A white Christmas in Oregon with your dogs and friends is about as good as it gets. With sunny skies and a fresh cover of snow, the weather yesterday was perfect for day of chasing pheasants in central Oregon. Tooey and I joined up with Norm and his Boykin Spaniel, Scarlett (many posts about them over the last few years), plus Norm’s son Kent, who is visiting from Illinois.
Bagging birds when we go hunting with Norm is almost a sure thing if there are birds to be bagged, and with the addition of Kent (a world class clay shooter himself), it is a virtual guarantee that if there are pheasants flushed, then there will be birds brought home. And because I was flanked by two amazing shooters, I got to carry just a camera and a dog whistle while working with Tooey.
Tooey, who has two legs of her AKC Junior Hunter Upland title, is still an enthusiastic rookie. She has often been suspicious and easily distracted at hunt tests with all the strange gunners, judges, and an audience watching from the gallery. So working with gunners she knows and trusts is a great confidence builder for her. (Cooper on the other hand, never met a person with a shotgun who wasn’t his best friend.)
Tooey immediately found a scent and started tracking through the snow. With head down and nose to the ground, she soon became oblivious that we were supposed to be working as a team. Tooey had pushed well out of shooting range when she flushed up her first bird. But in no time at all, she was able to locate another rooster, which she flushed up right in front of Norm, who got in a good shot. One down, retrieved, and in the bag.
Her third flush flew fast and low, straight away over the horizon. Norm and Kent let that one go rather risk just wounding the bird. As a handler, I did let Tooey roam a bit too far out at times, but for the most part, she systematically inspected and pushed through heavy cover right in front of us. Of the birds flushed that were remotely in range, only one bird was missed by the gunners.
Mea culpa as a photographer. The above image was my last photo of the day because my camera battery was soon exhausted in the cold, and my spares were safe and warm at home.
Tooey’s final count was 5 birds flushed, with two shot and delivered to hand.
To her dismay, we then put her up in Norm’s truck and headed back to the field with Scarlett. This time I traded my dead camera for a shotgun, while Norm handled his little brown bird-finding machine. Scarlett’s first rooster was caught asleep at the wheel, and Scarlett delivered the live bird to Norm. All other birds took note and flew. Scarlett’s score was 4 delivered to hand. Collectively for both dogs and the gunners, there were 10 flushes, only one miss, and all shot birds (6) retrieved and delivered.
Upland hunting with Spaniels is best, in my opinion, with one dog and two gunners. Due to logistics, I had to leave one of my 2 pups behind. Because Cooper got to go duck hunting recently, he drew the short straw this time. Patrice was away on Christmas family duties, so Cooper got to spend the day at Norm’s house being entertained by Carol (see her amazing work on this post).
She made this photo of the boy scanning the horizon waiting for our return, just knowing we had made a mistake by not taking him. I had tried to trick him by leaving his truck behind so he would assume that I had stepped away for just a moment, but I’m guessing he figured out the scam pretty quick.
Not to worry. In two days we will be out there again, this time with Cooper along, too.