Black Friday

Up at the crack of dawn to help Bingham County Humane Society

Up at the crack of dawn to help Bingham County Humane Society

While many people got up early to go out and fight each other over the best deals, I was helping the Bingham County Humane Society unload a pallet of kitty litter. Guess we all celebrate peace and love in different ways.

A pallet of kitty litter ready to be offloaded.

A pallet of kitty litter ready to be offloaded.

In any case, with half-a- dozen of us helping, we made short work of the offloading. One pallet now unloaded and one more on the way, the cats that are being housed for adoption will be happy with clean litter boxes long after many of the Black Friday Christmas gifts find permanent homes in closets and toy boxes.

Many hands make light work.

Many hands make light work.

Cabin fever

Doc on the hunt

Doc on the hunt

Doc was suffering from cabin fever after three weeks without hunting so Wednesday morning I took him out for a little hunting. I figured that wouldn’t be any other hunters, that they would either be working or shopping for Thanksgiving. Not so.

Doc works the heavy brush.

Doc works the heavy brush.

After nearly two hours of hunting without seeing anything, I loaded Doc into the truck and decided to return home. However Doc made it clear to me that he wasn’t ready to quit, so I detoured out onto the desert to hunt partridge.

Doc on a nice point while hunting partridge. It was two hen Pheasants that are off limits.

Doc on a nice point while hunting partridge. It was two hen Pheasants that are off limits.

We hunted a couple more hours without seeing anything but a pair of hen Pheasants, however it’s illegal to shoot them in Idaho. So I watched them fly off and appreciated the work that Doc had done.

It wasn’t much of a hunt, but it was enough to cure Doc’s cabin fever.

Sophie and Elvis re-qualify

Elvis and I pose for photo during his therapy re-qualification test.

Elvis and I pose for photo during his therapy re-qualification test.

Sophie and Elvis both passed their therapy tests and re-qualified as therapy dogs with Intermountain Therapy Animals. Both did well on their tests, and we left with several suggestions for improvement, but such is the role of testing.

Sophie testing for her therapy re-qualification.

Sophie testing for her therapy re-qualification.

Winter whoas

 

Mia honors while I work with Doc

Mia honors while I work with Doc

Although my guys are generally steady to wing, there are occasions when they break on birds and are not as consistently steady as they need to be. While they do fine on planted birds, wild birds will flush 3-4 times the distance and that can introduce bad habits, particularly with their steadiness.

Mia and Doc remain steady while I walk about the pasture during training

Mia and Doc remain steady while I walk about the pasture during training

So after discussing their hunting/training regimen with my trainers, this year I began working with Doc and Mia on a weekly basis during hunting season, rather than waiting until the off-season to train. Nothing serious, just a weekly 15-minute training session to correct things I see them do out in the field.

Doc honors while I work with Mia

Doc honors while I work with Mia

Both Doc and Mia have shown that they need work on casting and blind retrieves, since that’s an area in which they’ve never been trained. But since I’ve had Labs most of my life, training a dog on the basics of retrieving isn’t a big deal but now it’s time to advance them.

Working with Doc on the "whoa" command

Working with Doc on the “whoa” command

However firming up their steadiness and honoring comes first. I believe that steadiness and honoring is a state of mind and not a “technique”; steadiness and honoring in one area helps create steadiness and honoring in other areas.

Working with Mia on the "whoa" command

Working with Mia on the “whoa” command

The top trainers I’ve studied will talk about how a dog needs to honor or respect not only their brace mate, but they need to respect the bird as well. Or for that matter, honor the bumpers they retrieve, honor each other’s food bowl, rawhide bone, even honor each other’s spot on the couch. And don’t think of training a dog that doesn’t respect you – respect that cannot come from heavy handed, domineering treatment but only in understanding your dog.

So back to the topic at hand. This year I’m supplementing their hunting with a little ongoing training beginning with the “whoa” command.

Mia’s snowy hunt

Mia on point with nose to the wind. It turns out she was pointing a flock of ducks.

Mia on point with nose to the wind. It turns out she was pointing a flock of ducks.

Bad roads from our first winter storm wasn’t enough to keep me home, and the storm seems to have pushed a lot of ducks into our area because we saw flock after flock. And I would have just about limited if it wasn’t for my atrocious shooting.

Mia heads out for the first of two ducks

Mia heads out for the first of two ducks

Just after starting out, Mia went on point with her nose to the air. I eased around her which brought me onto the banks of the stream and eye-to-eye with a greenhead, and I missed my shot when he flushed. A large flock of ducks that I couldn’t see, flushed and I suppose the ducks were what Mia was pointing. They scattered and I missed my second shot.

Returning with the first duck.

Returning with the first duck.

We flushed several more flocks that didn’t afford me a shot, then came right on top of four ducks sitting on the bank. They flushed and I missed the next two shots, easy ones too. When my pattern hit the water I could see that for whatever reason, I was shooting under them.

Mia heads out for her second duck

Mia heads out for her second duck

We continued on and a flock of ducks passed overhead, this time I dropped one with each shot and Mia had a double retrieve to make. We hunted for a while longer and flushed a few more ducks but I wasn’t able to get a shot on any of them.

Got it!

Got it!

There were enough ducks flying to encourage me to set out several decoys. Even though I had on chest waders, the water was deep enough that I had to set them close to the bank; another step and I would have been in over my head.

Returning with her second duck.

Returning with her second duck.

We sat over the decoys for a while and other than two singles that passed high overhead, nothing was flying.

Doc’s Ruffed hunt

Doc with his Ruffed grouse

Doc with his Ruffed grouse

I normally give up grouse hunting for Pheasant hunting, but on Saturday decided to take Doc to my favorite location for Ruffed grouse. The birds seemed to have moved to higher ground, either in preparation for the winter or pressure from hunting.

 

A heavy frost remains as we start our hunt.

A heavy frost remains as we start our hunt.

We hunted a little stream that led to up an old forest road, where we flushed a Ruffed grouse that was downwind of us. I wasn’t able to get a shot but marked the direction it flew. Rather than climbing through the thick brush after it, I followed the forest road for about ¼ mile and then cut back across the hillside.

Cattle made a nice trail for us through the heavy brush.

Cattle made a nice trail for us through the heavy brush.

Soon after we began across the hillside, we came upon another grouse, again downwind from us. The wind was fickle all day, blowing up and then down the canyons. In any case, I dusted the bird and Doc had a blind retrieve to make.

From the way Doc acted, the bird must have been living in the little clearing for some time because its scent was everywhere. I also realized that I need to start focusing our training sessions on casting and blind retrieves, as both Doc and Mia have trouble with them. Having owned Labs all my life, I’ve never spent much time on their retrieving since it’s been easy to teach the basics without effort, but now it’s time to work on it.

Although I was able to cast Doc towards the bird as we’d practiced, he couldn’t keep the line that I gave him long enough to bring him to the bird. Eventually he was able to find it and make a nice retrieve.

The afternoon still felt like early morning

The afternoon still felt like early morning

We then made our way to where the first grouse had disappeared but Doc wasn’t able to get a scent, so we continued on. We hunted our way up main stream for about an hour, crawling through brush and over deadfall, but didn’t see a sign of any more birds.

Doc works the brush, now devoid of foliage.

Doc works the brush, now devoid of foliage.

Although it was early afternoon when we returned to the truck, the low sun and crisp cool air made it feel more like early morning. The perfect day for a Fall hunt.