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Posts Tagged ‘hunting with Irish Water Spaniels’

Idaho, our new home, has lots of opportunities for those who love being in the outdoors with their dogs. Which, of course, is one of the reasons we moved here.

Today Carlin and I drove south of Boise to an area along the Snake River for a day of pheasant hunting. Specifically we were there to meet Steve, who lives in nearby Nampa, Idaho. Our paths originally crossed at some Spaniel Hunt tests in Oregon last August, just when we were planning our move. At Steve’s invitation, we had the opportunity to hunt with him and his English Springer Spaniel, Storm, at this beautiful location in southwest Idaho.

Steve and Storm, near the Snake River

Steve and Storm, near the Snake River

The day started with some excitement when Storm flushed a rooster out from underneath a tree growing next to where we had just parked — while the guns were still in the car. A good sign. Then, as Steve and I started out into the first field with Carlin, we had barely started when another hunting group dropped a bird about 60 yards in front of Carlin. And of course their two dogs raced off for a retrieve. It was an effort, but I managed to get Carlin in and away from that bird and the competing dogs. We immediately moved over to another field with some very tall cover.

The grass was so tall that I lost sight of Carlin, but I did see a rooster fly up that he flushed. A quick shot dropped it back into the cover, out of my sight, but Carlin was on it and delivered it to hand. It took him more time to find me than the bird.

First bird of the day

First bird of the day

The heavy cover was a real effort for man and dog to bust through, so we gave Carlin a break and brought out Storm. A lot of hunting from that dog, but no birds. After she was spent, we gave Carlin another round that lasted less than 30 minutes. He slowed to a trot and was pretty much done hunting for the day.

Carlin heads into tall cover in front of Steve

Carlin heads towards the tall cover in front of Steve

So back into the car with the boy and another round for Storm. This dog was not be stopped, and so we went for another hour in all types of cover, but the only birds put up were a covey of quail. One shot each from both Steve and myself did not add any quail to tonight’s dinner.

We did however have a great day, in a new state, hunting with new friends. And will be enjoying Carlin’s second Idaho rooster for dinner tonight.

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161111_0013blogRather than wind chill factors and deep snow, today’s November weather threatened us with sunburn and overheating. But before it got too warm today, Carlin and Tooey flushed up this nice rooster pheasant from a field not too far from Horseshoe Bend, Idaho. I was also fortunate to bring it down with a quick shot from my 20 gauge for an easy retrieve for Carlin.

This makes it Carlin’s official first bird of Idaho, which he can now add to his list of successful bird states that includes Oregon, Washington, Montana, California, and Colorado. Tooey already has some Idaho birds on her resume, but is willing to keep adding to her tally. Carlin will have to hustle to keep up with her bird numbers. And he still needs to add a few states to his list in order to match Tooey who has the same list as Carlin plus Kansas and Utah, and the province of British Columbia.

Life is good, especially with good dogs . . .

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Carlin and Tooey ton their Idaho pheasant hunt

Carlin and Tooey taking a break during their first team pheasant hunt

I had hoped to make the move to Idaho by the opening of pheasant season, but I missed it by a couple of weeks. So here we are at the beginning of November. We headed 30 miles north of Boise to an area along the Payette River. Both dogs totally knew what was up — having left home with blaze orange and a shotgun means only one thing.

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Normally when hunting solo, my preferred method is to take one dog out at a time. But this time, that method precipitated a severe temper tantrum with the remaining pup. Nothing like working a field while listening to your other dog barking non-stop in the car, a half mile away.

Today’s goal was not to come home with a lot of birds, but it was to reward the pups for their patience over the last month while we disrupted their routine with our move to Idaho. So I succumbed to the whining, and took both dogs out together to work as a brace covering the fields. It actually worked out quite well. They stuck together, both keeping inside gunning range, and when one became focused on a specific piece of heavy cover, the other stepped in to help scour out any potential birds.

After a few hours of this, we didn’t flush any birds, but we did come across a nice rooster pheasant. It was a simple retrieve as it was found lying dead at our feet. Some other hunter must have shot this one, but was not able to locate it. Based on the body temperature, it appeared to have been downed only a couple of hours earlier. And so with that bird in the hand, we continued to look for our own and enjoy the cool Idaho November day.

Final score: no shots fired, the one retrieved rooster, a few miles of hiking, and two very happy dogs.

Life is good . . . .

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I love walking outdoors, and my dogs love to work. And those are two of the major reasons I like hunt tests and hunting. They are all excuses to be outdoors, watching my dogs do the thing they love.

As much as the dogs and I love working outdoors, it’s not always safe for the dogs. And I’m not talking about the big dramatic things, like getting lost, falling down a bank, or running into a trap. And I’m not talking about the annoying but not dangerous collection of burrs and twigs in the coat. I’m talking about little insidious things. Like seeds. Like grass awns. Like splinters of cactus spines.

Before today, we already knew a little something about this. You might remember that Cooper got a seed trapped under a third eyelid while doing a summertime hunting demonstration, causing the whole area around the eye to swell, grow painful, and become inflamed and weepy. When he got home that day, we’d done the best job we could, carefully searching out and removing all the seeds we could find from his eyes, ears, feet, and anus. But even with our best efforts, Cooper still had to go to the vet for treatment.

Today Carlin joined the ranks of dogs who go to the vet after hunting.

We’re not sure what the nasty small thing that got Carlin was because, whatever it was, it was either already gone or too small to see. But it was something sharp and nasty, like a grass awn or a cactus splinter, something he would have encountered in California at the hunt test or Colorado while hunting. It burrowed its way into the skin between two toes, and then, based on what the vet saw, it traveled halfway up the paw and then straight down, stopping just short of coming out between two pads at the bottom of his foot.

The vet opened the track left by the debris, and flushed it out several times. Now Carlin is home, recuperating. We’re in for a week of foot soaks, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory meds, but that’s OK.

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See? I have an owie, but the vet cleaned it up really nice

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Getting my foot soaked is not so bad. I get lots of treats!

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I am being a very good boy. I lick my foot just a little bit. The vet says that’s OK because it keeps the wound open. Good vet!

Carlin doesn’t seem too unhappy. He’d been sedated, so he was a bit loopy when he came home. But he’s not licking the wound excessively, he’s not limping, and he’ll let me touch it, so I think maybe we’re going to be OK.

My friend Sharon advised me to make some changes to my grooming routine when I go hunting in dry areas, where grass awns and seeds abound. She suggested I trim the fur out from between his toes. Apparently, grass awns and other debris hook onto the fur, and that gives them the traction they need to propel themselves into the skin. If I’m very careful, she says, if I use a very small scissors, I can trim the coat from just between the toes and still leave enough coat on the top of the toes to keep him decent looking enough for a conformation dog show.

I’ll give it a try, but I wonder — maybe Carlin doesn’t want to be a show dog. First he gets a series of skin infections that makes him drop his fur. Then, after that has finally grown out again into a beautiful show-worthy coat, he rolls himself in a field of burrs in Montana in October, requiring a very, very short all-over clip to get them all out. And now, just when I think he might be barely presentable in January, he gets into something sharp and nasty, requiring a foot shave.

I guess I could stop taking him hunting… Nah!

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Happy 7th Birthday, Tooey!

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Tooey at 7

Today Tooey turns 7 years old. As you can see, she is still her beautiful self, still scanning tree branches for squirrels, still living enjoying her life with a quiet zest.

It’s been a relatively quiet year for Tooey. She’s no longer competing in any obedience, hunting, or conformation activities (although we may get that last Barn Hunt leg next year and possibly I may show her in the Veterans class at the next Specialty), so the training she does is in the living room, just for fun.

Tooey spent many days in the car and motel rooms traveling this year — Montana for hunting training and hunting, southern California to accompany Carlin to his hunt test, Colorado for a visit to family and day of hunting. She’s a very good traveler. Her only request is to go swimming whenever we’re near a river or pond. That was totally doable on day trips to the Willamette River or the Pacific ocean, in the Missouri and Marias Rivers on the trip to Montana, and in the ponds in southern California. But it’s not so fine when the Colorado River is many yards down a steep bank and behind a fence.

Tooey and Trice

She’s still our best hunter, finding birds in the field with no help from us and retrieving to hand the ones we bring down. She got birds in Montana this year, adding a new state to her list (California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, plus British Columbia). And along those lines, since she’s ever the beautiful photo model, another photo of Tooey (and Cooper) was published in December, just after her last birthday. The photo accompanied an article written by Russ (and translated into German) about hunting with spaniels in North America.

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

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

For 5 minutes every morning, before I get out of bed, we cuddle, her lying on my chest licking my face, me trying to breathe and stroking her head. She loves her daily walks and trips to the park, which for her are mostly sniffing and critter-finding expeditions — I mean, why rush? Mostly her day is spent keeping Carlin in line and playing with him when she feels like it (which is not that often now that he’s bigger and stronger).

It’s also been a tough year for Tooey. She lost Cooper, a constant source of adoration and the friend who loved her more than anything (except possibly the opportunity to retrieve). She was sad about that for many weeks. And she had surgery to removed a mammary gland for a biopsy of what we were afraid was cancer. (It wasn’t.)

But even so, life is good, and we’re looking forward to many more happy years with Tooey.

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On this so called “Black Friday”, Russ, Russ’ nephew Galen, the dogs, and I spent the afternoon outdoors, first in snow, then in bright sunshine, and then again in dark clouds and snow. We were at 5000 feet on Reeder Mesa, on the Broken Spoke Ranch, in western Colorado. Russ and I hoped to give the dogs something feathered to flush and retrieve, and Galen came along to observe and take the photos for this blog post.

We got Tooey out first. She’d missed out on the hunting in Montana, and she wasn’t entered in the hunt test in California, so the girl was past due for some bird action. She didn’t disappoint. She found her first bird right off, using her usual, methodical, back and forth quartering. She flushed the rooster, but before it could be brought down, it glided into a neighboring pasture on the other side of a barbed wire fence.

Tooey's first flush

Tooey’s first flush. Photo by Galen Dodd

After Russ helped her through, she flushed it again right toward Russ, who brought it down about 50 yards away. Russ could have retrieved that bird himself, but Tooey, stuck on the other side of the barbed wire, was jumping up and down, trying to leap over the fence so she could get that retrieve herself.

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The first pheasant of the day. Photo by Galen Dodd

Once Russ helped her back through the fence, she dashed directly to her bird, grabbed it up, and delivered it to hand.

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Here you go, Dad. Can we go get another one? Photo by Galen Dodd

Tooey then quartered the field, looking for more birds. After a search through some Russian Olive trees, she flushed another rooster, which Russ missed. Both Russ and Tooey watched it glide away about 200 yards into some heavy, boggy cover. Tooey correctly identified the landing zone, found the rooster, and flushed it again, this time in Russ’s direction.

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A twice-flushed pheasant. Photo by Galen Dodd

That made this one a much easier shot.

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The snow is lightening up. Photo by Galen Dodd

And Tooey delivered that one to hand, too.

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I’m a real hunting dog, right? Photo by Galen Dodd

All in all, Tooey found, flushed, and delivered a total of four pheasants. That was her quota for the day, so then it was Carlin’s turn.

Our goal was to see whether Carlin could do an extended hunt, where there weren’t other (girl) dogs around to distract him. We know that he can do a short 4 minutes in the field at a hunt test, but can he do an hour? Unlike Tooey, Carlin is not moderately paced. His style is to range out farther and much faster. We ended up having to whistle him back in closer to us many a time, and remind him to actually quarter across a field, rather than just run out in front.

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Carlin’s first of five flushes. Photo by Galen Dodd

But even with these challenges, Carlin scored better than the gunners, finding and flushing five pheasants, only three of which he got to retrieve to hand. Clearly, he can do the work, find and flush the birds, and deliver them to hand. We just need to continue to tune up his style.

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We done good. Photo by Russ Dodd. Birds by Carlin and Tooey

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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 agrigculture

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

The morning’s collection of pheasant and grouse

Carlin admiring the work of other dogs . . .

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

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

Picking up a rooster in tall grass

Carlin returning a big Montana rooster

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.

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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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