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Posts Tagged ‘pheasant hunting’

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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All the weather reports looked bad. Rain, rain, and more rain. Of all weathers to hunt in, pouring rain is my least favorite. I even asked Russ three times the night before if he wanted to cancel our hunting trip. Fortunately, he said no all three times.

It did rain from time to time in the fields on the Luckiamute Valley Pheasants hunting preserve, but mostly it was just cloudy, with even a few sun breaks. It wasn’t cold (by Northwest standards — in the low 40s F), and I even had to take off my jacket because I was getting too warm hiking back and forth along the rows of corn and milo, following the dogs while they hunted for pheasants.

We started the morning “airing” the dogs. After the 1-1/2 hour car ride, they were ready to stretch their legs and take a pee or two.

Trice, Carlin, Tooey and Cooper

Trice, Carlin (on leash), Tooey, and Cooper

After that, we put the two boys back into their crates in the car, and took Tooey out to the hunting field. Tooey is a very methodical hunter. Not flashy, not fast, not stylish. But she gets her job done, finding birds and flushing them up. In fact, she put up five birds in the space of only an hour or so. Too bad our shooting wasn’t as good as her flushing. We only brought down two of those five.

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Tooey all dressed up for hunting

Then we got out Cooper. He put up several birds, too. He’s flashier than Tooey, working more quickly. But his nose wasn’t working as well as Tooey’s was this morning. In fact, I saw a rooster hunkered down in the corn that Cooper had passed by without finding. We had to call Cooper back and handle him to the bird, so he could flush it up for us. But even so, Cooper put up three birds, of which we brought down only one. At this point, it was confirmed that the dogs were hunting better than the people were shooting.

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Cooper and all the day’s birds

Then we decided to see what Carlin would do, so we dressed him up in a blaze orange “skid plate” like Tooey’s, and took Carlin and Tooey out to cover the last three rows of corn.

Carlin, of course, had no idea what we were doing out there. To him, this was one great big field to run and jump around in. I was very glad that he stayed close to Tooey, pretty much following her in and out of the downed crops. Although, while Tooey was trotting in, through, and around the corn, Carlin was leaping and jumping — perhaps he was channeling his inner Springer Spaniel.

While we were out there, Tooey put up two more birds (and I think Carlin was in on flushing one of them). Of those, we got one, and I was thrilled that Carlin didn’t so much as blink when the gun went off.

Tooey ran out to retrieve the bird, Carlin following along. She got out to that bird first, grabbed it up, and turned to come back to Russ. Carlin thought that that bird was pretty interesting, so he raced Tooey back almost neck and neck, trying to get the bird from her. Tooey didn’t let him have it though (and even appeared to be a bit annoyed with the brat), and brought it to Russ.

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Carlin and Tooey admiring Tooey’s bird among the rows of downed milo

So after about 4 hours, we walked away with four birds and three happy, tired dogs. We even had time to stop off at the dog wash on the way home.

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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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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?

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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

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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Some years ago, our friend and sometime hunting partner, Rod, told us to always check our dogs’ eyes when we come in from hunting. The reason? To find and remove any seeds that may have worked their way in under the eyelids.

Our IWS regularly come in from hunting covered with debris — seeds, twigs, burrs, grass — so checking the eyes has become a regular part of the post-hunt, post-field training, coming-home-and-cleaning-up process. In fact, last Saturday, while driving home from a day of hunting with a debris-covered Cooper, Russ joked to his buddy that the first thing out of my mouth when they arrived at the house would be, “Oh my God, did you check his eyes?”

And of course, Russ had checked his eyes, several times out in the field and just before coming home. I checked his eyes when they got home. We found seeds, and got out everything we could find.

By the time Sunday afternoon came around, Cooper’s eyes were red, swollen, and weepy, particularly the left eye. We first thought it was allergies from all the grasses, and so gave him Benedryl. But on Monday morning, the swelling hadn’t gone down. In fact, it had gotten worse.

We got him into the vet at their earliest appointment, where they examined his eyes, pulling the upper, lower, and “third” (nictitating membrane) eyelids away from the eyeball with forceps. Then they put a yellow dye in his eyes and looked at them using ultraviolet light.

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Despite all our efforts, the vet found a seed under the third eyelid (the brown inner lid in the lower inside corner of the eye). They also found that the seed had scratched the cornea (which shows up as green on the outside corner of the eyeball).

They also checked his feet, which had gotten uncomfortably chafed by the grasses and cat tails, and small cuts on his nose. These injuries are annoying and uncomfortable, but not dangerous.

For his eyes, they prescribed a 2x/day ointment, which I think also soothes his eyes. And for his feet, we were told to simply clean them and apply antibiotic ointment to the chafed areas.

It’s been 4 days now since the vet appointment, and his eyes have returned to their normal shape and have lost their red weepiness. His feet are healing up nicely, and the little nicks on his nose and also just about closed and healed.

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Cooper, on task in a sea of oats

Cooper, on task in a sea of oats

Cooper is a remarkable dog in many ways. Sure, he has a collection of titles and a wall of ribbons, but this weekend he raised the bar for dogs and community service.

Once again, Cooper volunteered his services to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) as a working field dog in two days of pheasant hunting workshops for new hunters. Now this may not seem like a difficult task for a great bird dog, but just like last year, weather conspired to make this really hard work. With temperatures pushing 90 degrees and blazing sun, this was easily 60 degrees too hot for ideal pheasant hunting conditions. Dogs overheat, scent is hard to find, and the vegetation is at its summer peak, which means it is thick, harsh, and with billions of seeds and all things velcro.

This workshop was held on the ODFW managed wildlife area of Sauvie Island in the Columbia River, where the crops are planted exclusively for wildlife food. The pheasants had lots of cover, from corn, millet, and oats, plus all the native grasses and cattails around the sloughs running through the area. Cooper took a half dozen novice hunters out with him for several hours each day trying to locate, flush, and retrieve birds.

On Friday, the one bird that was successfully shot by a new hunter, went down in heavy cover and disappeared. This is the second bird in Cooper’s 5 years of hunting that he could not locate. (It may have run fast and far after it hit the ground). But with high temperatures, low humidity, and one hot dog, I will cut him some slack on his stellar record. On Saturday, the flushed birds eluded the hunters’ aim, so no retrieves were in order.

I managed Cooper’s temperature by soaking his coat, frequent breaks, numerous swims in the sloughs, and plenty of cold water drinks. Each hunter in Cooper’s group carried a quart of cold water for him, and he happily consumed most of it.

Cooper with his students, taking a mid-day break in the shade

Cooper with his students, taking a mid-day break in the shade

Several volunteer dogs and their handlers had cancelled at the last minute, rather than work these fields under these conditions. So Cooper had to really step up and fill the void for the workshop participants. Chafed foot pads, sore muscles, a scratched face, and a couple of hours of grooming the seeds out of his coat was the cost of doing business. But Cooper and his hunting buddy, Scarlett, did what they could to encourage new hunters to the world hunting over a dog.

So not only did Cooper help new hunters explore the world of pheasant hunting, he was able to contribute significant financial support for the program. Because Oregon state hunting activities are funded exclusively through hunting license fees and nothing from the Oregon general fund, the only other available money is through matching federal grants. And because volunteer work is considered a contribution on the state’s part, Cooper was able to secure a tidy bit of federal funding for this program by donating his time and skill (pro-rated at $25 an hour!). Outstanding performance by this bird dog!

Cooper, Outstanding in his field of oats.

Cooper, Outstanding in his field of oats

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