Porcupines and partridge

The wind and snow that blew in on Saturday created perfect hunting conditions, however as with my last hunting trip, no birds were flying.

Spinone camouflage. That’s why my guys wear GPS collars while hunting.

I took Doc to an area called “Duck Point”, which has became our go-to hunting area. There were more hunters than ducks, so I drove up to my old hunting grounds at Lake Walcott. The roads were in bad shape so it was slow going.

I expected ice along the shoreline, not the entire reservoir to be frozen over.

I expected to find ice along the banks of the reservoir, but was surprised to find it completely frozen over except for several channels of open water. We didn’t find any ducks here either, so our duck hunt became a pheasant hunt.

This is the reason I carry a backpack of emergency and first aid supplies while hunting.

Doc worked the heavy brush but instead of finding a bird, he found a porcupine and returned with quills in his nose. I didn’t find any quills inside his mouth (until we returned home) and those in his nose weren’t deeply embedded so I quickly extracted them and we continued hunting.

Doc checks out the reservoir.

It wasn’t snowing here, but a wind was blowing and the wind chill was 14 degrees (F). We were hunting with the wind was to our backs when Doc whirled around and began working back into the wind. No sooner did he go on point than a covey of partridge flushed.

Doc makes a nice blind retrieve on a Hungarian (Gray) partridge.

I dropped one of the birds and Doc made a nice blind retrieve. We hunted our way back to the Toyota, and knowing how bad the roads were, I decided to return home rather than continue hunting and counted six slide-offs and a wreck on the way back.

Doc with the partridge he retrieved.

While grooming and bathing Doc, we were able to do a more thorough check and found a porcupine quill deeply buried in his gums just above his front teeth. A pair of pliers were needed to remove this one, but Doc Savage the Puppy of Bronze hardly flinched.

A porcupine quill we found deeply embedded in Doc’s gums while grooming and bathing him.

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Mia gets the blues

Mia had the blues last Friday – well, one anyway, a Blue grouse (officially Dusky Grouse).

Mia waits for us to catch up

Mia waits for us to catch up

Wade, a friend of mine, and I went grouse hunting in Wolverine Canyon but being deer season, most of the locations were already claimed including the canyon in which we were intending to hunt Ruffed Grouse.

Mia in Wolverine Canyon

Mia in Wolverine Canyon

We drove up to a box canyon where I’ve occasionally seen Ruffed Grouse but today hiked all the way up to the top. We ran into a Blue near the top and Wade dropped it.

Mia was able to find it in the heavy pines and although she didn’t retrieve it to hand, she did the hard part. We ran into another Blue grouse but weren’t able to see it long enough for a shot.

Mia on point

Mia on point

While returning to the truck, we spooked a deer in the timber and since it was deer season, spent a few minutes looking for it. Although we could hear it in the trees, we never did see it.

Wade and Mia with the Blue Grouse

Wade and Mia with the Blue Grouse

The weather forecast was for heavy showers, so with the wind picking up and light rain beginning to fall, we decided not to press our luck and called it a day.

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.

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 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.