Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I've been working the pups and even the main dog (Ace) on a few items that are required in field trial competition. Things like a staunch back (honoring a point) and intensity on point (no creeping) and sharp retrieves.  Normally, a bird dog and get away with a little of all of the above in field work.  In field trials, the dog is scored quite a bit on style.  At least it is style with a purpose, so I don't complain too much about it.  It won't hurt them in the field hunting, either.  This weekend is a big trial in Pavo, GA at my fiend's house.  He grew up on one of those huge private quail plantations down there and I always like listening to his stories about hunting  and training dogs, etc.  Sure was a different kind of life!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The field trial went OK.  Cap, my 18 month old, found three birds and made three solid finds and retrieves.  He handled well, listened to me, was bold and ran hard, too.  No complaints.....well, the backing thing kind of got us us a little.  I've never really pushed that to this point and will lock that in after I finish some other minor procedures unique to field trials.  All in all, I am very pleased with him!
My little girl, Ruby, did very well, too.  An argument could be made she did better, with a larger field and stiffer competition.  She, too, found 3 birds and made three fine retrieves.  She never had an opportunity to back.  Neither of these dogs have been on the a field trial field before and adjusted quickly and well. Ruby kind of slowed down after the first 2 birds, thinking, I guess, that it was time to head to the barn- lol!  But, I encouraged her to head on out and she picked it up and found another bird in the last few minutes. 

All in all, a very nice day.  This Saturday, we head back to Alabama for another few runs.  This time, my main boy, Ace, will be running, too.  It should be a good day again.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tomorrow, my puppies are being thrown to the wolves. Since I have some "between trips" time on my hands, they (Ruby/F/Brit and Cap/M/Brit) are entered in a NSTRA trial. Poor guys, they are entered in Open division. (Never did like the "amateur" category- figure my dogs can run with the big boys from the git-go.) I'll be sure to apologize in advance to my bracemate, in the blind, "Take it easy on my little puppy, if you would! I'm not sure she'll even point, back or stay in the county. You say these are quail? Humm, we've worked some pigeons. Well, good luck!" (I do love the book, "The Art of War”.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review- Prairie Storm Shotgun Ammunition

Although I usually give lip service to hunting ammunition, it's difficult for me to get excited about it.  Until now. Over the years, I've learned that pheasant require a much different shell than other upland game birds. When I was a novice, I showed up with 20 ga. 2 3/4" 71/2's.  Sadly, I knocked down a lot of birds, but 80% were runners- a broken wing the main injury.  That is no way to treat a gamebird.  I moved in to larger shot- 4's and 5's- and, finally, to the 3" magnum shell.  By now, 75% are dead when they hit the ground and 1 in 4 are runners.  This last trip, I needed shells and came across the Prairie Storm, shown above.  $20 a box!  You've got to be kidding me! The guy in the gas station (yes, gas station in North Dakota) told me he sells out as fast as he can get them in.  The only reason he had these left was because it was 20 ga. ammo!  They appear to be an improvement on the standard shell, with two types of shot in each shell- hard round shot and, additionally, some bladed shot (round, with a ridge around the equator). 

I will tell you what my observations were.  Over the same dogs, shooting the same distances, same shot size, with the same guns, 95% of the birds were dead when they hit.  Since I'm not a statistician, I don't have written records, but I do have non-scientific, old man, bird hunter, I-know-what-I-see fact.  These shells knock the snot out of pheasant and are worth every penny you spend to get them.  These are a BUY. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Kids and Me

End of the Rainbow

My Top Dog Ace and Me

I'm already in withdrawal.  That's the problem with an addiction, you can never get enough.  I'm extremely thankful for my circumstances and the time I have available to be able to hunt all over the country- believe me.  November and December are difficult months to plan a hunt, with all the Holidays. 

I even drew a quota hunt on one of the Wildlife Management areas here in Georgia- managed exclusively for quail- and I don't want to miss that one! That will be one day for 3 people on 9000 acres that was originally an exclusive private hunting plantation.  Hopefully, I'll be able to take my daughter's fiance, who's never hunted before, and introduce him to this wonderful passion of mine.  ( is sponsoring an "Introduce a New Hunter" program). 

Next hunt should be Kansas!  The reports from New Mexico and dismal- and I hate that.  I really like hunting that harsh, dry terrain.  Maybe they will get the Spring rains they need and there will be a bumper crop of Blues next year....

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Buffoonery in the Grouse Woods

The day was promising.  It was 25 degrees, clear with light wind.  I'd scouted the area the day before and knew the trail and likely habitat I would find, even though I was a newbie to this part of the National Forest.  My main dog, Ace, was itching to go but that, my good friends, was not a good thing.  Ace is a Brittany- a big running, fast, smart, bold, confident Brittany.  I knew there was a good chance he would take to the woods like he did the North Dakota plains we'd left just two days before.  Out on the prairie, I would turn him out, turn on the Garmin and wait for the pager to go off- Ace would be on point with some pheasant pinned down in the CRP grass awaiting my arrival with the shotgun.  It's worked hundreds of times over the 6 1/2 years we hunted together. The rooster may run, but he was usually close when I got there and the flush, shot and loading the big bird in the game bag was routine.  The grouse woods require a much more patient dog, just as smart, but slower working, cautious....a thinker.  Good grouse dogs are a rarity and a treasure to be hoarded and protected.  Boldness, while an asset in hunting quail, Pheasant, Sharptails and Huns, is a detriment hunting Ruffs.  So, I had a talk with the boy and it was like telling the quarterback to not kiss the Prom Queen- he rolled his eyes as if to say, "Pops, I know what I'm doing here!  Just unhook the lead and I'll show you some grouse hunting!".  With not a little trepidation, I let him go, loaded my gun, marked the truck, took a compass heading, looked up....and he was gone!  Before I had time to walk 100 yds up the trail, I looked at the Garmin and that knot head was 650 yds in to the woods.....and accelerating!  I just kept walking the trail and occasionally pulled the GPS in map mode to watch his track.  Before long, he swung around and came loping up the trail with a grin (and a little lipstick on his collar) and attitude to match.  I grabbed him, "counselled" him once more, and turned him loose.  Another 400+ yd. cast.  By now, I knew the friendly, hand around the shoulder technique would not work, so I pulled another trick from the bag......Tritronics.  I got his attention with some electronic counselling and, after a few remedial sessions, the big guy saw the light (perhaps literally).  And became the quintessential grouse dog. (Be it known to all my PETA followers, I never exceeded a 3.  Actually, if you are a member of PETA, I really don't give a whit what you think.  You're an idiot.)  We continued the hunt for the illusive Ruffed Grouse, with a now functional man-dog team.  And we were rewarded with a very good day in the woods.  We stuck to the Aspen thickets and edges of clearings.  Ace locked down several birds that were shootable and I did my thing over my dog.   I sprayed lead at several birds and was occasionally rewarded with the "thump" of the a bird hitting the forest floor. 

One bird was a challenge I will never forget.  As often happens, the most memorable times come when you least expect them.  Ace locked up in some very thick Aspens.  He was only 40 yds. away and I was on him quickly.  As grouse often do, this boy waited until I was behind a shrub and flushed from over my head- out of the trees!  I twisted and shot, missed and watched him jink his way though the trees.  I immediately headed after him (ignoring the smirk from my canine) telling Ace, "Easy, boy, bird in here!"  We reached the area I saw him go down, and Ace started a circular search- he was birdy and a little frustrated and not getting the full scent. I relaxed a little and looked back to the spot of the initial flush and double checked my location.  I was in the correct spot.  So, I watched Ace work it out and pondered birds and flushes and bird hunting and Prom Queens.  For no particular reason, I looked up and saw Mr. Grouse sitting on an Aspen limb not 20 ft. away! (I will be honest and admit for a split second, I thought about popping him right there.  But restrained myself for some reason having to do with fair chase, etc.)  I took a step and stomped and yelled and he launched himself off the branch....directly at my head!  I ducked and turned and shot twice at the retreating gray blur.  I twisted so fast and hard I overshot and had to look back over my shoulder to get his heading.  I literally screwed myself in to the ground!  This time, I called to Ace and started out on the heading of the retreating grouse,  into a stand of planted pines that were perhaps 60' tall.  Once again, I reached the area and let Ace do his thing.  Once again, he was frustrated.  I stood and listened to the breeze in the pines, and the quiet....and in the way back of my consciousness, I heard a little flurry.  Just the faintest of sounds- almost unrecognizable.  I looked up and down, unfocused my eyes and scanned the trees for movement, or sound, or anything.  Nothing but the pines and breeze and soft needles underfoot.  Just then I noticed the tiniest, little feather floating down not 3 feet from my nose.  I checked the light wind and realized that scoundrel had been in the tree right in front of me, perhaps ten feet over my head.  That sound I almost heard was him launching off to safety.  I laughed and tipped my hat to the old boy.  I hope he lives long and sires many more just like him.  Surely, he was a worthy opponent. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I had to swing by Minnesota and have another shot at the Ruffed Grouse! Earlier in the year, I was here for a week and didn't do that well. Although, I really enjoyed the area, the people and the hunting, I wasn't all that successful. This time, I had some pre-mission intelligence and went straight to a hotspot. Deer season opens in 2 days. Most of the trails that permit it have been driven by hunters on ATVs. The birds will not hang out long alongside the trails with that traffic. As long as I can find some trails not over run with ATVs, I think I will be successful.