Wednesday, August 24, 2016

How to do it. Where to go. How to find out. Traveling Wingshooters!

bird dogs and bird hunting
New Mexico

So, the big decision's been made.  You are finally leaving the same old tried and true, and you're heading out into the great unknown.  It may be the other end of the state or the other end of the country- several states away.   Gutsy move, my friend!  It's a scary thing, for sure, but it needn't be. You can make it a lot easier on yourself and dogs, if you do a little (actually, a lot) of research before hand. 

Call the State Game People. They are DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) in some states, Fish and Parks, Wildlife and Game, Moose and Goose.  Whatever they call themselves, I've noticed a neat trick. For example, if I want to go to Idaho, instead of looking up the appropriate name for the game people, I merely type ID DNR in the Google search strip and it will come up, regardless of the actual name!  It may not be the top one, but it'll be close. (You may need to wade through a few "Do not resescutate headlines.)  Makes it easy.  Ask to talk to a warden/officer/game officer/? and explain you would like info about hunting (fill in the blank bird) in their awesome state!  As a bonus, ask if you could talk to a game biologist who's also a bird hunter.  (Oh yeah! We are cooking now!). These guys are great sources of information about where to go, but don't even think to presume they'll tell you where they personally hunt.  I still hunt areas, recommended this way by biologists, from 15 years ago.  It doesn't hurt to talk a little bird dogging with them, either. They are bird hunters, too, and members of the club!  

Search for hunting in the state online.  You'll find numerous publications, just like this one, that will help immeasurably getting you mentally and physically ready for the demands of traveling to hunt in their area.  Here is one of my favorites: http://azwanderings.com/

bird dogs and bird hunting
North Dakota


Ask your hunting friends on Facebook or other groups.  One thing Facebook has done for me is expand my networking beyond anything I thought could happen.  As a member of a few Facebook groups, I have access to thousands of men and women who hunt in all 50 states.  I've found that avenue to be full of promise. Again, most communication will be done off the main site via text or messenger and don't try to get the home covey information.  (It's a sure way to get shut down.)  Most guys are happy to help get you started and put you in a general area. 

When you find the area, call the local chamber of commerce. Yep, they have it happening and can direct you to motels, farmers that allow day hunting, guides, outfitters- all that stuff. In small towns, they know everyone and can steer you in the right direction.  You'd be amazed at the number of hunting friends I've met through that connection. 

Here's a tip I use sparingly, but it reaps amazing rewards:  call the County Sheriff.  One year, I couldn't get anyone on the phone in a small town in North Dakota, hard up against the Canadian border.  Finally, I called the Sheriff (number in the phone book). It rang his house!  Long story short, he invited me to stay with him, and "you'll have more land to hunt than you can walk on a month", he told me.  Just recently, trying to get info on camper hookups in a remote Montana town, I couldn't get anyone.  I called the County Sheriff.  My first words were, "Hi, my name is Randy Schultz, and this is not an emergency."  I went on to explain my predicament and she (dispatcher) gave me 3 unadvertised camper sites with names and phone numbers (the best was water, power and sewer and showers for $10/night!).  Like I said, though, use it sparingly and only in towns with no stoplights, pull-in parking and a Main Street Cafe.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Arizona

These are just a few ideas of how to get started. I know it's a scary thing to pack up Buster and Sissy and head out to great unknown with lions and tigers, and bears!  I still get a little nervous going to an area I've never hunted- especially by myself.  But, I've learned, in my senior status, that asking questions will open a bunch of doors!  I usually start by admitting I drove there from Georgia to hunt birds, and I was just wondering..........

bird dogs and bird hunting
Montana (Sage Grouse)


How to do it. Where to go. How to find out. Traveling Wingshooters!

bird dogs and bird hunting
New Mexico

So, the big decision's been made.  You are finally leaving the same old tried and true, and you're heading out into the great unknown.  It may be the other end of the state or the other end of the country- several states away.   Gutsy move, my friend!  It's a scary thing, for sure, but it needn't be. You can make it a lot easier on yourself and dogs, if you do a little (actually, a lot) of research before hand. 

Call the State Game People. They are DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) in some states, Fish and Parks, Wildlife and Game, Moose and Goose.  Whatever they call themselves, I've noticed a neat trick. For example, if I want to go to Idaho, instead of looking up the appropriate name for the game people, I merely type ID DNR in the Google search strip and it will come up, regardless of the actual name!  It may not be the top one, but it'll be close. Makes it easy.  Ask to talk to a warden/officer/game officer/? and explain you would like info about hunting (fill in the blank bird) in their awesome state!  As a bonus, ask if you could talk to a game biologist who's also a bird hunter.  (Oh yeah! We are cooking now!). These guys are great sources of information about where to go, but don't even think to presume they'll tell you where they personally hunt.  I still hunt areas, recommended this way by biologists, from 15 years ago.  It doesn't hurt to talk a little bird dogging with them, either. They are bird hunters, too, and members of the club!  

Search for hunting in the state online.  You'll find numerous publications, just like this one, that will help immeasurably getting you mentally and physically ready for the demands of traveling to hunt in their area.  Here is one of my favorites: http://azwanderings.com/

bird dogs and bird hunting
North Dakota


Ask your hunting friends on Facebook or other groups.  One thing Facebook has done for me is expand my networking beyond anything I thought could happen.  As a member of a few Facebook groups, I have access to thousands of men and women who hunt all over the 50 states.  I've found that avenue to be full of promise. Again, most communication will be done off the main site via text or messenger and don't try to get the home covey information.  (It's a sure way to get shut down.)  Most guys are happy to help get you started and put you in a general area. 

When you find the area, call the local chamber of commerce. Yep, they have it happening and can direct you to motels, farmers that allow day hunting, guides, outfitters- all that stuff. In small towns, they know everyone and can steer you in the right direction.  You'd be amazed at the number of hunting friends I've met through that connection. 

Here's a tip I use sparingly, but it reaps amazing rewards:  call the County Sheriff.  One year, I couldn't get anyone on the phone in a small town in North Dakota, hard up against the Canadian border.  Finally, I called the Sheriff (number in the phone book). It rang his house!  Long story short, he invited me to stay with him, and "you'll have more land to hunt than you can walk on a month", he told me.  Just recently, trying to get info on camper hookups in a remote Montana town, I couldn't get anyone.  I called the County Sheriff.  My first words were, "Hi, my name is Randy Schultz, and this is not an emergency."  I went on to explain my predicament and she (dispatcher) gave me 3 unadvertised camper sites with names and phone numbers (the best was water, power and sewer and showers for $10/night!).  Like I said, though, use it sparingly and only in towns with no stoplights, pull-in parking and a Main Street Cafe.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Arizona

These are just a few ideas of how to get started. I know it's a scary thing to pack up Buster and Sissy and head out to great unknown with lions and tigers, and bears!  I still get a little nervous going to an area I've never hunted- especially by myself.  But, I've learned, in my senior status, that asking questions will open a bunch of doors!  I usually start by admitting I drove there from Georgia to hunt birds, and I was just wondering..........

bird dogs and bird hunting
Montana (Sage Grouse)


Saturday, August 13, 2016

I said I wouldn't do it.....I was wrong. Towing the camper to hunt!

I've always maintained that, at the end of the day, after 10+miles walking through sand, hills, corn stubble, rocks, wheat, swamp,etc. I would much rather hit the motel than the camper! 

#birddogsandbirdhunting


I figured after feeding dogs, charging devices, eating dinner, walking dogs and putting them up, cleaning birds and getting ready for the next day, I would much rather hit a clean motel room. What I found was I liked having my own place-warm and ready to go.  I have all my clothing, food and "stuff" close at hand.  I can get all the dogs inside with me, or, at least, the dog who was "mentioned in dispatches for conspicuous behavior"!   I can relax, check the tube, take a shower and hit he rack while not worrying about bed bugs or how well this "no tell motel" was cleaned. 

The Hunt

So, here I go in late August. I'll be towing my Timber Ridge all the way to Idaho, hunting along the way out and on the way back.  I'm looking forward to it.  The only way this could be a better hunt is if my wife were coming along.....think I'll work on that.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Re-Post: Product Review- Gear That Works! Go Claws

Snow, Mud, Sand Chains. A Better Idea! Review: Go Claws

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. (http://www.flextrax.com/). 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."

Friday, July 22, 2016

Gear that works! The WingWorks Vest.



Quite a while ago, I bought a WingWorks Vest from Bob Welsh, in Idaho.  I did a report then and praised its design and durability.  Subsequently, it turned into my everyday vest.  Recently, I learned several enhancements have been incorporated.  I was looking for something with a bigger bird bag, also a holster for a sidearm.  Bob told me he is incorporating the "Molle" attachement system to the vest, so multiple options will be available for a better customizaion.  The website (www.wingworks.biz) has been updated and there are numerous options, phone cases, sidearm holsters, water carriers, etc., available.  Here is a short YouTube video showing a few of the options: https://youtu.be/eXu7FThZL9E
#birddogsandbirdhunting, bird dogs and bird hunting
My original WW Vest (Photo by Nancy Whitehead) 2011 



Note: Bob sent me this vest free-of-charge for evalutation in my "Gear that Works" series. In that regard, I have been compensated.  I am a long time user and fan of the WingWorks Vest and have not received any other compensation before or since.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Re-Post. Keep those dogs cool! Misters may be the answer!!

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! 

Monday, June 20, 2016

You need to speak the language, if you want to play the game!

Silly me!  I thought (first problem) bird dog hunting and field trial terminology was pretty much interchangeable.  Wrongo, Batman! For example, the other day I was perusing an online ad for a French Brittany puppy.  Being a Brittany guy, myself, I like to look at ads and bloodlines and prices.  Just keeping myself abreast of current events.  Well, this little pup, apparently, has a very strong "prey drive"!  OK, I think, prey drive....humm, well, that can only mean the puppy gets really excited around birds and wants to go hunting.  That's a good thing, then.  (Is that an issue?  Aren't French Brittany pups "bird dogs"?)  So, I got to thinking about terms and phrases that might be two different ways of saying the same thing.  I think "prey drive" to the Pinot Grigio, tofu-eating, Prius-driving, brie-slurping crowd really means: birdy.  As in, "Bubba, that there dog sure is one birdy little pup! Where'd you say you got him?  France? Shucks, what's he do, point and surrender?"  Or words to that effect.  

Or, here's another one.....Honor.  As in, "honor a point".  I have trouble using that term in conjunction with bird dogs.  The tailgate, beer-drinking, walking crowd would refer to a dog "honoring a point" as "backing".   Coming across two dogs stopped, the handlers may ask the judge, "Which one's pointing and which one's backing, Judge?"  Which brings up another term, The Find! Of course it means, "point".  You can see how the language gets cumbersome when you hear Griswold ask Smithson "Which dog is Finding and which is Honoring, my good man? And, by the way, that was an excellent, smokey Brie you served last night at the Lodge!" 

Here are some more equivalents: 
AKC-Dog Manners                            Redneck- Biddable
AKC- Fancy Table Spread                 Redneck- Tailgate
AKC- Steady to Wing/Shot/Fall        Redneck- None

Redneck- Retrieve            AKC- None
Redneck- Water Retrieve  AKC- None
Redneck- Dead Bird         AKC- None
Redneck- 28 ga. SXS        AKC- None

AKC- Brie                        Redneck- Sardines/Saltines
AKC- Nice Wine              Redneck- Bud (Wealthy Redneck- Bourbon/well water)
AKC- Course                    Redneck- Cast 

Finally, along with the language, some of the accouterments are just plain different, as well.  Where I might see an aluminum horse trailer with living quarters and two Tennessee Walkers pulled by a Range Rover for the AKC crowd, I'd look over and see a classy outfit consisting of a newish (1990-2010) F-250 pulling a Jones Trailer piloted by an old guy and his teen grandson toting  20 ga. semi-autos.  Those AKC types may be running Vizslas, Weimaraners, Pudelpointers, or Braque du Bourbon (or some such).  Those rednecks will be off loading English  Pointers, English (some Llew and Gordon) Setters, German Shorthair Pointers (if they really want an off-brand), and Brittanys- with a smattering of GWP's (German Wirehair Pointers).  

I hope this helps the translation problems while you read the ads for your next bird dog.  It may also help to get some instruction in suitable wines and cheeses for the field.


Friday, June 17, 2016

How to Find the Perfect Binoculars (Guest article.)

(A special thanks to Kevin Hines and EdgewoodOutfitters.com )







How to Find the Perfect Binoculars


If you are looking to purchase a set of binoculars anytime soon, chances are you will be greeted by a ton of information and a lot of price differential for similar-looking models. Because there are simply so many types of binoculars available today, the options can seem truly daunting when coming at it with an untrained eye. This guide’s purpose is to provide insight into the different types of binoculars, their strengths and weaknesses, and the various features that factor into making a buying decision. For now, we will start with the basics:
Binocular Sizing

Binoculars come in a variety of different sizes of magnification (numbers explained below) and allow in different amounts of light, depending on their intended use. While there are countless special permutations, we will be taking a look at the three most common ones in this guide. These include: 
Compact Size

These types of binoculars usually have specifications that sit around 8 x 25 to 10 x 25 and are best suited for casual daytime activities that don’t require serious magnification. These types of binoculars are the lightest and smallest, making them quite convenient for many backpackers, although they tend to become quite a bit more uncomfortable after extended use than their larger brethren. 
Mid-Size

Commonly found at 7 x 35 and 10 x 32, these types of binoculars have extremely adaptable performance at a still-manageable size. Many backpackers can find these a bit large for their tastes, but still more swear by them. Observing wildlife or using these in a sports setting will be ideal, as these binoculars allow for above-average light transmission. 
Full-Size

Full-size binoculars are commonly used for extreme wildlife observation and are also quite commonly used at sea. Usually sitting at 8 x 42 to around 10 x 50, this size is much too large for basic backpacking and other casual outdoor activities. The major advantage is that they allow much more light to pass through them, resulting in a steadier view and superior low-light capability. 
Magnification Power 

The first number in a specification sheet for a pair of binoculars is the magnification number. For instance, in an 8 x 25 spec, a pair would have a magnification factor of 8. This means that objects viewed through the lenses would appear 8 times closer than they were in reality. Binoculars with magnifications greater than 10 can become difficult to operate freehand, due to the exaggerated movement shown when looking downrange. 
Objective Lens Diameter

The second number in the specification is the objective lens diameter, which is measured in millimeters. This is the lens that is furthest from you and closest to your subject. This measurement, in its most basic form, determines how much light will be able to pass through the lens elements. If two binoculars with the exact same magnification but different objective lenses were to be compared, the one with the larger lens would perform better in a low-light scenario. 
Exit Pupils 

The exit pupil of a given set of binoculars is a measurement that will determine how bright an object appears when viewed through the lenses. If you are looking to purchase a pair of binoculars that excel at nighttime viewing, for instance, you will want to find a pair with a high exit pupil. This number can be found by dividing the diameter of the objective lens by the magnification factor. For daytime viewing, a lower exit pupil number will be fine, as the number itself is less important. The human eye narrows to around 2mm in bright light, and all binoculars offer at least this number to start with. 
Eye Relief Measurement 

This measurement refers to how widely the eyepieces on the binoculars sit when the entire field of view is present. Longer eye reliefs allow for greater comfort over time, enabling you to hold the binoculars further away from your face while still seeing clearly. This can be an especially important factor if you wear glasses. Finding an eye relief of 11mm or greater will allow you to operate the binoculars much more easily than those with lower numbers. 
Field of View (FoV)

The field of view that a pair of binoculars offers relates to how wide your view will be through the lenses. Usually, a higher magnification means a narrower field of view. If you are looking for binoculars with which to bird watch, for instance, then it will be best to find a pair with a wide field of view, allowing you to find and track the animals easier. 
Weather Resistance

Chances are that you are planning on using your new pair of binoculars out in the wilderness quite a bit. This can mean exposing them to the elements, whether rain, snow, or the open ocean. Waterproof offerings, for instance, usually utilize a system of O-rings that do not allow water, dust, or small debris to enter the lens element, keeping them safe and clean in the process. There are also versions of binoculars that are fog proof, achieved by placing an inert gas in a section of the lens element, canceling out any fogging effect created by cold air. There are even lens coatings that can be applied to the lenses themselves to reduce things like glare, while also increasing light transmission in inclement weather situations. 

By this point, you should hopefully have a solid understanding of the basic principles and specifications that define the different types of binoculars available today, as well as their inherent strengths and weaknesses. This guide is meant to aid you in the purchasing process, whether you are looking for a basic set of inexpensive binoculars for casual backpacking and outdoor fun or an intensive, specialized set that will serve as a tool under extreme conditions. Whatever the case, understanding the features and attributes above will go a long way to providing the clarity you need to make the right choice for your individual needs. 



Thursday, May 19, 2016

How do you relate to your dogs?



What my dog means to me.


bird dogs and bird hunting
Ruby, Cap, Ace and me
I never considered I would be stumped by a question about how I felt about my bird dogs!  I pondered a bit, then considered some, and slid easily into some contemplation, but I couldn’t get a handle on “what my dog means to me”!

Finally, I approached the answer in a logical way.  Would I die for my dogs, like I would for my wife? Would I offer myself up in my dog’s stead, to keep him alive?  No, I wouldn’t do that.  However, would I put myself at risk for my dog?  Absolutely, I would!  If my dog was going through the ice, would I jump in to save him? Without one iota of doubt would I break ice all the way and swim if I had to.  Would I get between him and an angry bull?  Of course, I would. I’ve done it.

   Once, I was hunting Woodcock in local swamp.  We must have startled the sleeping deer hunter, high up in a tree.  He woke up and started yelling at the top of his lungs, cussing like a sailor, until, finally, he said, “I ought to shoot your dog right now!”  My calm demeanor changed in a flash, and I suggested he reconsider that action as ill-advised.  I’m still shocked at my instant, and unsettling, response to a threat to my dog!  So, it looks like my wife and kids come out a little ahead of my bird dogs in the “die to protect” category, which, I’m sure, is comforting to the home folks.  

bird dogs and bird hunting
Bo and me winning the 2001 Quail Unlimited National Championship Trial

I look back over the many years and realize what my dogs have given me.  Through personal problems and financial setbacks, professional trials and tribulations, my bird dogs gave me unconditional love and gratitude.  They kept me on the straight course, just by virtue of the fact that I needed to care for them and they needed me.  I took a friend to my kennels, one time, and we played with the dogs for a bit.  We sat down near the kennels and talked and laughed.  Finally, she said, “Why are your dogs all staring at you?  They haven’t moved or taken their eyes off you since we got here!”  The answer was a simple one.  I am the pack leader, the doler-out of food and favor. They crave my affection and attention.  They love me.  You can’t help but return that unconditional love.  The Greek of the Bible has three separate meanings for the word “love”:  Eros- erotic love, philia- brotherly love, and agape- the total unconditional love of God for us.  My dogs show me agape love. That is, and can only be, a settling, stabilizing influence.

Bird dogs and bird hunting
Cap and me Chukar hunting Idaho


My main dog, for many years, was Ace.  A big, male Brittany, Ace was fast, strong, intelligent and a brag dog.  And, he loved me.  I was the center of his universe.  He would bounce around the truck, with his tracking collar on, looking at me and woofing me gently telling me “Let’s go, Boss!”  As soon as I took a few steps in one direction, he’d be off, looking for whatever game bird we happened to be hunting.  Having him in front of me meant frosty mornings, blues skies, cold runny noses and walking down rows of cut corn busting Roosters.  Or, hot, dry days in September, walking coulees and cut wheat looking for Sharptails and Huns in Montana, dodging cactus and drop-offs. Or, cool mornings and warm afternoons chasing Mister Ruff along trails, in Wisconsin, with trees so bright it was almost blinding.  Or, humping grassy hills within view of Mexico, shooting covey after covey of the beautiful Mearns, or climbing over fields of Idaho lava rock cussing Chukar, or dodging pump jacks and oil wells in New Mexico tracking monster coveys of Blues and Gambels. Or, maybe, merely a field trial, not far from the house.  Ace meant everything in the moment to me.  

bird dogs and bird hunting
Ruby and me Mearns Quail hunting New Mexico


My friend said I taught him about the “Zen of bird hunting”.  He said I taught him to focus on the immediate, the dog, the location, the track, the plan- but mainly the dog.  If my life is a bullseye, when I'm hunting, the 10 Ring is me and my dog.  Everything else is less.  Ace and me.  Agape love.


bird dogs and bird hunting
Ace with two Roosters






Friday, May 6, 2016

My little one, Pearl, field trialing. Git 'er done!

In every pack or every group of bird dogs a fairly strict social hierarchy exists.  At the top of my pack is the ruler of the kingdom and the doler out of the favors- that would be me.  Next, the top dog, is Cap (he thinks of himself as the "wonder dog") followed by Ruby, then Shack.  Low on the totem pole is Pearl.  She's the youngest female and is the smallest, as well.   At two and one half years, she still gets more of a thrill out of seeing a covey fly then locking them down and waiting for me.  This is not an insurmountable problem, and I fully expect this year to be her year to put it all together, but when the unavoidable comparisons are made with the rest of the pack....well, she is my happy little girl. 


bird dogs and bird hunting
Pearl pushing hard.




Trialing
I trial all my dogs.  It teaches them so many good things and it makes me teach them the basics.  A dogs that will point, retireve and back, hunt objectives and remain obedient in the field will be able to transition to the hunt very easily, I've found.  My trial format of choice is NSTRA (National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Association).  I took my little girl to a NSTRA trial the other day, just to test the waters.  I think she did very well, although the score card may not have reflected that opinion.  She had lots of heart and worked hard to the very end.  
 
bird dogs and bird hunting
Where to now, boss?

bird dogs and bird hunting
Hey, I found one....right here!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Get him up, boss!  I'm ready.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Nice shot and retrieve!
So, she may not be my hottest ball-of-fire.  But she's still my girl and she's still in the line-up.  I can feel it in my bones that this will be her "break out" season.  My little Pearl. 


(All photos by Jeff Hurndon)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Summer pondering.

The old boy is gone now. When he was little, you couldn't wipe the grin off my face.  He was fast and sure, didn't bump birds, retrieved to hand.  He was a bull in the field, no matter the cover or terrain.  Confident and very sure of himself, I would bite my tongue to keep from bragging about him.  Every so often, I'd slip up and would reply, "Oh yeah.  Not to worry." when asked if he was going to be able to make a particularly difficult retrieve in Idaho.  Or, if he would get out and hunt the prairie in Montana for Huns and Sharps. 

I have hundreds of pictures of him coming in with many different game birds in his mouth.  The one on the homepage of my BLOG brings up a particularly intense memory. 
bird dogs and bird hunting
Ace and Two


 Eight years ago, I was hunting, alone, in North Dakota.  I was covering ground, every day, that I'd covered year after year.  I knew every roll of land, coulee, stream, tree and badger hole.  After a few days hitting the favorites, visiting friends and killing roosters, I sat down over dinner and grabbed the PLOTS (Private Land Open to Sportsmen) Map and looked for something different. I noticed an area designated a Waterfowl Production Area. A big lake surrounded by grass and tree lines, surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of cut wheat.  Anyone who hunts ditch-chickens will begin to drool at that habitat.  It was perfect.  

This was late in the season, however, and I knew, since this was public land, the hunting pressure would have been intense on this perfect piece.  But, the old boy and I left the young pups in the truck, loaded the 20 ga. with Prairie Storm 3" 5's, and eased down from the parking area toward some tree lines in the distance.  The weather was perfect with a northerly breeze, blue skies and a nippy chill.  The dog waited until I took a few steps to indicate the direction, then he took off into the light brown grass.  We headed down a slight hill into some rows of millet and corn, headed for the tree line that bordered the area.  On the other side of the trees was cut wheat.  

We crossed three other tree lines and the grass fields between them.  I gave him plenty of time to run the edges and through the center. Nothing after a half hour, or so.  He was the perfect predator on a perfect day.  He wasn't even breathing hard- just working that nose and looking for likely habitat for the pheasant. I never said anything, or whistled.  He worked from 50 to 450 yds away- most of it out of sight.  I used an early model Garmin tracker and occasionally was lost in thought on my stroll through the country.  We hit the last tree line and I got on the upwind side and let him work the downwind side with that nose of his.  It wasn't long before the Garmin paged me back to the real world- POINT!  I couldn't see him in the thick trees, but he was 150 yards ahead, and slightly right.  We were getting to the end of the row and, knowing him, he had one pinned between him and me.  I walked up with the gun ready as the big, old rooster blew out right in front of me heading for the big wheat field.  The dog was ten feet behind and in full stride when the rooster hit the wheat. He scooped it up and put it in my hand. We sat for a little and admired the colorful rooster before we started back to the truck.  Back up the hill, through tree lines, temp dropping and the wind biting a little bit.  Point! Right in the middle of a grassy field, straight ahead 50 feet.  I chuckled when I saw the old dog turned like a pretzel and locked down on a big clump of grass.  His eyes were glassy and his jaws worked- "eating scent" I like to call it.  Something else was different, though.  I was just about to take a closer look, when the grass shook and a squawking, cussing flash of mad rooster blew up and out.  He dropped easily and Ace brought him to hand.  I grabbed my water bottle for him and he was drinking when I saw what was different.  He had 10+ porcupine quills sticking out of the side of his face!  No doubt due to a close encounter in one of the tree lines.  We sat down and I pulled them out with my Leatherman tool.  He was stoic through it all. Just as I knew he would be.  He bagged two roosters with fine work and got quilled in the face.  Just another day at work.