A rainy bird hunt

That look when you know you're going hunting.

That look when you know you’re going hunting.

Neither rain, nor wind, nor flash flood warnings could deter Doc and me from hunting on the final day of Sage Grouse season. The 45 degree temperature was comfortable for hunting although I did become a little chilled after the rain soaked through my water-resistant clothing.

Wet clay made the road nearly impassible even in 4wd.

Wet clay made the road nearly impassible even in 4wd.

Leaving the main road was a mistake and I turned around at the first opportunity. While the desert road was still passable in 4-wheel drive, another hour of rain and it wouldn’t be.

The desert is not to be taken lightly.

The desert is not to be taken lightly.

We hunted our way over to the Wapi lava flow and from there, hunted the edge of the lava field. At one point we had to cross a lava ridge and in doing so, Doc hit on something that scared the crap out of him.

Doc pauses while crossing a lava ridge.

Doc pauses while crossing a lava ridge.

He crossed a fissure and either heard, smelled, or saw something that scared him because he dropped to his belly, shaking in fear and staring at the fissure. I approached ready for anything, but didn’t see what was scaring him. I didn’t spend any time looking either but tugged Doc away from the fissure and we continued on.

Doc surveys the landscape.

Doc surveys the landscape.

We hunted a couple of hours without seeing anything and returned to the truck just as another hunter was arriving. After a break, we headed out again and hunted another hour before finding a lone sage hen.

Unlike last weekend, I dropped the young rooster with my first shot. This bird was about half the size of the one Mia retrieved and Doc didn’t have any trouble with it and in spite of the weather, a successful end to the short Sage Grouse season.

Doc. Wet, tired and happy with the sage grouse he retrieved.

Doc. Wet, tired and happy with the sage grouse he retrieved.

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Mia’s opening day hunt

Mia heads out into the sage brush on our opening day hunt

Mia heads out into the sage brush on our opening day hunt

Since Doc got to go Ruffed Grouse hunting, it was only fair to take Mia on the opening day of Partridge and Sage Grouse season. She hunted hard and hunted well, and had a great time of it.

Mia pauses to check the wind

Mia pauses to check the wind

For an opening day there were very few hunters and the only shots I heard the entire day were my own. The hunters I spoke with weren’t hunting with dogs and they had only seen a couple of birds, all of them flushing out of shotgun range.

I credit Mia for being able to find and hold the birds for me to get within shooting range. Not long after starting out, I flushed a partridge but it ducked around a lava outcropping and I didn’t get a shot. A while later I watched a Sage Grouse flush some 75-100 yards out so things didn’t look too promising.

Mia works a hillside

Mia works a hillside

We hunted for a couple of hours and upon returning to the truck ran into a flock of them. I flushed two and missed, reloaded, and another pair flushed. Again I missed, reloaded, and a third pair flushed. This time I dropped a large rooster.

Mia poses with the sage grouse she retrieved

Mia poses with the sage grouse she retrieved

This was Mia’s first retrieve of a sage hen and it took a little coaxing for her to bring it back, but she ended up making a nice retrieve.

Back at the truck we took a long break, had a couple of sandwiches and lots of water, and I let her cool down. I also groomed burrs out of her and pulled cactus thorns from her legs, then we were ready to go again. Since I had my 1-bird limit on sage hens, we were after Partridge.

Mia gets a drink of water from the bota bag

Mia gets a drink of water from the bota bag

We hunted a couple more hours and even though the temperature was comfortable and a nice wind blowing, Mia was becoming hot under the direct sun. I also didn’t want her to slip a pad or cut her feet on the lava rocks, since she hadn’t built up callouses yet, and called it quits without seeing another sign of birds.

Doc inaugurates hunting season

Doc poses with Ruffed Grouse.

Doc poses with Ruffed Grouse.

Doc on the trail while grouse hunting

Doc on the trail while grouse hunting

Doc went out on this year’s first bird hunt with an afternoon trip up Wolverine Canyon. My strategy was hunt the Ruffed Grouse as they came down for their mid-day watering, which worked out just as planned.

We hadn’t hunted long before running into a covey of three birds. The breeze wasn’t in our favor and one flushed into the trees just above Doc before he could scent them. They must not have been hunted yet since they weren’t wild, which gave me time to video Doc on point.

I circled the trees several times looking for a way to flush it in a direction that would offer a shot, but was unable to. It finally flushed and flew into the thick brush on the hillside. About the same time, one of the other grouse flushed and although I had a clear shot, missed.

Doc hears something interesting in the trees below.

Doc hears something interesting in the trees below.

We hunted a couple of hours without seeing any more birds, then returned to the hillside where that first grouse flew. I dropped it in some of the thickest brush we’d encountered, and while Doc was able to find it after some searching, was not able to retrieve it so I had to work my way down and give him a hand.

Even though I had sprayed Doc down with ShowSheen, it still took about three hours to bathe and groom all the burrs and seeds out of his coat. I was particularly concerned about those in his feet since they could abscess, and around his ears and eyes which I re-checked half a dozen times.

Doc takes a break while grouse hunting

Doc takes a break while grouse hunting

A virus for Dakota

Dakota began coughing after eating her dinner a couple of days ago, and at first I thought she was choking on her food. When she kept it up, I then thought she’d aspirated some food.

She kept us up most of the night coughing and upon researching her symptoms, at her age the indications were heart problems. Having just lost Sophie to congestive heart failure, we were relieved when it turned out to be a virus. So with medications for her cough and the pain, we are just letting it run it’s course and hope that it doesn’t spread to the other guys.