A cold wait

Mia and Elettra run down the trail to the river.

Mia and Elettra run down the trail to the river.

Hoping to follow up on the previous day’s hunting success, I took Elettra and Mia on an afternoon hunt. Although we had a brief respite from the deep freeze (last night’s temp dropped to -17), the wind chill was still in single digits.

Mia and Elettra climb the hill to the duck blinds on the bluffs

Mia and Elettra climb the hill to the duck blinds on the bluffs

There was only one other hunter and he had already claimed the blind that I wanted, so I took Mia and Elettra up to the duck blinds on the bluffs. It didn’t matter since few ducks were flying, but what few ducks there were, they chose to fly over whichever blind I was not in.

Elettra and Mia in one of the duck blinds

Elettra and Mia in one of the duck blinds

So I switched blinds about every 20 minutes or so, partially to keep Mia and Elettra from getting bored, and partially to keep them moving so they wouldn’t get too cold.

The river nearly frozen over

The river nearly frozen over

I gave up on the hunt after several hours. While driving home I briefly considered hunting some warm water springs, but then decided I wasn’t really in the mood to clean any ducks that I might get.

Frozen beards

Frozen beards

Elettra and Mia happy to be home

Elettra and Mia happy to be home

Bald Eagle delivers duck

In what was clearly my most unique duck hunt, a Bald Eagle dropped a duck right into our laps, so to speak.

Our week of sub-zero temperatures finally broke and even though there was a light wind and snow throughout the day, 14 degrees (F) seemed rather balmy. With cabin fever getting the best of me and the dogs, I loaded Doc and Elettra into the truck and went on an afternoon duck hunt.

Elettra and Doc amuse themselves while waiting for ducks or geese, 12-29-15

Elettra and Doc amuse themselves while waiting for ducks or geese, 12-29-15

We set up under some cedar trees using them as natural blinds. We waited for awhile when I heard a heavy rush of wings. I looked up to see a Bald Eagle with a duck in it’s grasp skimming over the treetop, not more than 20 feet away.

The eagle came over the tree and saw the dogs and me, which startled the eagle and it dropped the duck. The duck fluttered down to the river bank about 100 feet below us and the eagle continued on. I waited awhile to see if the duck would fly off or the eagle return for it, but when neither happened, I took Doc and Elettra down to find the duck.

Doc and Elettra check out the river below us, 12-29-15

Doc and Elettra check out the river below us, 12-29-15

They searched the brush for a few minutes before Doc flushed it out; injured by the eagle, the duck didn’t go too far and Elettra made a nice retrieve.

Ducks were landing in some open water that was downstream of us and I decided to go after them. Although the river channel is quite deep, that particular spot is very shallow and fed by warm springs, so ducks land there to eat the fresh water shrimp.

We set up in a blind on the river bank and while the hunters up on the bluffs weren’t getting any shots, there was a fair amount of action down on the river. I had to be selective with my shots: if I dropped a duck too far upstream, it could land on the ice which I didn’t want the dogs on, and if I dropped one too far downstream, it could drift over a waterfall in the river which again, I didn’t want the dogs near.

A couple of flocks flew over and I missed my first two shots before getting my aim back and dropping a Mallard from a flock. Doc and Elettra had fun chasing it down and this time it was Doc who made the retrieve. We stayed for a little while after that but when I saw that the dogs were getting chilled after their romp in the water, decided to call it a day.

Doc and Elettra pose with ducks, 12-29-15

Doc and Elettra pose with ducks, 12-29-15

Christmas miracle moon

The Christmas moon that saved the cat

The Christmas moon that saved the cat

It seems kinda fitting that the full moon on Christmas Day would lead to a small miracle for our neighbor’s cat.

It began a week ago when our neighbors went on a Christmas vacation, and we volunteered to watch their house and take care of their dog (Oso) and cat (we call Bobbie). “Bobbie” is an outside cat used primarily for mousing, so we may go a day or two without seeing her.

The last time we saw Bobbie was the day the neighbors and their relatives packed their car and hit the road. Two days went by before we became concerned about not having seen her, and for the next four days searched for her, called her, and asked the neighbors if they had seen her. There was no sign of her and we thought that she had been eaten by a hawk or owl, although several times Carrie thought she heard a cat meowing.

On Christmas morning I stepped outside to take a picture of the full moon and heard distinct meowing, which I tracked down to the neighbor’s SUV. Apparently while packing their vehicles, the Bobbie sneaked inside the SUV where she had been trapped for the past 6 days.

We called their daughter who came over and unlocked the vehicle; Bobbie was in better shape than I would have expected, probably due to the fact that she was overweight to begin with. However she wouldn’t have lasted much longer with no food or water and the nighttime temperatures dropping well below zero. But other than being dehydrated and hungry, she’s no worse for wear and along with Oso, is happy to spend the cold winter nights in our garage.

Doc and Elvis volunteer for 4-H

Actually they didn’t volunteered, I volunteered for them. In any case, Doc and Elvis helped the 4-H kids with their dog show training last Saturday and as you can guess, the smallest kids got the biggest dogs.

The 4-H kids walk and run the dogs to burn off some energy

The 4-H kids walk and run the dogs to burn off some energy

The kids ran their dogs up and down the driveway to burn some of the energy off the dogs before starting and then we broke into two groups.

Doc and Elvis playing "red light green light" with their young handlers

Doc and Elvis playing “red light green light” with their young handlers

Our group consisted of Doc, Elvis, and their two little handlers; we began with a game of “red light, green light”. In this game, the instructor says “green light” and the kids walk with their dogs, then stop when the instructor says “red light”.

Getting ready for the second phase of training

Getting ready for the second phase of training

Our groups switched after a bit and our group practiced walking in a circle, the “sit” command, and then the “stay” command where the dogs had to sit off-leash while their little handlers walked around them.

Doc sits nicely while his little handler walks around him

Doc sits nicely while his little handler walks around him

It was a lot of fun for both us and the kids, and some good experience for Doc and Elvis.

Elettra’s duck hunt

Since Elettra came to stay with us for a few months of hunting, I’ve worked on her pointing and steadiness but have spent almost no time with her retrieving.

We started out before sunup and the roads were in bad shape. I stopped to help a guy who had slid off the road and down an embankment, so all the duck blinds had been claimed by the time we arrived at the river.

Elettra surveys a distant flotilla of ducks

Elettra surveys a distant flotilla of ducks

The other hunters got in a lot of shooting but I didn’t see any birds fall. They had a very strong tail wind of 20-25 mph, and I don’t think the other hunters were adjusting to the speed of the birds.

Elettra looks down upon the river from our location on the bluffs

Elettra looks down upon the river from our location on the bluffs

Several large flocks flew over my position on the bluffs, however they were either too high or presented a longer shot than I was willing to take.

Elettra wades through the snow, nose to the wind

Elettra wades through the snow, nose to the wind

After their morning flights ended, I took Elettra to McTucker springs which are some warm water springs. We came onto a flock of ducks and I got one duck with my first shot but missed my second shot – my first miss of the year.

Elettra

Elettra

I sent Elettra out three times and even though she swam over and found the duck, picked it up and even mouthed it, she wouldn’t retrieve it. The duck was in some tree limbs against the opposite bank, and all of my guys have had a little trouble with that particular scenario when they first start out retrieving. Elettra has made several good retrieves for me in the past but hasn’t retrieved a bird in a couple of years, and retrieving is just something with which we will need to spend a little time.

Pasture pointing

The guys remind me of the stampede from the movie Jumanji when I let them run in the pasture, with 13 year-old Sophie trailing behind like the rhinoceros.

Doc on point where a flock of partridge flushed, Mia honoring

Doc on point where a flock of partridge flushed, Mia honoring

While running in the pasture this last Friday, they kicked up a flock of partridge and when Doc went on point where the birds had been roosting, I whoa’d Mia and Elettra to honor.

Doc on point where a flock of partridge flushed, Elettra honoring

Doc on point where a flock of partridge flushed, Elettra honoring

On Saturday morning, Mia went on a nice point and a moment later three rooster Pheasants flushed. I was glad to see all the Spinone steady-to-wing until I released them.

A few minutes later, Doc crossed the ditch and went on point. Mia and Elettra couldn’t see him so I called them over; Elvis was running with the Labs. Dakota did come over to see what was going on however.

Doc on point with Mia and Elettra honoring, Dakota wondering what is going on

Doc on point with Mia and Elettra honoring, Dakota wondering what is going on

When Mia and Elettra came over and saw him on point, they did a very nice job of honoring – although Elettra was just as interested in the pictures I was taking. Maybe she was asking why I was taking pictures instead of getting my shotgun.

Search and retrieve

Early in the season, I dropped a duck on dry land but Doc refused to retrieve it (although he pointed it beautifully). Friday’s duck hunt was a whole different story and Doc did an excellent job of both duck search and retrieve.

Doc waiting in a blind

Doc waiting in a blind

I took him on an early morning hunt to an area called “duck point”, a finger of land that is in the flight pattern of ducks and geese as they travel up and down the river. I was surprised to find only one other group of hunters and while they were doing a fair amount of shooting, they weren’t hitting much.

Doc at the foot of a lava flow

Doc at the foot of a lava flow

I don’t have a lot of patience for sitting in blinds so after a few minutes of no ducks flying over, I took Doc on a quasi-partridge hunt while hoping to wander under some fly overs. With snow covering the ground, I avoided the lava flows as much as possible since it can make them extremely hazardous.

Doc searched out and retrieved the duck

Doc searched out and retrieved the duck

We were about to climb a lava ridge when a large flock of Mallards came over and flared upon seeing us. My gun was loaded with BB shot for geese so I decided to take a long shot and dropped a hen Mallard out of the flock. It fell over the ridge so neither Doc nor I saw where it went down.

Doc with his duck

Doc with his duck

I sent Doc a little downwind of where it appeared to go down and followed him. There is no doubt that I would have lost the bird had it not been for his determined searching. After several minutes of searching, Doc rooted it out of a thick sage brush and made a very nice retrieve.

Doc tells me all about it while driving home

Doc tells me all about it while driving home