Straight ahead, 100 yards! There she is Good spot, they should be on the side of that hill. I wish I had four legs to hump this hill like she does.  Wow, she looks good! Pick one bird and shoot at it.  Easy, girl. Easy. Easy. She is swearing to it. Kicking. Kicking. Safety on the top. Where's the wind  What? Gun's on the shoulder -feels good. Pick one bird. Pull the trigger. It's dropping. Where are the other ones? Look up see where they went. Dead bird, dead bird, look in there, dead bird. Give. Good girl! Limit is eight. No way! Come on girl, which way? Where's the wind Where's the sun How much battery is left on her collar? Where's the truck? Wow it's beautiful here. Could I live here? 100 yards, 150 yards, we should get singles.  Where is she? What's for dinner? Where's the sun How much time left today How did she get over there? Am I blacking out?  Did I reload? I guess it's automatic. Man my legs are tired. How far do I walk every day? How far did I walk?  How many feet in a mile? How many steps in a mile? Where is she Chinese sounds good. There is her pager! Here we go! Good girl.  Did she really say I could hunt in December? Sixes big enough for these birds? Or do I just think she said I can hunt in December? Easy girl, easy, easy! Leave it!  Hen. Hen! Good girl. Water? This way, girl. 

And so it goes.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

We sit in the sun, remembering past Octobers.

(Photo by Nancy Whitehead)

The old dog and I put out on a day that was cool, as the sun was about an hour above the Montana horizon.  This was a special spot.  Last year, he and I moved 16 coveys of Huns and Sharptails in the Alfalfa fields, along the creek and below the hills that rose up out of the creek bottom.  He moved slower now, but still watched me and bounced around, and woofed at me to hurry up.  All he needed was for me to take a step in the direction I wanted to go, and he would move out, nose up, quartering in the wind, searching for the scent of whatever game-bird this particular piece of country had to offer. Ten seasons, almost forty trips, tens of thousands of miles driven added up to a wise, old bird dog that had seen and done it all.  

As a young dog, he was blazing fast.  He never out-ran his nose, and he was all business.  In NSTRA trials, he would make an initial cast and loop back around to me as I left the start line.  Many was the time the judge would make the mistake of staying with me, instead of going after the brown blur off the line.  After a minute, with Ace still gone, I would tell him, "You'd better go find him.  If he's not back by now, he's on point."  Sure enough, I'd watch the judge head out and eventually raise his hand, "Point!", he'd yell, and I'd hustle to get to my big Brittany.  Now, he wasn't so fast, but the heart was just as big, the desire to please me just as intense.  

We left the truck, and the howling dogs still in their kennels, and I stepped into the knee-deep alfalfa, watching the old dog work the wind.  It didn't take long before the head came up, the movement became precise and calculated to put that nose right in the middle of the scent cone.  A few minor adjustments and he froze.  The point lacked the quivering intensity of past years and, perhaps, some of the style, but the nose was deadly and the knowledge of how to treat these birds was still spot-on.  A single bird got up, and the old boy watched it fall and put it in my hand.  A stroke on the side of the head, a drink of water, and a "Good boy!" and he was off again, quartering the wind, checking objectives and glancing at me (so quickly, it was hard to catch) to stay in front.  

After a half-mile of this and another bird in the bag, I gave him a long wail on the whistle to call him in  and we took a break on the top of levee.  We shared some water, and he allowed as to how I was shooting pretty good today.  I accepted the praise gracefully, knowing he's seen quite the opposite many, many times.  I took off my beat-up hat and thanked God for this old dog and the time I was allowed to hunt with him.  We are reminded, in the Book, that life is nothing more than a vapor in strong wind and is over in a flash.  How much stronger is the wind regarding the lives of our hunting dogs! A cruel joke, I think, while I struggle to my feet, leaning on the old double gun as the dog takes off into the wind once more.  

He slowed up considerably and limped constantly, now. But, he knew where he wanted to go to find the birds.  It pained me to watch him with the swollen elbow and lack of the grace he had in abundance as a younger dog.  Almost to the truck, at the end of the last field, he turned and locked up once again. Breathing hard, I could see he was tiring.  The thought crossed my mind, this might be his last hunt. I quickly discarded that notion, "No.  Surely he has a few years left in him!", and quickly walked to where he showed me the bird was hiding.  The big Sharpie got up and I unloaded both barrels at him, managing to hit him but not knock him down,  He glided down through some trees and in to the field below as I lost sight of him.  Ace watched him, too, and looked back at me before trotting down the hill, through the trees and out in to the next field.  I quickly followed, not willing to be chastised again by the old campaigner for not keeping up.  His nose picked up the scent and he went straight to the bird.  He brought it to me and, this time, he set it on the ground and dropped down next to it.  It was the last bird he would retrieve.  

Last Retrieve- Montana September 2015

He's fading fast now, three weeks later. As I wrote this, he walked into my den and lay down at the foot of my desk.  The drug patch for pain meds is on his side and his one shaved leg and one bandaged leg both a testament to his last day in the hospital.  The doctors called and said there was no hope. I said make him comfortable, I'm coming to take him home.  A cruel joke, indeed.

 NSTRA Champion Julia's Flyboy Ace (Ace)
March 10, 2005- October 7, 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fly Fishing Anyone?

On the spur of the moment, we decided to take a three-day excursion to Colorado for some exploration and fly fishing. Neither one of us is an accomplished fisherman, but we struck out nonetheless. 

With the help of some fine, local friends, we were able to fish some nice streams that were right at the level of our experience.   We saw black bear and Blue Grouse and even managed to sucker a Brown Trout to the surface. We stayed in 100 year old, spooky hotels and generally had a wonderful time. We will do it again, for sure. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Product Review: Spot Satellite Locator

HELP! I've fallen, and I can't........

(Let me say, I am not connected with this product, other than I've bought several and use them.)

I will not hunt without this product.  It may not be turned on and tracking, but I will have it on my person and available. Who knows when I'll step in a hole and break a leg? Get stuck 20 miles down a two-track in Montana? Or any other of the myriad of things that can and do happen to traveling bird hunters. World-wide coverage, excellent reliability and peace of mind.  I paid $149 for this one and $149/year for all the features. I also paid an extra $49/year for tracking updates every 5 min. (They go to a separate tracking page you can make public or private, to individuals.). I noticed, last week, they had a sale of 50% of the unit, if you were getting new service. (Would have been nice for the "old heads" to get 50% off to upgrade. But, I don't make the rules.). I've personally used one of these for 8 years, now, and I've had no connection problems. 

Bottom line, get one, or one like this. Give yourself, and your loved ones, some peace of mind. (And don't make your wife wait 7 years for the life insurance pay-out, while they look for you down that mineshaft in Nevada you were poking around!)

This is a BUY NOW.  


Monday, August 3, 2015

Coconut Oil? For a dog? So far, it's working like a champ!

I'm a big believer in good nutrition as the foundation for good performance, longevity and health. It's just as important for my dogs as it is for me.  I've settled on my dog food brand of choice (Royal Canin Medium and Trail 4300) and I'm continually looking for any additives that might benefit my canine buddies.  My wife discovered the benefits of Coconut oil in her diet a few years ago.  So, I started studying the "goods and others" for use with dogs.  

I found a few articles that interested me. Below, you will see excerpts with links to the full articles. I encourage you to access the link and read it all. 

From Dogster:

Fed regularly to pets, coconut oil can have many health benefits — for their skin, digestive and immune systems; metabolic function; and even their bone and brain health!

The top 10 reasons to add coconut oil to your dog’s diet:

  1. Coconut oil improves overall skin health, and clears up skin conditions such as eczema, flea allergies, contact dermatitis, and itchy skin.
  2. Incredibly emollient, coconut oil helps moisturize the driest skin and makes a dog’s coat gleam with health — whether you add it to her diet, her shampoo, or both!
  3. Applied topically to the skin, coconut oil promotes the healing of cuts, wounds, hot spots, bites, and stings.
  4. The antibacterial and antifungal properties of coconut oil help reduce doggy odor, and its pleasantly tropical aroma imparts a delightful scent to a dog’s skin and coat.
  5. Coconut oil prevents and treats yeast infections, including candida. Its antiviral agents also help dogs recover quickly from kennel cough.
  6. Digestion and nutrient absorption are improved by the addition of coconut oil to a dog’s diet. It can, however, cause stool to loosen; if that happens, just add a few spoonfuls of canned pumpkin to your dog’s diet (go here for more stool-firming tips).
  7. Coconut oil reduces — and sometimes eliminates — doggy breath. Some dog lovers even brush their pets’ teeth with the stuff! Which makes sense, as dogs love the taste of coconut oil, and that makes the chore less arduous for brusher and brushee.
  8. Like cinnamon, coconut oil helps prevent diabetes by regulating and balancing insulin. It also promotes normal thyroid function, and helps prevent infection and heart disease.
  9. Helping to reduce weight and increase energy, coconut oil also promotes mobility in dogs with arthritis and other joint issues.
  10. Again like cinnamon, coconut oil is excellent for brain health; it’s being used to stave off dementia in humans, and it’s a must to keep senior dogs’ minds from becoming cloudy.

From sitstay.com:

Is Coconut Oil Good For Dogs:

Can dogs have coconut oil? The short answer is Yes. Coconut oil is good for dogs and can help aid your pets' digestion, improve their coats, help prevent infection and more. But please note, it is important to follow the proper guidelines. As with most things, too much of even a good thing can end up having negative effects. 

Why Is Coconut Oil Healthy For Pets:

The big benefits of coconut oil comes from the type of fats it is made of. Coconut oil is almost exclusively (more than 90%) saturated fat and is one of the few foods that can be classified as a "superfood". I know what you're thinking, "Isn't fat bad for you?". In this case no. There are two groups of fats: saturated fats and unsaturated and within each group are several more types of fats. It can get a little confusing, for solid information all about fats, WEBMD has some good information

MCT's are coconut oils secret weapon. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) is good fat, the kind that provides an array of benefits which include digestion improvement, immune system support, metabolic function that assists with weight loss, skin and coat health and thyroid health.

MCT is made up of Lauric Acid, Capric Acid, Caprylic Acid, Myristic Acid and Palmitic. Coconut oil also contains about 2% linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fatty acids) and about 6% oleic acid (monounsaturated fatty acids).

Lauric acid has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. Capric and caprylic acid also have similar properties as lauric acid and are best known for their anti-fungal effects

In addition, MCTs are efficiently metabolized to provide an immediate source of fuel and energy, enhancing athletic performance and aiding weight loss. In dogs, the MCTs in coconut oil balance the thyroid, helping overweight dogs lose weight and helping sedentary dogs feel energetic.

Ok enough of the science, now on to the fun stuff. 

Benefits of Coconut Oil for Dogs

As we've stated, coconut oil has several benefits for your dog. Let's go over a few of them. Coconut oil gently elevates the metabolism, provides a higher level of energy and vitality, protects your dog from illness, and speeds healing. As a bonus, coconut oil can improve dog’s skin and coat, improves digestion, and reduces allergic reactions.


  • Clears up eczema
  • Aids flea allergies, contact dermatitis and itchy skin
  • Minimizes doggy odor
  • Reduces allergic reactions
  • Creates sleek and glossy coats
  • Prevents and treats yeast and fungal infections
  • When applied topically coconut oil promotes wound healing
  • Also can help with hot spots, dry skin and hair, bites and stings


  • Improves digestion
  • Increases nutrient absorption
  • Helps with colitis and inflammatory bowl syndrome
  • Reduces or eliminates bad breath
  • Helps with coughing


  • Assists with weight loss
  • Powerful antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal agents
  • Balances insulin and promotes normal thyroid function
  • Helps prevent or control diabetes
  • Aids arthritis and ligament problems 
  • Helps prevent infection and disease
  • Aids in increasing energy

How Much Coconut Oil for Dogs

How much coconut oil should you give your dog? When starting your dog on coconut oil, it is absolutely vital that you start slow. Begin slow, start with a tiny amount. Your dog needs to take time for their body to adjusts to the addition to their diet. If you start with larger amount of coconut oil, your dog could react poorly. Side effects can include diarrhea or greasy stools.

Start with Small Amounts:

  • ¼ teaspoon per day for small dogs and puppies.
  • 1 teaspoon for large dogs, or even just a dab if your dog's constitution is sensitive.

After you've let their body adjust, a general guideline for the optimal dose of coconut oil for dogs is: 

  • About 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight daily
  • Or about 1 tablespoon per 30 pounds

Again, DO NOT start with these amounts in the beginning!

Coconut Oil On Dog's Skin

In addition to giving your dog orally, coconut oil can be applied directly to your dogs coat and skin. As we stated earlier, because coconut oil contains lauric acid, it is a fabulous immune builder, both orally and topically.

A coconut oil treatment will leave your dog's skin incredibly soft, but it will also make it healthier. A coconut oil skin treatment about once a week can make a big difference in the health of your dog's skin and nails.

For good results, apply to the skin and let the oil absorb for about five minutes. After the five minutes, you can apply and a very light rinse. If you feel you haven't removed the excess oil, finish up with a light application of shampoo and another quick rinse.

Coconut Oil For Dogs Side Effects

Your dog may experience some side effects from coconut oil. Generally this happens if you give too much coconut oil to your dog too quickly. We recomend that you start slowly and see how your pet reacts. The most common side effects for your dog can include diarrhea or greasy stools.


We are using coconut oil for all our dogs. My dogs and her dogs. We have seen an increase in skin Sheen and energy level.  The dosage amount is about 1 tablespoon per dog.  The oil is a liquid when it is about 75°F.  We put it in the squeeze bottles and keep it near the dog food, it is very easy to apply.  As I get into hunting and trialing season, I expect to see more benefits from its use.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Battling the heat! Keeping the bird dogs cool during the doldrums!

Here in the South, I have no use for summer. I don't fish, although all the pictures on the Bird Dog and Fly Fishing FB site make me want to learn fly fishing, and eventually it gets too hot to train. The heat is a wet one. None of that 95 degrees and 10% humidity down here, no sir!  Yesterday, it was 96 degrees and 85% humidity with "feels like" temperature of 110 degrees!  And, hotter stuff is coming late July and August.  I use plenty of shade around the kennels and several fans going night and day in the runs. Also, the Dog Den insulation works both ways. I notice the dogs will lay inside them on the Wet Mutt mats with their paws and heads exposed to take in the view.  

I read recently about installing misters in the kennel to help keep the dogs cooler. My concern, of course, is our high humidity. The swamp coolers used out west work because of the low humidity and the fact that evaporation takes energy (heat) to work and actually cools the surrounding air. With our high humidity, I knew the efficiency would be much lower.  But, the article I read showed an installation in a kennel in New Orleans, where heat and humidity rival Miami.  I thought it was worth a shot. 

The units cost about $25/10' of line at Lowes. I bought two lines and linked them together. I made sure the pressure drain was the low point in the line, so it would drain when I turned it off.  The package came with everything needed and took about 20 minutes to install.  After installing, and re-installing twice, I learned a few things.  Mainly, keep the line high enough (8.5' off the ground) so evaporation can take place before the mist hits the ground. Wet concrete did not encourage my dogs to rest inside (first installation). Also, make sure you have enough line to cover the entire kennel area (second installation).  One more thing- the mist will condense on anything in the way and then will drip water. Make sure the mister heads are not near fencing, wood braces, wires, or anything else (third installation).  

Now, they are pefectly happy to lie in the runs, in the shade with the misters cooling the air around them. 

Does it work?  Well, I can physically feel that it is. There is no doubt it would work much better in an area of lower humidity, but for the cost and ease of installation, it is a definite BUY in my book. Some other improvements may include a timer on the water supply line to time the on/off to the heat of the day to conserve water. I don't have the numbers on the draw volume, but it's not taxing my well at all. 

Keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter and they will work harder for you all year long! 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dog Boots. Need them or not? Which brand?

It's a problem.  And, it's a problem bird hunter's have groped with for years.  I have played with dog boots for well over 20 years, now.  Tried them all, from Scott's to Lewis.  Bass Pro to Orvis to duct tape.

Are boots important?  Heck, you may think, Buster looks like he's running fine.  I'll just check his feet when we finish for the day.  By then, however, Buster's feet will be past redemption.  He'll have given you all he had, endured the pain and done the job.  But, his feet will be shot for the next 3 or 4 days.  There you sit, down to one dog, or even no dog.  Yes, they are important!

Lewis Brand Vented Rubber Dog Boots -- Set of 4
Lewis Dog Boots

The Mac Daddy of dog boots, manufactured in OK, is the Lewis Boot- nuclear protection for your dog.  Rubber with vent holes, about $38/set of 4.  The downside, for me, is they are heavy,  and they trap sand in the boot to wear on the dog's feet.
Red Bark'n Boots Grip Trex Dog Boots by Ruff Wear -- Set of 4
Bark'n Boots, Grip Trex

 Another type of boot is a combination of Velcro, rubber bottoms and fabric top.  I've used these, as well. They worked well in the protection department, but I lost more than a few.  I tried the models that have a sock that extends up the dog's leg to deflect sand and they seemed to work OK.  I have dogs that run hard, all day, and these boots seemed to come off a lot. (Yep. I know how to tape them.) Couple that with the price of $70/set of 4, and I'm beginning to re-think the wisdom of these. 

There are innumerable combinations of these two styles sold everywhere.  The fact is you need them, or something like them to protect your dog's feet.  Few places I hunt, do I not use boots- Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Northwoods, North Dakota and South Dakota, Montana and Idaho (most places) and parts of Kansas seem to be "boot free".  Anywhere there is sand, sage and copious amounts of quail, there is usually sand spurs, cactus and sharp rock. Also, sometimes hunting Chukar in the rocks requires boots for the dog. 

This year, I'm going to try a method I heard about 20 years ago and discarded outright.  Now, I'm thinking I may have been too hasty in my assessment.  (If I was, I apologize!)  The technique uses a motorcycle tire (yup!) cut to length.  I guess I won't do it justice jin my description, so here's the YouTube video.  I hope this is helpful to those of you Traveling Wingshooters out there!

How to Boot a Dog

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Guest Blogger: "Second Shot". Teaming rescued dogs and adaptive hunters for a second chance at bird hunting.

“Pop, pop!” went the 20 gauge in Riverside, Iowa on a cold, but sunny Saturday afternoon. Nellie and Zeus, my two energetic labs, ran to the middle of the field where the pheasant fell from the sky after Chris shot his first bird of the day; a silly grin plastered across his face. Second Shot was giving Chris a second shot at hunting and a day of outdoor therapy fun. Chris was Second Shot’s first client. Although it was a passion of his, Chris hadn’t been hunting in years. An accident, years prior, had left him in a wheelchair. We were trying out something new and unknown to us and to him, adaptive hunting. Second Shot, a non-profit developed to provide outdoor therapy for those who are disabled or who are struggling with an illness, is not something I had planned on being a part of. While growing up, my dad tried (on more than one occasion) to convince me to go on hunting trips with him or to earn my hunting safety. I now understand why. Hunting isn’t about hunting. It’s about being a part of a community. Second Shot is about creating opportunity for someone who otherwise couldn’t be a part of this community. Highland Hideaway welcomed all of us, hunters and volunteers alike, onto their property and into their hunting family months ago. What a wonderful family to be a part of! This community is something that I want to share with friends, family, and Second Shot clients past and future. I’m sure that many, as am I, are already looking forward to the hunting bird season to begin again. To wake up early (hopefully to coffee brewing and labs licking your face) and get outside as the sun is still rising. If you’re lucky you’ll see the mist lifting off of the grass. While packing up the truck with all of the necessities it is hard to tell who is more excited… you or the dogs. Driving, you hit the gravel road and it’s no competition any longer, the dogs are definitely more excited! For me, my contentment comes at the end of the day; when I get to see how happy our client is to have had this opportunity again. Something that we all take for granted. http://www.getsecondshot.com/

From time to time, I intend to let a guest blogger post on my BLOG. Kelsey contacted me, out of the blue. I was a little skeptical, at first, but did my due diligence and discovered a unique niche they were filling. It's an interesting premise and they seem to make it work! I encourage you all to click the link above and read about this group!  Good hunting!