Mia and Elettra together again

Elettra on point while training with pigeons

Elettra on point while training with pigeons

Elettra’s been doing very well with her refresher training so I figured it was time to reward her with a short 3-hour hunt at the nearby Wildlife Management Area (WMA). I braced her with Mia and was once again out in the field with the two little huntresses.

Mia and Elettra happy to be hunting

Mia and Elettra happy to be hunting

As for hunting, Elettra was about where I expected her to be – overjoyed to be hunting but still needing a little more conditioning and training.

Mia and Elettra work the grass for birds

Mia and Elettra work the grass for birds

Mia did a great job of hunting and tracking but somewhere she forgot the part about pointing and bumped most of the birds we found. I did have several opportunities for easy shots on rooster Pheasants but passed them up; if Mia wasn’t going to point them, I wasn’t going to shoot them.

A hen Pheasant was there

A hen Pheasant was there

Maybe it was because the birds were runners, or maybe it was the excitement of being braced with Elettra, but in any case, she will need a little refresher training as well.

Elettra and Mia watching a Pheasant fly off

Elettra and Mia watching a Pheasant fly off

In any case, it was good to get Elettra back to hunting again.

Nice point and honor

Nice point and honor

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A Doc hunt

I was in no hurry to go hunting Friday morning with Doc, mainly because I was having a hard time deciding whether to go Sharptail or Pheasant and duck hunting. After the third cup of coffee, it was Pheasant and duck hunting.

Doc watches a flock of mud hens take off.

Doc watches a flock of mud hens take off.

We hunted along the banks of Lake Walcott and after hunting awhile flushed two hen Mallards that were sitting on the bank. One of the ducks was winged a little and so I knocked it down and sent Doc out for the retrieve.

Doc working the reeds for Pheasants

Doc working the reeds for Pheasants

This was the second time he’s balked on retrieving ducks this year and I had to send him out twice, but the second time he retrieved it although dropping it on the bank. I’ve normally braced him with Mia but this year I’m hunting him solo, so I think it’s just a matter of gaining confidence and he’ll work things out.

Doc retrieves a duck

Doc retrieves a duck

We hunted our way back to the truck and flushed a hen Pheasant that really lit a fire under Doc. After depositing the duck in the truck and taking a short break, we hunted a bit longer without seeing any birds. Even though the temperature was in the 40’s, it was too warm for a jacket so I left it in the truck and hunted in a T-shirt, which I would later regret.

Doc on a nice point

Doc on a nice point

I drove to another location where we hunted the shoreline, then came on a small flock of ducks in a bay. The only way of reaching them was to work our way through a jungle of willows and large patches of stinging nettle. Here’s where I wished I still had my jacket; regardless, I made it through the nettles relatively unscathed. However the ducks heard our approach and flushed, all except for a hen Mallard. Having bagged one hen, I let this one go.

I wasn’t going to fight my way back through the willows and nettles so Doc and I waded up the shoreline for nearly half-a-mile until we found a path through the brush. This caused a real panic with Carrie, who happened to check my location on the GPS and it indicated that I was out in the middle of the reservoir.

The wind had come up creating 8-12 inch swells and a few whitecaps. The waves frightened Doc at first but it wasn’t long before he was swimming in them.

The waves intimidated Doc at first but it wasn't long before he was swimming in them.

The waves intimidated Doc at first but it wasn’t long before he was swimming in them.

Doc suddenly went bird crazy during our return to the truck, clearly on the trail of a running Pheasant. He was some distance ahead of me when he went on a solid point, but before I could reach him he broke it off and began tracking again. A little farther he bumped a rooster Pheasant.

Doc poses with the duck he retrieved.

Doc poses with the duck he retrieved.

It would have been a very long shot so I held my shot and watched it sail out into the jungle of willows and nettles that we’d fought our way through earlier. No way I was going through that stuff again.

Doc falls asleep during his post-hunting inspection and grooming.

Doc falls asleep during his post-hunting inspection and grooming.

Opening day Pheasant hunt

Saturday was opening day for Pheasant season and I headed out with Doc before dawn’s early light. My plan was to get in on some early morning duck and goose shooting during their  morning flights and later hunt the river bottoms for Pheasants.

There were a number of ducks and geese in the air when we began looking for a blind about 7:30. All the blinds had long since been claimed, so Doc and I hunted the bluffs for partridge and then the river bottoms for Pheasants without seeing anything but high-flying ducks.

After a quick lunch that I’d packed, I drove to a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) where we hunted for several hours. I was surprised to find so few hunters, and no one else was parked at the area I chose. Either no one else had hunted that area or if so, they were so focused on Pheasants that they didn’t see the pair of ducks in a small stream.

I went after them and dropped a greenhead but Doc wouldn’t retrieve it. He later did a nice job of retrieving the Pheasant so I think that he was confused about retrieving a duck on dry land – all of his other ducks have been water retrieves.

Doc pointing two rooster Pheasants about 100 feet ahead of him

Doc pointing two rooster Pheasants about 100 feet ahead of him

Doc couldn't get through the fence to retrieve the Pheasant, so I had to help him crawl under it.

Doc couldn’t get through the fence to retrieve the Pheasant, so I had to help him crawl under it.

Even though the temperature was in the mid 60’s and partly cloudy, the heat was beginning to sap Doc’s energy. We hunted awhile before Doc went on a solid point and I saw about 100 feet ahead of him, two rooster Pheasants trying to sneak away in the grass. I moved in and flushed them, dropping one rooster but missing the second.

Doc did a fine job of retrieving the Pheasant.

Doc did a fine job of retrieving the Pheasant.

I had to help Doc through the fence and he made a nice retrieve. We then hunted our way back to the truck without seeing any more birds, ending the day successful but tired.

Tired and dirty, Doc poses with the Pheasant and duck opening day of Pheasant season.

Tired and dirty, Doc poses with the Pheasant and duck opening day of Pheasant season.

Picture perfect bird hunt

Rarely have I enjoyed a hunt more than Friday’s grouse hunt with Mia and she was at her best: pointing, tracking, retrieving, and hunting the impossibly thick brush as only a Spinoni can. As a team we were of one mind, and with the stock extension I made for my 16-ga single shot, I didn’t miss a shot.

A beautiful little stream we hunted

A beautiful little stream we hunted

It was a perfect fall afternoon when I took Mia up Wolverine Canyon for an afternoon hunt. I was hoping to time our hunt with the birds coming down for their afternoon water.

Mia on point with the first grouse we found that day, but I was unable to get a shot

Mia on point with the first grouse we found that day, but I was unable to get a shot

It wasn’t long before we started out that Mia went on point and after snapping a picture of her, readied myself and went in for the flush. The grouse flushed but I was unable to take a shot.

Mia crosses deadfall as the going got rough while hunting Ruffed grouse

Mia crosses deadfall as the going got rough while hunting Ruffed grouse

We continued up the canyon and hunted some very rough terrain of deadfall and steep hillsides of loose rock and slippery long grass.

I then decided to follow an abandoned road and it wasn’t long before Mia hit a solid point. A split second later, a grouse flushed and I dropped the bird in heavy brush; although it was a short retrieve, it took Mia a few minutes to find a way back up the hill with the bird.

Mia retrieving our second grouse of the day

Mia retrieving our second grouse of the day

Several minutes later Mia went on point again just as another grouse flushed, and I dropped this one as well which was a much easier retrieve.

Mia on point with the fourth grouse we found

Mia on point with the fourth grouse we found

We then hunted a small stream and Mia went on a solid point. Another grouse flushed and I dropped it with a very long shot – too long for my 16-ga because it did nothing more than stun the bird. I sent Mia in for the retrieve and the bird recovered just as she reached it. After a brief scramble, it escaped and flew off.

Mia pointing the fourth grouse as we follow it up the creek

Mia pointing the fourth grouse as we follow it up the creek

We followed and three times, Mia went on point but the grouse flushed without me being able to get a shot. The third time, Mia went on a loose point, first looking up a steep brushy draw and back to me several times; this was her “I got something to show you” look.

It would have been very difficult for me to climb and impossible to get a shot, so I gave Mia my “track” command and she headed up the hillside, nose to ground. After a few minutes without seeing or hearing anything, I finally saw a speck of orange from her hunting vest through the brush, about 75 yard up the hillside. She was on point again.

Mia poses with the two grouse we bagged

Mia poses with the two grouse we bagged

I called “get it” up to her and she flushed. I was hoping the bird would fly by close enough for me to get a shot but it stayed high along the treetops which didn’t allow me to take a shot.

Mia on point with the fifth grouse of the day, it flew up into the trees

Mia on point with the fifth grouse of the day, it flew up into the trees

We headed back to the truck, stopped to take a picture of Mia with her birds, and then several minutes later she went on point once again. A grouse flushed up into the pine trees without me getting a shot, and once in the trees they can be impossible to see.

Evening training

With the heavy winds we had Saturday and Sunday, I didn’t think I’d be able to do much training so I gave the guys a good workout on the treadmill. The winds died down to something below 20 mph on Sunday evening so I put the guys on some pigeons. I didn’t want the guys out in the pasture where they might spook the horses that are currently pastured there, so I kept them on check cords.

Elettra on point

Elettra on point

Elettra got the first two birds and while its all quickly coming back to her, we need to work on her steady-to-flush.

Working with Elettra on the check cord.

Working with Elettra on the check cord.

Elettra and Doc on point

Elettra and Doc on point

I worked Doc with Elettra on the next two birds.

Elettra and Mia on point

Elettra and Mia on point

Mia and Elettra got the last two birds and a Pheasant flew into the pasture while we were training. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I took the girls out on check cords to find it. The Pheasant flushed halfway across the pasture; Mia did a nice job of remaining steady-to-flush, but Elettra never saw the bird as she was hunting the heavy grass.

Mia on a check cord, steady-to-flush on wild pheasants in the pasture

Mia on a check cord, steady-to-flush on wild pheasants in the pasture

It was too late to work Elvis, so I let him out to romp around the yard while I set the water.

Elvis relaxing after a romp in the yard, too dark to work him on birds

Elvis relaxing after a romp in the yard, too dark to work him on birds

Spooky therapy visits

Friday was therapy visit day and with Halloween approaching, it was a spooky affair.

Sophie poses with skeletons while on therapy visits, 10-9-15.

Sophie poses with skeletons while on therapy visits, 10-9-15.

Sophie has been through it enough Halloweens and trick-or-treaters that nothing fazes her, and she posed with some skeletal friends at the end of our visit.

Elvis poses with witch while on therapy visits, 10-9-15

Elvis poses with witch while on therapy visits, 10-9-15

Elvis isn’t as Halloween savvy and growled at a witch before finally deciding she wasn’t real. He didn’t mind getting his picture taken with her but still didn’t trust her enough to get too close.

Elettra returns to the field

Elettra was so upset at being left out of yesterday’s hunt, that I took her outside and put her on some pigeons. It’s been about two years since the last time she hunted so I wanted to get an idea of what we needed to work on, and she markedly improved with each of the three birds I put her on.

Elettra on point, 10-3-15

Elettra on point, 10-3-15

I let her hunt free on the first bird just to see what she remembered and as expected, her enthusiasm overpowered her steadiness. I spent several minutes steadying her up before releasing the bird.

Working with Elettra on a check cord, 10-3-15.

Working with Elettra on a check cord, 10-3-15.

I put her on a check cord for her second and third birds. It all came back quickly and she was much steadier on her second bird. I allowed her to break on the bird and chase it as reward for her steadiness; once she becomes more steady-to-flush, I’ll work with her on being steady-to-wing.

Elettra much more steady on point with her third bird.

Elettra much more steady on point with her third bird.

She was very steady on her third bird and required very little correction.