|Ace and Sharptail. Montana 2014|
One of the benefits of traveling and hunting is the chance to see all types of terrain, species of upland birds, meet all kinds of farmers, ranchers, bird hunters and others. But, no matter where I am, what state, no matter which dogs are in the back of whatever Beast I'm driving, no matter who I'm with or just by myself, there are some rules to live by. Some hard won lessons. Some of these, I committed- some were committed against me. A wise man said its smart to learn from your mistakes, but it is wise to learn from the mistakes of others! There is no sense in merely remembering and adapting if the only one to benefit is me. So, here are a few items I think are important. I may or may not explain and illuminate. Some of these items are self-explanatory, some will need a little background. All of them will keep you out of trouble.
|Cap with Idaho Chukar. 2013|
1.) Never. Ever. Go back and hunt an area shown to you by someone else without their express, no-doubt consent. "He knew that's where I was going." or "It's public land, anyone can hunt there!" or "There someone's truck there, let's go!" are no good. It's a trust between bird hunters. If he shows you a spot, you are forbidden from going back unless he gives you the OK.
2.) Leave gates like you found them. Wide open or secure. In fact, match the knot on the rope, if you can.
3.) Always compliment another man's dog. If you denigrate his dog, you just cussed his wife. Be prepared for the unpleasant consequences. There is at least one thing every dog is doing well. Find it and compliment the dog and the hunter. Also, maybe more important, don't ever touch another man's dog without permission, either. God help you if you strike or kick at a man's dog.
4.) If both of you shoot the same bird, assume you missed, tell your buddy, "Nice shot!" Does it really matter if you got it and he missed? Really?
|Aaron Utz and Remy (the best Vizsla I've ever seen). Idaho, 2013|
5.) Hunting private land? Tell the owner if he needs help, for any reason, you are there and can lend a hand. I've unstuck trucks, put in fence posts, rounded up cows and put out fires.
6.) Don't shoot over the limit. Know the rules and stay within them. Be polite and friendly to Game Wardens and local law enforcement. They have a tough job. When I see one, I break down my gun and get my papers out. I don't wait to be asked. I think they appreciate it. Then ask them where the birds are.
7.) Eat in local cafes. Every town has one and every one has a group of local farmers/ranchers that meet around sunrise to drink coffee and solve problems. They usually are friendly and are wondering what the new yahoo (you) is doing in town. I've met and befriended numerous people by just explaining I drove all the way from Georgia to hunt the local (fill in the blank).
8.) When the day is done, the order in which items are completed should conform to the old Cavalry saying: The horse, the saddle, the man.
Take care of your dog, first and foremost! Clean his feet and check him for stickers and wounds. Feed and water him. Make sure he has warm, dry bedding, etc. Then, clean your gun, boots, chaps, truck. Put all your electronics on chargers, write important stuff in your logbook before you forget it. Check fuel and water on board for tomorrow. Then, after all that other stuff, take care of yourself. Keep the order in order. Remember to keep the main thing the main thing!
|Me and the Ball and Chain. North Dakota 2012|
9.) Get a puppy when your youngest dog hits five years old. (If you are a one dog man, that is.)
10.) Field Trials and Hunt Tests are simulations of the real thing. Don't look down your nose at the real thing. Do the real thing every chance you can. The best dog that ever walked the face of this planet never smelled a pen-raised bird, ran a "course", or was judged. Get your nose out of the air, suck it up and let your dog fulfill its genetic destiny. I know, it's scary! Ask for help.
11.) Dogs get hurt, cut, snakebit, lost, quilled, tired, cold, wet, hot, cranky, etc. Have a plan and a first aid kit on hand. Carry a multi-tool, tape, blood stop. Have the local vet number in your phone.
12.) Keep the dogs warm at night. Every calorie a dog doesn't use staying warm is a calorie it can use to recover from the day's exertions. Put a heater in the back of the truck or trailer, or, better yet, let them have their own pillow on the bed!
|Ruby on a covey of Bobs. Georgia 2012. |
13.) Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. No need to swear an oath.
14.) Buy good equipment, learn to use it, take care of it. Nothing impresses me less than an expensive gun dragged through the briars. It does impress me, actually, but in a way not kindly to the owner.
15.) Plan, plan, plan. Call DNR, call people who know people. Do not expect anyone to hand over hard won information about hunting spots. They've been driving to and hunting the area for years. Why should they tell you anything? If they do, be grateful! You haven't "paid your dues" so don't expect a handout.
16.) Put a set of chains in your truck. You might be able to drive WAY back in on frozen ground. Coming out on thawed-out snot may be more problematic. A good set of chains or other traction devices is good to have. They are like an Allen wrench- when you need one, nothing else will do.
17.) Take time to get where you are going. It's better to get there rested than gutting it out and taking two days to recover.
18.) Remember why you do this. Pass along what you know.
|Bo and Me in Arizona. Coon Creek. 2004|