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!  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Product Review- WetMutt Dog Mats



I've tried them all.  Hay, straw, rubber mats, wood, pine shavings, cedar shavings, dog beds with foam and without foam.  After a week or so on the road, none of them are completely acceptable.  For an occasional jaunt to the prairie for a few days on ditch chickens, almost anything will do, but my two to three week expeditions left me looking for a truly comfortable dog bed. I heard about a new dog bed while pontificating around the back of the truck during a field trial this year.  "Wetmutt", someone said.  Visions of muddy, wet bird dogs jumping in the box after hours of busting rooters in North Dakota, or chasing Ruffs in Minnesota came to mind.  "They are a new kind of dog bed", they said, "They are comfortable, keep the dog dry, absorb the bumps and shakes of dog box travel and the dogs don't like to chew them!", they said.  "Right", I thought.  How many time have I heard this before.  I now own 8 of the beds, of various sizes.  My dogs (Brits) prefer them to any thing else.  They are soft and easy to clean.  The holes allow any residual water to drain through, so the dog isn't lying in water.  It also keeps him dry, if you were to have a dog that really needed to urinate.  They are super easy to clean- I just hose them off- and I've had no problem with odor over the course of a long trip.  I have one chewer in the group and, so far, he's left it alone.  I did see a few bite marks on one corner, but he'll tear up any fabric I put in his crate or kennel, normally.  I use the Ruff Tough Intermediate kennels in my truck and the WetMutts fit perfectly!

I use the DogDen2 insulated dog house in my kennels at home and the larger mat fits OK.  It is perhaps an inch too large, but I push down the edges and let them curl up just a little.  After I got my first kennel mat, I watched Ruby, the Queen Bee, choose her box for the night.  Only one kennel had a WetMutt mat in it.  She would get there before any of the other dogs and make them sort out the other kennels.  She preferred the Wetmutt mat. 

These mats aren't cheap.  They are $50-$60, depending on size.  The good thing is they last- at least mine have- longer than anything else I've tried.  When I take them out and wash and sanitize them, they look as good as the day I bought them.

These are most definitely a BUY! 


(As usual, I'm not endorsed by WetMutt and they haven't given my a thing.) 

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Georgia Region NSTRA Championships

2015 Georgia Region Championships
4-Star Plantation, Elberton, GA
March 27-29, 2015

Spring in the South can be hot.  We were a little concerned when the temps started climbing a week before our Regional in N. Georgia.  Trialing is fun- less so when the temps are in the 80’s!  But, we needn't have worried, the rain showed up followed by a tremendous cold front and morning temps in the 20’s!  The sun was bright and the breeze was perfect under clear skies for the entire three days of the trial. 

All of us.  GA Region NSTRA


Friday, we ran a normal trial.  That enabled us to get acquainted with the fields (more so for the dogs, since many had never been on these fields).  The points, of course, and the placements did not count towards the upcoming Regional Saturday and Sunday, but carried forward to next year.  A Field placements were:  1. Randy Schultz/Cap, 2.Keith Howard/Frank, 3.Randy Schultz/Ruby, and 4.Ken Buck/Chance.  B Field placements were: 1. Jeff Keck/Trim, 2. Brandon Pritchett/Taz, 3.Randy Schultz/Cap, and 4. Randy Schultz/Ruby.  (Randy had a good day!)  Judges J.W. Collins, Brad Mitchell, Bodie Ray and Walt Sanderson, Bird Planter Casey Roberts and Field Marshal Stan Perdue kept us on the straight and narrow. 

Going in to Saturday morning, the dogs were ready and the handlers were nervous.  The fields were huge and both had cutouts, ponds, tree lines and fingers extending in to the woods.  36 dogs qualified for the Regional this year and we elected to run 18 braces Saturday with a cut to 16 dogs carried forward to Sunday.  At the end of Saturday, Keith Howard and Frank were First, Mitch Hurst and Ace- Second, Bill Green and Brennen Green and Toothpick -Third, and Bobby Wheat and Smoke -Fourth. 

Saturday night we held our region banquet in the 4-Star Plantation clubhouse.  After a dinner of “steak the way you like it” and all the fixings, we got down to some serious business with our elections and awards.  Apparently, we found some suckers…..er, volunteers, to run for President and the other officers.  Ballots were counted and the new Georgia Region Officers are: President Gene Pritchett, Vice President Jeff Keck, and Treasurer Brenda Keck.  The two elected Directors-at- Large are David Healan and Bodie Ray. 

The Awards for the last season were handed out by Brenda Keck, as Mistress of Ceremonies.  The Rookie of the Year went to Gerald Pannell.  Gerald stepped in and took over our website and has a fine dog to compete with, as well.  The Most Improved Dog Award went to Flatland’s Sir Brennan (Toothpick) owned by Brennan Green and handled by his father, Bill Green.  This pointer is a force on the move!  Sportsman of the Year was awarded to Dan Miles.  His little Brit, Ty, kept us all looking over our shoulders.  Dan is a new guy who’s made a big impact with us.  Whether he comes off the field with 5 or 0, he’s happy to be there and is always ready to lend a helping hand.  The Judge of the Year went to Stan Perdue.  An eagle eye and a sharp pencil kept us all in line! The Scott Clark Award for all-round super attitude was awarded to Gary Garrett for his work at his grounds and striving to make his place a National Class venue in Ball Ground, GA.  The first-ever Service Award went to Angela Healan for her 20+ years of handling the checkbook and statistics of the Region!  No small feat and she did it consistently well! High Point Dog was awarded to Jeff Keck and Trim.   Despite sickness and injury and an inability to make every trial, Jeff and Trim managed to surge to the lead in the last trial of the season!  High Point Female went to Randy Schultz and Ruby, who took it home the last trial weekend, as well. 

Sunday morning the temp was 26 degrees.  Camper heaters were running and it really felt like a day to trial! Judges J.W. Collins and Brad Mitchell took us through the entire day.   Their calls were fair, consistent and non-partial.  And, I’m here to tell you they used the entire scoring scale….just sayin’.  It was a pleasure to have them down to judge us.  Field Marshals Bodie Ray and Stan Perdue kept the trial moving.  They handled a tie for 4th and 5th place, extra birds and 15 min braces, late handlers, back to back runs and all the other minutiae involved in a Region Trial.   And, they did it in fine fashion!  Casey Roberts continued to outfox us with his bird planting skills and we appreciate his dedication.  Two more cuts later, the Final Hour competitors were Jeff Keck and Trim (Setter/Male) and Randy Schultz and Cap (Brit/Male).  They released at the line, and for an hour the gallery had no idea who was ahead, behind or more tired!  Randy didn’t want to waste time heading for the cutout and jumped the 4-board fence, twice.  Jeff and Trim worked like it was a day in the park, methodically and with class.  (Jeff did not give the old man any slack, whereupon Randy called AARP and appealed for help and an ATV- denied!)  At the end, Jeff and Trim came off the field victorious and not only captured the Georgia Region High Point Dog Award the previous night, but the #1 Dog in Georgia that day!  2nd was Randy Schultz and Cap, 3rd Gary Drinnen and Ziggy, 4th was Jeff Welker and Aunt B (to the tune of the Andy Griffith Show), 5th was Keith Howard and Frank, 6th was Randy Schultz and Ruby.


GA Region Champion Jeff Keck and Trim (l to r)
1st Runner Up Randy Schultz and Cap
2nd Runner Up Gary Drinnen and Ziggy
3rd Runner Up Jeff Welker and Aunt B 



Congratulations to Jeff Keck and his fine setter, Trim!  2015 Georgia Region Champions!  See you in the blind! 

(l to r) 1st Runner Up Cap
GA Region Champion Trim

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Good Day at the Georgia NSTRA Championships


Click Here to Watch the Video! 


 This last weekend, on a farm in North Georgia, we held the Georgia Regional NSTRA Championships. As I've written before, NSTRA is my field trial of choice, mainly because it more replicates hunting and I can make the transition from hunting around the country to a NSTRA field trial easier than other venues (hunt tests, AKC, Walking Field Trials, American Field, UFTA, BDC, etc.) 
Ruby

Cap



Amazingly, the weather turned cold the day prior to the trial and stayed there throughout.  Spring in the South can be warmish, but Thursday the rain hit and the temps plummeted to 28 degrees Saturday morning! It was absolutely perfect for my dogs.  To win this trial a dog must run 5 times, with the final run of one hour.  That's 3 hours of hard running, obedience and classy pointing and retrieving.  The heat is a tremendous obstacle on a normal day.  A cool weekend is a blessing. 

Ruby's High Point Female for 2014-2015 Award


BJ and me accepting the plaque for the High Point Female Dog (Ruby)

First and Third place For Cap and Ruby

Third and Fourth Place for Cap and Ruby


Cap on Point! 




 But the format made for a long day for me, running two dogs through the Final 6 and one dog in the Final Hour.  In order to qualify for the Finals, Cap had to make a cut, based on scores, from 38 dogs to 16.  Then, another cut to the Final 6.  After all that, another run was made to take the top two dogs, based on judge's scores and have them run a 1 hour brace with 10 birds hidden in the 80-100 ac. fields.  Cap, of course, made it to the Finals.  Ruby, my Brit female, made the first three cuts as well- to the final 16 and, then the Final 6.  Her scores had her finishing 6th overall.   
                              Jeff Keck and me in Blind for Final Hour

Final Hour Judges and Officials

Jeff and I  left the blind for a one hour brace in a double-sized field with twice the number of quail hidden.  I was beat and Cap was a little worn, as well.  I figured, if we were this tired, Jeff and Trim were tired, as well.  We gave it our best shot and didn't give up anything.  At the end of the day, Jeff Keck and Trim (Setter/Male) found 6 birds and had a back for the best overall score and the Championship!  Cap and I did the best we could and the better dog and handler won.


Final Hour Start




Final Four- Cap is the only Short Tail in the Bunch!



The Whole Crowd





Jeff/Brenda Keck and Trim (Setter/Male)
Georgia Region NSTRA Champions 2015!

An added bonus to the long weekend was that Cap gained his second Championship! It is well deserved for the little guy.  He rode home inside the truck and slept on the bed last night.  Only six months until bird season! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Assoc. (NSTRA)- Extending the season.

 When hunting ends in the South, the field trials start up.  I usually limit trialing during hunting season and look forward to working my dogs at field trials after all the states shut down their seasons.  Typically, this means February or March.
Scott/Chip and Cap/me in the blind. 

I like the NSTRA format of field trials since it more closely replicates bird hunting.  Shotguns are used and birds are shot and retrieved.  I've witnessed long and passionate debates about different venues and formats for field trials- many times the words heat up!  Boys and girls, it's  not worth the effort.  My choice is NSTRA.  



Cap waiting to run. 
Judges and bird planter conferring. 

Basically, two handlers and their dogs sit in a blind while birds (most usually quail, but other gamebird species can be used) are hidden in a large (approx. 40 ac.) field.  The dogs are called out and turned loose to find the birds.  Judges follow each dog and score them on the Find, Retrieve, Back (or, Honor), Ground Coverage, and Obedience.  Each "brace" of two dogs runs for 30 min.  

Bird Planter filling up!


Unwanted intruder- Eastern Diamondback. 

Of course, volumes can be filled discussing the nuances and other rules, but that is it in a nutshell.  Like my Daddy used to say, "It ain't rocket science!"  I've been associated with NSTRA since 1992, or 1991, I'm not sure, it was so long ago.  I've had great dogs, good dogs and others.  The nice thing about this is, on any given day, an average dog can turn it on and beat the tar out of a National Champion.  After all, these are dogs, not machines.  Heck, I know of a dog, probably the best on the ground right now, who was beaten by a bench, show Setter- long hair and all! (We still chuckle about that one!)
Cap and I are getting ready for another run. 

When the scores are totaled, the placements are awarded first, second and third.  Points are given for the placements, and when the totals are high enough, a NSTRA Championship is awarded.

Whichever format you choose, keep the dog in the field.  He will love you all the more for it.

Heading to the Line. 


Start Line Action

I put this video in because I love it! Mearns Quail flush- AZ 2014

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Day in the Life of a (Blue) Quail Hunter

The rains came on time and in quantity.  SE New Mexico was awash in grass, Cowpen Daisy, Sunflowers, mesquite, shin-oak and, now, Blue Quail.  According to the harvest we took throughout the week, I can say there was more than one hatch, as well.  Some birds we took were very small. Multiple hatches would explain the significant increase in bird numbers.
Dropping off the cap into great habitat.



Driving the local roads in the oil patch, I dropped off the cap down into some of the nicest looking habitat I'd seen all week.  The day was cool and clear- you could see all the way in to next week.  Cowpen Daisy, Sunflower, mesquite, grass, sand all combined to make this a quail heaven.  Quickly, I pulled in to a pump-jack location and grabbed Ruby to boot her up.  I parked and walked around to the back of the truck, dropped the tailgate and, immediately, out of a mesquite bush fifty feet from the truck, 30 blues flushed out and flew 50 yards to another bush.  Many more ran out of the bush following the initial, flying crowd.  Trying to put boots on a dog in a hurry is problematic, at best.  Hurrying to boot a dog that's seen 30 birds flush 50 feet away is pretty close to impossible!  They can move their legs, feet, bodies in ways I'd never thought possible! 

Finally, we got it done, and Ruby and I started West toward the flushed covey.  Almost immediately, she locked down, smelling the covey remains. I honored her point and kicked around a bit, reached over to her, tapped her on the head and said, "OK, girl, let's go find 'em."
Point! 

We worked up to the next shrub.  Up the dunes, over the top, and out in to the flat loaded with Daisies and grass.  What a perfect place, I thought!  For 20 minutes, Ruby hunted hard and came up with nothing.  I started South, thinking they might have run toward some bigger dunes.  Ruby picked up on my idea and dropped into the dune bottoms.  She spun around just as the covey flushed up and over the top, heading West.  We watered and conspired and commiserated for a few minutes- finally, I turned her loose again and up over the dune she went after the covey.
Taking a break. 
Humping sand dunes is a great aerobic exercise, by the way.  I got to the top and looked out on a flat area with mesquite bushes and lots of grass.  Also, I saw a dog on point.  Ruby was locked up on a mesquite bush about 100 yds away!  I moved as fast as I could to get to her, but about 40 years away, the covey flushed again- going farther West.  I saw some of them land on the top of another dune about 100 yards away, and some more cross a fence and dive in to a mesquite bush about the same distance from me.   Ruby took off after them, as I trudged through the sand and shin-oak, gun ready, looking for singles.  Deciding to cross the fence and trap the mesquite bush crowd, I found a low area in the substantial fence, and stepped over the top.  I hurried to Ruby, again on point, at the mesquite! "Gotcha now, you little buggars!" I thought!  Lots of tracks and a locked down bird dog will get me excited any day, but they eluded us again.  I began to think these sly, desert runners had seen a dog before!
Boots are mandatory! 

I turned her loose, once again, and we started working the area making long loops through the grass and mesquite. We would go way downwind and turn back into the wind and crisscross along looking for scent.   Finally, we got back to the fence and bush.  I called her in and we headed to the dune where half the covey landed.  Another dry hole.  (The birds were whistling and gathering up again and heading back to the truck where we flushed them originally.  A little known tactic of the desert quail.)  Ruby was dry and I was out of water, by this time, and getting a little weary.  "C'mon, girl" I said, "Let's head back and find another covey."  I came to the fence.  It was a new, tight fence with good wire and there was no way I could step over it. I stepped on the bottom strand, right up against the metal fencepost, and started to heave myself over when the fence link broke, and I slid down on top of the post.  I had a lot of gear on and that probably protected me, but the top of that post hit me in the stomach and slid up my chest. I jumped back, took off my glove and felt the area to see if I was bleeding.  Even though it hurt, no blood showed.  Good to go! Finally, I dug a hole in the sand and braved sand-spurs by rolling under that blasted fence, came up the other side and walked off after my dog.
Where, oh Where, are you guys?
Ruby came up for a drink, and I put my gun down and took out every bottle I had to give her the last few drops.  We were about a mile from the truck, had 4 covey flushes (3 pointed) and no birds/no shots.  We chatted a bit and then I sent her on, put on my gloves, picked up my gun and looked ahead to where we were going- thinking about the wind direction, truck location, etc.  I walked directly into a four-foot high Cholla bush! You know, Cholla cactus is bad when you know it's in the area.  It is incredibly painful when you have no idea it's around and it hits your leg from ankle to belt! Of course, I wasn't wearing chaps that day.  Yowee!  I put my gun down, took off my vest and dropped my pants, right there in front of God and all the coyotes!  I commenced to pulling spines from my leg and thigh until I couldn't feel anymore sticking out.  As long as I was half naked, I checked out my fence-post scrape and it wasn't too bad- no gashes, at any rate.  I looked around and noticed there was ONE Cholla bush in the entire SE NM area, and it was 3 feet from me- I've always been lucky like that. Just then, Ruby's collar went off- she was on point 256 yards from me in a mesquite mound area.  

I made it to her in time for another covey rise, and I finally downed 2 birds for good retrieves.  One bird went down a hole.  By the time I got there, Ruby was up to her shoulders with sand flying everywhere and she came out with the bird in her mouth! We worked singles for about 30 minutes, generally heading to the truck. I dropped a few more.  Finally, I reached for some shells and came up dry.  I had two shells in my gun, the sun was getting low, the temp was dropping, we were out of water and the truck wasn't too far away.  "Here, Ruby, let's get back to the truck.  Good girl!"  She worked ahead of me into a flat grassy area and locked up again on a patch of grass.  Two birds got up and flew directly in to the lowering sun!  Boom, boom! - I thought I could see the one well enough, but, somehow, it kept on going, apparently unhurt!  (I know.  I'm as amazed as you.)  Worse, I was out of shells with an empty gun.  And, for the next 10 minutes, Ruby would point a clump of grass, and I would kick a few birds in the air to watch them fly off.  Laughing, I scratched her and loved on her as we headed to the truck.  "Ruby, " I told her, "we are going to need to get our stories together.  This is a tale no one would believe!  Just let me do the talking and you swear to it!  Nice job, girl!" 

I have no idea why I like that smelly, prickly, sandy, hot, cold, windy piece of dirty SE NM.  But I do.











Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Season Full of Memories

Here are some random pics of me and my hounds from this year/hunting season.  I put 32,000 miles on the Beast, bought licenses in seven states, hunted and harvested nine species of upland bird and loved every single minute.

Cap has a good "off season"- NE
Mearns Quail Country- Southern AZ

Blue, Scaled Quail- NM

Cap (Brit) and Zella on a covey of Blues- NM

Shack (16 months) on covey of Blues- NM

Mearns Quail- AZ

Wally- AZ

Shack and Bobwhites- OK

Pearl and Rooster- NE

Ace and Rooster- SD

Long Walk to the Truck- SD

Is that a Rooster I hear?- SD

Pheasant Amigos- SD

Ruffed Grouse Habitat- WI

WI

Ace and Sharpie- MT

Me Shooting Sharpie over Ace Point- MT

Shack (12 Months)  and Hun Retrieve- MT

Ruby admiring her best buddy (Cap)- MT

Ace and Hun- MT

Shack and his first Sharptail over a point- MT

Pearl and her first Sharptail- MT

Cap backing- MT

Another season comes to a close.  My long-suffering-wife reminded me I promised not to mope around the house after my last trip.  Sorry, Honey, can't comply.  Only 7 months to bird season!