Posts Tagged ‘bird hunting in Oregon’

The end of the month of March is near. This point on the calendar has seen the transition to daylight savings time, and soon, the vernal equinox (Spring). But it also means the end of the hunting preserve season in Oregon. And so with that as motivation, we took to the field one more time.

Cooper has been left out of the big hunts recently, and it was time to let him shine without competing with Tooey or Carlin. We joined up with Norm and Scarlett for a day at one of Oregon’s best hunting preserves (and our favorite), Luckiamute Valley Pheasants, in Pedee, Oregon.

We started with jackets and fog, but ended in shirt sleeves. The pheasants where there, though several eluded the guns. But all the roosters that were flushed and shot, were delivered to hand.

Cooper with a spring time rooster

Cooper with a spring time rooster

Scarlett, taking a break after miles of tracking and flushing

Scarlett, taking a break after miles of tracking and flushing

And Cooper, resting with his day's worth of pheasants

And Cooper, resting with his day’s worth of pheasants

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All the weather reports looked bad. Rain, rain, and more rain. Of all weathers to hunt in, pouring rain is my least favorite. I even asked Russ three times the night before if he wanted to cancel our hunting trip. Fortunately, he said no all three times.

It did rain from time to time in the fields on the Luckiamute Valley Pheasants hunting preserve, but mostly it was just cloudy, with even a few sun breaks. It wasn’t cold (by Northwest standards — in the low 40s F), and I even had to take off my jacket because I was getting too warm hiking back and forth along the rows of corn and milo, following the dogs while they hunted for pheasants.

We started the morning “airing” the dogs. After the 1-1/2 hour car ride, they were ready to stretch their legs and take a pee or two.

Trice, Carlin, Tooey and Cooper

Trice, Carlin (on leash), Tooey, and Cooper

After that, we put the two boys back into their crates in the car, and took Tooey out to the hunting field. Tooey is a very methodical hunter. Not flashy, not fast, not stylish. But she gets her job done, finding birds and flushing them up. In fact, she put up five birds in the space of only an hour or so. Too bad our shooting wasn’t as good as her flushing. We only brought down two of those five.


Tooey all dressed up for hunting

Then we got out Cooper. He put up several birds, too. He’s flashier than Tooey, working more quickly. But his nose wasn’t working as well as Tooey’s was this morning. In fact, I saw a rooster hunkered down in the corn that Cooper had passed by without finding. We had to call Cooper back and handle him to the bird, so he could flush it up for us. But even so, Cooper put up three birds, of which we brought down only one. At this point, it was confirmed that the dogs were hunting better than the people were shooting.


Cooper and all the day’s birds

Then we decided to see what Carlin would do, so we dressed him up in a blaze orange “skid plate” like Tooey’s, and took Carlin and Tooey out to cover the last three rows of corn.

Carlin, of course, had no idea what we were doing out there. To him, this was one great big field to run and jump around in. I was very glad that he stayed close to Tooey, pretty much following her in and out of the downed crops. Although, while Tooey was trotting in, through, and around the corn, Carlin was leaping and jumping — perhaps he was channeling his inner Springer Spaniel.

While we were out there, Tooey put up two more birds (and I think Carlin was in on flushing one of them). Of those, we got one, and I was thrilled that Carlin didn’t so much as blink when the gun went off.

Tooey ran out to retrieve the bird, Carlin following along. She got out to that bird first, grabbed it up, and turned to come back to Russ. Carlin thought that that bird was pretty interesting, so he raced Tooey back almost neck and neck, trying to get the bird from her. Tooey didn’t let him have it though (and even appeared to be a bit annoyed with the brat), and brought it to Russ.


Carlin and Tooey admiring Tooey’s bird among the rows of downed milo

So after about 4 hours, we walked away with four birds and three happy, tired dogs. We even had time to stop off at the dog wash on the way home.

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Mowgli and Tooey had had their turn hunting up birds Thursday morning. They’d been put up with water and a snack in a warm car to thaw out; Russ, Tammy and I had our lunch; and now it was Thursday afternoon — time to take Cooper out for his chance at finding and flushing some birds.

Cooper Irish Water Spaniel

Starting the hunt

Tammy stayed behind for this round, so Russ and I stationed ourselves as gunners on either side of the field, while Russ also took on dog handling duties. And it did take some handling. Cooper works out a bit farther from the gunners than we like, so Russ had to whistle him in closer to us pretty frequently. Cooper humored us, but he wasn’t particularly worried about flushing birds too far away from the guns. His plan was to find and simply trap birds in their hiding places, and bring them in without our having to expend any shells at all.

Irish Water Spaniels

Cooper hesitating before flushing (and dragging his ears through the snow)

And that’s exactly what he did. He quartered the field pretty nicely, and when he scented a bird, he hesitated for a few moments (dragging his ears along the snow), and then pounced, grabbing the bird up and bringing it back alive and flapping. He did this twice. This isn’t good for shooting practice, and some may not consider it “sporting,” but it is nice not to have to worry about biting down on shot when you’re eating pheasant stew.

Irish Water Spaniels

Being bespangled with snow balls

Russ flushed up a pheasant himself while we were tramping the field, but it flew too low and too fast for him to get a good shot. Coop wanted to chase it, but Russ called him back so that we could move on down the field.

And then Cooper flushed a bird. It flew up on my side of the field, but by the time I got the gun into position, the bird had flown closer to Russ. Russ decided it was too far out, so he put his gun down. Since I was finally in position, though, I gave it a shot anyway.

The bird was obviously hit, but not downed. It glided across the field, down over the draw and stream, and up about 125 yards on the opposite bank, right into a stand of juniper bushes. Cooper was pretty excited by the gunshot, but he wasn’t in a position to have marked the bird’s fall. Fortunately, both Russ and I were tall enough to see where the bird went down.

So Russ did what he and Cooper have been practicing in retriever training for 4 years. Russ called Cooper into heel position, lined him up nose pointing toward the area of the fall, and sent him on a “Back” command. Cooper shot out, and as he maneuvered himself through the cattail- and willlow-lined stream, got about 15 degrees off course. Russ whistled him to sit, and sent him on an angled “Back” toward the area of the fall.

At about 125 yards out, Cooper was about 30 yards to the right of the bird, so Russ whistle stopped him again, and sent him with an “Over” command, 90 degrees to the left, to the spot where we had seen the bird fall. Cooper went straight left as directed, but when he got there, the bird jumped up and ran deeper into the junipers. And that’s where Cooper’s spaniel nature kicked in. He trailed that bird, disappearing back behind the stand of junipers.

We waited. Russ considered hiking over there himself to find Cooper. But just then, about 50 yards away from there the bird fell, Cooper emerged from the junipers with a wounded pheasant in his mouth.

What a relief. And we were so impressed. All this hunting, trailing, and retrieving through a foot of snow, himself covered with balls of snow on his ears, legs, armpits, and belly. Cooper brought that bird back to Russ’s side, holding it securely until Russ gently took it from him.

Irish Water Spaniels

Admiring Cooper’s birds

That was enough. The shadows lay horizontal on the ground, Cooper was trotting slowly with at least 5 pounds of snowy adornment, and were were all tired. We headed back to get Cooper some water and rub some of the snow balls off his coat.

Irish Water Spaniels

Heading back to the car after a good day hunting

There the Realta brothers and their people celebrated good hunting, friendship, and another good day out with the dogs.

Irish Water Spaniels

Patrice, Cooper, Russ, Tammy, and a thawed-out Mowgli with Cooper’s birds. (Mowgli’s bird was already cleaned.)

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Bright blue skies, bright white powder snow, bright blaze orange worn by the people and dogs. That’s my impression now, looking back on it. That, plus sage brush, stands of juniper, and tall clumps of grass scattered along the field. Breathing hard, trying to keep up with the dogs, pulling through a foot of powder with every step, tramping along ruts cut in a small road, down hills, into a cattail- and willow-filled, half-frozen stream along the bottom of the draw. From time to time, the sudden flutter of wings as pheasants were flushed from their hiding places. And the dogs, each one in turn, panting with excitement and effort, themselves becoming more and more bespangled with heavy white balls of snow.


Just as it was getting light yesterday, Tammy, Russ and I, plus three Irish Water Spaniels, left Portland and drove east along the Columbia River and then up and over the Deschutes River into the high ground above Maupin, Oregon. We were there to hunt pheasants. Unlike Tooey, Cooper hadn’t had his share of the bird hunting yet this season, and his brother Mowgli wanted a chance to fine-tune his bird sense.

With three dogs and three people, we quickly formed working teams, each with two gunners, a dog handler, and a dog. We started out with Tammy handling her Mowgli, with Russ and I gunning. It didn’t take long, maybe only 10 minutes of quartering back and forth, road to draw, when Mowgli flushed a pheasant. The bird flew right into range of Russ’s gun. Russ downed the bird, and Mowgli, true to his retriever training, marked the bird’s fall, retrieved it, and delivered it to Tammy’s hand.


The three us covered the length of that field, and Mowgli did his job, flushing up three more birds. We shot at two of them, but we gunners were apparently not warmed up enough, because we missed them all. Mowgli tried to help the situation by running down into the draw, across the pond, and up the opposing hill, chasing after one that got away. But when it became apparent that he would never catch it, Tammy called him back.

By this time, Mowgli was carrying at least 5 pounds of snow on his belly and legs. So we turned and headed back.


After we rubbed as much snow off Mowgli as we could and put him up in the warm car with a bucket of water and some food, we got Tooey out for her turn. Not that we expected that Tooey would get any birds from the area that Mowlgi had just worked, but we did have to give her a turn. She hates being left out, and this way, there would be at least the appearance of fairness.

Russ handled Tooey, while Tammy and I held the shotguns. Tooey, unlike Mowgli, didn’t quarter the field, but spent most of her time in the draw. The stream had dammed up a bit at the beginning of the field, and the resulting pond was frozen. Too bad for Tooey, who loves to swim. She continued to work in and around the willows and cattails, getting birdy a few times where some of Mowgli’s birds had been. Toward the far end of the field, she found the unfrozen section of the stream, and went in and out, washing off the snow that was accumulating on her belly and legs. Finally, we turned around, walked back along the road, back to the car. We spend a few minutes rubbing Tooey to get the snow off, put her up in the nice warm car, and then had some lunch.

After lunch it was finally Cooper’s turn. I’ll cover that in the next post. Stay tuned…

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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.

Tooey, admiring the fine 28 gauge shotguns carried by Norm and Kent

Tooey, admiring the fine 28 gauge shotguns carried by Norm and Kent

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.

Tooey's second flush and first bird of the day delivered to hand

Tooey’s second flush and first bird of the day delivered to hand

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.

Tooey's next flush and in range of Kent's great shooting

Tooey’s next flush and in range of Kent’s great shooting


Tooey’s 2nd bird, ready to be delivered to hand

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).


Where’s dad?

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.

Merry Christmas

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Cooper and a rooster Ringneck

Scarlett, Norm, and Cooper with the afternoon birds

It seems that in early November, close to election day, all things come together that allows us to go pheasant hunting. This year is no different. Cooper, his hunting buddy Scarlett (a Boykin Spaniel), Norm, and I spent the day in central Oregon for the first bird hunt of the season. We started with Cooper, who flushed up a few birds. He got too far ahead in a couple of cases, so the birds flushed up had no fear of being shot by either Norm or myself. But Norm did drop one bird that Cooper flushed. After that, it was time to give Cooper a rest and hunt behind Scarlett.

We started where one of Cooper’s flushed birds had landed, and in no time Scarlett put up a chukar, which Norm brought down with a nice retrieve by Scarlett. Scarlett flushed three more pheasants, which we successfully shot and made available for dog delivery.

Then it was time for Cooper to retrace Scarlett’s steps and see if she missed anything. One more pheasant came up on Cooper’s flush, but this time after I shot it, the bird fell into a stand of tall cattails in a marshy area about 50 yards away. I looked at Cooper who was just sitting there staring at me (steady to shot?). I gave him a release and off he disappeared into the cattails. I was prepared to handle him to the area of the fall, but since he had completely disappeared, there was no point as we couldn’t see each other. Just as I was thinking about putting down the gun and wading in to where I had seen the bird fall, Cooper stepped out of the cover with the bird in his mouth. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Today’s bird count: 5 pheasants and 1 chukar.

For the record, Cooper and Scarlett traveled inside the car and not on top.

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CH Realta Rosario Cooper SH CD RN CGC, aka “Cooper,” spent yesterday doing what he really loves to do — finding his own birds to retrieve. A week ago, when Cooper got his CD title, we scheduled one last hunting trip to central Oregon with Norm and his Boykin Spaniel, “Scarlett,”  before the close of the season on March 31. So less than 24 hours after earning his AKC Senior Hunter title, Cooper got to go from retrieving ducks on Saturday to finding and retrieving pheasants on Sunday.

Cooper, taking a break with Mt. Hood in the background

The high dessert of Oregon is one of the nicest places to be working with your dogs at this time of year. There had been 7″ of new snow just 4 days earlier, and now the temperatures were pushing into the low 50’s. The pleasure of hunting over Cooper and Scarlett is always enhanced by being outdoors with good friends, basking in the spring sunshine, and watching these two curly brown dogs solve the problem of finding birds in their own distinctive ways.

Cooper, a typical male Irish Water Spaniel at 65 pounds, put his nose to the ground and started going after scent. Once he picked up a trail, off he went looking for the source. Once he spotted a bird, he hesitated with a momentary “point” and then flushed the bird. Scarlett, a female Boykin Spaniel weighing in at just 26 pounds, covered the ground with a delightful close quartering action at full speed. The birds had no choice but to flush with that kind of action.

Between the dog’s hunting skills and Norm’s good shooting, we were able to bring home 5 pheasants. The dogs flushed 7 birds in total and they marked and retrieved every bird that we successfully brought down. (My own shooting success was limited to one bird down and delivered to hand.)

Scarlett, with one of her retrieves

A day spent working behind skilled Spaniels in the field is just about as good as it gets.

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