Friday, April 30, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
I guess I'd forgotten about new pups in the house! That's probably like forgetting all the bad stuff and remembering the good stuff that happens in your life. This little Brittany terrorist is taking over the house- at 8 weeks! It is fun I imagine. I keep looking forward to the hunting this Fall. Montana first- chasing Sharpies. It will be wide open and lots of birds- perfect for a new pup.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
My blog input at www.ilikepikecounty.com
Animal Shelter in Pike County
Animal Shelter in Pike County
There was a meeting concerning an animal shelter in Pike county last night. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend and would like to get some information about that meeting. Being such a rural county, it's easy for newcomers to think they can move in and open the front door to let Fido roam. Lot's of reasons why that is a bad decision! Just driving the roads and seeing the number of dogs killed by cars should deter anyone contemplating that course of action. I am in favor of some sort of animal control in Pike, but I have my concerns about the members at the table in this discussion. I read in the paper that HSUS was here. I doubt they are here to help. (That's a little like the saying, "I'm from the government, I'm here to help!")
HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) is my biggest concern. The do not own or operate one shelter. They are a political, animal RIGHTS organization and push anti-hunting, anti-farming/ranching legislation. In fact, given the opportunity to maintain the Animal Shelter in Washington, DC, they backed out. (in 1995). They are a multi-million dollar international organization which supplies NO MONEY to shelters. If they want to help, give us the money to put the shelter in- they have plenty ($200+million). I hope the paper was wrong and they are not here. They are a big proponent of PETA, also. PETA is the group that, it's alleged, supported the release of rats used in AIDS research. PETA's stated goal was never to see a restrained animal and for all Americans to be Vegans (pure vegetarians)- by law! PETA is a big proponent of ALF (Animal Liberation Front). I could go on and on. Why do I care? I raise and train and hunt and compete with my bird dogs. You can see how my activities are anathema to HSUS and PETA.
Do we need animal control in Pike County- yes! Do we need the likes of HSUS here- NO! We can do this without them. We should contact the American Humane Society. They operate shelters, at least, and have a clear connection to ANIMAL WELFARE.
Friday, April 16, 2010
By the second run on the final day, only four dogs were left. Nervously, we endured another drawing to determine the order of the last two braces- the highest scoring dog would win. Bo and I drew the second brace, so we would run in the third and fourth slots. We were drawn against a dog that was incredibly talented. He was a German Shorthair Pointer, a mature male, and these were his home grounds. It was a tough draw, but I knew we would have a small advantage. Our opponent did not like briars. This eighty acre field was mostly broomsage grass, but there were some really nice areas in the interior of the field that were sprinkled with a low growing briar. On the other hand, he was fast, smart and very knowledgeable about the fields. The first brace with two very powerful English Setters took off for one hour in the double sized field. For the finals, the field size was doubled and twice the number of birds was hidden. After running five previous times, this last brace, for the championship, was a test of endurance for the dogs, as well. These two hit the field as if they had been resting all day! The level of competition in a national trial is on a plane far above the local trial- all the dogs (and most handlers) are polished professionals by the time they get to a "'big one". The first brace dogs covered every square inch of the field with speed and class. Bo and I couldn't watch. We went behind some cars and sat down and pondered how in the world we managed to get to the finals. I came to the conclusion that sometimes men are successful in spite of themselves, rather than because of anything they did. Bo wasn't talking. Every shot increased my concern. At the completion of the two braces, after all four dogs had run, it was the final scores that counted. Bo and I were running not only against our bracemate, but against the two dogs on the field, as well. The tension in the gallery was high. Men and women talked in low voices and even the wives and friends of the competitors on the field were reserved in their excitement. It reminded me a little of a funeral!
The weather was beautiful. It was about forty degrees with a little breeze from the south and puffy clouds and bright blue sky. The broom sage, a tall, brown grass the original settlers used to tie in bunches and sweep out the cabins, was moving with the breeze. One of the setters in the first brace swung by the gallery and, within the blink of an eye, froze on point- the breeze ruffling the long hair on his vertical tail. He was a beautiful dog and I admired him, as his handler flushed the bird and shot. The dog's retrieve was equally flawless- right to hand with speed and class. "We are in over our heads, Bo!" I muttered. Bo still wasn't talking.
The first brace ended after an hour. One dog found and scored four birds and also was scored for a back. The other found four birds, but was not scored with a back. Out of ten birds hidden in the field, only eight were found. According to the rules, another ten birds were put out, regardless. That was good for us, but we still had to find the birds and, then, beat our bracemate. We took to the blind like we'd been doing this all our lives. A little "devil may care" saunter was thrown in there for good measure. I gave a wink to my friends wishing me good luck- as if to say "No luck needed today, my friends. This one's in the bag!" Inside, it was a different story. The fact that I kept checking my pockets to make sure I had shells, whistle, shotgun and dog seemed to be lost on everyone but Bo. When we sat down in the blind, he sat quietly by my knee and put his head on my leg and looked right at me. "Calm down, boss. All you need to do is shoot them; I’ll do the rest!" My bracemate and his dog sat a few feet away. While this was the handler's first final, his dog had been here many times. So, I asked him to at least leave one bird for me and my broke down dog and wished him "Good Luck". The Head Judge yelled, "Bring 'em out!" and we both left the blind for the start line. I was on autopilot but Bo was fired up. He pulled and jumped and twisted as I walked to the line. I stared hard at the field, looking for movement; anything to gain an advantage at the last second. The breeze was about ten mph from the left so I lined up to the left. When we released the dogs, any bird upwind of Bo would send scent right to him first. I learned a long time ago to take care of the little things I could control- lining up was one of them. We stood at the line, held our dogs by the collar, and waited for word to start. The judges were astride their horses behind us and I could hear them discussing which dog they would ride behind and score. I heard Jimmy, a National Judge and the Head Judge, say he would take the setter (Bo) while the other judge, equally qualified, would take the shorthair. They rode up behind us and Jimmy asked, "Handlers ready?" We nodded and he yelled, "Turn 'em loose!” We both released our dogs and off they went.
The shorthair sprinted out front and stayed in a straight line with Bo only a few feet behind him. After about twenty yards of that, I whistled and Bo cut to the right and headed back to me. Suddenly, the shorthair spun around locked up like a statue! "Point!" the handler yelled; "You got it!" the judge answered. As the other handler walked to his dog, I had a choice. Should I leave the scene and try to find another bird while he was tied down with his find, or should I bring Bo in for a back and the lesser points associated with that? Bo made the decision for me when he looked to his right, saw the other dog on point, and stopped to a point himself. "Back" I yelled and walked over to Bo to take his collar and hold him while the other handler flushed and shot his bird for the retrieve. Bo looked good. I could tell he would listen to me today, and that was a good feeling. Some days, you could see wildness in his eyes. "When I saw that, I knew he was going to be a handful But, today, he looked all business. Bo was a bird dog with birds in front of him- an animal in the situation for which he was bred and trained. This was the "perfect storm" - all the hard work, hunting, genetics and situational training came to focus on this day and time. Right here-right now. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's a beautiful thing. The other dog completed his work and the judge told me to turn Bo loose. As I did, I started walking to the left, into the wind and towards the larger part of the field. Bo flew by me, moving back and forth and maximizing the amount of area he covered with his nose. Remembering what an old bird hunter told me, "Son, a bird dog is nothing more than a life support system for his nose!", I tried to put Bo in a position to work upwind as much as I could. On a day like today, he could scent a bird thirty yards away, if he was downwind of it. He was fast; he quickly worked out of sight in the broomsage. I followed his progress by watching the judge on horseback. The judge stopped, raised his arm and shouted "point!". Bo had his first bird, but he was two hundred yards away. I picked up the pace to get to him and not waste any time. By the time I got there, I was out of breath and sweat was running in to my eyes. I was thinking I'd never see the bird if it got up. I scanned the area to make sure the shot would be safe and then I stepped in front of Bo. The bird exploded out to my right and the gun was on my shoulder and the bird dropped. Bo was on it the second it hit the ground and ran it to me, dropped it in my hand and took off to the back corner of the field; one down. Then, I heard a shot from the front of the field- down two to one! I can picture the day like it was yesterday with the blue sky and white puffy clouds. Spring in the south can be really pretty- once you get past the weather extremes and tornadoes. The breeze was blowing from the south and it was still cool and dry with just enough humidity for the dogs. Part of the field was planted in sorghum strips with a few rows of three or four year old planted pines. There was a section along a bottom that held some stunted oaks with large patches of a low growing briar. Along the other end, the field bordered a pine forest. All this was separated from the surrounding land by a plowed strip of land perhaps twelve feet wide. (Bo competed enough to know that when he reached a plowed strip, he would turn and head back into the field. Some dogs never figured that out and the frustration was evident in the handler's voice tying to get them back on the field.) The gallery disappeared. I would think of where Bo had been and where we needed to go next. I would watch the judge, Bo, the other dog, when he was in sight and the other handler's orange when he wasn't, and always head for ground not yet swept by that nose. The hour passed by so quickly, I was sure there was a mistake. After twenty minutes, we had two more birds- three now. I knew we needed at least five on the scorecard to have a chance. We already had the scored back and five finds and a back would beat the first two dogs and, hopefully, our bracemate. I started working Bo around the edges of the field. Typically, the birds will walk away from the commotion in the center of an area. Eventually, they will reach the edge up against the plowed strip. They won't want to expose themselves to hawks, so they will stay in the grass along the edges. We were in the downwind, northwest corner of the field, when I turned into the wind and started along the edge. I whistled Bo along with me, and he fell right into the routine- hunting from the plowed strip back in to the field about thirty yards then back to the strip. We moved along, into the wind, hoping we'd made the right decision. "Point" I yelled! Bo was working back from the strip into the field, when he spun around and froze. Yes! It was working! Bo had a big, fat, male quail pinned down. The flush, shot and retrieve were classic and we were on our way again- four birds on the card. We combed the edge for another half-mile and found another bird in the southwest corner of the huge field. This one was in the last, little piece of grass before he was safe out of bounds. But the bird counted and Bo had five birds! We had ten minutes left and we were a long ways from the start line and gallery. I could see the trucks in the distance and barely see a few folks watching with binoculars, I thought. I knew that every shot would bring the question, "How many has he got now? How about the shorthair-how many for him?" We worked along the short southern boundary and then turned north to the gallery. We only had about five minutes left, now. I was trying to remember, in my concentration, if I’d heard any shots from my bracemate- and I couldn't remember hearing any. I was concentrating so hard on my own handling that I blocked out the other stuff. I asked the judge about it when he was close enough to me, but he couldn't remember either. I knew the trial was over for us, as we walked to the finish and the last few minutes ticked down. We'd done all we could do. My raggedy, old knothead setter- my school dropout- and I had done our best. I chatted with Jimmy, the judge, and relaxed as we covered the last few yards waiting for the seconds to pass. Point! Bo swung around and locked up! He wasn't ten feet from the boundary and two ladies talking about the long drive back to Indiana! "Time" yelled the judge. I was allotted one minute, in this situation, to finish my work and get a score. I quickly moved to Bo. He was twisted like a pretzel just in front of the gallery- wound tighter than a coiled spring and, I swear, he had a grin on his face! This was the "money bird" I knew it, the crowd knew it and my bracemate, who was just coming off the field, knew it. I kicked the clump of grass five feet in front of Bo's nose and out the quail came! He flew straight at the ladies from Indiana- they screamed and dropped to the ground- worried about a load of birdshot. I yelled, "Safety" and let Bo chase the bird through the gallery and into the woods beyond. I let him go, knowing with six birds and a back on the scorecard, we had just won the big one- the 2001 Quail Unlimited National Championship! Bo came back with the bird, unhurt, in his mouth and handed him to me. "We're not quitting yet, are we? There's still daylight left!" he looked at me.
Every dog has his day, they say. Bo had his in Bronwood, Georgia.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Here's the new pup. Full of piss and vinegar! (She's the one on the left- LOL!). We visited Beeline Kennels to pick her up and were impressed with the cleanliness and professionalism of the facility. Nolan Huffman runs a very nice training and breeding facility- highly recommended. Ruby (Flyboy Ruby Deux) is a daughter of Buddy (using frozen semen). She is a pistol- already carrying sticks, attacking our other dogs, playing in the water bowl and flying to me when I call (at 6 1/2 weeks). I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night, however.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
In March of 2001, I received an invitation to enter Bo in the Quail Unlimited National Championship in Bronwood, GA. He was a little over 2 years old and we were at the end of the hunting season. We'd been all over the country, Arizona, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Nebraska, hunting anything and everything that flew and could be pointed. In addition, Bo had been field trialing some, on and off- when we could get time on the weekend. The entry fee was pretty stiff, but this one was close to home and they had some great prizes to the winners. I figured Bo could run with any dog on a good day, so we entered the trial. The "beat your bracemate" format meant you would only need to outscore the dog/handler you were running against in your 30 minute brace in order to advance to the next round. This meant after every round half the field advanced, or didn't, and it only took a few days to cut the field down to one dog- from well over a hundred.
Thankfully, Bo wasn't intimidated by the level of competition at the event, because I certainly was! I met handlers and dogs that were only words on paper up until then. These were "the big boys" - professionals in every sense of the word. There were dogs with ten and twenty Championships and handlers that did nothing but travel the country to enter these dogs in major field trials. They had motor homes dragging all stainless steel dog trailers with All Terrain Vehicles loaded on top! And, they all knew each other. Conversations typically made reference to the "that Champion of Champions Trial" or "the Quail Invitational Trial", or just "Amo" (where the biggest trials were held in Amo, IN). Not only was I an outsider to the conversation, but had no idea what in the world these guys were talking about! "Bo, we are in a heap of trouble here, boy! I'm pretty sure we bit off more than we can chew!" I'd mutter. Bo just smirked and curled up to get some rest.
I remember the very first brace we ran in that major trial- on a huge, flat, square field. The gallery, as the on-lookers were called, could see everything and there were plenty of comments, both complimentary and not. A field trialer's nightmare was to really mess up in front of the gallery- maybe miss the bird on the rise, or have the dog run right over the bird without pointing. The hoots and catcalls would travel for what seemed miles as the peanut gallery would get their licks in while they could. And the better you were known, the worse the abuse. Of course, some of it was meant in jest. It was acknowledged as a time to get even between the "big boys" and it seemed the bird planter, as the guy who put the quail in the field was called, would always put one somewhere right in front of the gallery. Bo and I had an early brace and there was still a chill in the air. It was cool, but humid, and that was good for the dogs ability to scent the birds.. Bo was likely to strike scent a fair ways off from the bird, I realized, and that meant we should be OK in finding birds. The problem here was this "beat your bracemate" format meant our competition had the same advantages. It simply boiled down to outscoring the other dog over the next thirty minutes. We were nervous, waiting in the little area called the "blind", while the bird planter set out five more birds after the previous brace finished. I don't remember my bracemate, but I do remember stroking Bo's head and making small talk about the weather and scenting and how the opponent's dog looked real tough and "I hope you guys will take it easy on this old country dog!" It was the usual talk, trying to appear cool, calm and unaffected by the situation. An unknown, I really had an advantage because they didn't know me or my dog. It was assumed we were one of the local meat dogs that entered just because we wanted to get out of the house. It was also assumed we would be eliminated in the first round. To be sure, I wasn't certain that assumption wasn't correct. I really did feel out of my league- although I had perfect confidence in Bo.
After the birds were hidden, we were called out ("Bring 'em out!") and went to the start line with dogs pulling in eagerness and judges waiting. We stood apart at the line waiting for the start and the head judge called down from his horse, "Everyone ready? Turn 'em loose!" I slipped Bo's lead and he took off like a shot- full stride, it seemed, in three or four steps! He veered to the left, while the other dog went right. That was good; I didn't want the other dog trying to footrace Bo around the field. I took two or three steps in to the field to follow him, loading my gun and watching his progress at the same time. Suddenly, he spun around and locked up in classic Bo fashion; body twisted, tail at the 10 o’clock position, legs spread to support himself and head absolutely still. He went from what seemed a hundred miles an hour to zero in the blink of an eye! We were only 10 seconds into this thing and Bo was already on a bird! I yelled "Point!" as the adrenaline surged, and I walked quickly to his front, checking the position of the judge, gallery and other handler and dog. I consciously noted the direction of the breeze, realizing the bird would be upwind of the dog's nose, and I headed for that spot. I was about 20 feet from Bo when the ground moved and a whir of wings came up from a clump of grass and headed out away from us. I shouldered my gun and pulled the trigger while watching the bird. It kept flying! I shot again, but now the bird was in full fight and a long ways off. I missed! The first bird on the first day of the biggest trial I've ever been in and I missed the bird! I shook my head as the gallery crowed and watched Bo chase that bird all the way across the field- maybe a half mile. The rules don't say you must kill the bird- only that the dog must retrieve the bird. Bo chased that bird down, found it, gently picked it up and ran back to me with an unhurt bird in his mouth. He put it in my hand with a disgusted look and took off again. All I could do was act calm and remark to the judge what a good retrieve that was and he laughed a little as took the bird out of my hand. "Amazing how these little birds can fly with all that lead shot in them, isn't it?” he remarked grinning. I did notice the gallery was very complimentary of Bo and his retrieve, though. “Maybe we can salvage this." I thought, as I watched Bo cover the field. The rest of the brace flashed by; we managed to have three birds to our opponent's two and we beat him on points. We advanced and he went home. Only half the dogs returned the next day. Win or go home is brutal and fair. I knew every time we took to the field we could be heading home in thirty minutes. To advance we would need to win twice this day.
The next brace was in a different field with lots of trees and cut corn, lots of little ins and outs and hills. It was a lot like the kind of hunting we’d been doing all year. I felt very comfortable from the time I left the line. One thing a dog must demonstrate to win a major trial is the ability to "back" or honor another dog's point. He does that by pointing himself at the other dog. In bird hunting, this is a very useful trait since occasionally the pointing dog will be out of sight in bush or swamp, etc. His hunting mate may see him and will "back" him. Now, the hunter may see the --backing" dog and finally find the pointing dog and the birds. I never did work Bo a lot on backing, but during the second run an opportunity presented itself and I called Bo in so he could see the pointing dog and back him. He flew around the corner, responding to my whistle, saw the other dog and skidded to a stop! It wasn't fancy or even elegant. It was a back- pure and simple- and it satisfied the requirement. In the unlikely event we made it to the finals, the judges would be checking the scores to make sure Bo had demonstrated at least one back during the trial. We were tied at two birds apiece and both of us had a back, also. My opponent was a good friend and professional trainer with a great dog. But, here we were, tied up with fifteen more minutes to find another bird in the field. We worked along the edges of the field, hoping to catch a bird either heading for the shade of the trees, or a bird walking back onto the field. As we moved around the back of the field, alongside a row of pine trees, Bo was in full flight along the mowed lane that was the boundary of the field. If he was standing in the mowed lane when he pointed a bird, he would be considered "out of bounds" and the find would not count, even if the bird was "in bounds". I whistled a command to turn and he immediately jerked left back into a clump of tall grass that was in bounds. As I watched, he never came out the other side! "Point" yelled the judge from his vantage point on top of his horse. Adrenaline shot through me as I checked the area for safety and eased into the clump of tall grass looking for Bo. There he was-frozen. His eyes were glazed and his breathing was fast! Intense! I kicked the grass in front of him and a big, fat quail shot up and headed out to the pines for safety. The gun was on my shoulder and fired before I remembered doing it and the bird crumpled dead to the ground. As soon as I shot, Bo released from the point and, when the bird hit the ground, he was only five yards away. He snatched up the bird and ran back to put it in my hand. Three birds on the card now, with a back, too. Bo had done it one more time and we advanced to the third day. The dog was on a roll, the shooting was better, and the "luck factor" was most definitely in our favor. Every trialer knows ability and good nose and perfect training can only go so far. Eventually, choices have to be made, "Do I turn right or left, turn back or head on?' I always figured, for field trialing, about 60% was the dog, 25% was the handler and 15% was blind luck. This weekend, this day, this trial we were firing on all cylinders. Bo was on fire, my shooting was perfect, we were working as a team and every decision we made paid off.
(Next installment soon. See archives to start at the beginning!)
Ain't it great to plan a hunt? This time of year, along with the puppy-raising and living-making going on, it's fun to start the "where will I hunt next season" line of thinking.
Lots goes into that, obviously. My main consideration is the amount of drive time. I'm pretty good with anything within 1000 miles of the farm. That puts me in WI and NM, KS and SD and associated states. I can leave one day and be on the ground, well rested, before noon the next day. Longer than 1000 miles, I go up to 1300 miles and it's more of an evolution. So, I tell the ball and chain, if I'm going to drive that far, I'll need to stay a little longer to justify that trip! Works for me!