Monday, September 18, 2017

MORE DUSKY (BLUE) GROUSE HUNTING

Chief, working it.

We had a shift in the weather last week and had a day of heavy rain and a 20 degree temperature drop. I welcome it, it finally feels like fall. I was worried that we would get too much rain or snow in my favorite hunting spots which would cause the birds to migrate higher into the thick pines. However when I was able to get out last weekend I was glad to see the birds were sticking to the mountain valleys where I like to hunt them.

It had rained most of the day before so I slept in a little to let things settle a little before I started hunting. I arrived at my spot about 8:30 am. The sun was just about to peer over the mountain and start drying things out. I was very happy I remembered to bring my upland chaps. They saved the day as I was wading through sopping wet knee to thigh-high grass and brush most of the morning. I would of been soaked from the wast down without them. When conditions call for them they are worth their weight in gold.

We started the morning working down into a wide valley with young aspens on the right and thick berry bushes and oak brush to the left. We went right and within 10 minutes Chief kicked some birds out from above me. One landed just ahead of where we were heading and we were able to get it up again and I scratched it down. I noticed my shell didn’t eject from my old Franchi AL48 and realized I hadn’t done my pre-hunt cleaning that this old gun requires. I was hoping it was just the cold temperatures causing the misfeed. 

Soon after Hazel pointed a single and I promptly missed with my first shot and again my gun didn’t eject the spent shell.  “Oh well”, it looks like I’m packing a single shot for the day. 

The day went like that most of the morning. The action was consistent and the shooting was consistently poor. I did mange to limit out and the dogs did awesome. It was an even split. Hazel found 2 and Chief found 2. Hazel retrieved them all in splendid fashion. Chief doesn’t like picking up the blue grouse. Too many feathers for his liking. He will bring them part way until he can’t stand it any more then drops it. Hazel is happy to clean up after him though.

Hazel busting Chief's point. To her credit Chief stole her point first. :)

It was a good day and I was able to figure out the issue with my gun so it’s all good. Looking forward to trying out some new spots and seeing if the birds did as well there as the spots we've been. It's a good time to be a grouse hunter in Utah.

Hazel doing the heavy lifting.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

UTAH GROUSE HUNT 2017 CONTINUES

Shawn with his limit of Dusky Grouse

I've been out a couple times this season and have really enjoyed getting after these birds and watching the dogs work. My shooting has been terrible and I've muffed a couple really nice opportunities. No worries it's early in the season and were just out having fun and working ourselves back into hunting shape. 

Again, Bird populations look good in the areas we've been. We've seen several family groups each time we go out. Fortunately for the birds we haven't been able to do much damage to them.

Chief my Llewellin had some great points last weekend and Hazel the Pudelpointer did great for a nearly 10 year old dog. I was a little slow and my shooting was less than par but that will improve.
I've been using my 28 gauge side x side and the shots have been longer than I'd usually like. But,
I have missed a few gimmes. All in all its been good and I'm looking forward to getting out again.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

OPENING WEEKEND / UTAH GROUSE HUNT 2017

My first bird of the 2017 fall season.

The 2017 early upland hunting season is here. Although I feel it is too early in the year and too hot, sticky and bug filled with the current summer weather to be out in the mountains chasing grouse. I I must say I thoroughly enjoyed getting out and doing what I love most. It was exciting packing up the truck, charging the collars, deciding what gun to take and the expectation of walking into a familiar cover with hopeful thoughts of getting into some birds.

To me grouse hunting is the most care-free of all the hunts. I’m not expecting much from myself,
the dogs, the weather or the birds so I usually end up pretty happy with whatever happens. That’s probably a good thing because the shooting, the dog work and the my ability to hike for very long in the hot weather wasn’t very awesome. There is plenty of room for improvement.

My brother and I got up early to beat the heat and went to one of our favorite spots. It prooved to be productive and the grouse numbers in that area look good. We saw quite a few birds, however, the conditions were rather poor. We had 80+ degree tempetures by 9:30 am and there was practically little to no breeze all morning. The vegetation is still growing and blooming. That coupled with the heat is a lot to ask for a dog. to find birds in those conditions can be tough. However for the first time out without a whole lot of off season work I feel they did pretty good.  I’m hoping a cold front will rumble through our state and cool things down and get fall started. With my dogs, cooler weather helps qutie a bit.



Shawn with the first bird of the day.

I can’t wait to get out again. I’m already plotting and coniving ways to get out of work and get my self back up into these mountains. My dogs are the happiest and most content I’ve seen them in months. Funny, I think I am to.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

KERSHAW AL MAR AM-3


Kershaw AL MAR AM-3
AL MAR knives of Japan is a brand known to create high quality, simply designed, user-friendly, tough knives. Kershaw has partnered up with them and taken from the best of AL Mar’s designs and added a Kershaw-flair with the liner lock and assist open flipper technology, along with adding a little jimping on the knives spine to create a really nice very pocket-friendly knife. Kershaw has also built this knife to be very budget friendly.

I've owned this knife for a few weeks and it makes a very good every-day pocket-knife but I also believe the size blade shape and handle will also make it a  good bird hunting knife. When I first saw it I thought to myself that it looked like a folding bird and trout knife and the blade shape and handle are similar to other knives designed for that purpose. 

AM-3 with a traditional trapper knife comparison
The main item I like about this knife is the blade. It's a 3" long thin spear point that ends on a very fine sharp tip. It reminds me of modern take traditional trapper blades (see photos). Perfect for opening crops on birds, piecing and butchering small game. Steel on the blade is Kershaw's budget 8cr13Mov. It’s not the best steel but it’s definitely not the worst. It holds a decent edge but will need to be resharpened more often then other more superior steels. My opinion and experience with this steel is that it is fine and Kershaw has put out many quality knives using this it. Keep the edge maintained and you will be happy with it. The blade utilizes a liner-lock that solidly locks the blade in place. Mine has no play up-down or right to left and feels solid and has a lockup that instills confidence. 

The handle is a combination of smooth, rounded and polished black G-10 on on side and stainless steel on the other side with the liner lock and pocket clip. It's a very comfortable handle to use and hold in my large sized hand. Any shorter the handle would be too small but at 3.5" long it fits well in my hand. The g-10 is a little over polished in my opinion and may get a little slick while cleaning a bird or other animals.

My favorite feature is the size. For my use the 3" AM-3 is just right. If you prefer a larger blade Kershaw makes an AL MAR AM-4 that has a half inch longer handle and blade. But at 3" this knife does everything I ask of a knife that size and does it all very well. It only weights 2.5 ounces so it carry's very well. It's not intimidating to use around the office either. 

My only gripe is the pocket clip seems a little weak. I like the ride on the deep carry clip its just that the clip doesn't really grab tightly to your pocket. It feels like it could fall out even when securely clipped in. However, it has not fallen out of my pocket once since I've owned it so it may be a mute point.


Overall its a great knife and I can recommend it to anyone looking for a traditional-styled knife that is loaded with modern features. It's a good blend of old and new. Cost was $28.95 from BladeHQ.com. In my opinion it's well worth the money.

AM-3 compared to some of my other favorite bird-hunting knives

Monday, April 24, 2017

Walking The Dog on a Treadmill


video

I know to some people this seems strange. I've trained my dogs to run on a treadmill and as long as I own dogs and a treadmill I will continue to do this. There are nights or times when walking the dog is not as convenient as you would like or you may have situations like what happened to me last winter where an injury prevents you from getting out. There are those winter nights when the last thing you want to do is walk the dog through a blizzard or other bad weather. Having the dog run a few miles on the treadmill does wonders for their demeanor and gives them the exercise these bird dogs need. I don't see any difference between this and running them along side a four wheeler. The main thing is to get them the exercise these busy-bodies need. It prevents them from getting bored and destructive.

I usually run my dogs for about 45-60 minutes at 4-5 mph. Chief sometimes longer and faster depending on his mood. When my pudelpointer was younger she would jump on it and bark until I turned it on. She loved it. At 9 years old, not so much,  she's hates the treadmill anymore and I slow it down for her after a few minutes to about 4 mph. I can relate.

There are a few videos on youtube on how to train your dog to do this. It takes some patience and you need to start slow and gradually work your way up to a point they feel totally comfortable.  Within a few sessions your dog will get the hang of it. I don't like to leave them alone on the treadmill and I'm usually in the same room or at least in the vicinity while they are jogging. My treadmill is right next to our family room in my basement so I can watch T.V., play pool or video games while they have a run. It sounds lazy but it's effective. Just make sure your putting in the miles yourself. You'll still need to be able to keep up with your dog.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bargain Shopper - Discount Upland Hunting Gear


It’s the upland hunting off-season and if your like me your already dreaming of fall and can’t wait for September to roll around again. Even though the guns are stowed-away and the gear and shotgun shells are organized and filed in their corresponding boxes, Boots are oiled and put in the back of the closet. There is still plenty to do. I'm doing my best to keep myself and the dogs in shape. I've been working on retrieving drills with my setter. He's a decent retriever but I would like him to improve on a couple things. 

Turkey hunting season is here and that is fun but for my money nothing beats chasing a bird dog through new covers.

There is one thing about this time of year a price conscious bird hunter should be aware of.It’s time to evaluate your hunting gear situation and see if you can take advantage of retailers need to discount and move merchandise to make room for next seasons latest-greatest styles and gear upgrades.

Below are a few discounted items from reputable brands that I’ve recently discovered and thought I’d share.

ORVIS®
Orvis is known for their high quality, practical gear. They have a classic style all their own. 
Below are 3 awesome bargains. If you need one of these items you can’t go wrong with an Orvis product. They also have an excellent warranty and have outstanding customer service.






Orvis® Bird vest 
$64.50 regular price $129 

I ordered this vest and will give a review shortly. I saw it on an Orvis advertisement in Covey Rise magazine a few years ago and thought to myself that would be a perfect September/warm weather grouse hunting vest. But when I looked at the Orvis site they were out of them. I forgot about it until recently and low and behold there it is new and improved and on sale. I’m hoping it will become a go to item.


Orvis® Chaps 
$49 regular price $98

Orvis® Upland Hunting Vest 
$74.50 regular price $149



Columbia®
I’m just sending the link to their hunting page. It appears it’s all on sale.


I use their pants and  their sharptail hunting shirts and really like both of them.

Men’s Sharptail Long Sleeve Hunting Shirt. $28.90 was $45
I like having a button up shirt while hunting. I can roll up the sleeves or unbutton a couple buttons if I feel too hot. I like having a pocket to hold small essentials and these shirts have small slots on the pocket I like to use for q-tips to keep my dogs eyes clear. There is also a whistle loop above the pocket.. Made from a cotton poplin blend with many hidden vents this shirt is an  excellent choice  for early season hunting. 

Men’s PHG Blood and Guts™ Shooting pant  $29.98 was $65 
These pants aren’t as durable as most upland pants and probably wouldn’t last long in most grouse woods but for what I do here in Utah they are great and I get a couple seasons out of a pair of these.
I like them because they are light weight and breathable. They are fantastic for early season and late season chukar hunting and are my favorite chukar hunting pants. I’ve bought 3 pairs. 2 in the old Chukar pant style and 1 in this new style with less cordura coverage on the legs. I use them for everything. but they wont stand up long in the thick grouse woods back east but for $30 they are good for a pheasant or quail hunt or 30.

Men’s Sharptail Field Jacket
$49.98 was $100
Looks like a decent field jacket for $49. I go back and forth on ordering it. I have more jackets than I need.



 I’ve had good luck with Columbia gear and they have a good warranty on their products as well. Order with confidence.

Cabela’s Bargain Cave


Theres some good deals on hunting vests, pants, orange caps, dog supplies and such. I always make it a point to hit the bargain cave each spring to see if there is something I need. They lump the upland clothing with the shooting clothing so you have to weed through the tactical gear to get to the upland gear.







Friday, April 7, 2017

Tribute to a bird dog | Dingo 1974-1986

Dingo. The day after her last hunting trip


Dingo was my first bird dog. She was also the family dog. We got her around 1974 from a 2nd uncle who lived in the neighborhood. He had an english pointer bitch that whelped a litter of illegitimate pups. Whatever breed Dingo’s father was she inherited most of her DNA from her mom and looked and acted the part of a Pointer. She was liver spotted with some faint ticking. More liver coverage than most pointers. Rumor was her father was a lab/beagle mix. I don’t believe it and think it was most likely a german shorthair. She had the coat and size of a pointer. Whatever she was she was all bird dog.

Originally she was my oldest brother Rick’s dog. The story I’ve been told is she was so crazy and disobedient that he became very frustrated with her. On the eve of the pheasant opener he told his future father-in-law that if Dingo didn’t show him something the next day he wasn’t bringing her home. If that meant he was going to abandon her or shoot her I’m not sure. 

Shawn and Dingo 1976
Family legend has it he took her out for a run the night before and she was terrible, she ran off, busted birds, pointed a butterfly and was living up to her poor reputation. The next day he was expecting nothing and was assuming that it was curtains for Dingo. When he got her out of the truck he claims he grabbed her by the face and said “Dingo this is your last chance”. She hunted like a champ. She pointed and held her birds, she stuck around and hunted hard for Rick and his girlfriends father. His father-in-law told him he would be crazy to get rid of that dog. So lucky for us she stuck around.

A couple years later Rick got married and moved out and purchased another bird dog for himself and basically gave Dingo to my brother Shawn and I. We didn’t know a whole lot about how to care for or train a bird dog and poor Dingo actually spent most of her time the first couple years of her life chained to a dog house up next to the gate of our pasture where we kept our horse. She was attention starved and lacked obedience. And we wondered why she was crazy. I remember letting her off her chain and watching her take off like a shot for the orchards surrounding our home. We’d call and call and you would just watch a white and brown blur disappear into the apple trees. A couple hours later she always returned and would then hang out while we played, did chores or whatever. Eventually we built her a dog run that she promptly learned to climb out of. 

She became something of a neighborhood menace. She would get into garbage cans, attack neighbors cats, she got into a few scrapes with other dogs. During deer season she would raid garages on bring home pelts and deer legs among other parts and we’d have to dispose of them before anyone saw. We were constantly apologizing for her behavior. But she was ours and we loved her. She was family, what could we do?

Dingo and I 1981
My brother and I had a couple BB guns and eventually got a pellet gun. We were the terrors of the orchards. Hours were spent murdering sparrows and starlings and other song birds that we could find. Sounds awful but we had a code of ethics. Rules were you couldn’t shoot Robins, Sea Gulls, Killdeer, or Sparrowhawks. I’m sure there were many native song birds that fell victim to our daisy rifles but we didn’t know better. We had a blast and Dingo was always in the mix of all of it. Every once in a while she’d point a covey of quail or a pheasant and we’d be awestruck at the beauty of her point and of the game birds she put up. We were always fascinated with the pheasants, quail and ducks my older brother Rick would bring home and we were anxious to turn 12 so we could have our turn. 

I remember Shawn’s first pheasant. It was behind our house in the neighbors orchard. I was sitting at the fence line of our pasture watching the whole scene unfold. Shawn and Rick were following Dingo into a line of tall cottonwoods that served as a windbreak that bordered the orchard. There was always a bird or two in that little orchard.  A rooster flew up, Rick shot and then there was a second shot from Shawn and the bird fluttered to the ground. I remember being very happy for him.

I’d get mine the next season when I turned 12. It took Shawn a couple seasons before he bagged his first rooster so there was no way his runt of a brother was going to out do him and get a bird his first season. He bet me $10 that I wouldn’t get one my first season. I boldly took that bet. I was obsessed. I spent hours in the orchards with dingo dreaming of the moment. I spent my birthday money on a bird vest and a Jones-style hunting hat. I looked the part and was ready for the challenge.

My first shotgun was an old Savage 20-gauge break-action single shot that took both thumbs and all my 12 year old strength to pull back the hammer. Dad’s solution….. cock the hammer and hunt with the action open. If a bird flew up, and only when a bird flew up, close the breech and take a shot. I guess it worked. Seems kind of crazy and unsafe now. I practiced and practiced closing the breech and shouldering the gun. When the opportunity came I’d be ready. 

First weekend of the hunt we went down to my Uncle Glen’s home in Monroe UT. We had a great hunt, Dingo was awesome! She was slamming birds left and right. Both of my brothers, my Dad and family friend all limited out. I missed terribly on every bird I shot at. It was looking like Shawn’s predictions were coming true. Back then the Pheasant hunt lasted only about 10 days and the next weekend was most likely going to be my last opportunity for the year to bag myself a pheasant. 

Dingo was a fun dog to watch and I didn’t realize at the time what a talent she was. She would stalk and move on running birds like no other dog I’ve ever seen. Her belly would nearly drag the ground as she carefully crawled, cat like, to pin the bird. In her later years she hunted pretty close to the gunner, she knew how to work a cover and hold her birds. I don’t think we gave her the credit she deserved. She was a fine hunter and was deadly on pheasants. 

The next weekend we hunted the same area and got into a few more birds. We hunted past lunch and were headed back towards my uncles house. Once there, the hunt was over and I was dreading making good on Shawn’s bet. In the last stretch of alfalfa almost to my uncles house Dingo got birdy. This was my last chance so I cheated…. I closed my gun and followed Dingo hoping for a chance. When we pushed up to a berm, up came the bird. A rooster! Shawn shot first but the bird kept rising, he had missed. I don’t remember aiming I just remember reacting. I pulled the trigger. Feathers flew an the bird folded. I must of said something. Shawn responded.. “No way, I hit that”. Luckily my uncle was there and said “Bull-Oney!…that Brett’s bird…” I wasn’t sure I knew Shawn had missed but thought my uncle might of shot it with his .410 sxs. I asked him. “Really?” He laughed… “Hell yes.”  He then opened his gun to show me he never shot. It was true. I did it. I shot my first rooster and a lifelong addiction followed. 

There are many more such memories and firsts with Dingo. I owe Dingo as much as anyone or anything or any memory or moment for instilling this passion for bird hunting. Dingo was really fun to hunt over. We were lucky to come into hunting right when she was becoming a seasoned veteran hunting dog.. She taught me as much about upland hunting as anyone or anything else ever could have. We were proud of her and she hunted hard and gave us all many great opportunities and memories.What more can you ask for from a dog. 

The black blur is my GWP Gretchen with Grandma Dingo
Her last hunt was a miserable rainy day back in Monroe. 
I believe I shot a single bird over her point. I had a young Wirehaired pointer at the time and she was my focus and didn’t pay much notice that Dingo was slowing down or that the cold was effecting her more than usual. The next day at home she jumped into the back of the truck and snuggled up in her dog box. I snapped the photo above . She just wanted someone to drive her to another cover where she could do what she loved to do. Unfortunately there wouldn’t be any more hunts. About 3 weeks later Dingo suffered a stroke and her story was over. I cried the entire way home from the vets office. 


Later that night I was sitting in her kennel holding her empty collar with my new dog Gretchen across my lap. My brothers had all moved out. It was just me, my dog and my broken heart. As tears dripped off my nose I dwelled on that first pheasant and many other memories and regrets but one memory came to mind,  it was of a time when I was with my older brother Rick and her in the orchard during an after-school hunt. We found Dingo on point in the middle of a row. It was just before dusk when the autumn light is a golden amber. The grass was about a foot tall and still green. Leaves were still on the apple and pear trees. It was getting colder and as the sun dropped there was a little mist forming in the dark places. Dingo was locked, low to the ground, her tail straight out and horizontal with her back, her eyes like lasers searching the grass in front of her. “Sick it girl!” She flushes her own bird and a single male valley quail files straight away down the row. Rick’s 12 gauge cracks like thunder and the quail drops right in front of her. I pick up the bird for him and tell Dingo how amazing she was. Off Dingo go’s to find the next one. I like to think she remains in that moment forever.