Here is the summary of my 2015 trip to Montana with Carlin. It is easy to brag on my dogs all the time, and they mostly earn it. But on some occasions it is best to reveal some less than perfect outcomes with our pups.
Last week I trekked off to northern Montana to spend 3 days hunting wild birds with Carlin’s trainer, Richard, of Tuxedo Kennels. This is the same area where we spent a week in August training for hunt tests and hunting. But Carlin’s brain was somewhere else last week, and he was not the stellar bird dog that I was expecting. Here is the blow by blow report.
Northern Montana in late October can have all weather patterns. Being only 50 miles from the Canadian border and uninterrupted high plains, one can expect wind, snow, rain, sun, fog, hot or cold. However, after arriving in a light rain, I won the weather lottery for the next week. Lows in the 30s and highs of mid 60s under full sun. Absolutely perfect weather for hunting birds with a dog. The area where we hunted is dry land farming of wheat (food for birds), mixed with draws and drainages that provided the cover. Not only were these areas the home to a large population of pheasants and sharptail grouse, but also the home to a huge population of burrs that where lying in wait for Carlin.
Big Sky country where bird cover abuts agriculture
As reported in an earlier post, Carlin was brought to his knees early in the hunt by burrs of multiple types. After an hour, he was so covered with burrs that he would walk only 20 feet before having to lie down and yank burrs out. Rinse, lather, repeat. While birds were flying, Carlin was self grooming. And while this process was playing out, our hunting party put up a large pheasant rooster an 8th a mile away. As it flew in our direction, it met a with a perfect shot from Richard’s son, Garret, and fell about 30 feet from Carlin. Carlin interrupted his grooming to mark the bird. Retrieve number one.
But Carlin had another problem besides burrs. We were also using a couple of Richard’s dogs to cover the area, and those were females. Carlin’s brain had no capacity for looking for birds, so when he wasn’t pulling out burrs, he was totally preoccupied with tracking the females in the field. After a morning of no flushes, one retrieve, and bazillion burrs, Carlin got to spend the balance of the day in his crate while we continued to hunt. We spent that evening removing burrs.
The next day, it was again apparent the Carlin’s nose was focused on females and not birds. So while the main group of hunters moved to the other side of a large field of cattails, I stayed back with Carlin. As the group moved toward us, a covey of sharptail grouse flew out and generally in our direction. My hunting partner, Norm, managed to knock down 2 with his double gun, while another high flying grouse headed my way. I brought it down where it landed 20 feet behind me. Carlin took 4 quick steps and he had another retrieve.
As a group, we were bringing in a lot of amazing birds, a good mix of pheasants and grouse. But other than the one retrieve, Carlin was there to pull out burrs and chase girls.
The morning’s collection of pheasant and grouse
Carlin admiring the work of other dogs . . .
The third morning, as the rest of our our group was pushing through cover, Carlin and I waited in a field to block the escape route of any birds. Fortunately a sharptail grouse didn’t get the memo. It blew full speed away from the other dogs in our direction, where I dropped it just 30 feet away with an easy shot. Carlin zoomed unscathed through a barbed wire fence and did another delivery to hand.
A sharptail grouse on its way to my hand
After a morning hunt in some farm fields, we spent the last afternoon working some draws below a large reservoir. Because it was the perfect environment for burrs, Carlin got to sit that one out while we put lots of birds in the air and few more in our vests.
For our last push of the afternoon through pastures and a cattail patch, Carlin joined me but hung close to my heels. While he showed no interest in finding birds on his own, he was happy to retrieve the last bird of the trip.
Picking up a rooster in tall grass
Carlin returning a big Montana rooster
Each night in the motel was a grooming session. By this time Carlin was learning to hide behind the air conditioner and the bed to avoid the scissors and combs. Can’t blame him as it is not pleasant to have burrs cut out everyday.
Even though he didn’t flush a single bird, and picked up only a few retrieves, most of his energy was dissipated walking with me and chasing girls. Add a few hours of grooming and he eventually got tired and had to sleep.
After a session of burr removal, sleep overcomes the boy
We got home early on Sunday, and after unpacking the car, Patrice and I found and cut out another 100 burrs. Maybe tomorrow’s bath with find and remove the rest.
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