Opening day duck hunt with Doc and Elettra

Saturday was opening day of the waterfowl hunting season for this region of the state, so I took Doc and Elettra. There are still times when it hits us that Mia is no longer with us and hunting season is one of those times for me.

Elettra and Doc hunt the brush as we approach a pond

My original plan was to take Elettra but where she hasn’t trained in several years, I took Doc along to make sure I didn’t lose any birds. As I’ve said before, Doc didn’t get any training this last year so his hunting skills have suffered.
Minutes after starting our hunt, Elettra locked up in a beautiful point. Moments later, a hen Pheasant flushed right under her nose and from that point on, she was hunting Pheasants while I hunted duck.
A flock of teal zoomed in and I dropped a Greenwing Teal. The dogs had to do a little searching, but Doc found and retrieved it. Another flock of teal landed in the slough and I dropped a Bluewing. This time Doc made a nice water retrieve and took his casting very well.
A little while later a lone Mallard swung overhead and I dropped it, and once again Doc made the retrieve. While he does a good job with water retrieves, he needs work on his land retrieves. Its nothing serious and I think he’ll work them out as we get into Pheasant season, but it’s something we’ll have to work on after hunting season ends.

Doc’s third retrieve of the day, a hen Mallard

Doc and Elettra with the ducks.

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Wolverine Canyon trees in fall colors

Ecotherapy (a.k.a. Green Therapy, Nature Therapy, Earth-Centered Therapy) is a new buzzword to me, but the term was coined by pastoral counselor Howard Clinebell in 1996. However its something I and perhaps most outdoor enthusiasts already know – nature is good for the soul.

Fall foliage

According to Psychology Today, this communing with nature is just as effective in combating depression as psychotherapy and drugs. It can boost energy, improve mental health, and reduce stress. Whether taking a walk in the park, testing and training your dog, or hunting, fishing and camping, the benefits are more than just physical exercise.
Maybe that’s why I enjoy taking lunchtime walks or hunting with my dogs as much as I do. Sure, I hunt hard and sometimes go places other hunters fear to tread, because my goal is to come home with birds. But coming home empty-handed doesn’t diminish the enjoyment that I get from being outdoors watching my dogs hunt. For me, it’s not about filling my daily limit.

Elvis searching the brush where we would later flush two ruffed grouse

Last week I took Doc hunting and dropped a sage grouse which he retrieved with difficulty. I didn’t do any training this past year and he suffered from it in every area of hunting. However that’s entirely my fault not his, and he will probably work those problems for himself as we hunt more this year.

Doc retrieving a sage grouse

Friday I took Elvis grouse hunting and he did a nice job of working the heavy brush. It was fun to watch the intensity he displayed. Returning to the truck, we flushed two Ruffed Grouse, one I never saw and one that disappeared into brush before I could get a bead on it. Still, it was a very nice cold and quiet stroll through the canyons with the trees all in color.

Doc with the sage grouse he retrieved

Yeah, I can attest to the benefits of ecotherapy.
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Meatballs for your hunting dogs

I don’t recall if it was Bill Tarrant or Delmar Smith who came up with the idea, but for the past few years we’ve made the honey-filled snacks to take out in the field with me.
This is the Parmesan version – we replaced bread crumbs with grated Parmesan cheese for the binder. The following recipe makes approximately 20 golf ball-size meatballs.

A batch of meatballs ready for baking

2 lbs hamburger
approximately 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
Mix the ingredients and then form the meatballs. We bake the meatballs on a cookie tray.

Parmesan meatballs hot out of the oven

Bake at 375 (f) for about 30 minutes, using a meat thermometer to test doneness.

00 gel capsules to be filled with honey

Using a medical dropper to fill the capsules

Using 00 size gel capsules, fill the capsule with honey using a syringe (eye dropper or medical dropper), poke a hole in the meatball, then insert the honey-filled capsule. Warm honey works better.

inserting a honey-filled capsule into a meatball

We make up a batch of the meatballs, package and freeze them, then I take one meatball per dog on our bird hunts. My hunts are often hunt from 4-6 hours in the field and usually in harsh terrain, so the guys love these little pick-me-ups.

A batch of meatballs ready for the freezer

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What’s in your hunting pack?

When you’re out in the field, you can never be too prepared but then you can’t be running around the hills like a pack horse either. With hunting season approaching, it may be a good time to evaluate where you hunt, what you hunt, and what you need for the hunt.

Back when I started thinking about being prepared, I bought a tactical vest with lots of little pockets, but it didn’t carry much. I then switched to a backpack that carried everything I needed, but it was bulky and inconvenient.

I was planning on making myself a leather possibles bag until Carrie found me a Versipack. What I can’t get in the Versipack fits nicely in the pockets of my hunting vest.

But back to the original question – what’s in your hunting pack – I thought I’d list what I take, so feel free to comment on what you do or don’t take on your hunts.

From top, let to right:

hunting supplies

gun sling (you never know when you need both hands free)
nylon rope (also makes a good temporary leash)
hunting knives (two are always better than one)
dikes (for when your dog gets caught in an illegal snare, as Elvis did years ago)
Trapper Ron’s safety setters (the use of conibear traps on land should be illegal)
Large garbage bags and reflective strap (garbage bags make a good emergency poncho)
wet wipes (I use them all the time, especially when field dressing birds)
hand warmers (for hunting in very cold conditions)
first aid kits and sports tape (don’t go in the field without first aid for you and your dog)
sample packs of dog food (sometimes the dogs are too excited to eat breakfast)
GPS handheld device (keeps you and your dog from getting lost)
poncho (sudden storms are not uncommon)
hand saw (from a temporary blind to temporary shelter)
combs (I use them quite often in the field)
multi-purpose tool (useful in removing porcupine quills)
locator beacons (see your dogs during early morning or late evening hunts)
pens and dog whistle (for updating permits in the field and the whistle keeps you from yelling at your dog)
utensils (hey, who knows when you need a fork and spoon)
collapsible cup (we used to drink straight from the creeks, but not anymore)
collapsible dog bowl (great for watering your dog)
variety of shotgun shells (lead, non-toxic, goose – pheasant – quail loads, etc.)

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Goodbye little miss Mia

Mia’s first day home

Carrie and Mia the day she came home with us

Our Silver Anniversary was spent dining on pizza, watching TV, and snuggling with our beautiful little brown roan for the last time.

Wednesday morning, we were with Mia when she crossed the rainbow bridge.

Baby Mia

I had mentioned in a previous blog that she had a serious GI infection.

Her health briefly improved following treatment, then began declining rapidly.

I took her in for x-rays and they showed a large tumor on her spleen.

Mia visiting Nana

We were not satisfied with that bad news, and Carrie took Mia to our old vet in Pocatello who confirmed that not only did Mia have a cancerous tumor on her spleen, but strongly believed the cancer had spread to her heart. Mia’s time with us would be very short regardless of what we did.

Her favorite toy, a metal ball she carried over her nose. Maybe she smelled the chocolates that had come in it.

Mia, the little mischief-maker, Spinone clown, and who along with Sophie was the best hunting partner I’ve ever had.

It was as though we hunted with a single mind, and she was an absolute joy to hunt with.

Swimming with Mia at Martin Lake

My little huntress pushed herself harder than I ever would have and never slowed down or gave up on even our marathon hunts.

If there was anyone who would seek out the heaviest brush to hunt, it was Mia.

Mia passes 3 legs of her JH title. She didn’t fail a single test in earning her title.

Mia was our snug bunny whose place on the couch between us was undisputed. She was our talker, our “Moaning Mia” who was always happy to carry on a conversation with us. She crawled into bed with us on that last morning and for over an hour we lay snuggling, Mia talking to us the entire time. She even responded with “wawa” each time Carrie asked her to say “mama”.

And she was our first grandson’s favorite dog. He always had to know where his “MiYa” was.

Mia loved our bed

Mia beckoning me to follow her.

We were with Mia when she came into this life and we were with her when she left it. Hopefully the pain will fade long before the memories.

While we could curse God for taking her, instead we thank Him for bringing her into our lives. 

Goodbye little miss Mia, run free.

Mia was always carrying a toy.


Mia’s look when she wanted to show me something.

Posing with Mia and her two ducks

I could tell what the bird was doing and how far away it was by the way Mia pointed

Mia on a nice point

Mia and her mom Umbra at Nana’s

Mia retrieving a Pheasant

Mia, her last day with us

A leisure stroll through a park on Mia’s last day.

Mia stops to smell the flowers. We then took her on a drive through the foothills with the windows down, letting her smell the sage and junipers one last time.

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Close call on a dog fight

A Malamute lives at one of the houses that we pass while walking the guys, and is either chained up or kept in the back yard. That wasn’t the case last Friday as the owners and dog, unchained, were in the front yard.

We came around the corner and the Malamute charged the moment he saw the guys. He came up to Elvis and stood head-to-head waiting for an excuse to attack. To Elvis’ credit, he didn’t respond but I was worried that Doc and Mia would. They stood tense, hackles raised, waiting for the slightest reason to go after the Malamute and they would have gone through Elvis to do it.

It would have been a very ugly pack fight and I’m sure more than one of us would have ended up in the hospital had it gotten that far. A lot of scenarios for breaking it up the dog fight went through my mind as we stood motionless while the owner collared his dog and led him back to the yard. He did apologize, and I praised the guys for keeping a level head, but from now on, we’re carrying pepper spray on our walks.

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An off off-season

With six weeks until hunting season begins, I’ve still yet to do any training with the guys and have decided to scrap my plans for testing them this fall, instead, the focus will be on getting them in shape for hunting season. I haven’t posted much this summer but can pretty much sum it up here.

The river has been running dangerously high all spring and summer and people have been warned to stay away from it. There have tragically been several drownings from those who didn’t heed the warning. Needless to say, doing any kind of water work in the river was out of the question. A flare-up of gout had me hobbling around for a couple of weeks, but I got over it and was able to take Doc out to a nearby pond for some simple retrieves. I must not have cleaned his ears well enough because he developed an ear infection that took several weeks to clear up.

Then little Miss Mia destroyed a plastic bowl and I believe she ingested some plastic shards, because she became lethargic and stopped eating. I took her to the vet for blood work and she was suffering from a serious GI infection, from which she’s now thankfully recovering due to some heavy duty antibiotics and other medication.

Field work didn’t happen for several reasons – first, the ticks are very bad this year and I haven’t found a good place to train; one area that’s perfect for training is also infested with rattlesnakes. Second, I got rid of all my birds when we moved into town, and a wing on a bumper is a poor substitute.

But with that now all behind us and with the river at a safe level, I can now get the guys in the water for some retrieves. Except for the deadly algae (see hyperlink). Already one dog has died from the algae while swimming in the river.

So what have the guys been doing all summer?

Basking in the sun (or shade)

Chilling out after a long day of relaxing

Guarding the property and barking at neighbors

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