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Archive for September, 2014

Day 8 is as boring as driving on the Interstate because that is what we did: Rock Springs, Wyoming to Brigham City, Utah.

There was a stop at the Browning Museum in Ogden, the original home of Browning (not too far from corporate headquarters in Morgan). On display is the very first Superposed Shotgun, which is the first commercial over/under shotgun made (and still in production). This was John Browning’s last invention and patent (1926), and it is the precursor to Tooey’s 28-gauge Citori.

 The very first over/under shotgun (1926)

The very first over/under shotgun (1926)

And then it was time to hit the motel in Brigham City and catch up on emails and blog post entries. We are scheduled to be out hunting nearby tomorrow morning. So there should be some fresh content and new geography.

So how do I make blog posts on the road? Just log on with my laptop, upload any relevant photos, sit on the bed, and write. Of course having a technical adviser who make sure I keep the facts straight helps.

My copy editor looking under my shoulder

My copy editor looking under my shoulder — photo by Norm Koshkarian

To be continued . . .

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Day 6 of Pheasant Quest 2014

We are still on the hot and sunny high plains of Kansas. We hunted the morning, bagged another 10 pheasants, had lunch, packed, and headed north.

Now while getting 10 pheasants in the morning is nothing to sniff at, it is becoming the Kansas normal. But the highlight of the hunt was a record retrieve by Miss Tooey.

The dogs flushed up a rooster out of the milo that went vertical as though it had been in a rocket silo. The pheasant then streaked north, and Kent (a top skeet shooter and instructor) took a long shot at the disappearing rooster and connected. The bird took a death glide and fell 200 yards away. Tooey marked the fall and lit out across two strips of milo and two wheat belts, straight to where the bird had landed in some grass. This is a record retrieve distance for Tooey, and I couldn’t be more delighted. And this was after she ran down a crippled bird that landed and had run some distance. Tooey and Scarlett didn’t give up, and that is why Tooey found the live bird and brought it to me for a humane coup de gras. A trained dog makes for a good hunt.

Tooey and her 200 yard retrieve for Kent

Tooey and her 200 yard retrieve for Kent

Because we hunted early in order to beat the heat, the low sun made for some nice dog photography potential.

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Tooey’s last morning in Kansas

After we packed the car, Norm, Scarlett, Tooey, and I headed north to the Nebraska panhandle while Kent headed home to Illinois. By 5:00 p.m., we made it to a little ranch south of Bridgeport, Nebraska. Behind our cabin was a gorgeous pond surrounded by cattails. Tooey bee-lined it to the water to wash off the Kansas dust. Both pups got in a few water retrieves while Norm and I broke out the cigars and scotch. The coyotes came in to observe and comment while we basked in this oasis of a Nebraska ranch, anticipating the pheasant hunt of the following morning.

1 pond plus 2 water dogs makes for happy pups

1 pond plus 2 water dogs makes for happy pups

A great way to wash and Irish Water Spaniel

A great way to wash an Irish Water Spaniel

Norm discussing the finer points of cigars and scotch with Scarlett

Norm discussing the finer points of cigars and scotch with Scarlett

Day 7

Last night around midnight, Tooey, who had been curled up on the bunk bed with me, got up, ran to the door, and started barking like it was the 4th of July. Bright flashes were coming in from around the window curtains, followed by long rolling rumbles of Midwest thunder. The weather had shifted fast while we slept. Notice the cloud build up behind Norm in the previous photo. Well those clouds were followed by driving rain and a night of thunder storms with Tooey barking till dawn (not restful).

The daylight broke with non-stop lightning and more rain. We consulted with the ranch owner and determined that the weather forecast was not compatible with walking in the fields with 28-gauge lightning rods in our hands. He had reviewed the weather maps, as most Midwest farmers are prone to do, and the prospects were dimming. So discretion being the better part of valor, we abandoned pheasant hunting in Nebraska and ran from the storm front.

As soon as we were safely out from under this storm cell, I checked the weather in our planned hunting area.

Say no more . . .

Say no more . . .

This map shows tornado and flood warnings where we had planned to hunt, but now we are in western Wyoming, safely to the left of the orange. No, Tooey, we are not in Kansas (or Nebraska) anymore.

To be continued . . .

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Today, I encountered a new problem while hunting birds. This was the first time I lost track of how many flushes Tooey and Scarlett made because there were simply too many to keep track of in my head. Of those flushes, there were many that were never shot at due to distance, safety, or being hens (we only shoot at roosters). And of the ones that were actually suitable to shoot at, we now have another 8 in the cooler.

I have to brag. I am so pleased with Tooey, especially on the retrieves. She marked every downed bird today, with the maximum mark being about 100 yards into the field of milo. And that bird was sufficiently unscathed that when she found it, she flushed it again. It went another 100 yards before I made a nice crossing shot where it fell into an open wheat field. Then Tooey put on another sprint, picked up the bird, and delivered it to hand.

Delivery to hand after a couple of 100 yard sprints

Delivery to hand after a couple of 100 yard sprints

The high plains of Kansas are visually remarkable in their starkness. One can spin 360 degrees and see nothing but horizon and crops. And with a low angle sun, it is very photogenic, especially if you have a stylish Irish Water Spaniel to pose.

Striking a pose by the wheat silos near McDonald, Kansas

Striking a pose by the wheat silos near McDonald, Kansas

Scanning the horizon for more birds to flush and retrieve

Scanning the horizon for more birds to flush and retrieve

The next photo is Tooey with Kent (Norm’s son) and a bird that eluded us for several minutes until Tooey tracked it down and forced the flush. Again, I am so delighted with Tooey’s performance. She may not have set the AKC hunt test circuit on fire in pursuit of her titles in the retriever and upland venues, but when it counts in real-world hunting, she brings home the goods. (More on this topic in future posts.)

Tooey and Kent with a handsome rooster

Tooey and Kent with a handsome rooster

Tooey and Scarlett wore themselves out by noon with several miles of running, a couple of dozen flushes (a guess), and 8 retrieves. But with an afternoon’s rest, they will be back at it tomorrow morning for our final day in Kansas before we move on to Nebraska.

To be continued . . .

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And yes there are pheasants in Kansas.

Tooey and Scarlett had no problem finding and flushing Kansas pheasants this morning. I actually stopped counting, but maybe around 20. My shooting was not that impressive in the beginning, so there were quite a few opportunities for me to work with Tooey on being steady to flush and shot. But by the end of the morning, I settled into the shooting groove (4 roosters for me this morning), and Tooey retrieved a total of 6 birds, and Scarlett 2 others. (Norm and Kent brought down the other birds.)

Were you looking for this?

Were you looking for this?

We were hunting in alternating strips of milo and native grasses, with most of the pheasants holding up in the milo. After Tooey determined that the milo was source of the birds, she stayed in tight and just worked the crop, only going out into the grass for the retrieves. After 3 hours, the dogs were tired and warm, so we stopped at 11:00 a.m., and returned to where we are staying at Beaver Creek Ranch. I couldn’t be happier with Tooey’s performance on Kansas birds. And we have 2 more days at this pheasant paradise.

3 guys, 2 dogs, 9 birds

3 guys, 2 dogs, 9 birds

Beaver Creek Ranch

Beaver Creek Ranch

The only pernicious seeds that clung to the dog’s coat were sand burrs. About 1/4″ in diameter, they are the perfect nucleus for a matt. But as luck would have it, the ranch has a covered hot tub on the shady side of the house that matches the height of a grooming table. So it only took a few minutes with a very relaxed Tooey to extricate the burrs.

A Kansas grooming table and one tired puppy.

A Kansas grooming table and one successful IWS

To be continued . . .

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Again, today was mostly just sitting in the car on the Interstate, but with one diversion. We stopped in Sydney, Nebraska to walk the floor of Cabela’s hometown store.

Tooey in front of the worlds largest outdoor recreation store

Tooey in front of the worlds largest outdoor recreation store

For the 18 people in the world who do not know about Cabela’s, it is a candy store for the outdoor recreation world, and they sell most things that you need, and much that you do not. (I got to handle a used Holland & Holland shotgun ($34,000) but it didn’t fit that well, so I passed.) Being the flagship store, the interior is decorated with a somewhat bizarre cross between a museum of natural history and sporting goods store.

customer service to the right, guns to the left

customer service to the right, guns to the left

But it was time to hit the road and go to Kansas. We cut across the corner of NE Colorado, back into Nebraska, and then south into Kansas. Interstates morphed into blue highways, and then county roads, and finally into 10 miles of gravel and dirt until we arrived at Beaver Creek Ranch. An oasis in the high plains of Kansas. Tooey and Scarlett got to scout out some pasture before we settled in for the night. Tomorrow looks promising.

So this is Kansas

So this is Kansas

The last map for a few days as we will be in this area for 3 days, actually working the fields for birds.

Laramie to the Beaver Creek Ranch in NE Kansas

Laramie to the Beaver Creek Ranch in NE Kansas

To be continued . . .

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In a nutshell, Day 2 was another full day of driving towards Kansas at 80 miles an hour on the Interstate. Boring (mostly).

The day started by leaving Burely, Idaho in search of some fine Interstate dining. The best opportunity appeared over the state line in Snowville, Utah.

Tooey recommends the Cattlemans Breakfast

Tooey recommends the Cattleman’s Breakfast

Here I digress with a bit of geographical trivia. Interstate I-84 starts in Portland and heads south-east for about 800 miles to Morgan, Utah. We live about a mile from start of I-84 in Portland, and at the other end, the tiny town of Morgan is the home of the Browning company.

For those of you who are not aficionados of shotguns, Browning has been in the firearms business since the 19th century and makes some of the best world-class guns for hunting and target sports, including one of Tooey’s personal favorite, her 28 gauge Browning Citori Lighting, which is packed away in her car. So we just had to stop at the factory outlet store. That’s why the Intestate was built between our house and their store, right?

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Tooey and Scarlett in their VIP parking spot in Morgan, Utah

After I-84 ends in Morgan, it was time to join I-80 and head into Wyoming. Without casting aspersions on this windswept wasteland, let the following photo say it all.

Welcome to Wyoming

Welcome to Wyoming

So as of Day 2, we have clocked over 1100 miles and will be passing through Sydney, Nebraska tomorrow morning. (Can you say Cabela’s flagship store?!) And by dinner time, we should be ensconced in northwest Kansas at our first hunting destination of Beaver Creek Ranch.

Burley, Idaho to Laramie, Wyoming, via Morgan, Utah

Burley, Idaho to Laramie, Wyoming, via Morgan, Utah

To be continued . . .

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Often email contains stuff you just don’t want to read until you have to. But not today. Today, I received my e-copy of Rat Tails, the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s newsletter. Opening that email was a special delight because it features Russ’s photography and includes my article.

It’s fun to see one’s work in print! And I get to tell Cooper and Tooey that once again, they are famous. First the Tooey graced the center spread of the June 2013 issue of Gun Dog Magazine, and now Cooper is featured on the cover of Rat Tails!

Click the image below to open a PDF that includes the full size cover and my article:

Rat_Tails _Sept-Oct_cover

 

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The plan: Drive 3000 miles across 6 states with two dogs, and then find, flush, and retrieve a bazillion pheasants.

Day 1 is the rather boring but a necessary step of getting from Portland, Oregon to northwest Kansas, where we are going to start a western state hunting odyssey. We just have to get in a car and drive until our butts are numb.

Step 1 of Day 1 was to drive from Portland to Beavercreek, Oregon to pick up Norm and his Boykin Spaniel, Scarlett, the 28 lb. bird-finding machine.

Russ, Tooey, Norm, and Scarlett

Russ, Tooey, Norm, and Scarlett

Check.

Step 2: Load 2 dogs, six shotguns, and other misc. accessories into the car and then drive east to Burely, Idaho (about 600 miles).

I-84 from Portland to Burely in one day

I-84 from Portland to Burely in one day

Check.

Tomorrow should get us to eastern Wyoming or eastern Nebraska.

To be continued . . . .

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Some years ago, our friend and sometime hunting partner, Rod, told us to always check our dogs’ eyes when we come in from hunting. The reason? To find and remove any seeds that may have worked their way in under the eyelids.

Our IWS regularly come in from hunting covered with debris — seeds, twigs, burrs, grass — so checking the eyes has become a regular part of the post-hunt, post-field training, coming-home-and-cleaning-up process. In fact, last Saturday, while driving home from a day of hunting with a debris-covered Cooper, Russ joked to his buddy that the first thing out of my mouth when they arrived at the house would be, “Oh my God, did you check his eyes?”

And of course, Russ had checked his eyes, several times out in the field and just before coming home. I checked his eyes when they got home. We found seeds, and got out everything we could find.

By the time Sunday afternoon came around, Cooper’s eyes were red, swollen, and weepy, particularly the left eye. We first thought it was allergies from all the grasses, and so gave him Benedryl. But on Monday morning, the swelling hadn’t gone down. In fact, it had gotten worse.

We got him into the vet at their earliest appointment, where they examined his eyes, pulling the upper, lower, and “third” (nictitating membrane) eyelids away from the eyeball with forceps. Then they put a yellow dye in his eyes and looked at them using ultraviolet light.

2014-09-12_ODFW hunt-4-2

Despite all our efforts, the vet found a seed under the third eyelid (the brown inner lid in the lower inside corner of the eye). They also found that the seed had scratched the cornea (which shows up as green on the outside corner of the eyeball).

They also checked his feet, which had gotten uncomfortably chafed by the grasses and cat tails, and small cuts on his nose. These injuries are annoying and uncomfortable, but not dangerous.

For his eyes, they prescribed a 2x/day ointment, which I think also soothes his eyes. And for his feet, we were told to simply clean them and apply antibiotic ointment to the chafed areas.

It’s been 4 days now since the vet appointment, and his eyes have returned to their normal shape and have lost their red weepiness. His feet are healing up nicely, and the little nicks on his nose and also just about closed and healed.

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Carlin in the pumpkin field

Where did Russ throw that orange bumper?

On most Wednesdays, Carlin and I go to the gun club for some field training for him, and a few rounds of skeet for me. My gun club is located south of Portland in the heart of the Willamette Valley, a verdant agricultural zone that is now in peak harvest season. The club is surrounded by garlic, onions, corn, green beans, grass (seed for golf courses), wheat, and, of course, pie pumpkins.

Today, after Carlin’s noon-time swim and water retrieves in the pond near the club house, we wandered across the road for this photo-op. His collar was a perfect match for the acres of blaze orange, so I couldn’t resist. These pumpkins will be in cans by the end of this week and on their way to grocery shelves waiting for this year’s holiday desserts.

If you find an Irish Water Spaniel hair in your pie this year, it is either from one of your dogs, or your pie filling was from Oregon.

Bon Appétit

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Cooper, on task in a sea of oats

Cooper, on task in a sea of oats

Cooper is a remarkable dog in many ways. Sure, he has a collection of titles and a wall of ribbons, but this weekend he raised the bar for dogs and community service.

Once again, Cooper volunteered his services to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) as a working field dog in two days of pheasant hunting workshops for new hunters. Now this may not seem like a difficult task for a great bird dog, but just like last year, weather conspired to make this really hard work. With temperatures pushing 90 degrees and blazing sun, this was easily 60 degrees too hot for ideal pheasant hunting conditions. Dogs overheat, scent is hard to find, and the vegetation is at its summer peak, which means it is thick, harsh, and with billions of seeds and all things velcro.

This workshop was held on the ODFW managed wildlife area of Sauvie Island in the Columbia River, where the crops are planted exclusively for wildlife food. The pheasants had lots of cover, from corn, millet, and oats, plus all the native grasses and cattails around the sloughs running through the area. Cooper took a half dozen novice hunters out with him for several hours each day trying to locate, flush, and retrieve birds.

On Friday, the one bird that was successfully shot by a new hunter, went down in heavy cover and disappeared. This is the second bird in Cooper’s 5 years of hunting that he could not locate. (It may have run fast and far after it hit the ground). But with high temperatures, low humidity, and one hot dog, I will cut him some slack on his stellar record. On Saturday, the flushed birds eluded the hunters’ aim, so no retrieves were in order.

I managed Cooper’s temperature by soaking his coat, frequent breaks, numerous swims in the sloughs, and plenty of cold water drinks. Each hunter in Cooper’s group carried a quart of cold water for him, and he happily consumed most of it.

Cooper with his students, taking a mid-day break in the shade

Cooper with his students, taking a mid-day break in the shade

Several volunteer dogs and their handlers had cancelled at the last minute, rather than work these fields under these conditions. So Cooper had to really step up and fill the void for the workshop participants. Chafed foot pads, sore muscles, a scratched face, and a couple of hours of grooming the seeds out of his coat was the cost of doing business. But Cooper and his hunting buddy, Scarlett, did what they could to encourage new hunters to the world hunting over a dog.

So not only did Cooper help new hunters explore the world of pheasant hunting, he was able to contribute significant financial support for the program. Because Oregon state hunting activities are funded exclusively through hunting license fees and nothing from the Oregon general fund, the only other available money is through matching federal grants. And because volunteer work is considered a contribution on the state’s part, Cooper was able to secure a tidy bit of federal funding for this program by donating his time and skill (pro-rated at $25 an hour!). Outstanding performance by this bird dog!

Cooper, Outstanding in his field of oats.

Cooper, Outstanding in his field of oats

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A bit of recovery time, Tooey relaxing in the sun.

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Tooey’s resting quietly after having her spay operation on Wednesday (September 10). She also had a growth removed from her flank, which is the bare patch you can see on her side.

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I am glad to have the growth removed. It’s been growing very slowly over the last four years. Last time we had it biopsied, it was just a benign, fluid-filled cyst.

I am sad about the spay, though. Dogs are generally healthier when they keep all their parts and all their hormones. But Tooey has been suffering with false pregnancies, with fruitless nesting behaviors, mood swings, and swollen teats, even lactating for non-existant puppies. And as much as she loves all her people, I know she hasn’t wanted to be sent away to her co-owner’s when she goes into season.

Plus, she’s already had two large litters of beautiful, well-loved puppies, and we don’t plan to breed her again. So with all that, plus our having two intact boys in the house, it was time to have her spayed.

Since she’s an older girl, the healing will take longer than it would a younger dog. We’re to keep her indoors for two weeks, except to pee and poo, and keep the elizabethan collar (seen in the photo) on her whenever she’s unsupervised. It’s important that she not chew on any of the stitches, on belly or side. If she were to do that, it would mean more surgery and more stitches to repair the damage.

Fortunately, at least up to now, she hasn’t been too interested in her stitches, so until the incisions start itching (if they do), we should be OK.

It will be great to have Tooey up and out with us again. There are games to play, hikes to take, and birds to find this fall.

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While Russ was out running errands, it looks as though the furniture movers came again. dogs_furniture Lets see:

  • The couch is turned over onto its back. Again.
  • The dog bed is moved half way across the room.
  • The end tables are no longer nested.
  • The two black chairs are pushed up against the wall.
  • The white ottoman is flipped over.

I’m pretty sure Cooper had little to do with this — he’s trying to stay above it all by perching on the black ottoman, which is the only piece of furniture still in its place. The other two innocent-looking ones — Tooey and Carlin — now, those two, I’m sure are out perpetrators, er… furniture movers.

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Labor Day, 2014 is exactly 6 months since the Emmy x Harry litter hit the ground in Alaska. Because Carlin’s 6-month birth date coincided with a holiday, we had some free time to celebrate as only field dog owners might understand. Now that summer is beginning to hint of fall, we spent the morning with all three dogs at one of our favorite training grounds, St. Louis Ponds.

Carlin at 6 months

Carlin at 6 months

We started off with some tracking exercises. I laid a duck-scented trail through the grass, trees, blackberries, more grass and then left the duck (deceased) about a 100 yards from the point of origin. I then sent Cooper on a 50-yard blind retrieve to the start point, and then let him “hunt it up”. About a minute later he returned with the duck, as planned. It took an extra tutorial for Tooey to find it, and Carlin came along for the session as an intern.

Then it was time for retrieves. As this was Carlin’s first exposure to a duck, we let him watch the other dogs do their retrieves and then gave him the opportunity to pick it up and do a retrieve with a new taste and texture in his mouth.

Carlin gets his first taste of duck

Carlin gets his first taste of duck

And that is followed with a retrieve . . .

And that is followed with a retrieve . . .

Carlin has pieces of the work he’ll need to do as a hunting dog. He’s excited to go out and find the bird he’s marked, but he doesn’t always pick it up without encouragement. He’ll bring it back, but often he needs to be enticed by our running away from him. And when he does get the bird back, he drops it nearby rather than delivering to hand. But unlike many beginning dogs, he had no objection to picking up a duck, and he loves retrieving out of the water.

So then it was time to move on to the water.

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Trice sends Tooey on a water retrieve, while Cooper honors. Carlin admires the photographer.

A variation of a triple retrieve

A variation of a triple retrieve

A family portrait was also made this morning, which was also an opportunity to practice “sit-stay”.

Cooper, Tooey, and Carlin

Cooper, Tooey, and Carlin

And of course, Trice photographed the photographer at work.Russ, Cooper, Tooey, Carlin

 

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