Mia enters cattails on her duck search
The difference that a couple of days make. Saturday morning was warm and windy, hunters lined the ponds and ducks filled the air, but Monday was 20 degrees colder, perfectly calm, few birds flying and fewer hunters shooting.
I missed several opportunities on flyovers and a couple of ducks that we flushed, much to Mia’s disappointment. We had been hunting awhile when Mia went on a nice point and I flushed a rooster Pheasant. Unfortunately, Pheasant season wouldn’t open for a couple of weeks.
Mia on point
I dropped a hen Mallard on the far side of a large patch of cattails. Knowing it was asking too much of Mia for a blind retrieve through acres of cattails, I took her around to the opposite side to begin our search.
Mia with a flotilla of ducks behind her
It was about a quarter of a mile to where we could cross, but once we came to the general area where the duck fell, I sent Mia in to find it.
Mia with the duck she found and retrieved
Mia is a very cerebral hunter and has developed an interesting way of searching. She would wade through the cattails a few feet then stop, sniff, listen, and proceed a few more feet. I enjoyed watching her work the cattails in that manner and it wasn’t long before she burst out of them with bird in mouth.
Doc ended Saturday’s bird hunt with a double retrieve and seemed to find the swim refreshing and invigorating. It’s a popular hunting area so I was surprised that for a Saturday morning, there were only two other hunters. I was also surprised by the number of birds in the air for this time of year.
Doc works the cattails for ducks.
We began the day hunting some backwaters that are normally dry this time of year. I had several shots at some fly-overs but missed and regretted not bringing decoys, given how the ducks were coming in. I then turned our attention to Pheasants as we hunted our way over to the river.
Doc returns from chasing mud hens in the water
I also regretted not having any shells loaded for goose. A flock of geese flew directly overhead and would have been in range with goose loads, but I didn’t want to take a chance wounding one with my duck loads.
Doc waits while I stalk ducks, honoring of a different kind.
The ducks had pretty much stopped flying by noon so I drove to another hunting area several miles away. Even though it was a light wind, the water was choppy and intimidated Doc, so I encouraged him to chase some mud hens (Coots) that were swimming nearby.
Doc swims out for the first duck
Doc retrieves the second duck
We hunted along the river bank for couple of miles when I finally dropped two diving ducks and Doc made a nice double retrieve.
Doc with the two ducks he retrieved.
I’ve compiled a variety of photos and videos into a music video as the 2015 hunting season comes to an end. And once again, I’ve added some “never before seen” photos and videos that were not posted in my blog or on my Facebook page.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Now if I can just do a better job of hitting my targets…
Mia on point with nose to the wind. It turns out she was pointing a flock of ducks.
Bad roads from our first winter storm wasn’t enough to keep me home, and the storm seems to have pushed a lot of ducks into our area because we saw flock after flock. And I would have just about limited if it wasn’t for my atrocious shooting.
Mia heads out for the first of two ducks
Just after starting out, Mia went on point with her nose to the air. I eased around her which brought me onto the banks of the stream and eye-to-eye with a greenhead, and I missed my shot when he flushed. A large flock of ducks that I couldn’t see, flushed and I suppose the ducks were what Mia was pointing. They scattered and I missed my second shot.
Returning with the first duck.
We flushed several more flocks that didn’t afford me a shot, then came right on top of four ducks sitting on the bank. They flushed and I missed the next two shots, easy ones too. When my pattern hit the water I could see that for whatever reason, I was shooting under them.
Mia heads out for her second duck
We continued on and a flock of ducks passed overhead, this time I dropped one with each shot and Mia had a double retrieve to make. We hunted for a while longer and flushed a few more ducks but I wasn’t able to get a shot on any of them.
There were enough ducks flying to encourage me to set out several decoys. Even though I had on chest waders, the water was deep enough that I had to set them close to the bank; another step and I would have been in over my head.
Returning with her second duck.
We sat over the decoys for a while and other than two singles that passed high overhead, nothing was flying.
What’s a bird hunt on Halloween without a scare? And both Mia and I got a little scare Friday morning when we became separated and had it not been for the GPS collar that I’m field testing for HuntinDawg.com, our half-hour separation could have been hours if not lost altogether.
We began our hunt soon after sunrise with rooster Pheasants cackling all around us, but they are wild and savvy birds. Two big roosters flushed well over 100 yards from us, and throughout the morning I could hear roosters flushing in the distance, cackling as they flew off.
Had I trusted Mia as I should, I could have probably bagged a rooster. Mia was working some scrub brush when she must have caught a weak scent, stopped, and gave me her “I think something’s here” look. Rather than going over to her and let her work out the scent, I called her back, and as she started back to me, a rooster flushed from deeper in the brush. It was a longer shot than I was willing to take and let it go.
Not long after that, we became separated in the heavy brush. The breeze and brush played tricks on her as I called and whistled and at times she was up to 400 yards away, but thanks to her GPS collar I was able to work my way close enough to her that she could track my voice. After a warm welcome, we set off again.
I noticed some ripples in the water while hunting the stream, but it was only a couple of wild horses getting a drink. However I did notice several ducks upstream from us and we went after them. I doffed my coat and had Mia wait with it while I sneaked up on the ducks. They flushed and I dropped two.
Mia did an excellent job of retrieving the first duck, but the second drifted to the opposite shore and she had a much more difficult time with it. After several attempts, she was able to find it and retrieved it nicely.