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Posts Tagged ‘upland game bird 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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It was actually Cooper’s turn to go hunting yesterday. After all, Tooey got to do the bulk of the hunting on a previous trip just a month ago. But The Coop was laid up yesterday, so Tooey filled in.

And boy, did she do an amazingly wonderful job.

She did a fine job of finding, flushing, and retrieving birds all day — in fact, the team (Russ with Tooey, Norm and Kent with Scarlett) came home with 10 birds.

But the most dramatic part was Tooey’s 300-yard retrieve, her longest ever, from under a huge patch of Scotch broom, down a long hill, and into a field of downed corn. If you watch the video below, that long retrieve is the last one. In it you’ll see that Russ did some mighty fine shooting, too, bringing down a bird that by all rights should have been long gone.

The video is a little deceiving. You’ll see some sections that are shown in slow motion — when viewed at normal speed, the action is too quick to see. Also, the video is only about 8 minutes, but it actually took about three hours to find and bag the 4 birds shown. What’s missing is all the hiking up and down the hill, waiting and watching for the dogs to find and flush birds — not boring while you’re actually out doing it, but tedious to watch in a video.

We will all eat well in the coming week. All told, with the 10 birds, there is just over 2 lbs. of organs and necks for the dogs’ dinner. Plus, I think we’ll be inventing a new lemon grass, lime, and coconut pheasant soup. Yum!

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If you do something 4 years in a row, is that a tradition?

It seems that taking Tooey on a holiday hunt should be such a tradition. Once again, we met up with our hunting partners, Norm and Scarlett plus Norm’s son Kent. The three of us and the two dogs have gone out together every holiday season for the last 4 years*, and it always seems to start the year right. In fact, this is the same combination of hunters and dogs that was so successful last fall in Kansas**.

Today’s Oregon weather was stunningly perfect (for hunting with dogs). It was chilly in the high 20s, but bright and sunny with a lot of radiant warmth in spite on the low angle winter sun at this latitude. But with some rigorous walking, everyone was quite comfy looking for pheasants as the layers kept being removed.

Tooey and Scarlett hunted in tandem the whole day. Being only 12 inches high, Scarlett could really get into some tight cover to push out the roosters. Between the two pups, we probably flushed around 15 birds and brought home 10.

As a Christmas present for Tooey, I got her a (another) new gun. And of course she was so excited to give it try. I fired 11 rounds today and brought down 5 birds, so Tooey said it was a keeper, but we should go out more often because I need the practice.

While she was off on her last retrieve of the day, I put the gun down in the milo, reached for my camera so I could get at least one photo of her with a bird and her new gun. She returned with the rooster and, with wet muddy feet, delivered the bird while standing on her new gun. But since she had specifically wanted a gun with a synthetic (water proof) stock, muddy feet wouldn’t be an issue. Now that it has her foot prints on it, it is officially approved for field use.

Tooey with her newest shotgun

Tooey with her newest shotgun (can you see it?)

Perfect weather for January in Oregon

Perfect weather for January in Oregon (Photo by Kent Koshkarian)

*previous Holiday hunts

**the Kansas hunts

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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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Often email contains stuff you just don’t want to read until you have to. But not today. Today, I received my e-copy of Rat Tails, the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s newsletter. Opening that email was a special delight because it features Russ’s photography and includes my article.

It’s fun to see one’s work in print! And I get to tell Cooper and Tooey that once again, they are famous. First the Tooey graced the center spread of the June 2013 issue of Gun Dog Magazine, and now Cooper is featured on the cover of Rat Tails!

Click the image below to open a PDF that includes the full size cover and my article:

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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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While we are in the midst of the rainy season, I still planned a day of chasing pheasants, weather-be-damned. Cooper and I got lucky. The first day of Spring was delightful.

Photo by Norm Koshkarian

Photo by Norm Koshkarian

Between Norm and Scarlett, plus Cooper and myself, we managed to bring home 6 pheasants. And not to miss out on the nice weather, I promptly smoked the pheasants over hickory, pulled it from the bones, and added it to a curry with wild mushrooms and coconut milk. That and some cool porter in a glass is how we celebrate Spring.

pheasant blog

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Some years my birthday falls on one of the weekend days of the Rose City Classic cluster of dog shows. One of the best was the year that Cooper won his second major, earning him his show championship. But this year, my birthday fell during the week, so Russ, Cooper, and Tooey conspired to celebrate my birthday the weekend after this year’s Rose City by taking me hunting.

They could not have arranged for better weather, sunny and hovering just above freezing for most of the morning. And the scenery was fine — a large field with rows of dead corn and milo, separated by strips of grass, and ringed with oaks. Curious Cooper’s hawks and marsh harriers, watching our every move. Song birds flitting from corn stalk to corn stalk, blackberry bramble to tree branch. And the dogs, ready and willing to sniff out birds.

All in all, we did well bringing home dinner. Cooper and Tooey found and flushed birds, and I think I actually hit a couple, while Russ brought down the others. The final tally was 11 birds flushed (one was a hen, so she flew safely out of the area), 6 roosters brought down, and 6 retrieved.

Coop and Tooey

Tooey and Cooper with their birds

If you don’t mind scenes of game bird hunting, take a look at the following video. Russ wore a GoPro Hero camera on his hat, recorded most of our hunting adventures, and then edited them down into a short clip. (Some of it is in slow motion, so as not to make viewers motion sick.)

In addition to the birds, we came home with about 3 extra pounds of mud. The fields thawed as the day wore on, so the dogs’ lower halves, still in their long show coats, were encrusted in drying clay. They were so dirty that even though it was late and we were all tired, we couldn’t let them in the house without dragging the dog bath out to the back patio, hooking up the hose to the kitchen faucet for warm water, and lit by a flashlight, bathing both dogs from belly to toes.

Bath in the night by flashlight

Bath in the night by flashlight

Next on the calendar is a smoked pheasant tamale making party. Yum!

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What does one do with a scrumptious collection of fresh pheasants provided by a dedicated gundog?

How about Pheasant and Chanterelle Mushroom Curry? The mushrooms were picked from the Oregon forests in October, dehydrated and stored. The pheasant is from Wednesday. Combined with coconut milk, curry paste, cilantro, and a side of  cornbread, we have a great winters feast thanks to Ms Tooey and Scarlett.

Tooey, admiring her bounties at the dining table

Tooey, admiring her bounties at the dining table

Another favorite dish that will be assembled in a few weeks is smoked pheasant tamales. I will make a few dozen and we will be savoring these for some time. While food is not the only reason I hunt with my dogs, eating what we bring home is a requisite and wonderful benefit.

If you have never tried fresh game and wild produce, you should try to have this culinary experience at least once. It is ultimately more humane and healthy (for you and the bird) than eating one of the 7 billion chickens raised in confined captivity and slaughtered every year only to be chewed on mindlessly while watching other people exercise on the television.

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Tooey, who is now an All-Around IWS, having completed her conformation title, obedience title, and retriever title, has resolved to spend less time in the ring and more time in the field, doing what a gundog was bred to do.

Like all resolutions, she came out of the gate strong. On January 1st, Norm, the dogs, and I headed south to Monmouth, Oregon. Tooey and two gunners started working the fields by 9:30. 90 minutes later, she had retrieved 4 rooster pheasants. There were were a couple of birds that made it past the guns either by being too far to shoot or the shooter just missed. (I will remain nameless). After those 4, we swapped Tooey for Scarlett, our Boykin buddy, and continued to work the fields.

Tooey and Scarlett

Tooey and Scarlett with their 10 pheasants

Scarlett put up about the same number of birds with the same number delivered to hand, 4. Because our limit was 10 roosters, we had only two more birds to pursue. I returned to the truck, came back with Tooey, and Norm and I started hunting with a brace of Spaniels.

Scarlett put up another bird, which I shot, and Tooey surged out to retrieve, to Scarlett’s dismay. But Scarlett kindly deferred to a dog 3 times her size. As we continued on with one bird to go, another was flushed, and I took a couple of shots at the crossing rooster, which appeared unscathed by my attempt. It continued to fly off around the corner of the field and into the fog and trees, and alas, Tooey ignored the “no bird” command and disappeared into the mist as well. Beyond the tree line was Lukiamute River, so I figured I had better hightail it and go find this dog, otherwise I would have some big explaining to do when I got home with one fewer dog. That would not be a good way to start the year.

I made it about 100 yards in Tooey’s direction, when she reappeared out of the fog, and with a live pheasant in her mouth. My only guess is that I may have actually hit the bird and disabled a leg, which prevented it from running. Perhaps Tooey had marked where the bird went down, trapped, and completed the retrieve to hand. But that is a supposition, as it was too far away for me to see. Maybe she just found another bird and brought that one back. She is not telling.

Tooey returning through the fog

Tooey returning through the fog

Below is a video with the highlights of day. But before you click to watch, be forewarned: This contains graphic imagery of a gundog doing what they were bred to do, which is to find birds, watch carefully while the birds are shot with guns, and then retrieve the bird, dead or alive. All of these items are in this video. A lot of our dog friends like dogs, but not the “gun” aspect of gundogs. If you have personal convictions on this topic that are similar, do not watch the video.

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Oregon in December is famous for one kind of weather. Rain. But rain makes for miserable upland bird hunting as wet birds, wet dogs, wet shotguns, and wet hunters are good only for duck hunting.

So when an early cold-but-clear snap happened this week, Cooper, Norm, Scarlett, and I headed south to the foothills near Monmouth, Oregon to go pheasant hunting. Several inches of snow had arrived 2 days ago, and none of it was melting. Today started at 9℉.

Layers, layers, and more layers made it seem just fine. To borrow a comment from duck hunting, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices.”

We started with Cooper up on the hill sides poking around the scotch broom and Christmas trees (we were hunting on an old Christmas tree farm, another Oregon specialty). Cooper flushed one bird, which flew straight up like a missile and passed overhead. A quick shot was followed with an 18-foot retrieve, as the bird came almost straight down. We don’t know if it was the cold, or those particular fields, but that was the only bird Cooper located.

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Russ with Cooper showing his single pheasant for the day
photo by Norm Koshkarian

So we switched dogs to Scarlett and made our way through some corn and sorghum fields. That is where the birds were, and Scarlett had no problem putting another 6 roosters and a hen into the air. Of those, 3 were good for safe shooting, and so they came home with us as well.

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Scarlett and her birds, Cooper not sharing his

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For the last two weekends, Cooper and his hunting partner Scarlett have been helping the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) with training new pheasant hunters. The ODFW has an Adult Pheasant Hunt for new hunters that is run near Portland at the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area. For a very modest fee, people interested in learning how to hunt pheasants over dogs can spend the day being trained how to handle and shoot a shotgun safely, practice with clay targets, and then have an afternoon chasing pheasants with the assistance of trained bird dogs and their handlers. Cooper and Scarlett (plus Norm and myself) helped new hunters understand the techniques of working with bird dogs and strategies of pheasant hunting. For a mere $42 one gets the opportunity to learn to shoot, have lunch, work with a spaniel, and possibly take home some fresh pheasant.

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Scarlett and Cooper waiting for the new hunters to get their orientation

The first success of this past Friday afternoon was when Scarlett put up a nice rooster pheasant, and one of the new hunters dropped it on his very first shot. (He is hooked now.) Scarlett moved out about 80 yards in the cover to locate the bird and brought it back to Norm.

Scarlett brings in the first rooster pheasant

Scarlett brings in the first rooster pheasant

All the crops you see in the above photos are to support wildlife habitat and will be left in the fields and flooded over the next month. Thousands of ducks and geese will eat themselves fat on their way to California. (This is where the money goes from hunting licenses.) But for the next few weeks, the cover is nice for upland birds such as early season pheasant. On Friday, it was a bit too hot for the dogs to work for long stretches, and they consumed lots of water while looking for birds. But it was a great practice session for the dogs before Norm and I head out after our own birds later this this Fall when the season opens and the weather turns cool.

Cooper did not locate any birds in the crops, but one rooster was spotted walking along a canal. So I sent Cooper in pursuit and he tracked it down in the cover and got a nice flush. The new hunter working behind Cooper waited until the low flying pheasant was high enough to safely shoot over Cooper’s head, but by that time, the bird was just a bit too far for the new hunter to successfully drop. Cooper was steady to the flush and shot, but sitting on the bank of a canal might have influenced his decision to not chase a bird.

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

Cooper and Scarlett were great ambassadors to a group of novice hunters. Even those who didn’t succeed in bringing home some fresh pheasant will have some good memories of working over an Irish Water Spaniel and a Boykin Spaniel.

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Mowgli and Tooey had had their turn hunting up birds Thursday morning. They’d been put up with water and a snack in a warm car to thaw out; Russ, Tammy and I had our lunch; and now it was Thursday afternoon — time to take Cooper out for his chance at finding and flushing some birds.

Cooper Irish Water Spaniel

Starting the hunt

Tammy stayed behind for this round, so Russ and I stationed ourselves as gunners on either side of the field, while Russ also took on dog handling duties. And it did take some handling. Cooper works out a bit farther from the gunners than we like, so Russ had to whistle him in closer to us pretty frequently. Cooper humored us, but he wasn’t particularly worried about flushing birds too far away from the guns. His plan was to find and simply trap birds in their hiding places, and bring them in without our having to expend any shells at all.

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Cooper hesitating before flushing (and dragging his ears through the snow)

And that’s exactly what he did. He quartered the field pretty nicely, and when he scented a bird, he hesitated for a few moments (dragging his ears along the snow), and then pounced, grabbing the bird up and bringing it back alive and flapping. He did this twice. This isn’t good for shooting practice, and some may not consider it “sporting,” but it is nice not to have to worry about biting down on shot when you’re eating pheasant stew.

Irish Water Spaniels

Being bespangled with snow balls

Russ flushed up a pheasant himself while we were tramping the field, but it flew too low and too fast for him to get a good shot. Coop wanted to chase it, but Russ called him back so that we could move on down the field.

And then Cooper flushed a bird. It flew up on my side of the field, but by the time I got the gun into position, the bird had flown closer to Russ. Russ decided it was too far out, so he put his gun down. Since I was finally in position, though, I gave it a shot anyway.

The bird was obviously hit, but not downed. It glided across the field, down over the draw and stream, and up about 125 yards on the opposite bank, right into a stand of juniper bushes. Cooper was pretty excited by the gunshot, but he wasn’t in a position to have marked the bird’s fall. Fortunately, both Russ and I were tall enough to see where the bird went down.

So Russ did what he and Cooper have been practicing in retriever training for 4 years. Russ called Cooper into heel position, lined him up nose pointing toward the area of the fall, and sent him on a “Back” command. Cooper shot out, and as he maneuvered himself through the cattail- and willlow-lined stream, got about 15 degrees off course. Russ whistled him to sit, and sent him on an angled “Back” toward the area of the fall.

At about 125 yards out, Cooper was about 30 yards to the right of the bird, so Russ whistle stopped him again, and sent him with an “Over” command, 90 degrees to the left, to the spot where we had seen the bird fall. Cooper went straight left as directed, but when he got there, the bird jumped up and ran deeper into the junipers. And that’s where Cooper’s spaniel nature kicked in. He trailed that bird, disappearing back behind the stand of junipers.

We waited. Russ considered hiking over there himself to find Cooper. But just then, about 50 yards away from there the bird fell, Cooper emerged from the junipers with a wounded pheasant in his mouth.

What a relief. And we were so impressed. All this hunting, trailing, and retrieving through a foot of snow, himself covered with balls of snow on his ears, legs, armpits, and belly. Cooper brought that bird back to Russ’s side, holding it securely until Russ gently took it from him.

Irish Water Spaniels

Admiring Cooper’s birds

That was enough. The shadows lay horizontal on the ground, Cooper was trotting slowly with at least 5 pounds of snowy adornment, and were were all tired. We headed back to get Cooper some water and rub some of the snow balls off his coat.

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Heading back to the car after a good day hunting

There the Realta brothers and their people celebrated good hunting, friendship, and another good day out with the dogs.

Irish Water Spaniels

Patrice, Cooper, Russ, Tammy, and a thawed-out Mowgli with Cooper’s birds. (Mowgli’s bird was already cleaned.)

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Bright blue skies, bright white powder snow, bright blaze orange worn by the people and dogs. That’s my impression now, looking back on it. That, plus sage brush, stands of juniper, and tall clumps of grass scattered along the field. Breathing hard, trying to keep up with the dogs, pulling through a foot of powder with every step, tramping along ruts cut in a small road, down hills, into a cattail- and willow-filled, half-frozen stream along the bottom of the draw. From time to time, the sudden flutter of wings as pheasants were flushed from their hiding places. And the dogs, each one in turn, panting with excitement and effort, themselves becoming more and more bespangled with heavy white balls of snow.

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Just as it was getting light yesterday, Tammy, Russ and I, plus three Irish Water Spaniels, left Portland and drove east along the Columbia River and then up and over the Deschutes River into the high ground above Maupin, Oregon. We were there to hunt pheasants. Unlike Tooey, Cooper hadn’t had his share of the bird hunting yet this season, and his brother Mowgli wanted a chance to fine-tune his bird sense.

With three dogs and three people, we quickly formed working teams, each with two gunners, a dog handler, and a dog. We started out with Tammy handling her Mowgli, with Russ and I gunning. It didn’t take long, maybe only 10 minutes of quartering back and forth, road to draw, when Mowgli flushed a pheasant. The bird flew right into range of Russ’s gun. Russ downed the bird, and Mowgli, true to his retriever training, marked the bird’s fall, retrieved it, and delivered it to Tammy’s hand.

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The three us covered the length of that field, and Mowgli did his job, flushing up three more birds. We shot at two of them, but we gunners were apparently not warmed up enough, because we missed them all. Mowgli tried to help the situation by running down into the draw, across the pond, and up the opposing hill, chasing after one that got away. But when it became apparent that he would never catch it, Tammy called him back.

By this time, Mowgli was carrying at least 5 pounds of snow on his belly and legs. So we turned and headed back.

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After we rubbed as much snow off Mowgli as we could and put him up in the warm car with a bucket of water and some food, we got Tooey out for her turn. Not that we expected that Tooey would get any birds from the area that Mowlgi had just worked, but we did have to give her a turn. She hates being left out, and this way, there would be at least the appearance of fairness.

Russ handled Tooey, while Tammy and I held the shotguns. Tooey, unlike Mowgli, didn’t quarter the field, but spent most of her time in the draw. The stream had dammed up a bit at the beginning of the field, and the resulting pond was frozen. Too bad for Tooey, who loves to swim. She continued to work in and around the willows and cattails, getting birdy a few times where some of Mowgli’s birds had been. Toward the far end of the field, she found the unfrozen section of the stream, and went in and out, washing off the snow that was accumulating on her belly and legs. Finally, we turned around, walked back along the road, back to the car. We spend a few minutes rubbing Tooey to get the snow off, put her up in the nice warm car, and then had some lunch.

After lunch it was finally Cooper’s turn. I’ll cover that in the next post. Stay tuned…

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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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