Doc’s morning hunt

I was going after the duck that I winged the day before, but this cow and calf moose changed my mind.

I was going after the duck that I winged the day before, but this cow and calf moose changed my mind.

I think it’s good that I’m hunting the guys separately; Mia has been an excellent mentor in teaching Doc what hunting is about, but now it’s time that he gain confidence and experience on his own. In Saturday morning’s hunt, I was pleased to see that he has picked up a lot of Mia’s hunting traits.

Several of the wild horses living in the area.

Several of the wild horses living in the area.

I had planned on hunting the stream where I’d winged the duck yesterday and hopefully get it, but a cow and calf moose changed my mind so we hunted in a different direction. We hunted throughout the morning without seeing a bird, and more hunters showed up as the morning wore on making it difficult to find areas to hunt.

No birds in there.

No birds in there.

I was running out of options and didn’t want to drive very far, so I decided to hunt along a canal where I’d seen Pheasants before. I was encouraged when two hen Pheasants flushed, but they were the only birds we’d see.

Doc working reeds for Pheasants, 10-25.

Doc working reeds for Pheasants, 10-25.

Doc checks the wind while hunting Pheasants.

Doc checks the wind while hunting Pheasants.

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Mia’s morning hunt

I left one very upset young man Friday morning when I took Mia hunting and left Doc at home. We combined Pheasant with duck hunting and had several opportunities for both.

Apparently YouTube has an issue with viewing videos through certain channels, so hopefully you’l be able to see the videos.

Not a single ripple on the water.

Not a single ripple on the water.

Not long after starting out, I came upon a pair of teal but was unable to get a shot off. After hunting for a while, Mia flushed several rooster Pheasants while working the brush and although I had a good clean shot on one rooster, I missed it.

We were hunting a slough with the breeze to our backs when suddenly Mia hit a solid point. I took the opportunity to video her for several seconds before giving her my “track” command. She went into the brush and tracked for several hundred feet before losing the scent.

Continuing on, we eventually came upon a few ducks scattered along the stream. I winged one and it swam into the willows on the opposite side of the stream. Mia had been behind me hunting the brush and hadn’t seen any of the ducks, so it was a blind retrieve for her.

I sent her across the stream hoping she’d pick up the duck’s scent and find it in the brush but she wasn’t able to catch its scent.

Opening day Pheasant hunt

Saturday was the opening of Pheasant season and this year I decided not to get a WMA (Wildlife Management Area) permit as I have in the past, so it’s a matter of learning how to hunt new areas. Doc and Mia got the call for this hunt.

I began the day jump shooting ducks but miscalculated the one opportunity that I got. We hunted a canal where I’d run into ducks before, but that morning there were none to be found. However upon returning to the truck, a pair of Mallards dropped in. I noted their location and then circled around to come on them with the sun to my back.

Mia and Doc "stay" while I check the canal for ducks.

Mia and Doc “stay” while I check the canal for ducks.

The ducks had swum across the water and climbed onto the bank, so there were no ripples to judge their location. The shadows from the low morning sun hid them and both flush upon seeing me, out of range.

From there I drove down to the river and began hunting the sage brush hillside where I’ve gotten both Pheasant and partridge. Not long after starting out, Mia went on point but couldn’t hold the bird, and a big rooster Pheasant flushed before I could get in range to shoot.

Mia and Doc on the edge of a sandstone cliff, looking down on the river below.

Mia and Doc on the edge of a sandstone cliff, looking down on the river below.

We hunted until noon without seeing another bird, and after lunch I drove to McTucker Springs. I’ve pretty much avoided hunting Pheasants there due to the heavy jungle of brush; on those occasions when I did hunt it, I’ve lost Mia for a few minutes. This time I was armed with a Garmin Astro 320 GPS that I’m field testing for Huntindawg.com.

Doc honors Mia who is on point

Doc honors Mia who is on point

We hunted for several hours and Mia bumped a couple of rooster Pheasants while working the willows, but there was no chance of getting a shot. I think that at least for the next few hunts, I’ll take the guys out individually to have some one-on-one hunting time with them.

Halloween therapy visits

To say that Sophie and Elvis were full of energy would be an understatement, but both did very well with their therapy visits today. There was a lot of activity going on at two of the facilities which is uncommon for Fridays, a generally low key day.

Sophie is excited to begin her therapy visits.

Sophie is excited to begin her therapy visits.

During her visit, Sophie found the beeps, buzzes, and intercom interesting, and cocked her head from side to side listening to them.

Elvis enjoying the scenery before beginning his therapy visits.

Elvis enjoying the scenery before beginning his therapy visits.

Elvis was curious about the Halloween decorations at one facility and never could figure them out: life sized monsters, ghosts hanging from the ceiling, you name it.

Elvis doesn't know what to make of the Halloween decorations.

Elvis doesn’t know what to make of the Halloween decorations.

I received guidance on counting the number of visits they’ve had, and in a couple of months, they will both have enough visits to qualify for AKC therapy titles.

The best laid plans

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, so goes the adaption of a line from “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns. And so it appears that our plans to take Disabled American Veterans (DAV) have gone awry. But let me backtrack a little.

About a year ago, I found out about DAV Project Hope, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide outdoor activities for local disabled vets. I contacted DAV Project Hope regarding bird hunting trips to a local bird hunting lodge and elk ranch, CA Bull Elk Ranch, in which I would volunteer to handle my dogs for the hunters.

In April of this year, I posted an article on a meeting that I had with DAV Project Hope and the CA Bull Elk Ranch, and that we were tentatively organizing a bird hunt this October. As a fundraiser, DAV Project Hope scheduled a concert to be held in September that would help fund not only the bird hunt but other outdoor activities.

From all accounts, ticket sales were going well and  the number of reservations indicated that the concert would be a success. That is, until the performer was involved in a car wreck and was issued a DUI two weeks before the concert. The concert went on, but apparently because of that incident, a number of people cancelled their reservations.

Since DAV Project Hope was contractually obligated to pay the performer and band, the boycott did nothing but financially harm DAV Project Hope and jeopardize activities for our disabled vets. As of now, there will be no bird hunts and other activities are highly questionable.

So why not wait until next year and try again? The simple answer is that time is not on our side. The CA Bull Elk Ranch, like many hunting lodges, is suffering from our poor economy. While some hunting lodges have already gone out of business – some of which were large and well-known – it is uncertain whether the CA Bull Elk Ranch will be able to offer bird hunting next year.

And then the future is not certain for any of us, particularly those with catastrophic injuries. It is likely that some of our veterans who would have been able to participate in these activities this year, will be unable to do so next year. Unfortunately some opportunities come only once.

Afternoon hunt with Dakota

I really don’t remember the last time that I took Dakota hunting by herself, but Saturday afternoon was her turn to do some duck hunting. I was hoping that the wind would push the ducks off the river and into the sloughs and ponds, and was a little surprised to find no other hunters at the first location we hunted.

 

Dakota began the hunt with a lot of energy but it didn't take long for her to wear down.

Dakota began the hunt with a lot of energy but it didn’t take long for her to wear down.

There wasn’t much flying, but since the sun would soon be setting, I figured it would pick up. In the meantime, I decided to jump shoot any ducks that might already be there. A small flock of teal swung by at high speed and dropped into a pond, so we went after them.

Judging the wind direction, I approached as close as possible to where it appeared they landed and then sent Dakota into the cattails to flush them. What she flushed was a flock of about 50 ducks but I miscalculated, and it would have been a longer shot than I was willing to take.

It's not snow but dried mold, which may have triggered Dakota's allergies that took 2 days of eye wash and antihistamines to cure.

It’s not snow but dried mold, which may have triggered Dakota’s allergies that took 2 days of eye wash and antihistamines to cure.

I could have brought several down, but it wouldn’t have been a kill shot and Dakota would never have been able to get a wounded duck in a pond that size; a wounded duck will dive and swim underwater to pop up somewhere else.

Dakota was beginning to slow down so we drove to the next area, saving us about a 2 mile walk. Here were 2 hunters  set up in cattails near one large pond, but I never heard any shots from them.

Dakota tracked down and flushed several Pheasants during our duck hunt,

Dakota tracked down and flushed several Pheasants during our duck hunt,

We hunted the sloughs for another hour and Dakota was noticeably slowing down and beginning to limp a little from her arthritis. At 9 ½ years old, her hunting days are coming to an end as with Sophie.

Tongue hanging, Dakota still works the cattails while duck hunting.

Tongue hanging, Dakota still works the cattails while duck hunting.

Seeing how she was slowing down, I cut the hunt short and we hunted our way back to the truck. The other hunters had given up and were gone by the time we returned, so it didn’t appear that they were any more successful than me. Although I may take Dakota out again for a short duck hunt, this was likely her only hunt for the year.

Sophie ushers in waterfowl season

Today was the opening of waterfowl season locally, and Sophie, just two months shy of her 12th birthday, got the honor of ushering in the season. Wade, a friend of mine, arrived before sunup and we hit the field about half-an-hour after shooting hours began.

Sophie surveys the countryside, 10-4-14.

Sophie surveys the countryside, 10-4-14.

There was a good deal of shooting early on but none of it was ours. We did flush three ducks and then a single, but were unable to get off a shot. Then a loner came flying overhead. I missed my two shots but Wade hit on his first shot and with that, got his first duck.

The duck hit the water just a couple of feet from shore but Sophie was happy to make the short retrieve. We eventually set up next to railroad tracks that crossed a slough and got several more shots at passing ducks, mostly teal that dipped and darted over us.

Sophie works through the tall grass and reeds.

Sophie works through the tall grass and reeds.

Then a pair of pintail came over and I knocked out several feathers with my first shot but it was my second shot that brought it down. This time Sophie had a longer retrieve to make and although she’s slowed considerably with age, pulled off a nice retrieve for our second bird.

The weather was perfect for everything but duck hunting, and eventually they stopped flying. Sophie was also beginning to stiffen up, so we made our way back to the truck, checking several more ponds for ducks on the way back.

Sophie is content to wait for more ducks to fly over.

Sophie is content to wait for more ducks to fly over.

A Fish and Game officer was waiting upon our return, and he checked our shells, guns and birds. We visited for a few minutes, and he told us that someone had reported seeing hunters shoot a Pheasant and were searching for it with their dog; Pheasant season doesn’t begin for a couple of weeks yet. However we hadn’t seen anything.

Wade poses with Sophie and the ducks, 10-4-14

Wade poses with Sophie and the ducks, 10-4-14

Back home, Sophie got a Rimadyl first thing before we cleaned the ducks. But stiff and sore as she is, she loved every minute of it.

Photo op with Sophie and the ducks, 10-4-14

Photo op with Sophie and the ducks, 10-4-14

On Friday we had the stitches taken out of her ear from the hematoma; they were dissolving stitches but the knots needed to be removed. Earlier in the day, I had taken Mia and Doc partridge hunting but again, saw no birds.

Mia honors Doc, who is on point, 10-3-14.

Mia honors Doc, who is on point, 10-3-14.