Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Boy Ace and a Video From North Dakota

We worked this old rooster through the CRP for about a hundred yards or so. Ace would catch him up against the edge and I would rush over expecting him to flush, but he would sneak off into the thick stuff again.  Over and over, the experienced dog and the cagey rooster matched wits.  The wind was directly into the our face.  It was about forty degrees and a little humid. The deck was stacked against the bird today. I just held the camera and watched the scene play out.  Over the past 20+ years and 5+ dogs and 200+ roosters, each and every one is special.

Photo by Nancy Whitehead

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Merry Christmas, my bird dog friends!

I really like the saying, or prayer, I saw painted on a stone. It read, "Lord, let me be the man my bird dog thinks I am."   Yep. I'd settle for that. 

Take time out from the madness and grab that dog, load up and go for a walk or short hunt. Be sure and pause to really watch him and see the effort he puts in to pleasing you. I thank God he gave us these marvelous animals. Perhaps, it was to demonstrate how he would like us to look at Him?  

Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What's it going to be? Field Trials or Bird Hunting?

I just finished two days of 10 braces of National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Association runs. I'm worn out and about $600 lighter in the wallet.  I did have a good time and my two Brittanys, Cap and Ruby, did very well, although not well enough to place.  I'm pleased with both of them, and I don't see any flaws that can't be fixed with some patient reminding in the training field at home. Here's the rub.  I'm constantly reminded, and I've been doing this over 20 years, the transition from the field to NSTRA is not instantaneous. In fact, some dogs cannot make that transition.  I can spot that problem early on and not expect that particular dog to perform at that level, but, by and large, I expect all my dogs to gain their championship in NSTRA. The dog shown below, Bo, had no problem at all and was great at both.  
Bo and Me Winning the 2001 Quail Unlimited National Championships- last bird, last brace, last day. 
 I find myself asking, "Why am I here, waiting to run a 30 minute brace, when I could be in Idaho, or Montana, or North Dakota?"  Then, I ask myself, "Why are any of these trialers here?"  Obviously, the vast majority of them have jobs during the week that pay the bills, put kids through school and food on the table.  I'm sure their spousal unit is much appreciative when payday rolls around and my brace-mate has managed to get to work on time throughout the week and not drive off in to the  sunset in search of South Dakota pheasant or New Mexico Scaled Quail! So field trialing, AKC or NSTRA or UFTA or whatever, is a great way to play with your dog and still keep a foot in the modern world.  

Bo and Me sitting next to Coon Creek in AZ 
My wife made the comment to me the other day, "You are so happy in the pictures I see of you taken when you are hunting!".  I never thought of it.  I guess I am. How could one NOT be happy when the big decision of the day is where to open the dog box and which dog starts the day.  The number two big decision is, Where do we eat lunch? 

Cap and Me in Idaho

Looking back on 23 years of bird hunting and trialing and bird dogs and stuff, I'm beginning to realize my amazing wife, the Ball and Chain, is absolutely right.  I am happiest in the field with a bird dog(s) in front of me, the wind in my face, and a not-too-critical hunting partner somewhere off to the left or right.  At 63, with a lot of miles and experience under my belt, I guess it's only time I came to realize this.  After all, I'm twice retired from some pretty good jobs, and I don't need to worry too much about where the next meal is coming from (as long as the BandC stops complaining about having to work 80 hours a week- what a whiner!).  So, as the man said in "The Cowboys", I have the time, the wherewithal and the inclination.  I suppose I should do what I love doing as long as my health holds out.  
Cap and Huns in Idaho 2012
Did I mention my seems to be holding out, as well. I guess all those miles I did as a young man, running marathons , the centuries on the bike and miles in the pool are helping out now. I mentioned to the BandC that I might as well take up some bad habits as I get older. Since most of them take so long to kill you, I could enjoy them for quite a while.  She said...well, which bad habits?  I said thoughtfully..."Well, maybe, drinking, smoking and chasing loose women!"  She thought for a while, and pondered some, and then nodded.   "Well", she considered, "one of those will kill you a whole lot faster than the other two, so choose wisely, old man.  Don't you ever forget we own 100 acres, a shovel and lots of guns.  I love you, honey!" 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hunting Coat for Christmas ****Update***** It Arrived!

Harkila Hunting Coat

I ordered this coat on a Friday.  It arrived today, Wednesday, the next week, via DHL.  Actually, it arrived Tuesday, but the driver would not deliver due to my attack yard dogs (!?) and came back today for another attempt.  We get that sometimes when city drivers come to the country.  I don't blame them, in a way, if they don't know the rules about country dogs.  Anyway, when I opened the package, the sweet aroma of leather hit me right up front.  

This hunting coat is everything they said it was.  Plenty large in the chest to measure yourself and order your chest size without adding inches.  It will have enough room for a wool sweater underneath, no problem.  (Like the website says, however, if your belly is bigger than your chest, order your belly size.).  The pockets are large enough to hold shells and are down far enough for easy access.  I intend to hunt with a vest over the top for the orange coloring of the vest and for all the stuff I carry in the vest, so I'm not too worried about shell pockets, but if you wanted to slide a light orange vest over the top, you could carry plenty in the ample pockets.  There are two handwarmer pockets, as well. 

Of course, there are pocket snaps from the handwarmer pockets to hold up the leather trimmed flaps over the shell pockets while in use.  

The overall quality of the leather is exceptional.  It is smooth, supple and strong.  The snaps are large and very secure.  There is a drawstring around the waist to keep the coat snug in strong winds. This coat is not light and not a "technical" product, although it may have been considered that a 100 years ago.  This a throwback to the days of leather and wool and side by sides and bird dogs with bells on their necks.  

This is the Harkila Hunting Coat from Scandinavia.  I'm going to Nebraska in a week or so, to chase a few pheasant.  Most likely, I will encounter some lovely Nebraska winter weather and have a chance to give this coat a workout.  Stay tuned and I'll let you know how it performs behind my Ace dog with snow flying, rooters cackling smack and 20 ga. Prairie Storm lead headed downrange..... Dang, my hair is standing on end right now just thinking about it!