Monday, September 19, 2011

Hunting Dogs and Avoiding Moose

Last night was one of those hunts that I was happy when it was all over. That is a very unusual statement coming from me but it was was how I felt.

I headed up for a late afternoon grouse hunt with just my young setter Chief and myself. It was a beautiful day in the mountains. 60 degrees and sunny with a nice cool breeze coming through the canyon. Everything started out perfect enough. Chief was working well and I was enjoying the walk through the aspens and pines. We were following a game trail used by moose and elk. Easy walking with tons of cover on either side. I remember thinking, "how great is this place?" when everything fell apart.

Chief started to get real animated and acted in a way that I interpreted as "birdie". Chief then stopped hard, I was hoping it was a point but his tail was flagging hard. I had never seen him behave like that before. ? "What you got Chief?", I asked. Chief then took off in a dead sprint that led to a chase of a snowshoe hare up and over the hill and out of site. So far out of site that I could no longer hear his bell. Sh!t!

I've lost dogs in the woods before and it's never fun. I've never lost-lost a dog before but know people who have and it's heartbreaking. I wasn't too nervous but still very concerned and proceeded in pursuit up the hill. After a couple minutes I started calling and whistling. Nothing happened. I whistled louder and then started really calling. I realized that over that hill is a pretty deep drainage and at the bottom of that drainage there's a fairly busy mountain road. I made it up to the top of the hill and I could hear quite a few cars traveling on the afore mentioned road. Thats when I really got concerned. I called and called and was whistling as loud as I could, praying for the sound of Chiefs bell to come back to me. I make it to the top of the hill and I couldn't see any sign of Chief as I was whistling (loudly) I turn to my left and look smack right into the face of an adult cow moose. Holy crap!!!..... Imagine that. If you follow a moose trail it may lead you to a moose. :)

I love moose but they make me very nervous. I've had a couple encounters with these large beasts and let's just say I have a deep respect for these animals. If you've ever had one pin back their ears and come at you with angry intentions you understand where I'm coming from. Moose are pretty prevalent in this particular are that I like to grouse hunt and I run into them 2-3 times a year. I try to keep my distance and be as respectful as possible. I usually feel pretty safe around them but you never know how they will react when you can catch one by surprise.

Slowly I turned and walked away from the moose until I had put some distance between us. All the while trying not to create any eye contact and trying to look as non threatening as I could. This moose was giving me the hard stare all the while. She didn't move a muscle, she just stood her ground. Once I felt like I was a safe distance I end up walking into her friend, Mr. Bull Moose. The Bull was much more nervous and he had started to walk off... slowly. So here I am between a pair of moose and that's the moment when I heard Chief barking for help. So keeping a close eye on both moose I whistled and called for Chief. The bull stopped, the cow still didn't move. Chief is still coming and barking every now and then so I respond until I work him back to me. I get him and I proceed to go back down the hill away from the moose. We get back to the bottom and we take a break. I make sure Chief is OK and watered, I shared a granola bar with him and we proceed to go on with our hunt when... Chief chases another rabbit up and over the hill.................................%$#$&*_!@$^%*

All's well that ends well. I got him back again and we got out before dark and we made it home. I can't really blame Chief. He is a 5 1/2 month old pup and full of it. I haven't been able to get him into many birds so far this year so when he had his chance for some real excitement he took it. We will be introducing Chief to the electronic collar the next few weeks. We will need to do some trash breaking I'm sure. I'm just glad it wasn't a baby moose that got his attention. Things could of got ugly quick. Over all he's doing really good and has worked up a bird or two for me. No hard points and no birds shot over him in the field yet but that will come. Hazel was just spaded so she is out of commission for a couple weeks. I really missed hunting her last weekend. We could of used her. So its just me and the Chief for another weekend. It's good for him though. You ought to see this young dog work a cover. It's impressive. Around the house the best word to describe him is bouncy. He is always happy to see you and makes sure your aware of his excitement. He's a good boy, he just doesn't know yet how to handle all of his energy. Get him on the training table or your lap and he just melts in your hands. He's a sweet little guy.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Bird Hunting Knives

This post is a few years old.I recently built a new post on this subject and have updated my thoughts and have shared a few new knives I've purchase since this original post. Link below.





 The knife is an essential hunting tool and it's not just for just cleaning birds. I've use a knives to cut homemade dog boots, remove heavy burs, cutting tape to dress wounds, fix shotguns, cut rope, cut shoelaces, fix electronic collars, fight bears😀,etc. etc... I also always carry a small leatherman type tool with all the screwdrivers, knife, hole punch, files, scissors and the all important bottle opener. But more often than not, I just reach for my knife.

I like having a gut hook on my bird hunting knifes. Somedays birds can sit in my game bag for several hours before I get a chance to clean them properly.  It's not pretty but I believe a quick initial cleaning to get the innards removed helps the flavor of the meat before the bird sits too long, especially in hot weather. I carry baby wipes for not only the obvious reasons but also to clean off my hands and knife after I gut a bird. 

I carry the Beretta® Stag Bird Knife. It's a very nice, well made knife. Very sharp and holds it's edge well. Its easy to open and close with its tear drop design. The hook binds the birds intestines well and with the heavy handle they pull out easily and cleanly. But sometimes I wish it was a little longer. Beretta makes it with Deer Stag or Buffalo Bone handles. I scored on this knife and got it for around $68 at knifesupply.com. The price was reduced for some reason and I jumped. Usually the Stag Version costs well over $100. You can find the buffalo bone handle ones for cheaper. It's a very nice knife but not worth that kind of money in my opinion. There are many other nice options for half the price. But… it is beautiful and if you have the money I recommend it.

Drawbacks of the Beretta Stag knife is that it is thick. Meaning that  the design is a little wide with both the blade and the gut hook. It is a little too thick to sit comfortably in the your front pocket. The sheath it came with is nylon and is nothing special. I stopped carrying this knife on my belt because I don't trust the sheath to stay closed or even stay on my belt. I stick it in my bird vest/pack. My Mother® packs have zipper compartments inside the shell pockets on the belt that secure items well but keep them easily accessible. Overall it's a very nice knife and I love it. It's an heirloom type instrument. Thats why its carried in my pack and not on my belt. I would love to pass this beauty on someday.  

It appears that Beretta  has stopped producing this knife with the gut hook so supplies are extremely limited. There are a few around the web if you look.


A nice more affordable bird hunting-knife that is the Case® bird hunter. It comes in a variety of handle materials from bone to classic yellow and even hunter orange. I gave the yellow handled version of this knife to my brother for a Christmas present and he absolutely loves it. Its slender and fits easily in your front pocket. I love Case knifes. They are classics. You can pick these up all over the web between $30- $50. 


My new favorite bird hunting knife is the Boker® Bird Hunter. I just purchased this knife a couple months ago. I've had my eye on it a long time. 

I absolutely love this knife. It's the perfect design for a bird knife. The right tool for the job, slender enough to fit in the pocket but long enough to do the job. And who doesn't like a rosewood handle? I can't wait to use it next season. It doesn't take a lot of knife to clean a bird and unless I start hunting ostriches I think the Boker® Bird Hunter should do the job for a long time. Prices vary between $49-$59. 

Below are some images of how the Böker compares to the Beretta Bird Knife.



This past season I bought a fixed blade bird hunting knife and I've totally enjoyed it. It's the Ruko Bird and Trout Knife.
It is a Spanish made 3" blade with a stag antler handle. It came with a decent leather sheath that retains the blade snuggly in place . It wasn't very sharp when I received it but once I refined the edge it's one of the sharpest knives I own. It took an edge very well and seems to hold it for a long time. I've cleaned almost all my birds since November with this knife and have grown to love it. I like the fixed blade for it's strength and ease of use and it's easier to clean. I bought mine on Amazon for around $60.

It's a very handsome blade and I really like using it and having it on my belt. It's definitely a keeper.





I recently built a new post on this subject and have updated my thoughts and have shared a few new knives I've purchase since this original post. Link below.


Upland Bird Hunting Knives Revisited








Sunday, September 11, 2011

Empty Tailgates

I have to admit that this years Grouse Hunt has not been what I was hoping for. Out of the four times out I've only been able to move 4 birds and have had 0 shots. Very frustrating. Yesterday, we went to a spot that we have never been before. We heard good things about it from a fellow turkey hunter last year and the cover looked awesome. We hit it hard but no birds were produced.
The Dogs are working hard and doing all I could expect but it is just a strange year. Everything seems to be behind. It just doesn't feel enough like fall here yet. I'm not ready to admit that last winter and spring decimated our Grouse population but I may have to. The DWR claims that it didn't. The bow hunters I've talked with haven't seen any birds either so something is up. Or I must be doing something wrong. We are still having fun and it is nice just to be out.
I guess it's time to do some preserve hunts and get my young dog Chief some experience that way. This boy needs to get some birds other than pigeons dropped in front of him. I'm so excited to get this young dog into wild birds. He has an awesome nose, staunch points and great range for a 5 month old dog. Most of his experience has been with pigeons and I really want to see him handle some wild birds. Personally, Im not the biggest fan of the preserve hunts. It all depends on the how the birds behave. Wild birds have the strong survival instincts that challenge the dogs. But experience is experience be it wild birds or pen raised pheasants and chukars. We can get after the grouse after the weather cools and the leaves start changing. It's coming though, you can feel it, it's coming. And Maybe that is all we need to change our luck with the Grouse. If the grouse numbers turn out to be low – let it snow, Chukar hunting starts at the beginning of October and it should be a good year!
Best of luck to all the other hunters out there. I hope your doing better than we are.

Brett

Friday, September 9, 2011

Upland Hunting Pants

Hunting gear to me is a very personal thing and I would like to share what I've learned and what I use with others. I spend enough time hunting and outside that I feel if something works or doesn't, I can share that opinion and hopefully help someone out. Personally, I am a gear guy and I like my stuff to work well, look good and serve a desired purpose. I'm also kind of a cheap bastard (if you ask my wife, I'm sure she would argue otherwise). I enjoy quality but my budget usually requires that to find quality I need to acquire items on sale and at a discounted rate. I buy most of my gear online or on sales racks in the late winter or springtime when they are out of season. I also like outlet stores and hate to pay full-retail for anything. I've found my best bargains online at sierratradingpost.com and believe it or not on Cabelas.com in their bargain cave section. In the late winter and springtime you can find items that you thought were out of your price range for less than half and sometimes 70% off at these places. Also once you buy items from these sites and get on their email list you usually receive coupons and such via email that discount products even further. Hunting gear is expensive enough even discounted. Never pay retail if you don't need to. Today, I'm going to focus on my favorite hunting pants.

Cabelas Early Season Upland pants: (above photo taken from cabelas.com)
Out of all the hunting pants I own (and I own many) these are my favorite. They are light-weight but tough enough to handle the brush I wade through during the early grouse season here in Utah. I absolutely love these pants. I wear these nearly all season but I really appreciate them early and late season when its warmer. They are also perfect for Chukar hunting. Lightweight yet tough and durable. When your doing a lot of hiking you don't want heavy canvas pants dragging you down. I will even wear these hiking in the summer time if I plan on going off-trail. I like the cargo pockets with zippers and the zippers on the back pockets. I've worn these for 2 seasons and and they are still wearing great. These probably wouldn't hold up in the woods of the Northeast for more than a season but for what I do here in Utah they are perfect. If someone knows of a better chukar hunting pant please let me know.


$49.99 on Cabela's website. They've gone up recently. I got mine in their bargain cave for $19.99 2 years ago. Unfortunately, they haven't been discounted since I bought mine (I've been watching). If you want a nice pair of lightweight upland pants these are great.

Columbia Grouse II Upland pants
In colder weather I really like my Columbia Grouse II Upland pants (above photo taken from sierratradingpost.com). Heavy canvas with the protective heavy polyester overlays on the pant fronts and bottoms. Plenty of protection for what I deal with here in the west. I don't wear chaps although I've considered getting some for wet conditions (I hate walking around in wet pants). They are a little baggy but I kind of like them like that. If you happen to wear suspenders they have built in suspender buttons. These are nice heavy pants. I'm on my 4th season with mine and they are starting to fray some at the bottom and I have worn some holes in the bottom of the legs on the back side where there is no nylon but there is still plenty of life in these pants. I just need to patch them up. Sierra Trading Post always seems to have these on sale and I got my pair for $21. Recently I bought the Columbia Grouse III. They look and fit exactly like the Grouse II's but have the Omni-Shield protection and the fabric is more polyester. Much lighter pants than the Grouse II. We will see if that makes a difference. I also bought these at sierratradingpost.com. I believe I paid $26 for them with an online coupon. Once you get on Sierra Trading Post email list you can get some rocking deals if you have the patience to wait for the good sales.

NOTE: I wore my Columbia Grouse III pants for the first time yesterday and I really liked them. They were heavy enough to protect me from all the brush and briars and light enough that they weren't overly hot or heavy. Like I said above they are a little baggy but I didn't mind. I think overall these will be great pants.

NOTE 2: I've worn these throughout the 2011 season in all kinds of conditions and I love the Grouse III pants. I wouldn't call them water-proof but they have kept me dry in some wet rainy conditions. They fit me great and are wearing very well.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Utah Forest Grouse Season Opener 2011

Utah's upland game season opened with the forest grouse (dusky and ruffed) and doves September 1st this year. This is a couple weeks sooner than usual for the grouse. I've been able to get out a couple of times and enjoy some grouse hunting with the dogs.
We haven't been able to connect with any grouse but we've had some contacts. The dogs are working hard under very unfavorable conditions. I think we need a hard frost to come through and knock down some of the cover. It's still very green and thick here. On top of that it's been warm. Beautiful though. I have a theory that with all the green growth that it is making scenting conditions very difficult for the dogs. Plus walking through it all is very tiring. But we're having fun. I usually don't get rolling on the grouse until the end of September anyway. Right now it still feels a little early to me for grouse season. My pants are stained green and I was eaten by mosquitos and stung by ants all while sweating profusely. Not the usual fall grouse hunt I'm accustomed to. We will keep working it until we get it figured out. We always do.
Chief my Llewellin is doing great. He had a great summer of training. He was worked on pigeons in and out of launchers and handled both very well. He's a good little bird finder and has a beautiful point and shows signs that he will be a natural backer. I'm excited to get him on more wild birds. You can tell it's just going to be a matter of contacts with more wild birds and this guy will be awesome. He is really impressive how he works a cover for such a young dog.
My Pudelpointer Hazel has been working very hard and is doing very well. However, she suffered a pretty bad eye injury along with a nasty scratch on her chest. She will plow through this heavy cover fearlessly and I'm afraid she hurt herself. She's pretty sore today. She will be fine after after a little break. Her poor eye was scratched and along with that she picked up a nasty sticker we have here that become embedded beneath her eyelid. This particular sticker is about an inch long hard needle shaped pest with a barb on one end. They get everywhere. Annoying things. Usually I can get them out of the dogs eyes myself but this time Hazel's eye was so swelled up I couldn't get it there to find it. The Vet was happy to numb up her eye with some drops and was able to remove the intruder. Her eye looks very sore but much better than it did.
I'm looking forward to some colder weather and more days afield with these dogs. It's going to be a good year with these two.