Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Barbed Wire

Here's a pic of my dog Cap.  He's sleeping off the effects of sedation from the vet.  It seems that yesterday, while exercising along side my Kawasaki Mule, he decided to take a short cut through a barbed wire fence.  He hit that thing full stride right in the mouth.  He cut his tongue and broke some middle teeth.  Blood everywhere! The tongue heals amazingly fast, but the two teeth were just chips and had to be removed before they became infected. Actually, he'll be fine and won't miss the teeth at all- they weren't his canines nor molars.  I hope the little knot head learned something from this!

Friday, December 23, 2011

I am approached, on occasion, by vendors asking me to try their product.  I like to try different things and usually agree.  This time I was asked to shoot the Federal Target Load 9 shot. Normally, 9 shot is too small for me to hunt with and about the only application I would use it for is a field trial.  I don't shoot skeet or trap.  In the National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Association (NSTRA) format, the dog points the bird and then the handler shoots the bird for the retrieve.  We almost always use pen-raised quail for the trials as they are easy to get and are relatively cheap.  In addition, they are not very tough birds and will normally drop pretty easily for light loads and small shot. Since you can pack more induvidual shot in to a shell the smaller they are, it makes sense that the smallest shot would improve your odds of hitting the target. 

I took these shells to a 2 day trial with my 3 dogs.  Added all together, I entered the field 12 times over the weekend and had plenty of opportunity to shoot pen-raised quail.  I found that 90% of the time, the hit bird would drop on the first shot and be dead when it hit the ground.  However,  about 10% of the time, I would hit the bird and feathers would fly, but the bird would continue on, either to drop later or continue on out of the area.  My conclusion is, that for my type of field trial,  the 9 shot, light load shell may not be the best.  Probably an 8 or 7 1/2 (largest allowed) would be more suitable for NSTRA to ensure a dropped bird for points.  I have nothing against the reliablility of the shell- I had no misfires.  I will not use the 9 shot again in NSTRA.  Perhaps shooting skeet would be more to the style of the shell.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Do you hunt with a GPS? An Astro, or Nuvi?

I do.  And, I'm finding more and more uses for the units. 

(However, and this is BIG, I NEVER hit the fields, bird hunting, without a standard Mark 1 Mod 0 Compass!  I always know my initial direction and always keep my "situational awareness" up and operating, in other words, I know the direction I'm hunting and I know where my truck is and any other significant feature.  I like to be able to point to the truck at any given moment and if, at any time, I don't have that awareness, I stop and get my head wrapped around where I am and how to get home!)

All that being said, I just downloaded the BLM and Public lands maps for WA/OR/ID.  We will be heading out there mid-January to hunt Chukar and Valley Quail.  Of course, part of the draw of the mountain west is the bountiful public lands available for hunting.  In the past, ordering the maps was an important part of hunting in the west.  It still is, but these GPS applications make it much easier to keep track of where you are and what land is available to hunt.

I used a website called to find and order my maps.  I downloaded them and loaded them in to my Astro and Nuvi.  In addition to ID, I have Montana, New Mexico, Minnesota, South Dakota and Kansas in my GPS units.  It's great to be working dogs along a bottom and be able to see the map right on the unit telling me I have another mile of BLM land to go!  Or to be able to drive around on the caleche roads down in New Mexico and have my Nuvi show me BLM land or School land as I drive along and look for birds.

I highly recommend updating your units with these maps as you hunt throughout the United States.  I also highly recommend you become proficient with a compass.  You know what they call a hunter that relies on his GPS?  Lost.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Working Dogs

Bo, at 14, still has it! Cap shows his intensity and Ruby is trying to tell me where they are. While I enjoy bird hunting most of all, taking the dogs out for a little brush up on manners is fun, too. All this yard work will pay off in the long run. Whether it is on the trial field, or in the coulees and wheat fields, these dogs will remember the pasture and what they were taught.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Introduction to the lifetime sport!

Rhys and me.

It was a pleasure to be able to introduce a new hunter to the sport.  Rhys, my prospective son-in-law,  a native of Wales, has been very interested in shooting sports and hunting in general.  He is an archer and competes in Archery for the University of Florida.  A natural extension of that is a progression to shotguns, pistols and rifles.  One day, he asked if I would show him how to shoot a shotgun.  Things progressed and I found him a good buy on a Browning Citori Upland Special 20 ga. He was thrilled, and started shooting trap and skeet down at college. 

Last month, I was drawn by lottery to hunt at DiLane plantation in eastern Georgia.  This is an 8000+ ac. Quail Plantation managed by the state of Georgia for quail habitat.  It seemed like a perfect time to introduce Rhys the fine art of quail hunting in Georgia. 

We arrived at the check-in station around 7 a.m. and picked up our permission form and eased out to where we decided to put out.  It took a little time to get the dogs and gear and guns ready to go, but after a few minutes we gathered to discuss the plan.  We talked about shooting safety, especially over the dogs and around other people, how to move over the ground, approaching pointing dogs, gun safety and a lot of small stuff that makes hunting a lot more fun. This wasn’t the first time we’d talked about this stuff, but it was a perfect time to refresh the information. 
Ace Pointed

It was about 40 degrees under clear skies and promised to warm up to about 70 degrees in the afternoon.  We put the dogs out a started around some perfect habitat.  The dogs worked great and before long we settled in to a routine.  We heard some shooting a few hundred yards away, across a small tree stand and marked that covey off our list as we moved in to a pecan grove.  After about an hour of working around some brushy fields, we again heard more shooting in a different area, but still about 300 yards way- another covey off the list!   We eased in to a pecan grove and worked through that in to some tall pines.  Suddenly, I heard the familiar wurr of wings and an exclamation from Rhys! Simultaneously, I looked through the pines a saw Ace on point ahead of me.  Rhys was to my right and Ace was pointed ahead of me.  I worked the area in front of Ace with no success, turned him loose, and went over to Rhys to find out what happened.  It seems Rhys stepped right in to the covey!  Birds went up all around him!  They flushed directly to and over our third man on the hunt, Glen.  Rhys wisely chose not to shoot.  He did mark the birds down and we eased on over to that area only to discover the birds had flown on to adjoining private land!  Those little buzz bombs knew exactly what they were doing- no doubt. With that little bit of excitement behind us, we moved on to a different area. 

Looking for the covey
The day warmed up and we swapped out dogs to keep them fresh as we moved around the area.  Unfortunately, ALL the area looked good with good food, cover and water- great habitat for the quail.  We heard more shooting around the area and we worked the edges of fields and through the tall pine stands, etc.  The dogs did a wonderful job!  It was a good time for them, too.  Unfortunately, we never did get a shot at the wild birds, but the benefits of this hunt were not in the killed birds.  Rhys got a chance to see how the overall hunt works, habitat, working closely with dogs and other hunters.  We had a great lunch in the field, cooked by Glen.  And, we had hours of talking about hunting in general and bird hunting in particular. 
Chow time in the field!

I always maintain I’ve never had a bad day in the field, and this one was no exception.  We had good dog work, we saw some birds and Rhys had a covey rise right under his feet(!), we ate in the field and talked hunting all day long.  It doesn’t get any better than that! 

I thanked the GA DNR for the opportunity to hunt, via the feedback form, and I’d like to thank for sponsoring Rhys on this hunt.  The future of our sport hinges on bringing new “blood” in.  Take some time and take a young person hunting!
Long Day in the field

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Typical fall day on North Dakota prairie
North Dakota, this year, was beautiful! Sometimes, one gets lucky with a camera and captures a shot like the one above.  As I travel over the country, I often wonder about those that don't get a chance to see all this.  Most of them are perfectly content to stay where they are and see the beauty in their own hometown and area, and that's fine by me.  One of the reasons I like to travel and hunt is to see new country, meet new people, hunt new habitat and terrain.  I think if we stay with what we know, that's all we will ever know.  Tied in with the idea of traveling and hunting around the country, is my concern for the future of the sport.  Where are the young guys, the kids, the women, the boys and girls? Of course, I know that my hobo-hunter lifestyle is pretty exclusive- after all, having the time, inclination and where-with-all to travel and hunt is not something you see in young marrieds or middle aged men and women who have jobs and careers.  So, I'm not advocating my kind of hunting, but I am strongly pushing for introducing young people to the sport.  I am all for showing young people where meat comes from and how it gets to the table.  I am a huge proponent of explaining, through action, that we are the top of the food chain and we harvest not only grains and fruits a vegetables, but, also, meat.
My pup, Bandit, and his limit of Sharptail Grouse.

My little niche, of course, is in the harvesting of game birds and using the genetic make-up of bird dogs to facilitate that. Granted, I lean more toward the dog aspect, and, in fact, I'm not much of a meat eater, but the sport is valid and deserves to be promoted and preserved.
The Old Ball and Chain and her first bird on a covey rise!

To do that, we need to take someone hunting and make it the most pleasant  and pleasing experience we can.  We need to show them the effort that goes in to harvesting game birds- the respect shown to the birds, the land and the dogs. The traditions of hunting with bird dogs, the unwritten rules, the courtesies.  I'm convinced once they are introduced properly, many will become lifelong proponents of our great sport and, who knows, maybe they will grow up to be a hobo-hunter, too.
My pup, Gritz, and her first Woodcock.

Tomorrow, I have the opportunity to take a young man hunting quail.  He's eager  and ready to go!  He's completed the Hunter Safety Course, he shoots well and he likes to hear about not only the how's of bird hunting, but also the why's.  (Full Disclosure: He's my future son-in-law.  Perhaps that contributes to his eagerness?)  Sponsored by, we will hunt quail tomorrow on an 8000 ac. plantation owned by the State of Georgia and managed exclusively for Bobwhite Quail.  I am looking forward to hunting a full day with the young man (perhaps imparting a little wisdom) on land that looks like it did back when the huge quail plantations were all over Georgia. 

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chukar and Valley Quail, Anyone?

We have a "group" on Facebook (yes, even I am on Facebook) called Bird Dogs and Fly Fishing.  At this time of the year, 95% of the discussions are about bird dogs and hunting.  We see some great pictures and hear a lot of stories.  Most of the seasons are closing at the end of December.  Every year, it seems like a rushing train coming straight at me- The Seasons Are Ending!  Every year, I look around for a place to hunt one last time, a place to turn loose the dogs and walk to the horizon.  The clever way I am linking the two thoughts is through the information shared on Facebook.  I'm learning about parts of the country whose seasons extend beyond the traditional 1 January closing.  Arizona, NM, Utah, California, Oregon to name a few.  Not only that, these places (some anyway) haven't been decimated by the drought that is destroying the bird populations in the heartland.  Through friends met in the group, I'm able to get ideas about where to go in January, or even February.  This season, my February is loaded up, but January is looking pretty good.  Since I'm still in pretty good shape and the dogs are doing well and in very good shape, I'm pondering a Chukar hunt out west.  Hopefully, I'll be able to chronicle a two week odyssey fairly soon....

Now, if I can only get The Old Ball and Chain's permission slip. Sometimes, a "kitchen pass" is worth it's weight in gold! Hey, Christmas is right around the corner.....