Tuesday, March 31, 2009
With apologies to Joyce Kilmer, "Birds are chased by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree."(Please click on the photo for a good look at the action)
Why this tree? I was at the game club with my friend Jack and his great setter Chappy. We put out a chukar and the game was to get Pride to back Chappy on the bird. Being unschooled in "backing" I was not surprised when the clever little rascal stole Chappy's point!(I sorta' hoped he would clean her clock, which is a great method to teach backing, but alas, Chappy is much too much the gentleman.)
Your ever-alert gunner, me, flushed the bird. Now you wild chukar hunters will all wrinkle your noses at this because how could any PEN-raised(!) bird ever be so challenging as a wild one?? I have found that the birds we shoot will usually do one of three things when struggling to put lots of air between me and them: straight up and then angle away in about a 45° climb; straight up like a woodcock, pick a direction and then scoot; or, straight up, angle up and then a sharp turn left or right. I was moving left when chukar moved right.
I caught him hard enough to pull a few feathers but on he flew, in fact he went about 300 yards and we saw him cruise down around a big cottonwood tree.
Jack said, "Let's go get him." Off we went and Pride got there first. Hence the two pictures of her pointing under the tree. What made it memorable was Jack's exclamation as we approached, "She looks just like a Robert Abbett painting!" And she did.(Later on I found one with exactly the pose she struck.) The bird was hurt pretty bad but when I approached it ran out and then Chappy swooped down on him and retrieved to Jack.
Earlier this week Jack decided to put a bird or two out by the tree; hence, the rest of the pictures. Some great action grabs from video his wife shot of bird flushing and Jack and Chappy reacting.
This is what led to the appellation: Pride's Cottonwood. We have decided to name it in honor of her. Jack and Chappy both voted for her too!
This is probably not the most informative post you've ever read but then I don't suppose any of you would go nuts over your bird dogs the way Jack and I do. Not you folks. All you sophisticates. Grin.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I edited out a bunch of footage (gets kinda old just watching a dog stand there, unless it's YOUR dog!)but wanted to show enough of the sequence to adequately illustrate what was happening.
It's interesting to me that Sunny stood so long knowing the birds were there but at the end of the first clip you can tell from her body language that she becomes a bit unsure. Then she moved up and became VERY certain and stood a while again...then probably got a little cocky and moved up a bit more. Then the birds went. There is NO way I could replicate that kind of "lesson" in any kind of training situation. Perfect example of why birds are the better teacher.
From beginning to end, Sunny held these birds for about 5 minutes. She stood there so long I started wondering if she was really on birds or smelling something behind me like a mountain lion ready to attack! I admit getting a little jumpy and turning off the camera to look behind me (I have seen both bobcats and mountain lions in this area)!
It was a pretty cool thing to watch. There is nothing more thrilling and intoxicating to me than an intense, single-minded bird dog!
Thursday, March 26, 2009
She disappeared over the mountain and by the time I caught up, she was down the other side doing what she was supposed to be doing, finding birds!
The birds are paired up and holding pretty well. Our days for running on them are drawing to a close since they will begin nesting soon, but we've had a lot of good work on them this spring.
Sunny is an independent little bugger at almost 5 months old. I love how she moves through the country and I'm happy with how she's coming along. Her tail isn't real straight when she's pointing (or completely still!) yet but that will come with maturity and confidence. The fact that she's finding wild birds on her own and learning how to handle them is by far the most important thing.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Despite this recent contention, let's give the French some much needed credit. After all, when we seriously needed their help, the French helped us seal the deal in the Revolutionary War and we gained our independence from Great Britain. For that we should be forever grateful!
The Statue of Liberty: A Generous Gift from the French.
Before the French Revolution, France was an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges in the aristocracy. Under this regime, land in France was owned mainly by a privileged few. This meant that hunting and fishing could only be enjoyed by the noblemen and their fortunate guests. Generally, the common man was not allowed to enjoy these sports.
Brittanys are pointers with the natural instinct to retrieve. This is my Sunny Girl with her first retrieve on a sharptail.
Now, I'm sure you are asking what do French Brittanys have to do with the Revolutionary War, the Statue of Liberty and the American Dream? The answer is simple: If the legend is true, then the French Brittany was bred as a protest-if you will-against the landed aristocracy and their exclusive privileges. Underlying this "poacher's dog" is the unquenchable desire of the human soul to be free-a familiar statement that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (The Declaration of Independence). Like the Statue of Liberty, the Brittany cries: "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" (Lazarus).
This is a picture of Sunny and her sister Halley. Notice the difference in size and coloring. This genetic variance is very common in the breed. Perhaps this was by design.
Surrounded by snow covered mountains, Yes, Virginia, this is southern California, we set out.
A front had gone through on Sunday leaving new snow in the higher altitudes, cold, breezy weather in the valleys.
On "chuckle" the second I was able to one-hand shoot these pictures with my new Canon A590is camera--a wonderful little tool with a big LCD screen, SDHC card and great zoom, macro and video featurs, plus more I haven't learned about yet!
Pointing into a 15 mph, cold wind. She picked up the
scent a good 30 yards from the bird.
She did her part and I did mine. One shot with the AyA XXV 12 bore and a nice retrieve.
Astute observers will note this "chuckle" is far from
dispatched. Oh well, it was windy! Enough #7 to get him
on the ground anyway.
The morning unfolded with two surprises. A couple of pheasants that were left over from shooters on the weekend surprised us as I was strolling back to the car later. Pride was sprinting downwind and as she turned back she must have caught the scent. She skidded to a point but the birds were too close. One flushed wild and I had no shot. I watched its flight thinking we could go after him later.
Never suspecting there was a second bird there, I was totally flat-footed when it flew. I threw a wild shoot through an old, dead juniper and caught nothing but dry limbs. It flew off it into the river bottom and I lost sight of it. Moral of this episode? Be alert, always, especially on the Monday after a busy weekend at the club. A few months previously I had been there on a Monday and got two bonus chukar--you don't pay for those that someone else left behind.
We tried to find the pheasants later but there was no sign of them. I also lost the last chukar I put out. It spiraled up from Pride's point almost like a woodcock and I foolishly let it figure out which way to go--of course that was downwind like a rocket! I was behind all the way but did pull feathers. We hunted after the bird on its line of flight. She found it crippled, on the edge of a thick juniper stand. I moved to the bird about the time Pride broke point and in the flurry the chukar dove into the tangle of limbs, roots and gopher holes. Never saw him again. Drat.(The lovely Joanne noted sagely that evening: "It's hunting, not going to the market." Hmm. May be something in that.)
The last little treat was a cooperative between dog, gun and new camera. This is an experiment for me here. A snippet of video with a retrieve. If the sound comes through you'll hear me coaxing her in with the bird--she really doesn't need much but it calms my nerves! You'll also hear wind in the background. Here' goes:
Well, that worked okay. Exciting, eh what, old chaps? I think Scolopax is affecting my mood. Powerful 'vibes' from the Orkneys today.
Stay tuned for more excitement in the days to come.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Once we finally circled back around to our starting point, Eric and Josh soon arrived. Young Josh stepped from Monty with a huge grin and quickly pulled out by the feet a sage grouse that he had harvested not far from the roadside and with only one shot. Talk about beginner's luck!
"Giant birds are what you take, Walking on the Moon"- My first sagegrouse.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
"Slava", or formally, Dr. V. M. Shostakovsky, was an organic chemist in the Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry in Moscow. His father was a well-known chemist and had won prizes in chemistry. They were, shall we say, privileged, because they were allowed to own non-Russian guns. At the time this was Verboten! He also visited the U. S. in the early 1980's and was a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth Campus.
So you see, I have more than a passing interest in Scolopax! The two feathers are among my treasured possessions and I wondered if our Scottish friend saves these feathers too?
As an interesting aside, note his comments re: the Parker Shotgun that was built for the Czar. Apparently, it has resurfaced after many years. Please check this link http://tinyurl.com/csx5n6 for information on the auction sale last year to Jack Puglisi of Duluth, Minnesota. Interesting tangential connection between the gun, my note from "Slava" of 26 years ago and Duluth! Random, I am sure. Or fate? Who knows?
Just the ramblings of an old-timer.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Remember Pride, the English Pointer? I joined a game club once I came to grips with my physical slowing down. Wild bird hunting will have to be in smaller doses and less intense; those days are for memories.
However, there is plenty of action at the game club I was accepted into in January. Lovely place with over 1400 acres of mixed high desert cover, including a flowing river at this point in the winter!
Pointing a chukar along the road.
A very nice retrieve on a bird that still has some life in it. She had to run him down due to my sloppy shooting.
Each trip to the club to work planted chukar and pheasant brings more of her regal breeding to the surface. She is running very wide, quartering naturally, pointing with intensity and retrieving better with each downed bird. I couldn't be happier! Here are a few shots of her in the last two weeks, working chukar.
I put out one or two birds at a time and then give her a good 30 minute run in another direction so she gets some leg work. During those runs we may find some wild quail that inhabit the place too. Occasionally, a chukar that has escaped earlier shooters will be found on these runs and they are fair game and very sporty since they usually end up in the base of a juniper tree. Whichever side I am on, they are on the other!
Why do they wrap these durned things
A week after these shots were made I spent a few hours with some friends and watched their dogs work and put out some more chukar for Pride.
Another wonderful point!
Pointing "dead bird" on one that flew about two hundred yards carrying a bit of lead. These chukar are fat, sassy and tough to kill!
Pride is the delight of our life now. She is funny, serious, clever, quick to learn and as loving as any dog ever was. We wouldn't be the same without her.
I will report more from time-to-time.
It is good to be back. Thank you, Shawn. You are a wonderful friend, a gentleman and a kind soul.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Shawn made a nice shot on a hun. Too bad he closed his eyes for the camera! For that, I'm not sure he made the A-Team for the day.
Josh and I make our way towards one of Ginny's exciting points.
Dusty honors Ginny girl's staunch point.
Sunny, my young French Brittany, also made some pretty impressive retrieves from thick inpenetrable willow clusters in the creek bottom. As Shawn and I walked back to the car, I said "Man, with that last retrieve Sunny also made the A-Team for the day." Although Dusty had a few good finds that day, because of his unwillingness to follow commands, he didn't quite make the cut (sorry B.D.!).
Since that time, it is always interesting to see which dog will step up and make the A-Team for the day. Just because a dog receives the honor one day, does not mean they make it the next time. Heck, with my shooting, sometimes I don't even make the A-Team. Even Bustin' Dusty had days in which he made the A-Team. The roster changes often and this is part of the fun of the hunt. In the timeless words of Mr. T, "I pity the fool" who does not have the desire or the opportunity to chase birds with birddogs each fall. The're missing out on the new A-Team.
Friday, March 6, 2009
For lovers of Pointing Dogs, there is no finer magazine that the PDJ. Check it out, you will not regret it!
Thursday, March 5, 2009
In Part Three below, I wrote about a trip in October, 2002 with Farles and family to hunt valley quail in western Idaho-awesome day to say in the least! The following weekend happened to be the pheasant opener in Southern Idaho and again, many of my family members wanted to follow Farles into the uplands. I used to think this was because they enjoyed hanging out with me, but after a few years of Farley's abscense, I now realize that it was all Farley.
Present for this occasion, were me, my Dad, my brother-in-law Eric, and my nephew Josh. We planned to hunt a public area and some private property in Idaho's Magic Valley. My brother-in-law Eric obtained permission to hunt around a private commercial feedlot, which was surrounded by irrigation ditches, sugar beet fields and unplowed sagebrush patches. The area is not much to look at, but the landowner left some good cover for birds. The plan was to first hunt the public area before it got pounded by the masses and then move on to the private property.
Just before noon, we parked at the head of a well-known public walk-in area. To our chagrin, a truck with Utah license plates belligerently drove past where we had parked so that the hunters could steal part of the walk-in area right out from under us. This action rubbed me the wrong way as I understood that the huntable ground for us had just effectively been cut in half. As a sportsmen, I try to respect others in the field and to give them plenty of room to hunt. Thus, it really gets my blood boiling when other hunters disregard commonsense courtesy and ethics (See "Covet Not Your Neighbor's Covert" below). This experience and other negative run-ins with hunters have caused me to totally steer clear of the pheasant opener in the Magic Valley.
At exactly 12:00 p.m., we pushed across a weedy field towards a big patch of cattails. Although we did not see as many birds in this cover as we have in the past, Farles found a huge rooster on the edge of the cattails, which my Dad flushed and dropped over the thicket. After a minute, my Dad located the expired bird and we all admired its extraordinarily long tail. Due to the spoilers, we quickly ran out of good cover to hunt.
Dad and his long-tailed rooster.
My hopes were still high as we drove towards our next destination, the feedlot. After we had arrived, loaded our shotguns, and started walking down a weedy irrigation ditch, we ran into some Mexican employees of the feedlot. They knew exactly what we were after and, although they did not speak English, they helpfully volunteered where they had just seen some roosters, by proclaiming, "Rojo! Rojo! (Red, Red)" and pointing us in the right direction. Sure enough, within fifty yards, Farles slid on point in some sparce cover along the ditch. He then did something that I have seen him do numerous times: First, he snarled and then struck like a viper and came up with a live, wild, bird-of-the-year rooster in his mouth. Wanting to give the bird a sporting chance, I let it go hoping it would fly, but it just ran. Big mistake! Farley chased it down with a vengeance and caught it. After we took this naive rooster out of the gene pool, we continued on down the ditch.
Farley soon made another solid point. For once, I was smart enough to stop and take a picture and capture the moment forever. I'm so glad that I did! When the rooster got up in front of us, I missed it cleanly, but Joshua's shot hit the mark and the rooster dropped in the freshly plowed sugar beet field.
Farles, putting on a show. I'm greatful that I have this picture!
In short order, Farles pointed a number of hens and roosters with his characteristic flare and style and we all blew some good opportunities. Dad too harvested a young bird over Farley's exciting point.
Apparently, Farley had an audience for his impressive performance. As we reached the end of the feedlot, we met up with two hunters with two goodlooking German Shorthair Pointers. We probably did not notice them because no shotgun reports were coming from their direction. The dog handler looked longingly at Farley and then me, and jokingly asked: "Want to trade dogs? I'll trade you both dogs for that pointer." Raising my eyebrows at the request, I laughingly responded, "No thanks."
For the final hunt of the day, we pushed through an unplowed sugar beet field. For those who don't know, pheasants love sugar beet greens and if there are some still standing this is an awesome place to hunt. As we moved across the field in a line, Farley pointed and the rooster flushed in between Eric and I. We both pulled up on the bird insync and the simutaneous reports were indistinguishable. With all that lead in the air, the bird fell limp to the ground.
Sugar beets + weeds = pheasants!
The pictures we took with Farley that flaming October afternoon are some of my favorite pictures of him. You can literally see the sheer joy of the hunt in his face. I can't emphasize this enough: Farley lived for the hunt! When you are in those special moments with your bird dogs, sometimes their magnitude is not fully realized at the time. None of it was lost on me that day! I realized I had a one in a million birddog.
Farles lived for the hunt!
As a final tribute to Farley, all I can say is: Cherish every second afield with your birddogs because they are with us for such a short time. I only had Farley for three brief seasons before he was suddenly and irretrievably gone. Sometimes, I wish that I could have just one more day hunting with Farley. For me, Farley is the standard; he is the measuring stick by which I judge all other birddogs; he is the White Wonder.
Farley wasn't just a "Jack of All Trades," He was a master! I wouldn't trade the hunting seasons we shared together for anything, my friend.
Monday, March 2, 2009
As we drove, I experienced great excitement in anticipation for the day because we were heading towards the best quail hunting spot I have ever experienced. That morning, I had that unmistakable feeling you sometimes get that it is going to be a banner day.
We pursued the bulk of the covey up the draw along a small willow-lined creek bottom. Another quail got up in front of me and I again made a solid shot and the bird dropped into a willow where it hung in open view. "You're shooting pretty good today," Shawn praised as I bagged my second bird. "Thanks," I humbly said, not wanting to jinx my good fortune.
Two shots, two quail. Not bad for a duffer.
My family and I all fanned out across the big draw and somehow Farley covered enough terrain for all of us. Not far up a sagebrush covered side-draw that slanted off to the right, Bishop and I happened to be near Farley when he slammed on point on a solitary sagebrush. With two birds already in the bag, I told Bishop to take this one and, upon the bird's straight-a-way flush, Bishop dropped it with ease.
Dad and Bishop working their way up one of the finger draws in pursuit a quail.
When we reached the top of the draw and the willows thinned out, Farley began to point birds where there was no cover, only a few rocks in dusty ground-places where birds aren't supposed to be. My family and I were elated by the number of birds and a dog who was bound and determined to find and point every last one of them for the gun. In my mind, this day has no equal for bird hunting-not even a close second.
The Wayment Clan and the spoils of the hunt.
This picture really says it all: Farles stands alone! He was the star of the show and we were the blessed recipients.
To be continued . . .