Afternoon hunt with Mia

 

Mia in the late afternoon sun

Mia in the late afternoon sun

I took Mia out on a late afternoon hunt in what I thought would be perfect duck hunting conditions – the river is covered with ice flows and beginning to freeze over, and a stiff wind dropped the wind chill to just above zero, all of which should have had them flying.

However swans were about the only thing flying, and there were more hunters than ducks. I did flush three ducks but missed my shot.

Trumpeter swan fly over. They're protected, so the only thing I could shoot them with was the camera.

Trumpeter swan fly over. They’re protected, so the only thing I could shoot them with was the camera.

Mia is really coming into her own as a hunter and knows how to change her style to the type of bird we’re hunting. When hunting Pheasant and partridge, she’s out there running big; with grouse, she heads for the thickest brush; and with duck hunting, she knows to heel or at least stay close by.

Mia waits while I check the stream for ducks

Mia waits while I check the stream for ducks

I do a lot of training with bird wings including duck wings, and believe that as a result, the guys point waterfowl as well as upland birds. Hunters generally don’t think of dogs pointing waterfowl but when you jump shoot ducks like I do and have Spinone that can take the cold, pointing waterfowl can be a real bonus.

Mia pointing ducks, 12-29-14.

Mia pointing ducks, 12-29-14.

Now if I can just do a better job of hitting my targets…

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Frosty training

After letting the guys run the pasture Friday morning, I took the Spins out one at a time and gave them 3 pigeons each. It took the entire morning and they all did very well with their birds. After training, I noticed that Doc’s foot was bleeding where he had a piece taken out of his pad the last time we went hunting, so he’s on injured reserve and is going to miss my next hunt.

Elvis was very steady on all 3 of his birds, however there was a heavy fog and the air was dead calm, so he was unable to scent the birds until he was just about on top of them.

 

Elvis on point with his first bird of the morning, 12-26-14

Elvis on point with his first bird of the morning, 12-26-14

Elvis on point with his second bird of the morning, 12-26-14

Elvis on point with his second bird of the morning, 12-26-14

Elvis pointing his third bird of the morning. With the calm air, he was right on top of them before scenting.

Elvis pointing his third bird of the morning. With the calm air, he was right on top of them before scenting.

Elvis pointing his third bird of the morning. The calm air made it difficult for him. 12-26-14

Elvis pointing his third bird of the morning. The calm air made it difficult for him. 12-26-14

By the time I began training Mia, there was a slight breeze and the fog began lifting. Mia did very well particularly on being steady-to-wing.

 

Mia on point with her first bird, 12-26-14

Mia on point with her first bird, 12-26-14

Mia on point in the distance with her first bird. A slight breeze made training easier for both her and Doc.

Mia on point in the distance with her first bird. A slight breeze made training easier for both her and Doc.

Mia on point with her second bird, 12-26-14

Mia on point with her second bird, 12-26-14

Mia on point with her third bird, 12-26-14

Mia on point with her third bird, 12-26-14

Doc impressed me with his being steady-to-wing, which is something he hasn’t been consistent with. The last bird I flushed flew about 15 feet and landed on the ditch bank – I flushed it again, and Doc didn’t move a muscle when it flew right past him and away.

Doc on point with his first bird of the morning, 12-26-14.

Doc on point with his first bird of the morning, 12-26-14.

Doc on point with his second bird of the day, 12-26-14

Doc on point with his second bird of the day, 12-26-14

Doc in the distance, on point with his second bird of the morning, 12-26-14

Doc in the distance, on point with his second bird of the morning, 12-26-14

Doc on point with his third bird of the morning, 12-26-14

Doc on point with his third bird of the morning, 12-26-14

A day at Duck Point

 

Mia and Doc are NOT fans of the waiting game.

Mia and Doc are NOT fans of the waiting game.

Sunday I took Doc and Mia to an area locals call “duck point”, which are bluffs overlooking the river that ducks and geese use as a flyway. I also found a practical use of the “whoa” command.

I met a couple of hunters who were leaving, and they told me a little about the area, how to hunt it, and how the flocks were flying that day.

 

Doc, with Mia in front of the cedar tree below, climb the steep hillside after inspecting the river bank.

Doc, with Mia in front of the cedar tree below, climb the steep hillside after inspecting the river bank.

Not long after positioning ourselves under a cedar tree, a large flock of ducks flew overhead, fighting the heavy wind. They were right at gun range and I deliberated all the time they were approaching before finally passing up the shot. The flock continued on and drew some fire from the duck blinds behind me, but nothing fell.

 

Mia pointing a covey of partridge with Doc honoring.

Mia pointing a covey of partridge with Doc honoring.

Sitting and waiting is definitely NOT Mia or Doc’s idea of hunting, however I rewarded their patience with a 5-minute run about every 20 minutes, as long as nothing was flying.

Mia pointing a rooster Pheasant with Doc honoring - however Pheasant season ended a month ago in this area.

Mia pointing a rooster Pheasant with Doc honoring – however Pheasant season ended a month ago in this area.

After lunch I decided to scout the area, give the dogs a run, and hopefully run into some partridge since not much was flying. Mia did bump a covey but they were out of range, but given the 30-plus mile per hour winds, I couldn’t fault her. I saw where the covey landed and we went after them. Mia went on point with Doc honored nicely; however the birds having, already been spooked, flushed before I could get close enough for a good shot although I did take a long shot and miss.

Doc was the only casualty of the day, having slightly slipped a pad on the lava rocks. Nothing that Neosporin and a bandage couldn't cure though.

Doc was the only casualty of the day, having slipped a pad on the lava rocks. Nothing that Neosporin and a bandage couldn’t cure though.

During our venture, I found a practical application of the “whoa” command. When I saw an approaching flock, I’d whoa Doc and Mia so that their movement wouldn’t frighten the birds. It seemed to work, we were just never in the right place at the right time for a shot.

Casting in the snow

Our Sunday plans changed, and the cold front that brought snow also froze the muddy ground, so after letting the dogs run the pasture for a bit, I worked with Mia and Doc on casting. I wanted to focus their training on taking a line putting some distance in their retrieves.

I began with tossing each of them a couple of bumpers just to get their mind on retrieving, then set 3 bumpers with wings attached. For this exercise, I made it a point to let them see me drop the bumpers, and dropped them in plain sight.

I did 2 iterations with each dog, placing the second set of bumpers between where the first set had been placed. By taking this approach, it will gradually increase their distance and allow them to move on to blind retrieves.

Birds in the field

 

Doc on point in our pasture.

Doc on point in our pasture.

I noticed several rooster Pheasants spending the afternoon in our pasture, so when I let the dogs out to run, they were all over the scent. Elvis and Sophie had a long day of therapy work on Friday, and Doc and Mia are going through withdrawal because I’m not hunting them every weekend as they’re accustomed to, so everyone needed a good run in the pasture.

 

Elvis honors after being "whoa'd"

Elvis honors after being “whoa’d”

Doc came onto fresh scent along the ditch bank and went on a nice point. Elvis came up and I “whoa’d” him, then he then caught the bird’s scent and re-positioned to honor Doc. I couldn’t see a bird so I gave them my “track” command and they were off tracking the bird.

 

Elvis catches the bird's scent and goes on point, honoring Doc.

Elvis catches the bird’s scent and goes on point, honoring Doc.

Meanwhile, Mia and the Labs were in the pasture searching the grass and weeds.

 

Our son-in-law gets a good look at Doc on point while Pheasant hunting.

Our son-in-law gets a good look at Doc on point while Pheasant hunting.

I also added several photos of a morning hunt in which our son-in-law accompanied Doc and I. Unfortunately we didn’t see a sign of Pheasants, and wasn’t able to get a shot at any of the ducks that were flying.

Doc helps me set decoys while  hunting.

Doc helps me set decoys while hunting.