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Posts Tagged ‘hunting with Boykins’

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

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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).

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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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Several circumstances converged yesterday that allowed Tooey and myself to head to Central Oregon for a day of pheasant  hunting. Cooper had to stay in Portland for an Obedience match, the weather gods brought a rare winter day of sun (i.e. no rain), and I had Friday off from work. Hence only Tooey and I headed to the dry side of the Cascade range for a day of upland bird hunting.

For the readers of this blog who are not familiar with the geography of Oregon, the Cascade range traps the wet Pacific winter storms and makes for our winter rainy reputation. But those very mountains block these storms and force the clouds to drop their rain and snow, leaving the east side with a high altitude desert, perfect for dry land farming, and perfect for upland bird hunting. The mountain in photo below is Mt. Hood, fifty miles to the west of where we hunted. (There is currently 8 feet of snow covering this dormant volcano, a twin of nearby Mt. St. Helens.)

Tooey is suspicious there is a stealthy pheasant in the grass

Tooey started the morning by working back and forth, down a draw between me and our hunting partner Norm. She flushed a bird on my side which I gauged to be too far for a lethal and accurate shot, so I let it fly away while Tooey shook her head in dismay. She then flushed up two more on Norm’s side, but they both eluded Norm’s shots and so Tooey continued her search.

She then locked on to the scent of bird in the cattails along the creek and plunged into the cover. A nice rooster pheasant flew out and over a small pond when my shot caught up with it. Down it went. Rather than making a big splash, it hit the crust of ice near the edge of the cattails. Miss Tooey took off for the retrieve and was somewhat shocked at breaking through that transparent sheet of ice as she made her way to the rooster. She picked it up, and then crunched her way back through the ice for a delivery to hand of one soaked bird.

All that training for retrieving ducks out of water pays off with a pheasant

Later in the afternoon, we moved onto another draw and hunted over Norm’s Boykin Spaniel, Scarlett. (She has been highlighted numerous times in past blog posts, including this post from last year.) Scarlett flushed up five birds, I missed 2, but Norm connected with one that she had no problem finding and returning. The rest flew away unharmed as they were out of range.

After we returned Scarlett to the truck, we took Tooey out for one last stroll down the same draw. While Scarlett had been successful at quartering and finding birds in the grass, I thought I could get Tooey to go into the heavier cover along the creek bank and look for some birds that may have eluded us in our first pass. As we got near the end of the draw, Tooey’s nosing around the cover paid off, and she spotted a bird sitting tight. She hesitated briefly before plunging in, much like the pose in the first photo. Because I had a chance to see her hesitate before the flush, I had the shotgun ready and easily brought down the bird within 20 yards. Tooey picked it up out of the tall grass and brought it back for this posed picture before she delivered to hand.

Tooey with the final bird of the day as the sun begins to set

Life is good. (Cooper is not privy to our day of fun on this day of winter sunshine, so please be discreet if you see him.)

Note: Handling a shotgun safely and effectively while carrying a camera, while also thinking about making nice photographs is difficult and not something I would endorse. These photos were shot with my compact point-and-shoot and not as nice as they could have been if I had been using my larger cameras and left the gun in the car. But at least we get to eat pheasant and have proof that Tooey is great bird dog.

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Cooper is probably one of the few dogs in the show ring last weekend to put his ribbon for Winners Dog (IWS) on the shelf and zoom out to Eastern Oregon to hunt up some chukar partridge. He joined up with one of his hunt test and training buddies, Scarlett, a Boykin Spaniel less than half his size, for a day of hunting some upland birds near Maupin, Oregon.

Cooper and Scarlett, curly brown hunting spaniels

We went out first with Cooper, who started to look for birds where he usually finds them: in the pond. After cruising the bank and a couple of short swims determined that there were no ducks to retrieve, he headed off into the sage brush and grass to put his nose to work.

This being his first hunt of the season, it took a while for him to get into the rhythm, but when he started getting flushes, he remembered where to look and we started getting some birds up. He was able to mark and retrieve every bird we shot over him, so all that training has had benefits.

Cooper and two of his chukars

Scarlett was next. She did not have an off button. She was a bouncing bird-hunting machine, covering a lot of territory and getting a lot of birds in the air. On occasion, when a pair flushed together and Norm and I each brought one down, Scarlett got to go find her marked bird, and then head off on a blind retrieve for the second one. More benefits of training.

In total for both dogs, we got about 18 flushes, with a couple of the birds being flushed multiple times. We successfully shot down and had the dogs retrieve 9.

Norm taking delivery to hand from Scarlett

It is hard to shoot guns and cameras at the same time, so I took no pictures while Cooper was hunting. But Carol (part of Team Scarlett) was following us with a camera and she supplied these two images. The first one is Cooper quartering between Norm on the right and myself on the left, with a tempting pond down below just in case a chukar were to land in the water. A perfect environment for an Irish Water Spaniel. The second photo is a delighted Cooper handing off a bird that he flushed, marked, and delivered.

Cooper, quartering in the sage of central Oregon

Cooper, handing off a successful flush and retrieve

In another two weeks, Cooper will be at it again up in Washington state tracking down pheasants and quail. He is off the dog show circuit until January, and there is a lot bird hunting to do in the meantime.

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