Mia’s duck hunt

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.

Advertisements

The Spinone combine

The NFL has their combine and last week was my Spinone combine. The guys haven’t pointed a bird since November and haven’t retrieved one since January, so I just wanted to take a look at them before we began our summer training. I didn’t do any training or give corrections other than a couple of “whoas” – it was just a matter of setting up the scenarios and let the dogs worked them.

Tracking
Tracking consisted of dragging a goose wing for roughly a 100 feet with a couple of direction changes thrown in. Doc lost the scent but was able to pick it up again and found the wing without much trouble. Mia did an excellent job of tracking to the wing. For whatever reason, this particular video didn’t turn out too well.

Blind retrieve
I placed Pheasant wings about 250 feet out. By the time I planted Mia’s wing and brought her into the pasture, I had forgotten where it was and cast her in the wrong direction (more about marking and casting in an upcoming post). Regardless, she was able to hit the scent cone and work back to the wing. As with her “aunt Sophie”, retrieving is done on her terms. Doc doesn’t care about taking a straight line to the mark always ends up in the right place.

Point and honor
I braced Doc and Mia for pointing and honoring. Doc went on point which Mia honored from a good distance. I planted another wing and this time had Doc “stay” while Mia hunted. When she went on point, I called Doc and he honored nicely. There was a time when Mia was a speed demon like Doc, but she’s become a much more methodical hunter, and by this time, there was a lot of scent out in the pasture for them to work through.

In all, I was happy with Doc and Mia considering their 4-month layoff and it will be interesting to see what they look like after three months of consistent training.

Docs duck search

Since Doc didn’t get a fair chance to hunt on Friday, I took him again on Saturday. We first had to drop the rescued Lab off with the local Animal Control officer but I felt good about it: first, the officer has Labs and hunts with them so she knows the breed; second, they will keep her for a week and if not claimed, will send her to either a foster family or no-kill animal shelter.

A popular hunting spot on Saturdays

A popular hunting spot on Saturdays

The Rescued Lab

As we suspected, she is about a year old and has already had one litter of puppies. The poor girl is a mental wreck and terrified of everything so it’s our guess that she was either abused or traumatized by her ordeal. It was also possible that she was dumped rather than lost.

Doc is naturally camouflaged in the snow and grass

Doc is naturally camouflaged in the snow and grass

Waiting for Geese

Literally thousands of geese were in the air but not many coming over the bluffs where I set up. We waited for over an hour and I got one shot, but the goose was a little out of range. So as we did the day before, went down the river to hunt ducks.

Doc in the river

Doc in the river

The Porcupine

Doc gave me a real scare when I saw him with his nose about a foot from the butt-end of a porcupine. Thankfully I was able to call him away, and the porcupine waddled down the hill, comically tripping and rolling as he went.

The river is far more dangerous than it appears

The river is far more dangerous than it appears

We hunted the river and I missed two shots on ducks we flushed, then climbed out of the canyon only to find the duck blinds still occupied. Some flights were headed our way so I “Whoa’d” Doc and hunkered down so as not to be seen and maybe get a shot myself.

Doc retrieves the duck he found

Doc retrieves the duck he found

Doc’s Duck Search

A group of four ducks came overhead and the hunters in a nearby blind dropped two of them. After visiting with them for a few minutes, I asked if they had found both of the birds since they didn’t have a dog. The lady who had knocked down of the ducks was still out searching for it, so I offered Doc’s services.

We searched awhile and when she finally gave up looking for it, I took Doc much farther downwind than where she had marked it’ fall. It didn’t take Doc long before he caught the bird’s scent and worked his way up the scent cone for about 25 yards where he found the duck.

After a short chase through the sage brush, Doc caught it and made a perfect retrieve. I called the lady over and delivered her bird, and we left with a bunch of hunters duly impressed with Doc’s abilities.

Mia, Doc, and the junior hunters

Family Outdoor Festival

Family Outdoor Festival

Doc and Mia did a great job at this year’s Family Outdoor Festival as they welcomed junior hunters to the joy of hunting. I was told by one of the organizers that several people asked to hunt with the “dogs with the funny name” so they’re getting a following.

Mia and the first group of hunters

Mia and the first group of hunters

We hunted with three groups this year, and you couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather. I handled Mia with the first group and although they didn’t bring down any birds, everyone had a great time.

Mia on point

Mia on point

Doc went out with the second group and this time a girl dropped her first bird. Talk about an excited kid!

Doc on point

Doc on point

It was a blind retrieve for Doc due to the tall grass and slope of the hill. He cast very well to the bird but when he found it, went on point rather than retrieving it. Knowing when to retrieve and when to point will come with experience.

Doc and a junior hunters first bird

Doc and a junior hunters first bird

Lunch time is boring!

Lunch time is boring!

After lunch I braced Doc and Mia with our last group and we really got into the birds. A runaway German Shorthair from another group chased a Pheasant across our area. Upon returning to it’s own group, the Shorthair went on a beautiful point just ahead of us, and Doc and Mia honored nicely.

Mia and Doc honor a rogue GSP on point

Mia and Doc honor a rogue GSP on point

A kid from our group flushed and dropped the bird, the Shorthair was collected by his owner, and Mia made a nice retrieve. One of our hunters limited out while another got one bird.

Mia retrieves a Pheasant

Mia retrieves a Pheasant

Mia and Doc on point while a junior hunter moves in to flush

Mia and Doc on point while a junior hunter moves in to flush

Twice during the day, Mia went on point but we were unable to find the bird and the group continued on. Undaunted, Mia returned on both occasions to find and point the bird for us. She is one very smart and determined little hunter.

point and honor

point and honor

Doc retrieves a Pheasant

Doc retrieves a Pheasant

Regardless of whether the kids got a bird or not, everyone had a great time and they loved hunting over the “dogs with the funny name.”

Mia, Doc, and successful first-time hunters

Mia, Doc, and successful first-time hunters

Doc and Mia brace on Pheasants

Doc and Mia work the reeds for Pheasants

Doc and Mia work the reeds for Pheasants

I braced Doc and Mia for the first time this year. I waited until after lunch to go hunting, after the morning rush of hunters had left and before the late afternoon crowd arrived.

Doc and Mia work into the wind

Doc and Mia work into the wind

We came onto a rooster just after starting out and the guys caught it out in the open as it was crossing some very thick deep mud. Maybe that’s why it didn’t flush at first, instead it hunkered down and tried to hide.

Doc honors Mia on point, the Pheasant trying to hide in the open

Doc honors Mia on point, the Pheasant trying to hide in the open

Mia was returning from some cattails she was hunting and went on point, which Doc honored nicely. They held the bird well enough for me to take several pictures before flushing it, and Mia made a nice retrieve.

Doc leads Mia back on her retrieve

Doc leads Mia back on her retrieve

We hunted for another three hours with no sign of birds. Even though the temperature was in the upper 50s, it was sunny and the guys were becoming hot so Doc cooled off by taking a swim in the drain ditch that we were hunting.

Doc cools off with a swim in the drain ditch

Doc cools off with a swim in the drain ditch

I was glad that I sprayed the guys down with ShowSheen before hunting because they really got into the cockle burrs and mud, but grooming them out was relatively quick and painless.

Doc and Mia pose with their Pheasant

Doc and Mia pose with their Pheasant

The guys enjoyed a lazy Saturday evening, Elvis from his therapy visits, and Doc and Mia from their Pheasant hunt.

Elvis doesn't want to get too close to the skeleton dogs

Elvis doesn’t want to get too close to the skeleton dogs

Mia, Doc and Elvis tired from a busy weekend

Mia, Doc and Elvis tired from a busy weekend

Spring training

Friday I braced the guys on several birds and they are doing quite well with honoring.

Doc established point with Elettra and Mia honoring.

20160219_110344Mia caught a scent of something and went on point, Doc and Elettra honored nicely.

Mia on point with Doc and Elettra honoring. Whatever she could scent, it was no longer there.

Mia on point with Doc and Elettra honoring. Whatever she could scent, it was no longer there.

Elettra established point on the second bird with Doc and Mia honoring.

Elettra on point with Mia and Doc honoring.

Elettra on point with Mia and Doc honoring.

Doc established point on the third bird only a couple of feet away, as he and Elettra were hunting in a cross wind.

Doc on point with Elettra and Mia honoring

Doc on point with Elettra and Mia honoring

After working on their honoring, I worked Elvis on a bird and he did a nice job of going on point and holding it.

A training reminder

The guys don’t appreciate vacations and become restless between the end of hunting season and start of their off-season training. Occasional workouts on the treadmill and runs in the pasture still don’t appease them, they want birds.

So on Saturday afternoon I put the Spins on two birds each just to get their minds back on training. It was about ten minutes of training for the guys but a 3-hour session for me, since most of the time was spent planting the birds and walking the spins between the house and pasture – like a football game that only has 11 minutes of football action and over 2 hours of commercials and sideline shots of players standing around.

We trained with the wind at our backs since I wasn’t about to walk to the opposite end of the pasture and work back against it. The guys did a nice job of quartering with the wind but not being dummies, focused their attention on the few tufts of dead grass that provided what little cover there was.

This reintroduction gets their mind back on pointing since the last half of hunting season is spent primarily retrieving waterfowl, and maybe only briefly, satisfies their bird obsession.