Posts Tagged ‘hunting with Boykin Spaniels’

The Internet is a wonderful thing sometimes. Today I was trying to find some corroboration of a news story a friend emailed me about, and what did I find? A news article that features Russ and his nameless Irish Water Spaniel, along with our friend Norm and his Boykin Spaniel, Scarlett.

Russ and Norm, along with Cooper (Irish Water Spaniel) and Scarlett (Boykin), helped teach a pheasant hunting workshop last September, and the article was written by one of the students.

Here’s a link to the article on TDN.com, the web outlet for The Daily News Online, a local publication for the people of the lower Columbia River.

But the Internet being what it is, I can’t guarantee that that article will always be available, so I’m posting a PDF of it here. Click the image below to access the full article in PDF format.


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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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Our Irish Water Spaniel connections and friends are diverse and spread around the globe. Tooey is from England, but her puppies have moved on to all over the USA, plus Canada and Australia, with new friends in each country as a result.

From a subset of IWS aficionados, those who hunt with their pups, one I have been frequently emailing is Dagmar Lukas in Germany. As she is an avid hunter with her curly brown dogs, we have been comparing notes about hunting with IWS in our different geographies. Local culture, game laws, public and private land use, and firearms laws, all color how each country defines and regulates hunting. Our conversation prompted Dagmar to ask me to write an article for a German magazine about my particular approach to training and hunting with my dogs in North America, and specifically in the West.

This article was featured in the magazine, Der Jagdspaniel published by the Jagdspaniel Klub. Fortunately, Dagmar could do the translation from English to German and so I was able to provide my manuscript in English and the photographs. The only local term that did not have a corresponding word in German was “sagebrush”, but she figured out that it was “Steppe aus Beifußbüschen”.

And once again, I am delighted to see my two dogs in print. This is the fourth time for Tooey, most recently with the December issue of Ducks Unlimited.

First page in the article about hunting with spaniels in North America

Cooper and Tooey on the first page of the article about hunting with spaniels in North America

For those of you who want to see the entire article and all the photos, here is a link to down load the PDF that Dagmar supplied. Irish-Water-Spaniels-in-Nordamerika (note: The article is in German but the photos are universal.)

If you want to read the English version, here is a link to a PDF of the manuscript with no photos. Hunting Spaniels in North America

Dagmar maintains a great website for her group of dogs, and with stunning photographs. See her website here.

I can’t say enough about how delighted I am to have met so many amazing people through the world of dogs, especially Irish Water Spaniels, and even more so, the ones that hunt with their dogs. On the 5th page of the PDF, in the lower left hand corner is a photo of Rod Peterson hunting with Rio and Kasen. Rod and Renae Peterson, well-respected IWS folks in the US, have been great mentors. They also gave Tooey her first home in North America, before she made her way to Oregon. (Tooey is quite fond of Rod and Renae for good reasons.)

Also shown in the article are photos of duck-hunting partner Matt Johnson, Scarlett the Boykin Spaniel (Norm Koshkarian’s), Kent Koshkarian hunting with Tooey in Kansas, Patrice hunting with Cooper in Oregon, and other assorted IWS.

As soon as the planets align correctly, I hope to go hunting in Germany with Dagmar and her Lockenköppe pups. You can’t have enough good dog friends.

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It was actually Cooper’s turn to go hunting yesterday. After all, Tooey got to do the bulk of the hunting on a previous trip just a month ago. But The Coop was laid up yesterday, so Tooey filled in.

And boy, did she do an amazingly wonderful job.

She did a fine job of finding, flushing, and retrieving birds all day — in fact, the team (Russ with Tooey, Norm and Kent with Scarlett) came home with 10 birds.

But the most dramatic part was Tooey’s 300-yard retrieve, her longest ever, from under a huge patch of Scotch broom, down a long hill, and into a field of downed corn. If you watch the video below, that long retrieve is the last one. In it you’ll see that Russ did some mighty fine shooting, too, bringing down a bird that by all rights should have been long gone.

The video is a little deceiving. You’ll see some sections that are shown in slow motion — when viewed at normal speed, the action is too quick to see. Also, the video is only about 8 minutes, but it actually took about three hours to find and bag the 4 birds shown. What’s missing is all the hiking up and down the hill, waiting and watching for the dogs to find and flush birds — not boring while you’re actually out doing it, but tedious to watch in a video.

We will all eat well in the coming week. All told, with the 10 birds, there is just over 2 lbs. of organs and necks for the dogs’ dinner. Plus, I think we’ll be inventing a new lemon grass, lime, and coconut pheasant soup. Yum!

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If you do something 4 years in a row, is that a tradition?

It seems that taking Tooey on a holiday hunt should be such a tradition. Once again, we met up with our hunting partners, Norm and Scarlett plus Norm’s son Kent. The three of us and the two dogs have gone out together every holiday season for the last 4 years*, and it always seems to start the year right. In fact, this is the same combination of hunters and dogs that was so successful last fall in Kansas**.

Today’s Oregon weather was stunningly perfect (for hunting with dogs). It was chilly in the high 20s, but bright and sunny with a lot of radiant warmth in spite on the low angle winter sun at this latitude. But with some rigorous walking, everyone was quite comfy looking for pheasants as the layers kept being removed.

Tooey and Scarlett hunted in tandem the whole day. Being only 12 inches high, Scarlett could really get into some tight cover to push out the roosters. Between the two pups, we probably flushed around 15 birds and brought home 10.

As a Christmas present for Tooey, I got her a (another) new gun. And of course she was so excited to give it try. I fired 11 rounds today and brought down 5 birds, so Tooey said it was a keeper, but we should go out more often because I need the practice.

While she was off on her last retrieve of the day, I put the gun down in the milo, reached for my camera so I could get at least one photo of her with a bird and her new gun. She returned with the rooster and, with wet muddy feet, delivered the bird while standing on her new gun. But since she had specifically wanted a gun with a synthetic (water proof) stock, muddy feet wouldn’t be an issue. Now that it has her foot prints on it, it is officially approved for field use.

Tooey with her newest shotgun

Tooey with her newest shotgun (can you see it?)

Perfect weather for January in Oregon

Perfect weather for January in Oregon (Photo by Kent Koshkarian)

*previous Holiday hunts

**the Kansas hunts

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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?


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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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


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


Tomorrow should get us to eastern Wyoming or eastern Nebraska.

To be continued . . . .

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Tooey, who is now an All-Around IWS, having completed her conformation title, obedience title, and retriever title, has resolved to spend less time in the ring and more time in the field, doing what a gundog was bred to do.

Like all resolutions, she came out of the gate strong. On January 1st, Norm, the dogs, and I headed south to Monmouth, Oregon. Tooey and two gunners started working the fields by 9:30. 90 minutes later, she had retrieved 4 rooster pheasants. There were were a couple of birds that made it past the guns either by being too far to shoot or the shooter just missed. (I will remain nameless). After those 4, we swapped Tooey for Scarlett, our Boykin buddy, and continued to work the fields.

Tooey and Scarlett

Tooey and Scarlett with their 10 pheasants

Scarlett put up about the same number of birds with the same number delivered to hand, 4. Because our limit was 10 roosters, we had only two more birds to pursue. I returned to the truck, came back with Tooey, and Norm and I started hunting with a brace of Spaniels.

Scarlett put up another bird, which I shot, and Tooey surged out to retrieve, to Scarlett’s dismay. But Scarlett kindly deferred to a dog 3 times her size. As we continued on with one bird to go, another was flushed, and I took a couple of shots at the crossing rooster, which appeared unscathed by my attempt. It continued to fly off around the corner of the field and into the fog and trees, and alas, Tooey ignored the “no bird” command and disappeared into the mist as well. Beyond the tree line was Lukiamute River, so I figured I had better hightail it and go find this dog, otherwise I would have some big explaining to do when I got home with one fewer dog. That would not be a good way to start the year.

I made it about 100 yards in Tooey’s direction, when she reappeared out of the fog, and with a live pheasant in her mouth. My only guess is that I may have actually hit the bird and disabled a leg, which prevented it from running. Perhaps Tooey had marked where the bird went down, trapped, and completed the retrieve to hand. But that is a supposition, as it was too far away for me to see. Maybe she just found another bird and brought that one back. She is not telling.

Tooey returning through the fog

Tooey returning through the fog

Below is a video with the highlights of day. But before you click to watch, be forewarned: This contains graphic imagery of a gundog doing what they were bred to do, which is to find birds, watch carefully while the birds are shot with guns, and then retrieve the bird, dead or alive. All of these items are in this video. A lot of our dog friends like dogs, but not the “gun” aspect of gundogs. If you have personal convictions on this topic that are similar, do not watch the video.

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Oregon in December is famous for one kind of weather. Rain. But rain makes for miserable upland bird hunting as wet birds, wet dogs, wet shotguns, and wet hunters are good only for duck hunting.

So when an early cold-but-clear snap happened this week, Cooper, Norm, Scarlett, and I headed south to the foothills near Monmouth, Oregon to go pheasant hunting. Several inches of snow had arrived 2 days ago, and none of it was melting. Today started at 9℉.

Layers, layers, and more layers made it seem just fine. To borrow a comment from duck hunting, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices.”

We started with Cooper up on the hill sides poking around the scotch broom and Christmas trees (we were hunting on an old Christmas tree farm, another Oregon specialty). Cooper flushed one bird, which flew straight up like a missile and passed overhead. A quick shot was followed with an 18-foot retrieve, as the bird came almost straight down. We don’t know if it was the cold, or those particular fields, but that was the only bird Cooper located.


Russ with Cooper showing his single pheasant for the day
photo by Norm Koshkarian

So we switched dogs to Scarlett and made our way through some corn and sorghum fields. That is where the birds were, and Scarlett had no problem putting another 6 roosters and a hen into the air. Of those, 3 were good for safe shooting, and so they came home with us as well.


Scarlett and her birds, Cooper not sharing his

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For the last two weekends, Cooper and his hunting partner Scarlett have been helping the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) with training new pheasant hunters. The ODFW has an Adult Pheasant Hunt for new hunters that is run near Portland at the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area. For a very modest fee, people interested in learning how to hunt pheasants over dogs can spend the day being trained how to handle and shoot a shotgun safely, practice with clay targets, and then have an afternoon chasing pheasants with the assistance of trained bird dogs and their handlers. Cooper and Scarlett (plus Norm and myself) helped new hunters understand the techniques of working with bird dogs and strategies of pheasant hunting. For a mere $42 one gets the opportunity to learn to shoot, have lunch, work with a spaniel, and possibly take home some fresh pheasant.


Scarlett and Cooper waiting for the new hunters to get their orientation

The first success of this past Friday afternoon was when Scarlett put up a nice rooster pheasant, and one of the new hunters dropped it on his very first shot. (He is hooked now.) Scarlett moved out about 80 yards in the cover to locate the bird and brought it back to Norm.

Scarlett brings in the first rooster pheasant

Scarlett brings in the first rooster pheasant

All the crops you see in the above photos are to support wildlife habitat and will be left in the fields and flooded over the next month. Thousands of ducks and geese will eat themselves fat on their way to California. (This is where the money goes from hunting licenses.) But for the next few weeks, the cover is nice for upland birds such as early season pheasant. On Friday, it was a bit too hot for the dogs to work for long stretches, and they consumed lots of water while looking for birds. But it was a great practice session for the dogs before Norm and I head out after our own birds later this this Fall when the season opens and the weather turns cool.

Cooper did not locate any birds in the crops, but one rooster was spotted walking along a canal. So I sent Cooper in pursuit and he tracked it down in the cover and got a nice flush. The new hunter working behind Cooper waited until the low flying pheasant was high enough to safely shoot over Cooper’s head, but by that time, the bird was just a bit too far for the new hunter to successfully drop. Cooper was steady to the flush and shot, but sitting on the bank of a canal might have influenced his decision to not chase a bird.

Cooper and a novice hunter scour an oar field for the elusive pheasant

Cooper and a novice hunter scour an oat field for the elusive pheasant

Cooper and Scarlett were great ambassadors to a group of novice hunters. Even those who didn’t succeed in bringing home some fresh pheasant will have some good memories of working over an Irish Water Spaniel and a Boykin Spaniel.

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I hate pouring-down rain. If I have to be outside, or even if I choose to be outside, pouring-down rain is my least favorite weather. That, and frozen rain. Grick.

So, guess what kind of weather we typically get in December in western Oregon? You got it. Pouring-down rain. But this winter, we’ve been beguiled. It’s been dry and cold, not wet. So a hunting trip down in the Umpqua River valley seemed perfect for our Christmas vacation.

The Big K Ranch is a beautiful place. It’s just the place to go when you want a lovely setting, great hospitality, comfortable cabins, delicious food, and good pheasant hunting. That’s my kind of hunting trip.

Russ hunting in front of the Big K lodge and cabins

We had all of that, plus pouring-down rain. But if you’re gonna hunt in the rain, you better take an Irish Water Spaniel. Or two. Plus a Boykin Spaniel for variety, and friends for good company.

Norm and Scarlett, the Boykin Spaniel, quartering the field

We hunted two fields, each about 100 acres. The first run, we took Scarlett, handled by Norm, with Russ and Kent as gunners. Scarlett bounded, jumping up and over the cover, quartering the field. She flushed one pheasant, which got away, and then found two or three additional birds. But as you know, it was pouring down rain. The pheasants didn’t want to fly in the rain, so they ran along the ground. Scarlett gave chase, but the pheasants were faster, and ran into the thick, thorny brambles that filled a ditch along the center of the field.

Cooper hunted the second field, with me as handler in the center of the field and Russ and Kent again at the edges as gunners. Cooper found his first rooster, which did its best to run and then fly away low. Cooper fired his afterburner, and after almost getting the bird several times, pulling out tail feathers with each grab, he finally caught the bird and delivered it to me alive.

That experience turned the lightbulb on over Cooper’s head. Wow! There are birds out here! Over the next hour or so, he quartered the field and flushed three more pheasants. One got away, but two were shot, retrieved, and delivered.

Russ and Kent admiring Cooper's pheasants

Toward the end of the morning, the rain lightened up just a bit, and we decided to take Tooey out into the field that Scarlett had hunted earlier that morning. Tooey has sometimes been really excited about birds, but other times she’s been sort of ho-hum. So we decided just to see what would happen. Tooey quartered the field beautifully, without much handling. She’d run to one side of the field, get to that gunner, and then turn around to run to the other side.

I’d say that Tooey was mostly just out to see what was out there, maybe a mouse or a vole (she likes critters). But at one point, she trotted out past the edge of the field we were working and into the cover off to the side. And wow! She flushed her first pheasant! Russ shot it, and Tooey raced off to retrieve it and deliver it to hand, just like we’ve been training.

Tooey looking pleased with her first pheasant

We hunted a bit more, but by that time we were all tired and dripping wet. But happy. Handling my dogs and watching them work in concert with the gunners made me forget all about the rain.

Wet gunner, wet dogs, wet pheasants -- but who cares about the rain?

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