Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Blue Grouse

Blue Grouse

I, someday, will chase a few of these.  Old books I read say they are the largest of the grouse family and only smaller than the pheasant, when it comes to game birds. Just recently, I read they are second only to the Sage Grouse in size in the Grouse family.  Having harvested several Sage Grouse, I  can agree with that.  I've heard they eat as well as the Ruffed Grouse, too! High mountain habitat make the hunting very challenging and that is right up my alley.  I'm still recovering from the last Chukar hunt I went on, but it only whetted my appetite for the red-legged demon.  I'm going to study this bird and maybe figure out where I can get the dogs in the area of a suitable population.

Hunting Tips (From State of Colorado website)

Taken on the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area, a brace of dusky grouse with the Santa Fe Hawken rifle. Photo taken by Mark Cousins.Lower elevation: Hunt edges, benches and draws. Look for berry or mast producing shrubs such as chokecherry, serviceberry, elderberry, currant (ribes), and oakbrush. Look for seaps and other water sources which tend to hold green forbs and insects later into the fall.

Higher elevations: Get as high as you can and then hunt downwards. Know your trees! Lodgepole pine is too low, keep going to spruce/fir. Look for vaccinium with berries and high elevation forbs and/or pockets of insects.
Look for sign such as feathers, droppings, tracks and dusting bowls.
  • A good bird dog is an asset in the sage/aspen areas. They aren’t as much of an asset in the high country (where birds don’t tend to hold a point) and can even hamper your hunting efforts.
  • For every bird you see, you’ve probably walked past 5-10.
  • Dusky grouse (formally know as blue Grouse) tend to be gregarious; where you find 1 bird there should be others nearby.
  • When flushed in the high country, blue grouse tend to fly downhill and often escape by flying up into trees. When in sagebrush-aspen areas they tend to hold for pointing dogs and flush.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Randy and Ace- ID 2012

Randy and Cap- ID 2012

Randy, Ruby, Cap, Ace- ND 2011

The weather is (somewhat) cooler. The muscadines are loaded down.  The Tulip Poplars are turning. My pasture hay is being cut as I write.  It's almost time for hunting and trialing season.  Friends of mine are already in Montana preparing for the big national NSTRA trial in Lewistown, MT.  This year we will point the diesel north on September 22.  With stops in Illinois to visit a friend and South Dakota for the same, we will have dogs on the ground in Montana on the 24th.  They all swear they are ready, but I suspect they'd say that while dragging a broken leg. After all, that's the kind of dog I want- one that will hunt all day, every day. 

(I was just rudely interrupted by a friend calling from Idaho praising their new Ford F-350.  That's all I need!  I'm keeping my 2001 F-250 running fine at 330,000 miles and fighting off new truck fever.)

So, the truck vault is finished and ready to be packed with gear.  My first inclination is to the last in-first out method of packing.  I will look at items used every day and have them at the front- guns, shells, electronics, batteries, dog boots and tape.  Nest down the list would be items used, but infrequently and also, first aid/skunk formula, etc. followed by good stuff to have along, but not necessarily used every trip.  Finally, the bins in the back will be camping stuff, tarps, chains and emergency road stuff. That's the plan.....

It's not long now.  I'm trying to talk the B and C into flying to ID to meet me for a few days on Chukar and quail around the first week of October, but it's not looking good at this point.  I'll keep working that angle. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Finished! My new truck vault!

If you look carefully at the bottom picture, you can see that the vault fits perfectly between the wheel wells.  When the drawers are secured, I have perhaps 3 inches of play to the tailgate.  At the back of the vault (front of the truck), those two silver things are recessed hooks to pull up two lids for more storage space. Since this is Vault #1, the next one off the assemble line will take advantage of all the little things we learned finishing this one.  Glen is starting on his own box today.  The most difficult thing to get right is seating the locks properly and setting the striker plates, etc.  Inspecting closer, you may see how I made numerous small corrections.  At any rate, it is very solid, looks good and will allow me to carry and  lock my stuff on trips.  Now, I will attack that pile of stuff behind the driver's seat- some of which has been there 10 years or more. This should be interesting! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Working on the truck vault!

Thanks to Glen Bahde, and his father who did the carpentry, I am very close to finishing my truck vault.  Made of poplar, oak, and marine-grade plywood, this a lifetime box. Glen put many hours in to the detail and finishing and the final touch is the Linex lining (spray in bed liner) on the exterior.  With two drawers, one lockable for guns and such and the other matching in size, I will have all the room I need to carry all my incidentals.  The dogs will be in kennels on the top.  Glen is pushing for me to get a "bed slide", in addition, and that may be in the future.  But, for now, I will carry the vault and my dog kennels under my truck topper. We have close to $800 in materials and I'm incredibly glad Glen is not charging by the hour for his time.  I noticed a similar commercial box, just recently, selling for close to $3800.  I have some trim work and adjustments to make and this bad boy will be sliding in to the bed of the old F-250 diesel...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Is your "Beast of Birdin'" an F-250/350?

The Overhead Display Hole

I guess I was blessed with one that lasted longer than most, but when my overhead display (also known as the trip computer, mileage computer, temp sensor)  went out, I figured no big deal.  Then, I caught myself looking up there at a blank screen time after time. I noticed it was nice to know the temp/direction/miles to go to flameout and all that other nice stuff.  I called the local Ford guy and gave him the part number off the old unit and asked him to give me an estimate (in case I needed to rob a bank on the way over). He said Ford doesn't make the part and he can't get me one!  What? Passing up an opportunity to triple the profit on a part? That doesn't sound like Ford Motor Company to me! I got on the Internet and found a Ford blog site that gave detailed instructions about how to repair said part. (http://www.ford-trucks.com/)  I unplugged the black box, detached it from the mount, unscrewed three screws and layed open the innards.  It looked like the inside of my desktop computer.  Sure enough, one of the resistors was loose, so I gently pressed it back in to place.  I hooked it up and it worked! I noticed it was dim and all the functions didn't work, however.  More investigation revealed there should be 7 chips- I only had 5 chips in 7 holes. Two of the chips had fallen off!

Back to the Internet to find  a guy to fix it. I found several people who sell re-conditioned boxes and, also, new OE boxes.  The refurbished ones run about $100 and the new ones are about $220. I gave in and ordered a new one, and he gave me a $20 credit if I sent him my old one (hence, the photo of the hole where it was- lol.).  Interestingly, one guy said the refurbished ones have all the computer upgrades and show instantaneous mileage, as well, something my 2001 F-250 never did display.  So, I should be getting an upgrade on the my computer out put, too. That figures since my truck is almost 12 years old now. 

Note: the most difficult thing in this whole operation was getting the cover off.  There are detailed instructions here (http://www.ford-trucks.com/), but I suggest taking it to your local repair place and paying them to show you how to do it.  Don't cheap this one- if you break it, you will pay much more than you save.  Once the cover is off, the rest is a piece of cake!  

This is the guy I used, but there are many others out there.  Google "F-250 Overhead display" to start your search, or message me and I'll find the website address. George DeCarlo 57olbird@gmail.com


The part arrived before noon today and it took me 10 minutes to plug it in, put three screws in the mount and put the cover back on! It's working fine and it should last me another 10 years...or another 325,000 miles.  Along with the part, were instructions on removing the cover and box.  They are the same instructions on his website.  Overall, I am pleased with the transaction.  Everything was exactly as presented and I recommend this method.  

The Updated Repaired Version! Whoohoo!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Snakes and Bird Dogs

Western Diamondback-Crotalus Atrox
Prairie Rattler-Crotalus viridis

Bird Dog- Caninus Buddyus

They do not mix well.  The territory map of these two snakes overlay nearly every area I hunt west of the Mississippi. For 20 years, I did not see either variety, nor did I have a dog bitten.  But, just in the last 4 years, I've seen numerous Prairie Rattlers and my dogs have been struck at and even a member of my party was struck at. Consequently, I am serious about preventing snake encounters and planning for the eventual snakebite.  The odds of a snakebite occurring increase every time I drop the tailgate and I know I'm overdue.

I attack the problem on three fronts.  First is awareness.  If I choose to hunt Montana in early September, around prairie dog towns, I should be aware that is prime rattler habitat and plan accordingly.  I keep my dogs away from the holes and closer in to me, so I can monitor their behavior and, if there is an encounter, I can get to him quickly to get him aid and to the vet.

Second, is treatment.  I carry a snakebite kit with me, in the truck, consisting of injectible benedryl, syringes, and injectible steroids.  I know the dosages for my dogs, based on body weight. In addition, I vaccinate my dogs every year with Rattlesnake Vaccine from Red Rock Biologics (google it).  The theory is the vaccine stimulates the dog's immune system to minimize the affects of the venom. I've seen stories pro and con on the subject, but tend to believe the science behind the theory. It takes two injections a month apart for full immunity for one year.  One injection as a booster for every year after that.  You can read the fine print, but it does not protect against anything East of the Mississippi or moccasins or coral snakes.  I've heard they are trying to develop a vaccine for the Eastern Diamondback, but don't know that for sure.

Third, is avoidance training. In September I'm taking all three of my dogs to an Snake Avoidance Trainer.  They take about 15 minutes using an electric collar and mild stimulation to teach the dog to avoid snakes altogether. I think experienced dogs that hunt out west all the time, or even here in the south, already avoid snakes.  But, I want to make sure my two year olds know and understand what snake scent means.

I hope with all this, I will be able to go many more years without an encounter between dog and snake.  As for me and a snake, I wear Turtleskin Snake Chaps on warm days and keep a sharp eye out.  Good hunting to you, folks.....  

Friday, August 3, 2012

Finally! Muscadines are in!

Bronze and Regular Muscadines From the Arbor

When we moved to our home, the landscape architect suggested we plant a few muscadine vines in an arbor out our side door.  He made it from cypress branches and trees he was cutting off his land. It came out great and provides that side of the house with a lot of shade in the afternoon.  Well, that was over 15 years ago and those two vines are as big around as my arm! The two varieties are the normal black grapes and a bronze variety, which is super sweet. Over the years, I've noticed the native black taking over, but when I can find the bronze, I head for them. We got these vines at Ison's, named after a man who developed this variety.

Another nice thing about grabbing a few grapes as I head in or out, is the fact that these grapes herald Fall on the horizon.  And Fall, my good friends, means cool weather, bird dogs, and hunting. Just like you count down the landmarks when driving home after a long trip, I count down the landmarks to Fall. Even though it's 95 today, when I pop one of these juicy berries in my mouth, in my mind, I'm walking up behind Ace, Ruby and Cap, gun up and ready for the flush.  Yeah!  Bring on the muscadines!