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Posts Tagged ‘pheasant hunting with dogs’

Cooper was accomplished in a number of venues, but the one that provided the most satisfaction for both dog and human, was bird hunting. Take one part pedigree, add another part training, provide the opportunity, and the results are a happy bird dog.

Hunting in the west is typically spending the day in photogenic territory. But this photographer likes to carry the shotgun and not a camera, so photography always was a second tier priority. Not all hunts with Cooper were documented photographically, but all are etched into our memories.

Here is a selection of photos of Cooper in his element.

Cooper sees his first waterfowl

Cooper sees his first waterfowl

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Cooper’s first bird hunt, November, 2009.

Patrice and Cooper heading out to hunt upland game birds

Patrice and Cooper heading out to hunt upland game birds

Mt. Hood and the Irish Water Spaniel

Mt. Hood and the Irish Water Spaniel

Retrieving a chukar

Retrieving a chukar

Cooper, handing off a successful flush and retrieve

Cooper, handing off a successful flush and retrieve

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Cooper and Russ admiring their hunting partner

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Checking out a Washington state pond for some ducks

Stealth Spaniel waiting for ducks

Stealth Spaniel waiting for ducks

Cooper and Matt on Sauvie Island

Cooper and Matt on Sauvie Island

Ready for a pheasant flush

Ready for a pheasant flush

Cooper bringing back the bird

Cooper bringing back the bird

A day of pheasant hunting in Washington

A day of pheasant hunting in Washington

string of lakes

Cooper and his young protegé, Tooey

Southern Oregon pheasants in the rain

Southern Oregon pheasants in the rain

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

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

Cooper and Patrice in central Oregon

Cooper and Patrice in central Oregon

With Russ in the duck blind

With Russ in the duck blind

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

A November hunt in Oregon (2013)

A November hunt in Oregon (2013)

A cold December day, 2013

A cold December day, 2013

Cooper and his mature protegé, Tooey

Cooper and his mature protegé, Tooey

Cooper and his class of new pheasant hunters

Cooper and his class of new pheasant hunters

Cooper on the cover of Rat Tails

Cooper on the cover of Rat Tails

Near Monmouth, Oregon, 2014

Near Monmouth, Oregon, 2014

Cooper with a spring time rooster (his final bird, March, 2015)

Cooper with a spring time rooster (his final bird, March, 2015)

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It’s wonderful to be married to an accomplished photographer — that means we usually have really great photos to remember our activities by. But sometimes I am grateful to be just an amateur snap-shooter. That way, when I come home from hunting with less-than-perfect photos, I can just shrug my shoulders and say, “Better luck next time.” Russ did the vast majority of the shooting on today’s hunting trip. I mostly just carried my shotgun, which lead to fumbling my phone when I wanted to take a picture and hold the shotgun at the same time. We had a good laugh when we got home and examined the photos I’d taken. There were a whole series of photos like the following. I won’t embarrass myself further than publishing just one.

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Why you shouldn’t try to shoulder a shotgun and take a photo at the same time

But… on to the hunting trip

I took a rare day off from work today, and Russ and I accompanied the three dogs out hunting for our last day of the pheasant preserve hunting season. It was much warmer than it should be in March, but the blue skies and fluffy clouds made for a delightful day. We walked up and down the rows of downed corn and new grass, behind a row of conifers, and along the top of a low cliff over the Luckiamute River with Cooper, and then Tooey, sniffing the ground and the air, looking for birds. Cooper got the high total of the day, flushing 4 roosters and 3 hens, while Tooey put up 3 hens and 1 rooster. We were allowed to shoot hens since it was so late in the season, and we came home with 8 cleaned birds for the freezer and eight necks, gizzards, hearts, and livers for the dogs’ dinners.

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Having delivered one bird, Cooper hunts for another

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Tooey and Russ hunt pheasants in the grass

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Bringing one out from behind the trees

Carlin got to do some practice flushing on some hen pheasants that we’d planted. He did a good job finding them, but didn’t quite know how to get one into his mouth. Pheasant skins are loosely attached to their bodies, and so the mass of the bird slides around inside the skin unless the dog has a good solid hold. Carlin hadn’t ever tried to pick up a pheasant before, so we were not surprised to have to help him. But once he got it in his mouth, he did a fine job of holding on to it.

Carlin holding his first pheasant

Carlin holding his first pheasant

He’s going to be a fine hunting dog one day, and soon as he gets it all together in his head and syncs it all with what his body is doing. Perhaps I should say the same thing about my photography — if I can just get my brain and my fingers all synced up…

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I have consolidated the last three days of our pheasant quest primarily because as we traveled west, internet connections became scarce, and so it would have been hard, if not impossible, to update this blog.

Day 9: Near Corinne, Utah

The agricultural fields sandwiched in between the Wasatch mountains and the Great Salt Lake allowed us a morning to look for some Utah pheasants not far from I-84. The rain had been persistent prior to our arrival and consequently the hay fields were still un-mowed (tall and thick). The wheat grass along the edges was tall, but gave the birds some space to move around. While the morning was clear and crisp, the cover was still wet. Not ideal, as birds generally don’t want to fly with wet feathers. (Go figure.) But as we moved up the rows of tall wheat grass, the dogs successfully put up a total of 9 birds.

Two things of note. My shooting was improving quite a bit, so no dramatic shots or retrieves were required. Dog flushes bird, Russ shoots bird, dog retrieves bird, next. But out over the hay fields, two birds did get up in front of Norm, where he made a couple of successful long shots. The deceased birds glided into heavy wet alfalfa, a hundred-plus yards away. Scarlett, who stands just below the height of the hay, quartered out in front of Norm, and found both birds.

So after a couple of hours we had 8 more birds to add to the cooler.

If you are a photographer such as myself, or a serious bird hunter, it is inadvisable to wield both a camera and shotgun for reasons of safety, aesthetics, and only having two hands. I carry a small camera in my upland vest while hunting, but only use it when the shotgun is down and safe, hence no action photos when I have a gun. As such, the following image is one I made while resting at the end of a field, looking back east at the Wasatch mountains to give an visual reference to the hunting conditions.

Norm and Tooey near Corinne, Utah

Norm (carrying both shotguns) and Tooey near Corinne, Utah

After cleaning the birds, we snagged a lunch at Mollies in Snowville, Utah and headed into Idaho for the night.

Day 10: East of Shoshone, Idaho

We spent the night in a ubiquitous Motel 6 in Twin Falls, Idaho. Then after a solid breakfast at a local place named Norm’s Cafe in Twin Falls, we headed north to Shoshone, then west on along the rail line until we found the Little Wood Ranch, which straddles the  Little Wood River. This was an area of hay and grain fields surrounded by sagebrush. Due the marvels of modern irrigation, when you mix water with Idaho desert soils, you get great farm land. (Yes, this is the source for your fried potatoes at McDonalds and Tater Tots from Ore-Ida foods, but I digress.) These fields held quite a few birds and due to the dogs’ week of daily hunting and our week of practice with our shotguns, the birds were easy to find, shoot, and retrieve.

While the hunting seemed like a slam-dunk pheasant shoot, it turned out to be a dunk only. Tooey followed a scent trail and disappeared into some tall cover next the the Little Wood River. I immediately knew this was not a good thing thing, because if Tooey finds water, she goes swimming for the sport of it. I quickly dropped my shotgun, ran to the river bank (a 4 foot drop), and saw Tooey swimming hard upstream but floating downstream in the swift current around the bend. This is not an image you want etched into your memory if this is the last you ever see of your dog. I ran a short distance downstream along the bank, and got Tooey to swim laterally until she could find some traction on bottom. She got to the edge, I lay down and grabbed her collar (and I have long arms) and pulled her up the bank.

Now with a wet (and happy) dog, I had to find my shotgun somewhere upstream. Dog, check. Shotgun, check. Okay, time to start hunting again. We crossed a small footbridge over the river and hunted a field on the north side. Norm shot a bird that glided into trees next to the river. (Oh Shit!! Not again.) Scarlett disappeared into the cover, and then into the water. But as providence would have it, the pheasant landed in a shallow eddy on this side of the river, and  Scarlett found an entry point that matched her 12″ height. Wet dog, wet pheasant delivered to hand. Heavy sigh.

Tooey, thinking about the Little Wood River on the other side of those trees

Tooey, thinking about the Little Wood River on the other side of those trees

The only other interesting note was that we bagged a couple of chukar in addition to the 8 pheasants. While this is a pretty location with birds, I am no longer inclined to hunt areas with swift moving rivers with steep banks.

A couple of hours to the west, we stopped to have dinner with a dog friend, Ryan, near Boise, Idaho. We met Ryan several years ago in Oregon where he was one of the founding members of the Lower Columbia Hunt Retriever Club. But his work took him, his family, and small fleet of Labrador Retrievers to Idaho. After a nice break catching up and having great Thai food (way off the Interstate), Norm and I headed back into Oregon and a night stop in Baker City.

Day 11: A great Oregon pheasant hunt

Back in our own state of Oregon, we wandered out north of Baker City to the Tucker Creek Ranch. Fortunately Tucker Creek, which runs through the heart of the ranch was about 2 feet wide and dry. But the fields and trees along the creek bed were ideal bird habitat. The weather was perfect, the landscape was eye candy, but the birds very elusive. Tooey put up two rooster pheasants that went into my hunting vest. Tooey put up a third rooster, but somehow my crack shooting and Norm’s long distance skills were no match, and it got off to live another day. Oh well. On our way back up the creek towards the car, a covey of about a dozen quail flew up out from the cover and upstream among the trees. But quail season does not open for another 5 days, so we just watched with delight as these birds reconvened into the cover (another reason to return to Tucker Creek).

Russ and Tooey with our matching vests at Tucker Creek Ranch

Russ and Tooey with our matching vests at Tucker Creek Ranch

As we poked around the stream bed, I frequently reminded Tooey to “go find the birds”, but in her excitement, she must have misheard me and instead thought I said, “go find the burrs”. Being a good dog, she complied and brought back plenty. In addition to the cockle burrs and the sand spurs, she added a new variety to her collection, Beggars Lice.

Tooey with the birds and burrs

Tooey with the birds and burrs

While we only came away with two birds today, it was the best hunting of the trip. The weather, topography, ranch owner were perfect. Maybe it’s an Oregon thing.

After nearly two weeks of Motel 6s, it was time to go home. We just packed the dogs, birds, and gear into the car and headed the last 300 miles home to Portland. Arrived dirty and dog tired. But happy.

Day 12: Dog Grooming

Even though an hour was spent last night grooming Tooey to get out the burrs and spurs acquired from Tucker Creek Ranch, another pass was required this morning before it was bath time. Trice will be returning from her vacation in a few hours, and Tooey will be clean, dry, curly, and smelling fresh when Trice walks in the door.

Sand Spurs and Beggars Lice (a burr the size of a lentil)

Sand Spurs and Beggars Lice (a burr the size of a lentil)

And so in the last 12 days:

  • 3000 miles driven
  • traveled through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas (and back again!)
  • 47 birds delivered to hand (45 pheasants, 2 chukar)
  • weather included hot sun, tornado warnings, flash floods, thunder storms, driving rain, and blue skies. Everything but hail and snow.

Tooey has been a trooper; sleeping all night on the beds in Motel 6s, logging 3000 miles in her car crate, protecting me from thunder, and covering miles on the ground looking for birds.

She is a Champion in the show world. She also has her titles in Obedience and Rally, Retriever and Upland Hunt Tests. She has earned the AKC All-Around IWS award and has qualified for the Quintessential Versatility Award. She is also a Top Producer in that she has produced three champion show dogs (aka puppies) located in the the USA, Canada, and Australia. And she is (as of now) one of only 5 Irish Water Spaniels to have done all of the above.

And now for the drum roll . . .

I have no data to prove this, but of the other 4 IWS that can match Tooey for the number and variety of titles and accomplishments, I venture that none of the others has ever produced as many birds in as many states as Tooey. So far to date, she has found and delivered waterfowl and/or upland birds in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Kansas, Utah, and Idaho. (And next year’s plan includes the Dakotas and Canadian provinces!)

In my mind she is quite a Renaissance Dog. What’s not to love.

 

To be continued . . .

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Day 8 is as boring as driving on the Interstate because that is what we did: Rock Springs, Wyoming to Brigham City, Utah.

There was a stop at the Browning Museum in Ogden, the original home of Browning (not too far from corporate headquarters in Morgan). On display is the very first Superposed Shotgun, which is the first commercial over/under shotgun made (and still in production). This was John Browning’s last invention and patent (1926), and it is the precursor to Tooey’s 28-gauge Citori.

 The very first over/under shotgun (1926)

The very first over/under shotgun (1926)

And then it was time to hit the motel in Brigham City and catch up on emails and blog post entries. We are scheduled to be out hunting nearby tomorrow morning. So there should be some fresh content and new geography.

So how do I make blog posts on the road? Just log on with my laptop, upload any relevant photos, sit on the bed, and write. Of course having a technical adviser who make sure I keep the facts straight helps.

My copy editor looking under my shoulder

My copy editor looking under my shoulder — photo by Norm Koshkarian

To be continued . . .

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Day 6 of Pheasant Quest 2014

We are still on the hot and sunny high plains of Kansas. We hunted the morning, bagged another 10 pheasants, had lunch, packed, and headed north.

Now while getting 10 pheasants in the morning is nothing to sniff at, it is becoming the Kansas normal. But the highlight of the hunt was a record retrieve by Miss Tooey.

The dogs flushed up a rooster out of the milo that went vertical as though it had been in a rocket silo. The pheasant then streaked north, and Kent (a top skeet shooter and instructor) took a long shot at the disappearing rooster and connected. The bird took a death glide and fell 200 yards away. Tooey marked the fall and lit out across two strips of milo and two wheat belts, straight to where the bird had landed in some grass. This is a record retrieve distance for Tooey, and I couldn’t be more delighted. And this was after she ran down a crippled bird that landed and had run some distance. Tooey and Scarlett didn’t give up, and that is why Tooey found the live bird and brought it to me for a humane coup de gras. A trained dog makes for a good hunt.

Tooey and her 200 yard retrieve for Kent

Tooey and her 200 yard retrieve for Kent

Because we hunted early in order to beat the heat, the low sun made for some nice dog photography potential.

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Tooey’s last morning in Kansas

After we packed the car, Norm, Scarlett, Tooey, and I headed north to the Nebraska panhandle while Kent headed home to Illinois. By 5:00 p.m., we made it to a little ranch south of Bridgeport, Nebraska. Behind our cabin was a gorgeous pond surrounded by cattails. Tooey bee-lined it to the water to wash off the Kansas dust. Both pups got in a few water retrieves while Norm and I broke out the cigars and scotch. The coyotes came in to observe and comment while we basked in this oasis of a Nebraska ranch, anticipating the pheasant hunt of the following morning.

1 pond plus 2 water dogs makes for happy pups

1 pond plus 2 water dogs makes for happy pups

A great way to wash and Irish Water Spaniel

A great way to wash an Irish Water Spaniel

Norm discussing the finer points of cigars and scotch with Scarlett

Norm discussing the finer points of cigars and scotch with Scarlett

Day 7

Last night around midnight, Tooey, who had been curled up on the bunk bed with me, got up, ran to the door, and started barking like it was the 4th of July. Bright flashes were coming in from around the window curtains, followed by long rolling rumbles of Midwest thunder. The weather had shifted fast while we slept. Notice the cloud build up behind Norm in the previous photo. Well those clouds were followed by driving rain and a night of thunder storms with Tooey barking till dawn (not restful).

The daylight broke with non-stop lightning and more rain. We consulted with the ranch owner and determined that the weather forecast was not compatible with walking in the fields with 28-gauge lightning rods in our hands. He had reviewed the weather maps, as most Midwest farmers are prone to do, and the prospects were dimming. So discretion being the better part of valor, we abandoned pheasant hunting in Nebraska and ran from the storm front.

As soon as we were safely out from under this storm cell, I checked the weather in our planned hunting area.

Say no more . . .

Say no more . . .

This map shows tornado and flood warnings where we had planned to hunt, but now we are in western Wyoming, safely to the left of the orange. No, Tooey, we are not in Kansas (or Nebraska) anymore.

To be continued . . .

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Today, I encountered a new problem while hunting birds. This was the first time I lost track of how many flushes Tooey and Scarlett made because there were simply too many to keep track of in my head. Of those flushes, there were many that were never shot at due to distance, safety, or being hens (we only shoot at roosters). And of the ones that were actually suitable to shoot at, we now have another 8 in the cooler.

I have to brag. I am so pleased with Tooey, especially on the retrieves. She marked every downed bird today, with the maximum mark being about 100 yards into the field of milo. And that bird was sufficiently unscathed that when she found it, she flushed it again. It went another 100 yards before I made a nice crossing shot where it fell into an open wheat field. Then Tooey put on another sprint, picked up the bird, and delivered it to hand.

Delivery to hand after a couple of 100 yard sprints

Delivery to hand after a couple of 100 yard sprints

The high plains of Kansas are visually remarkable in their starkness. One can spin 360 degrees and see nothing but horizon and crops. And with a low angle sun, it is very photogenic, especially if you have a stylish Irish Water Spaniel to pose.

Striking a pose by the wheat silos near McDonald, Kansas

Striking a pose by the wheat silos near McDonald, Kansas

Scanning the horizon for more birds to flush and retrieve

Scanning the horizon for more birds to flush and retrieve

The next photo is Tooey with Kent (Norm’s son) and a bird that eluded us for several minutes until Tooey tracked it down and forced the flush. Again, I am so delighted with Tooey’s performance. She may not have set the AKC hunt test circuit on fire in pursuit of her titles in the retriever and upland venues, but when it counts in real-world hunting, she brings home the goods. (More on this topic in future posts.)

Tooey and Kent with a handsome rooster

Tooey and Kent with a handsome rooster

Tooey and Scarlett wore themselves out by noon with several miles of running, a couple of dozen flushes (a guess), and 8 retrieves. But with an afternoon’s rest, they will be back at it tomorrow morning for our final day in Kansas before we move on to Nebraska.

To be continued . . .

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And yes there are pheasants in Kansas.

Tooey and Scarlett had no problem finding and flushing Kansas pheasants this morning. I actually stopped counting, but maybe around 20. My shooting was not that impressive in the beginning, so there were quite a few opportunities for me to work with Tooey on being steady to flush and shot. But by the end of the morning, I settled into the shooting groove (4 roosters for me this morning), and Tooey retrieved a total of 6 birds, and Scarlett 2 others. (Norm and Kent brought down the other birds.)

Were you looking for this?

Were you looking for this?

We were hunting in alternating strips of milo and native grasses, with most of the pheasants holding up in the milo. After Tooey determined that the milo was source of the birds, she stayed in tight and just worked the crop, only going out into the grass for the retrieves. After 3 hours, the dogs were tired and warm, so we stopped at 11:00 a.m., and returned to where we are staying at Beaver Creek Ranch. I couldn’t be happier with Tooey’s performance on Kansas birds. And we have 2 more days at this pheasant paradise.

3 guys, 2 dogs, 9 birds

3 guys, 2 dogs, 9 birds

Beaver Creek Ranch

Beaver Creek Ranch

The only pernicious seeds that clung to the dog’s coat were sand burrs. About 1/4″ in diameter, they are the perfect nucleus for a matt. But as luck would have it, the ranch has a covered hot tub on the shady side of the house that matches the height of a grooming table. So it only took a few minutes with a very relaxed Tooey to extricate the burrs.

A Kansas grooming table and one tired puppy.

A Kansas grooming table and one successful IWS

To be continued . . .

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Again, today was mostly just sitting in the car on the Interstate, but with one diversion. We stopped in Sydney, Nebraska to walk the floor of Cabela’s hometown store.

Tooey in front of the worlds largest outdoor recreation store

Tooey in front of the worlds largest outdoor recreation store

For the 18 people in the world who do not know about Cabela’s, it is a candy store for the outdoor recreation world, and they sell most things that you need, and much that you do not. (I got to handle a used Holland & Holland shotgun ($34,000) but it didn’t fit that well, so I passed.) Being the flagship store, the interior is decorated with a somewhat bizarre cross between a museum of natural history and sporting goods store.

customer service to the right, guns to the left

customer service to the right, guns to the left

But it was time to hit the road and go to Kansas. We cut across the corner of NE Colorado, back into Nebraska, and then south into Kansas. Interstates morphed into blue highways, and then county roads, and finally into 10 miles of gravel and dirt until we arrived at Beaver Creek Ranch. An oasis in the high plains of Kansas. Tooey and Scarlett got to scout out some pasture before we settled in for the night. Tomorrow looks promising.

So this is Kansas

So this is Kansas

The last map for a few days as we will be in this area for 3 days, actually working the fields for birds.

Laramie to the Beaver Creek Ranch in NE Kansas

Laramie to the Beaver Creek Ranch in NE Kansas

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

Check.

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

Check.

Tomorrow should get us to eastern Wyoming or eastern Nebraska.

To be continued . . . .

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