Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Re-Post Review of GO CLAWS Mud, Snow, Sand traction devices!

They are a special type of polymer. Tough as nails and legal everywhere. 

That's a bunch of gripping action!  

It's a common problem when hunting out west, or even here in GA on the red clay back roads we have. Out west, many times, the roads will be frozen heading in to the back country, and will thaw during the day, making getting out somewhat problematic. In the south, even a slight rain turns the red clay roads into a form of slick snot. I don't care how many wheel drive you have, you ain't going anywhere.  Tires are a factor, but I like to have some form of chain to put on my wheels, in the event I need to get somewhere, like bed and a hot meal. I've used actual chains when getting stuck on some North  Dakota roads, and it was a pain, and muddy.  But, eventually, they worked and I got myself unstuck and on the way. Twice in my hunting career, I've relied on the largess of a local farmer to pull me out with a tractor. (Both times those tractors were so big, they could have pulled the dark out of the night, I think.). 

I knew there had to be a better way. Go Claws. (http://www.flextrax.com/). Google searching produced this interesting little article. I followed up with a call to the company and the owner, designer picked up. Nice guy!  I ordered a set, then another set. I figure, if I put one of these on each wheel, I'll be able to go anywhere, anytime. 

They are incredibly easy to put on. Literally, after you do it once, it will take less than 5 minutes per tire, more like a minute. You can drive with them on bare road for many miles and not damage the tires or the road. And they grip like a tick on your best bird dog!  

Recommendation:  go to the website and watch the videos. My recommendation is a buy. I have a set for each tire and it gives me great piece of mind while on a trip and seeing storm roll up the valley. "Bring it!" I think. "At least I'll make it back to the motel."

(Full Disclosure:  I was not compensated in any manner by anyone selling, manufacturing, or marketing the subject of this post.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mearns Quail, Blue Quail, Desert Birds and snakes.. December 2016

bird dogs and bird hunting
Mearns Country

bird dogs and bird hunting
Male and Female Mearn's Quail

bird dogs and bird hunting
Ruby has a covey!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Shack backing Cap backing Spirit on the birds!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Ruby, me, Pearl after a nice retrieve by Pearl!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Wally and Spirit cooling off.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Cowboy statue in Senoita, AZ

bird dogs and bird hunting
A lost visitor needs  humanitarian assistance. Antonio.

Trans-Texas Highway Scenery

bird dogs and bird hunting
Blue Quail/Scaled Quail/Cotton-top

bird dogs and bird hunting
Shack has the covey!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Sunning on the road by our parked trucks....sorry.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Nastiness.  Cholla cactus.

bird dogs and bird hunting
Quail Valley

John headed to the point!
The Posse

Merry Christmas, my bird dog friends!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

South Dakota! Roosters Sharps and Chickens!

November is the time of year for pheasants!  The colorful "ditch chickens" are fun to hunt, fun to shoot and can be a challenge when you get one that's a little knowledgeable. 

bird dogs and bird hunting

 South Dakota lets out of state hunters hunt for two 5 day periods. The cost is approx $121.  If you want to hunt longer than 10 days, you get to buy another license.  While the price is climbing, the hunting is worth it.  Lots of public land is available, the land is fairly benign and easy for the first-timer or novice.  As I write this, November is coming to a close.  The heated rush of the opening day crowd is slacking off, the weather is cooler (maybe colder than a well-diggers back pocket, at times!) and I will wager that nary a dent has been made in the bird population. In fact, December is a great month to chase pheasant!
bird dogs and bird hunting
Rick and Gigi and Pheasant

 We hunted out of Pierre, the state Capitol.  (It's pronounced "Peer".  That information, alone, is worth the price of admission.  If you talk to the locals and mention the town like the name of a Frenchman, they'll get a good laugh at your expense.)  When we called to reserve rooms at a local motel, we found the pickings slim and expensive.  We were pretty close to opening week, and the demand was still pretty high.  I called a friend of mine at a hunting lodge north of Pierre and he hooked us up with some pretty good rooms for about the same price as in town and we were close to some of the best food in the area. (http://www.springcreeksd.com/)
bird dogs and bird hunting
Two Bedroom at Spring Creek

I had my 4 Brits and my hunting partner had sweet black Lab.  Both dog breeds worked equally well! While I'm partial to vast, grassy areas with my big running Brits, Rick takes his lab into the cattails and along fence lines.  We seem to have about the same amount of success.  It's all about what tickles your fancy.  

bird dogs and bird hunting
Ruby and a cagey, old Rooster.

I do have one bit of advice for the novice pheasant hunter.  Unless you are a world-class wingshooter and can consistently kill a rooster with your .410 side-by-side, be sure to use the correct shells.  I shoot a 20 ga. and I'm a huge fan of the Prairie Storm ammunition.  I shoot 3" 5's and find the vast majority of my downed birds don't feel at all like running when the hit the ground.  They kill pheasant- dead.  Long ago, I was knocking them down with 7 1/2's and chasing them and losing them. I went to larger loads and ended up with the Prairie Storm.  Of course, that means I'm not using my 104 year old A.H. Fox for shooting pheasant, but that's the price I'll need to pay to cleanly harvest the big birds.  I switch to my Ruger Red Label 20 ga. for Roosters. 

bird dogs and bird hunting
Morning over Lake Oahe
If you are contemplating a December hunting trip, maybe your first traveling trip, some good choices are always Kansas and South Dakota.  I have a warm spot in my heart for South Dakota.  I do love the wide open wheat and corn fields and the cackle of the Roosters at sunrise and sunset.  "I'm coming, boys! You are about to meet one of my Brits soon!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dancing with the Wolves

      This is a reprint of an article I did chronicling my adventures with Bocephus.  The subject of wolves has come up, again, mainly due to the tremendous success of the re-introduction and growth in wolf population. Many bear dog encounters are ending badly.  

NSTRA CH / QU National Champion Julia's Bocephus (Bo)
 Last year, I was introducing some friends to the Northwoods. I would point to a trail head for them to   hunt in the morning, tell them where I was going to be, wish them luck and agree to meet for lunch, or,   failing that, dinner back at the motel. As luck would have it, the warm fall day started turning dark a   little early, and it was almost black by noon. The rain started as a sprinkle and then gradually got worse.   We put out on a trail that produced a lot of birds over the years. I was the only one on it and I determined that a little rain wasn't going to interfere with a grouse hunt. I did swap my guns out,   though, and the little Fox went back into the case, replaced by a 20-ga. SKB Model 100, I used for   weather like this. Bo and I started down the trail with him running ahead to veer off to one side. And   that was that. He was gone. I walked and whistled and listened for his beeper for about an hour. The rain was heavy at times but merely a downpour at others. He could have been 20 yards out in the thick growth, on point, and I would not have heard or seen him. Finally, I returned to the truck, dried off,   cleaned, dried and oiled and cased the gun, put on some dry clothes and headed out to find my dog.  The trail was about 3 miles long-6 miles out and back. It was getting darker now and I was getting a   little more concerned about the old boy. The good thing was the temperature was quite warm-in the 60's. If he did have to spend the night in the woods, I was sure he would be able find a dry spot and stay warm.  
The Knothead was a wonderful bird dog!

Walking, whistling, listening and bouncing between anger and concern as I walked down the trail, I   rounded a bend as the trail dropped off sharply. I stood for a minute listening and staring down the trail.   Suddenly, a big, gray shape stepped out on the trail about 50 yards away. He was looking down the trail, away from me. After a second or two, I recognized him as a Gray Wolf.  Instantly, I realized he and I were looking for the same thing. I was looking for   my old bird hunting companion. This big, gray boy was looking for dinner, and it downright pissed me off!  "Hey" I yelled, "Get out of here!" (Or words to that effect and edited for content.) I expected him to jump and run like the coyotes I'd encountered   numerous times out West.  His reaction was quite a bit different than I anticipated.  That huge, majestic canine slowly turned his head to the right and looked me right in the eye.   Then, he slowly turned back to the left and trotted down the center of the trail without so much as backward glance. Even now, I'm impressed with him.  He was huge-easily three times the size of my bird dogs, which would make him over 100 pounds! And as he trotted off, in the direction of my lost dog, he more glided than ran.   Just then, I came to the realization that I was completely unarmed!  It was one of the few times in my  life I really did want a gun in my hands-and it was resting, dry and well oiled, in my truck over a mile away. Not thinking all that clearly and remembering the literature I'd read about wolves not bothering   humans (yeah, except for the thousands of years of history and stories about wolves devouring little kids and old men ... the big, bad, wolf, and on and on ....) I pressed on down the trail calling and keeping a   careful eye behind me.   An hour or more later, at the end of the trail, I turned and headed back to the truck. Concern now was for my ability to make it back before dark.  I picked up the pace. Head down in the rain and moving along pretty quick, I rounded a bend and there he was.  A 35 pound bundle of shaking, wet Setter!   I'm not sure who was happier to see the other, but I got down on my knees and hugged that mutt and thanked Jesus for the one more time he answered my prayers.   We didn't stay long on that trail in the rain, and I put him on a lead and headed out. He was so tired he tried to lay down a few times and, finally, I had to pick him up and throw him over my shoulders. We needed to get out of those woods-now!   The sun was long gone behind thick clouds and darkness was settling in. The GPS said we had more than a mile of up and down to go.  I remembered that song from the '60's-"He ain't heavy, he's my brother...."   as I carried him up and down hills, slipping on the up slope with rain dripping down my neck and wet  dog scent in my nose.   Song or not, don’t believe it, he got heavy as this old man got close to the road.  I put him down and we finished side by side-both of us limping and panting hard.   Back at the motel, I checked the old campaigner over for cuts, bruises and ticks.   It was then I noticed   blood on my hands when I ran them over his haunches. I turned him around and gave him a closer inspection.   On his right rear leg, just below the tail, was the perfectly round hole of a canine tooth!  Bo wasn’t talking, but to this day I think he encountered my big, gray friend, too.   I think we were being watched during our little reunion on the trail, in the rain, in the Wisconsin grouse woods. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why I NEVER Brag About My Bird Dog

Recently, I was hunting in the great state of Michigan, chasing the King of Gamebirds, the Ruffed Grouse.  (It's always referred to as "chasing" grouse, for some reason.)  The habitat was perfect.  The day was a little warm, in the 60's, the sky was overcast and we had a little breeze.  All in all, a perfect day to be in the grouse woods. As I unloaded dogs and proceeded with the goat-rope involving excited bird dogs, tracking collars, vests, water, guns and trucks, I noticed an older man with worn boots, scarred leather gloves, battered hat and patched trousers walking down the road. He was toting an old double in one hand and had his other hand tightly gripping a lead attached very high energy liver Brittany. Seeing as bird hunters, generally, are a small group and Ruff hunters are an even smaller group, I took the time to corral my dogs and greet the old man.  We made some small talk about the birds, cover, weather, and even old shotguns. 
Finally, the conversation turned to bird dogs.  Since he was obviously a man of discernment, as I could plainly see the beautiful, male Brit at the end of the tether, I asked if he thought the pup was going to be a great dog. He smiled ruefully and said, "In my youth, I would brag on my dogs like they were part of the Second Coming!  Now, I keep my mouth shut.  I found the moment I bragged on any dog, the die was cast and I was in for a real adventure with him!  Let me tell you about one morning, right here in these beautiful, Michigan woods......"

The old man turned out that fateful morning with his two males on the ground.  It was a good combination of dogs- the 6 year old superstar, and a 3 year old up-and-comer.  He knew these woods held grouse and he was ready for an enjoyable morning. The 6 year old, was his best dog, and everyone who knew him, knew his dog.  He wasn't shy about about bragging about the liver Brit (some may say it approached obnoxious, but any bird dog man would say that's impossible!).  So, off they went down the trail, the old man with double in hand.  After a half-mile or so, he noticed the young dog was still working well, crossing the trail and working either side, but the other boy hadn't checked in for a while.  A glance at the Alpha told him he was .21 miles out.  Not concerned, he toned him and expected him to turn back and check in, as he worked with the younger dog getting him in to some great cover.  A short time later, he glanced at the GPS again, and saw the other dog (Let's just call the wonder-dog "Cap" for sake of clarity.) was now .42 miles out!  Slightly alarmed, the old man blew his whistle and switched his Garmin Alpha to map mode to see where the boy was headed.  Relieved, he saw only a creek and an old dirt road in front of the moving triangle. .75 miles out now.  He raised his double and fired twice, and blew his whistle again, while watching the map.  Cap stopped, circled and headed out once more! At 1.2 miles out, Cap hit the dirt road and started back to the truck. Whew, thought the old guy, he's come to his senses and will joining the party in a little bit.  Then Cap reversed course and headed away down the dirt road, 1.5 miles out and running down a road.  
Said Alleged Offending Dog

The man yelled to his other pup, reversed course and moved as fast as his old legs could carry him back to the truck. He crated the young dog, removed his vest, stowed his gun, closed the tailgate- all in record time.  He cranked the diesel and turned around on the two-track, throwing leaves and dirt as he accelerated to the dirt road his dog was running.  1.75 miles out and approaching some private parcels along the road, now, Cap's little marker seemed to stop and then run in circles.  The old man turned a corner just in time to see his prized, champion, perfect bird dog holding on to a big yard chicken by the tail feathers!  He slammed to a stop and glanced at the house, noticing the big picture window facing the alleged altercation.  At this point, the feathers came out of the chicken and she made some very tight right and left turns- to no avail, as the highly trained BIRD dog pounced on her. Cap looked up, saw the truck and the agitated, old man running to him, and made a perfect retrieve to hand.  "Where in the world have you been?" Cap said.  "Here, I've got something for you!"  The man took the chicken as Cap jumped into the front seat of the truck, now covered in feathers, mud and slime.  As the man climbed the steps of the house, he could only worry about how much this now-expired chicken was going to cost him.  

Since that episode, the old man explained, he's refrained from bragging on any dog, because, at any given moment, any dog can lose his mind and act like a complete fool. 

The follow up, one year later.  The confession:  http://www.abirdhuntersthoughts.com/2018/06/bird-dog-bragging-follow-up-to-the.html

Image result for chicken
Alleged Deceased Yard Chicken

Friday, September 30, 2016

Photo Calendar

Click the link to find out more about and/or order the BDFF Photo Calendar!

This is a definite "Buy"! A great Christmas gift for the birdhunter or fly fisher who is impossible to find a gift for.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sharps and Huns!

 It took long enough!  A desk-bound, city dweller will tell you the time it takes to get from April to September is the same, no matter what. I disagree!  It stretches out like infinity to the bird hunter.  Three lifetimes it takes to endure those five months! Throw in some heat, a dash of humidity, a sprinkling of responsibilities and you have one grumpy, old man.  


The nasty summer was filled with planning.  Routes, motels, camping sites, bird numbers, friends to visit, dogs to prepare, guns, shells, nutrition.  All the stuff that needed attention, but really didn't.  I'm amazed to find that, when the day arrives, I invariable end up throwing what I think is important in the back seat with guns and dogs and head out.  But, all the planning made the waiting bearable. 

Field Trial in Great Falls, MT.  

I towed the camper (above) and, frankly, I was thrilled with the entire evolution. Other than a minor inconvenience finding a suitable hookup, it was a perfect setup for me and the dogs. In one small Montana town, I called the Chamber of Commerce and found the names of three small parks, all suitable for my needs, for $10-$12/night.  I'll tow the camper again to Arizona and NM this season.  As long as diesel is cheap, there is a $75 penalty, in fuel, to tow 1000 miles. Figuring a 2000 mile (one way) hunt, I'd need to find suitable motels for $300 or less for the trip to make up for the fuel difference.  Of course, figuring the cost of the camper amortized over the length of ownership, and insurance, etc., will jack that up to $400 for the two weeks.  It  seems the motels are now charging at least $50/night now (with some notable exceptions).  For 14 nights, that's at least $700 in motels! So, for now, it makes economic sense to take the camper.  Besides, I just like it. 

Pointer backing Cap.

Cap returning the favor!
Before the Great Falls trial, I stopped in Eastern Montana for the Opening Day.  I met a friend there and we hunted for two days.  We couldn't hunt past noon, either day, due to the heat.  It reached 90 degrees by 11 or 12, so we drove and scouted.  The first day, the birds were cooperative and we had some good dogwork on Sharptails and Huns. The second day, we went to a different area and never moved a bird, even though the habitat was perfect!  I subsequently found out about the summer hailstorm that moved through the area, damaging homes, barns and towns.  It was postulated that the hail may have hurt the bird population.  I believe it.  
A double on Huns. Cap had them pinned.  
After the trial, I struck out on my own for a week or so.  I hunted about 50 miles north of Great Falls, hitting BMA and Open Fields areas, with some notable success.  However, there is a lot of pheasant planting by the state going on in these areas and, while I'm not averse to popping a ditch chicken occasionally, in season, the season was not open and I didn't need any running birds for my pups at this point.  So, after a day or so, operating out of Conrad, MT, we pulled up stakes and moved to a more Sharptail and Hun friendly area.  Before we left Conrad, I noticed these fenced enclosures around the area and asked a few locals what they were.  "Oh, those are old missile silos.  They're all filled in with rock and gravel, now.  We've tried to buy the land, but they won't even talk to us.  They have generators and everything down there, just buried it all and walked away!"  I had to chuckle.  No one was worried about the fact that a nuclear bomb was targeted at the mound 200 yards from the house, just upset they wasted all that good equipment!  The ever-practical American Farmer.  

Command Center

We hit the mother-lode for the Sharps and Huns.  Five days of hunting areas with no other hunters in sight.  Of course, we were, literally, 1000 miles from nowhere, but it was perfect.  Vast stretches of public land, alfalfa fields, cut wheat and lentils bordering grassy hills.  Miles and miles of easy walking.  Once, driving along, I noticed a thick alfalfa field alongside the road with a border of grassy hills along the other side.  Sharps in the alfalfa and Huns on the hillside, I thought.  I put Shack (Brit/M) on the ground and we went at them.  He locked down several times and I just knew those birds were there. We covered the field and went to the side hills and still didn't find them!  As we were heading back to the truck, Shack went up over the side hills and stayed up there. I eased up over the top, just to see.  I came upon the largest alfalfa field I've ever seen in my life!  Easily a section, probably more.  Laughing, I called Shack in and we went back to the truck.  We were both tired by then.  I marked the spot for future exploration and would have liked at least  another dog, if not another hunter, with me to cover that expanse of perfect food and cover.
Cap has some Sharps.

Pearl retrieving a Hun.

Prairie art.

Shack and Cap have a large covey of Sharps pinned.

Homestead Cabin.

 I met up with a friend from the area and we hunted for a day.  I enjoyed his male Brit, who had a lot of heart and a great nose.  We moved quite a few birds that day- a tonic for the soul, no doubt.

Me and Thomas

Shack and some Sharps.
Hunting in the this area would be impossible without good maps, gps, etc. and the knowledge of how to read them.  In fact, here is the border between Canada and the US.  Just because there's not a physical fence, both countries indeed frown on cross border hunting. I asked.

The line.

A road crossing checkpoint.

 After a few weeks on the road, I was awakened, one 28 degree morning, with the dreaded, "It's time to head back, cowboy!" call from the Boss back home.  I took two and half days of steady driving, with a breakfast at the Norske Nook in Osseo, WI thrown in, but we hit the 99 degree heat in Chattanooga and knew we were back in the September South.  Images of Pearl locked on a covey of Huns as another covey flushed behind her in the wheat, she turned to look, and her pointed covey flushed in front! (I just couldn't get upset with that!).  Shack locked up on Sharps, Cap working perfectly on Sharps in the Alfalfa, and Ruby methodically finding and pointing covey after covey of Huns one afternoon.  All these images were drifting through my head as I unpacked The Beast and readied everything for October!  Planning and more planning......right up until I throw what I think I'll need in the back of the truck....

Ruby and Cap

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Brief Respite in the Summer Heat

I know, I know.  This blog is about bird dogs and bird hunting!  I have so many friends who are accomplished fly fishers, when not pursuing their bird dogs, and they convinced me to give the genteel sport of fly fishing a try.  My (long-suffering) wife wanted to give it a try, as well, so off we went, inviting ourselves in to people's lives, favorite fishing holes, and, sometimes, homes.   

Bird dogs and bird hunting
BJ, Gary Bauer, Randy on the Madison

Our first stop was to see Gary and Martha Bauer, in western Montana.  Both are accomplished fly fishers and Gary is a bird hunter with excellent Gordon Setters.   Martha opened her home to us and Gary took us to the Madison River, near Yellowstone.  We floated the River in his drift boat two separate days, with Gary gently helping us with casting, teaching us fish biology, river lore, entymology (bug stuff), equipment history, river reading and fishing courtesy and protocol.  Back at the ranch, after she came in from a different river, Martha, who's pretty well known on the river for some big fish, slapped together a gourmet meal!  At first we were somewhat overwhelmed, but slowly it started to make sense.  After all, Gary and Martha had been fly fishing for many years.  We began to see that every little nuance had a reason behind it. Far from being a stuffy sport, this was a great way to spend a day (or lifetime) outside on a river.   A friend mentioned to me a tidbit which rings true every day, "Trout don't live in ugly places."  

bird dogs and bird hunting
BJ and Gary T.

We, regretfully, said our goodbyes to Gary and Martha and crossed through Yellowstone Park to Wyoming. We met up with another bird-hunting friend, also a fly fishing expert.  Gary Thompson, from Sheridan, WY.  We encamped in the Big Horn mountains (well, glamping, really, in our 27' camper) and Gary met us each morning to take us to a different stream or river in the area. Once again, we learned so much about the fish, bugs, flies, history, courtesy and protocol while fishing in an exceptionally beautiful setting! Gary and Leslie came up one afternoon and cooked dinner for us over the coals using cast iron pots!  My mouth still waters thinking about the roast pork, vegetables and trimmings. 

bird dogs and bird hunting
Snake River Cutthroat

Being a redneck from Georgia, it took a me a while to embrace the idea that people would spend a significant amount of money to catch a huge fish, take a picture of it and gently put it back!  How weird is that?  But, once Gary B. and Gary T. explained the reasoning, it made perfect sense and we both accepted and endorsed the idea.  In West Yellowstone, a park entrance town, we met with Dick Greene, owner of Bud Lilliy's Fly Shop, another bird dog man when he's not on the river or in his world-famous store. I could spend hours in there, looking and coveting. I gaze at fly rods (don't call them "poles", apparently) with the same affection as fine shotgun!

bird dogs and bird hunting
The one that got away!

When, finally, we turned East and South and headed back to Georgia, we felt a lot better about the mystical art of fly fishing for big (and small) fish using dry flies, nymphs, streamers, etc. We gained friends and cemented friendships and counted ourselves lucky to know such good people!  We saw moose, bison, Grizzlies, elk, deer, Eagles, and the all-important Caddis and Salmon Flies. We bought and carried bear spray- and it was no joke. BJ and I had some true experts take us down some "bucket list" rivers.  We will be forever thankful to all of them. 

bird dogs and bird hunting
Dutch Oven cooking!

(I discovered, after spending two days fishing with him, that Gary Thompson is a registered Montana Fly Fishing Guide and also a Wyoming fly fishing guide. I may have the terms mixed up and I had to pull it out of him, but he's an amazing resource for Wyoming fly fishing as well as fishing the Big Horn River. ( (303) 324-5767 or gw.thompson@me.com))  

bird dogs and bird hunting
Madison River Drift Boat