Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hens, Rainbows, Gashed Tail and "It's A Trap!" More Utah Pheasant Hunting


Well, the Pheasant hunt in Utah is still going on. The hunting becomes increasingly difficult with the birds becoming more and more wise to us and our bird dog assault.

I got out yesterday and we saw a few birds, had some great points and witnessed some good dog work but all we seemed to be finding was hens. We saw a few roosters but never had an opportunity on any of them. This late in the season you have to be on top of your game. Any mistakes made by you or your dogs will result in a long flush out of shotgun range. Sometimes you do everything right and the birds still go up out of range.



We had a couple issues during the day. Both involved Chief my young Llewellin. First, last week he caught his tail on a barbwire fence and peeled back a large chunk of skin. It was bleeding pretty bad and required some first aid. Notice the photo on the left and my awesome gauze/electrical tape first aid job. It worked and I thought it was pretty much healed up but yesterday he wagged off his bandage and it opened up again. It took me 3 tries of bandaging it before it would stay on for more than a minute. We got it handled and he's just fine.

2nd problem is he found himself stuck in a trap. Luckily it was a small coil spring trap and did no permanent damage. It did freak me out when I heard the trap snap on him. Chief was calm and just stood there with his foot up until I could come up and release him. I was very angry at first but I realized the trapper has the right to trap in this area as much as I have the right to hunt. I just wish there was a way to dog proof them. I admit it really pissed me off. If I had wire cutters it would of been in the pond. But I didn't and I realized it was an accident and I need to be more aware that when I hunt public lands this is a risk that we need to be aware of.  I'm just grateful I was close by and it wasn't a conibear trap. Thats a real fear of mine. I'm afraid that one of my dogs will be out hunting and stick their nose into one of those and suffocate before I realize that they are in trouble. Yesterday was a good reminder and you can be sure I've studied up on traps and what to look for and how to safely remove them.

Below is a very good article I found on how to release your dog from a trap. Study it! It could save your dogs life.
How to release a dog caught in a trap

Back to pheasant hunting.
My advice for hunting late season pheasants is get up early, hunt late, hunt silently and let your dogs have the freedom to hunt. And importantly when the dogs are birdy get up on them and keep up as best you can.

Late season birds usually won't hold for points like they do the first couple of weeks. They will run and hide and run some more until either the dogs pin them or they run out of cover. We were juked out by a couple wiley birds yesterday. Dogs were stalking and pointing for a long time and just to run out of scent. We hooked back but to no avail. It was very cool to watch. My dogs are hard running fast dogs. The don't creep like some dogs. So to watch them point, loose scent, Run a pattern for another 30 yards, slam into point and repeat for a few hundred yards was exciting.  I believe the birds did a hook on us and were able to get behind us. Who knows? That's how it go's with wild birds you can't win them all.


Honestly that's what makes it fun. This crazy, beautiful bird with a brain the size of a marble is using all it's survival tactics that are ingrained in it's DNA causing you and your dogs to have fits. Its so cool to work a cover just to watch the bird you knew was there sneaking along the private property side of the fence line  into someones farmyard while you just sit there and laugh because there's not a damn thing you can do about it. When working a cover you just have to hope a rooster decides to hunker down and hope you walk past. Those are the birds that end up in your game bag. The survivors are heading for the freedom of the next pasture or fragmite field.

Good luck to everyone still in the chase.



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Utah Pheasant Hunt First Week

Utah Pheasant Hunt 2012


Warm Opening Day
We've had a good time chasing Utah ringnecks in some of the toughest cover imaginable. I love hunting pheasants but I hate where we have to sometimes go to find them. I hate fragmites... that says it all. If I can stay out of them and still find birds I'm happy.

We have been successful and the dogs are doing really well. My young dog Chief is really coming on this year and Hazel is still awesome. Such a pleasure to hunt behind these dogs. Love every minute.

Opening weekend was HOT. High 60s. Too hot and too hard on the dogs. We got our limit of birds but it took all day to do it. It cooled off a little during the week and we were able to go out again. But is was the same deal. Too hot and it took a lot of work to get our birds again. I don't mind working hard for my birds but hunting the fragmites for them is very hard on the dog. They were very sore and beat up by the days end.

Highlight opening weekend was when Chief pointed a pair of young roosters. My brother and I were able to connect on both of them. I was stoked for Chief. I don't think he was nearly as excited. He just kept on hunting like he was saying... "Why so excited... that's what I do." I'm very proud of him.

The next weekend we got a snowstorm that dumped about 6" of snow. Perfect pheasant hunting conditions in my opinion. We got out early and Got into them pretty quick. Bagged a couple old swamp roosters that never would of stuck around if there wasn't that much snow on the ground. We stayed out of the fragmites and had a beautiful morning. Fresh fluffy, deep snow makes the birds stick rather than run. It makes for a much easier hunt. Especially with hard running pointing dogs like mine.

It was nice to put some big older roosters in the bag. So far we've been bagging just the young, dumb ones while we watch the nice, big old birds flush up ahead of us out of shooting range.

Unfortunately, the first big snow means the end of Grouse season. Unless you want to snow shoe into the cover that holds them. Dogs are useless in those conditions. And if you can't hunt birds with bird dogs why go. Right? It's too bad. It was a good year for grouse. Oh well. We'll chase pheasants for a couple more weeks and then we'll head for the chukar hills. I better hit the treadmill.

Nice Rooster Caught with no place to run. Shawn's dog had a nice long retrieve to find this one.

Shawn with a nice Rooster
 A good find and retrieve from Hazel.
During the hunt we look up at the horizon and saw a giant funnel cloud moving across the lake. I don't know if you can label this as a tornado but it was amazing to watch water swirling from the lake all the way up into the clouds. Gave us a moment of pause until we realized it wasn't coming our direction.
We don't get tornados in Utah very often. It was very cool to witness it. Camera phone picture doesn't do it justice. It was much closer than it looks it the photo. It died as suddenly as it appeared. So cool.

Utah Tornado? Sure looked like one.


We braved snow, rain, sleet and pea sized hail and witnessed a tornado during this hunt. What we'll go through for a bird hunt.

I swear the things you see when your out in the field. Things that you would never see anytime or anywhere else in your life. Hunting... there is absolutely nothing like it. Stepping out of everyday life and getting to witness nature at it's wildest or even at it's most dangerous. I absolutely love it.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

October Bird Hunting

Young ruff that evaded my shot. Hopefully it will survive the winter to make more grouse next year.
My favorite month has come and gone. I did some great hunting with family and friends. Grouse season this year has been a lot of fun. Steady action most every time we went. It was a blast. Hopefully the snow will hold off for a little longer and I can enjoy a few more days in the mountains chasing the ruffs and the blues.
Nice Male Blue Grouse
Chief with a nice Blue Grouse. Chief relocated it after I wounded it. After flying a couple hundred yards Chief pointed it again and I was finally able to bag it on my second try. Great work by a young dog.





At the edge of the cover wondering what direction we should go. I should let the dog decide... She's usually right.
Another Blue for Jeff. Amazing shot on a fast moving bird. The bird was wounded and running. Chief tracked it and caught it after plucking the tail feathers during the pursuit. Nice mature male bird.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More Grouse Hunting In Utah


Hunting For Blue Grouse In The Beautiful Utah Mountains

Grouse Poop. They are here!
Jeff's first Blue Grouse
The Grouse Season is still in full swing here in Utah and we're enjoying every second of it. I've been getting out as much as possible and have been getting into enough birds to keep it exciting.

The dogs and I have been out hunting with family and friends and we are having a wonderful time. We're all getting slowly back into shape all while being in some of the most gorgeous country you'd ever want to be in. Elk, mule deer, moose, turkey, bighorn sheep, mountain goats can all be seen in the places we've been hunting. Spent Saturday in a spot where we were into both Blue and Ruffed Grouse. Bagged my first Ruffs of the season this past weekend. 

The dogs are doing good. Hazel is now the old vet and Chief keeps progressing nicely. He is getting more and more savvy with these birds and his natural ability is really coming through. He is hunting with the team more and more and is starting to back theother dogs on point. He is much more aware of whats going on this year. I couldn't be happier with him
taking a lunch break
Chiefs retrieving is progressing. I've come up with a game plan that involves using his natural competitiveness with Hazel. It really has made all the difference. He is now getting more fired up about retrieving. Hazel is money with retrieving. If she's on the ground and we knock a bird down it's pretty much guaranteed that it's in the bag. But if she's not around the rest of our pack are pretty weak retrievers comparatively. I'm hoping that with a little work and praise I can bring out more desire to retrieve in Chief. I don't think it will take a whole lot of work to get there but he does need some encouragement. Retrieving grouse is difficult especially for a young dog. They hardly ever see the fall of the bird so they have to have that desire to go find it and hopefully bring it back to us.  I really love a nice retriever.

Using this competition method has really worked for Chief and I've see a big improvement while training in just the past week. He is not only retrieving the dokkens bumpers I throw in the yard he is doing it with vigor and enthusiasm. This is huge because usually he will just jog over to the bumper sloppily pick it up by the head or tail and just run around the yard with it. Now he is sprinting over to it, picking it up properly and sprinting back to me and delivering it to hand. Huge difference in a week. I guess retrieving a wild bird last weekend on his own really had a positive effect on him. It's fun to watch a young dog progress like that.

Chief is one of those dogs that if He feels like it's his idea he will do whatever you ask of him. But if he feels pressured it really slows him down. Life is just playtime to this kid. I could take a lesson from him with my attitude.

 Blue Grouse In The Bag
A pair of young Ruffed Grouse.
I've only been to a few areas so far here locally but so far it appears that we've had an excellent hatch of birds this year. The action has been pretty consistent and the dogs are getting a good workout. Great experience for a young dog like Chief. He's been in pretty much every circumstances you could hope to create and he's handling it all better than could be expected for a young dog. Finding birds, pointing, backing, and retrieving downed birds. I couldn't ask for more.
A tired brace of bird dogs taking a break in the shade.
nothing like a deep moose wallow to cool down in

Hope everyone else is enjoying the season. The weather here in Utah is finally starting to cool. The leaves are in their full Autumn glory and it's an amazing time of year. I am so blessed. Some days I just look at these mountains and can't believe what I'm seeing. These pictures from the iPhone just don't do them justice. All while hunting over these beautiful animals. I can't wait to get out again.

Good Hunting, everyone!

Brett


Searching the flats on the way back to the truck


Friday, September 14, 2012

SEPTEMBER BLUES


MALE BLUE GROUSE IN FULL STRUT.   photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Upland Utah Is Back. It's been a long time since I've posted. It's been one crazy summer.

After 13 years working for the same company I've made a career switch. The new company I work for is an amazing, young, growing company. The owners are great people and the opportunity was too great to pass up. It's just what I've been searching for. I'm very happy with this new job and the best part is it's only 5 minutes from my home. I've been commuting about 2 hours a day the last 10 years. Having work so close to home has been awesome. It's been crazy busy and I've had no time to even think about this blog but things are calming down and I'm finally feeling like I'm getting on top of the pile of work we have. Just in time because hunting season is here!

With the busy summer we haven't been as active as I would of liked but we have done some camping and the family took some vacations so not all was lost. 

The dogs are doing good but are not in the kind of shape I would like to see them in but we're working on it and we will work our way back into shape this month. We have to... grouse season has started and September is all about the Blues…. grouse that is.

We've been out a couple times and it appears that the Blues (I can't get used to calling them Dusky Grouse) have had a good population bump. Last year we were struggling to see any but so far I've had pretty good success. We've been hunting the edges of young aspen stands near the top of the ridges.  It seems to be working. 

Blue Grouse are fun birds, especially with dogs but they're not the most challenging game bird. There have be times hiking during the summer that I've found them walking right off the side of the trail. Birds were acting no wilder than a barnyard chicken. You could kill them with a rock if you wanted. But, put dogs on the ground and they act pretty wiley. They are a lot of fun with pointing dogs. Early in the season they tend to hold for points pretty well. As the season progresses they get more jumpy. Usually they travel in family groups ranging from 2 to about 8 birds. When one Blue comes up you better get ready for some more shooting. 

Blue grouse have a fantastic flush. It can be as fantastic an eruption as any ruffed grouse or rooster pheasant. In my experience they usually are found on a slope and fly downhill, quickly gaining speed to heavy cover. Shots are usually fast and furious and the birds are rarely alone so reload quickly. If your lucky enough to catch them on flat ground they will usually just fly into the nearest cover that they are usually not far from. So, there is good opportunities for repeat flushes if they don't take cover high in the trees. 

 In my opinion they are beautiful birds, especially the males. Slate blue mottled with brown tones. Dark tails with a band of repeated blue on the tip of their tail feathers. Orange to yellow eyebrows on the the more mature males. Adults can get as large as any pheasant you'll find. And the terrain where you hunt them is just gorgeous. They are found in the High Rockies, Sierras to the coastal Pacific Northwest up the coast to Alaska. 

Me and the hounds with an early season Blue (Dusky) Grouse

Blue grouse hunting is about having fun. It's early in the season and there is no pressure. It's about getting the dogs out and getting a good run in the beautiful mountains we have here in the West. Its just nice to be out in it.  I Love it. 




Georgia Pellegrini has a great recipe for blue grouse. It works for other grouse species  and pheasants too.  It can be found here:


Delicious.  Good stuff all over her site.



I've tried a bunch of different recipes from a few different chefs and most turn out great. But, my favorite way to prepare game birds is still just a simple pan fry in olive oil. Let the meat age in your refrigerator for a week or so. Salt and pepper and a quick fry with your favorite beverage and a side of whatever you got. That recipe works for me every time.






Thursday, May 3, 2012

2012 TURKEY HUNT OPENER (NICE GUYS NEVER WIN)

Bunch of Turkey-Hunting Weirdos

I spent a beautiful day with my family turkey hunting this past Monday. We accessed a place that I've run into a few turkeys while hiking. My Brother Shawn and 12-year old Nephew Parker and myself rode up up on a trailer (hay-ride style) pulled by my dad on his 4-wheeler.  We looked ridiculous but it was a good way to get us all up the mountain along with all our gear. 

The spot I planned on hunting was already occupied by other hunters so we had to improvise and headed to another spot I had seen birds recently. As we were hiking to the spot my dad's breathing really started to become labored. We were all concerned and once again had to change our plans to make sure his health wasn't compromised. It really sucks to see your parents grow old to the point they can't participate in the things that they once loved so much. He road hunted (napped) the rest of the morning. 

Shawn, Parker and I went to another spot and finally got set up about 7 a.m.  We set out the decoys in a likely looking spot and made a few calls. About 10 minutes later we had a gobbler start gobbling from the top of the hill behind us. We made another call and the tom was sprinting down the mountain to us. We had to reposition ourselves a couple times because he was working back and forth behind us trying to locate our position. Soon he was right on top of us. We were all pumped and hoping that we would get 12 year old Parker an opportunity to get his first bird ever. This was his first actual hunt where he was able to carry a  gun and shoot. I was closest to the Tom as he approached us. I put my bead on his beautiful, bald, blue head and held it. He was in full-strut, big and gorgeous. I waited for my nephew to take the shot. Nothing happened. !? "Please Parker shoot!" I thought. I still had my bead on him but was waiting on Parker thinking he should be plenty close enough. Finally, I gave up on Parker and was about to shoot when this Tom suddenly dropped out of his strut and took a step back. The gig was up, something had spooked him, I had one last second to take a shot but I hesitated because of some brush was sort of in the way. He was gone. Damnit! I should of shot. Crazy! 

My nephew never had a shot. A 4 foot tall pine tree was blocking his view.  From where I was sitting I couldn't tell and none of us dared move to tell each other to shoot. Hopefully that wasn't my only chance of the hunt. My brother told me thanks and he appreciated what I was trying to do but told me in no uncertain terms,  "If you got a shot, take it, don't worry about Parker getting his."  We hunted hard the rest of the morning and afternoon. We had a real cool experience where a Mother moose and her year old calf walked right through our hiding spot. They were right on us before we knew they were there and I didn't dare move to reach into my pack to get my camera out for a photo. Very cool. That and the missed opportunity was pretty much the excitement for the day. It was so much fun though. I love turkey hunting. Hopefully we will get another opportunity in the coming weeks. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

RED HOT DEVIL BIRD


Digging through my freezer this past weekend I found a few game birds from last season that I needed to cook up. I'd been procrastinating this meal because these particular birds were the dregs of the birds we killed towards the end of this past season. These birds were all shot to pieces or one in particular was the victim of a tug-a-war between 2 dogs. But there was still a lot of usable meat on them. With all the time and effort it takes to get a few of these birds I hate to waste any game birds I harvest and I really enjoy ending the process with a nice meal. I love eating wild game, not only is it delicious, there is sense of pride and satisfaction eating a meal that took so much work to produce. I absolutely love this part of the hunting experience.

 In this circumstance of heavily damaged meat I usually do KeBobs on the barbecue grill. I just slice out the good portions from the carcass into small chunks and slide them onto skewers salt and pepper and add onion and peppers. Its easy, cooks fast and makes a nice meal out of damaged birds that looks as good as it tastes. 

Last night I tried a different approach that I wanted to share. I'm going to call it "RED HOT DEVIL BIRD Buffalo style"  (for now until I come up with a better name). This recipe is super easy and was originally our hot wings recipe but it works well with any kind of game bird.

Ingredients:

2-3 shot up Chukars (Devil Bird) 

2 cups flour in a large zip lock bag

1/2 cup Franks Red Hot Wings Sauce (its all about the sauce)

1/2  cup butter.

Salt and pepper

Slice up the birds to remove all the good meat off the bird however you can. I had a couple of nice Breasts I cut in two and I also had a bunch of smaller pieces about 2" in diameter I left the legs and thighs whole. Lightly salt and pepper. (This recipe is a great way to cook those tough chukar legs. I cooked the legs and thighs together whole with this recipe and they were tender and delicious.)

Take a baking sheet and cover it in aluminum foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Place your chukar pieces in the large zip lot bag with the flour. Roll the flour and meat together until all is coated generously in flour.  Remove the pieces and spread them out on the baking tray. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Melt the 1/2 cup butter and combine it with the 1/2 cut of Franks Red Hot Wing Sauce by whisking the mixture together. Remove the tray of chukar from the refrigerator and dip the pieces into the sauce until all are liberally coated and place the pieces back onto the baking tray.

Pre heat oven to 375ยบ and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes turning over the pieces halfway through the process. Like with all game meat there is a fine line that you will have to find with thoroughly cooking the meat while not overcooking it. Be diligent and use a cooking thermometer so you can get it just right. The smaller thinner pieces will cook much faster and will need to be removed before the larger pieces are completely cooked. 

Serve with more Franks sauce, Bleu Cheese dressing and celery and keep your favorite beverage close by because this is spicy. My kids won't go near it but I had a runny nose good time. 

Try it sometime or just use the same recipe for chicken wings or to make your own buffalo tenders. If you use this recipe for chicken increase the cooking time to 40-45 minutes to compensate for the larger pieces and the extra fat most store bought chicken will have. Use common sense and enjoy.










Monday, March 26, 2012

I HATES BARB-WIRE!!


We had a scary moment this past weekend. We wanted to run the dogs one last time on wild pheasants before the nesting season begins. We were having a wonderful time and was getting into a mess of birds. All the dogs were doing great. My brothers shorthair was working a bird along a fence line and appeared to have the bird slammed. As pheasants will always do this bird was running and the dog was starting to fizzle out on the scent. I thought no way that bird ran out too far a head of us with my dogs running big ahead of us. I called my dogs in to help find it. Hazel my pudelpointer and Chief my setter followed the scent onto the other side of this 4 strand barb wire fence. I believe Chief flash pointed for a second and the bird came up just a few yards from us. The bird flew over this fence and all three dogs followed in hot pursuit, right through that barb wire fence.

All 3 dogs came up injured but Hazel was by far the worst of the 3. The grass in the area is about 3 feet tall so I don't think any of the dogs realized that the fence was even there until they hit it. Chief has a 1 inch slice on his chest and sliced up his tongue a little. My brothers shorhair Sage sliced one of her back feet open and Hazel punctured herself right below her left eye.

As soon as it happened I knew we were in trouble. Hazel's face was instantly pouring blood and by the time I got a hold of her it was dripping down her beard and flowing pretty good. I grabbed her and put pressure on the spot that appeared to be bleeding but the bleeding didn't seem to be slowing down. My brother dug open my first aid kit and pulled out my largest bandage, a large belly bandage, and opened it for me. I slapped it on her face and held it tight as I could but it became completely soaked in about 20 seconds. That's when I really started to get concerned that I wasn't going to be able to get this wound to stop bleeding. My brother then offered his tube of EMT GEL and I gratefully took it. My own tube had dried out and I recently tossed it and I haven't replaced it yet. I took a nice marble sized glop and placed it over the wound. It slowed for a second but eventually the blood popped the gel like a blister. I applied the EMT gel a second time and the bleeding stopped. Halelujah. I stuck a piece of first aid tape over the wound, leashed her up and headed for home.

At home I gingerly removed the tape and cleaned up her face and washed the area with hydrogen peroxide. I shaved of the gel and hair around the wound and exposed a single puncture wound just an inch in front of her eye. I thought it was going to be much worse for how much it bled. She must of hit a large vein or something. Once it was cleaned off It oozed a little more blood but not much and I called my vet. It was the weekend so he wasn't working but his assistant was very helpful and told me what to look for. It appeared to be a pretty strait forward wound and she recommend some antibiotics which I had on hand so I didn't even end up taking her in. Today (2-days later) she looks great. No swelling, the bruising is almost gone and her eye looks clear and bright. We dodged a bullet on this one. Hazel is lucky she still has an eye.

The other dogs are fine and basically got the same treatment. Cleaned their wounds with water and peroxide and sealed them with EMT gel and they are both healing up nicely. Thank God we came out of that unscathed as we did.

If you have bird dogs, dogs or even horses. BUY EMT GEL and always have it on hand when your out and about. Accidents can happen anywhere and this stuff can save your pets life. We have used it now for the past 3 years and this is the second time that it has saved the day. It's great for all the little wounds that we encounter with our dogs. I can't say enough about this product.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

CHIEF OF DESTRUCTION AND A SKUNK IN THE GRASS

What you got there Chief?
Since my hunting season ended a couple of weeks ago I've been busy catching up on projects around the house that I've long neglected due to hunting most weekends. Just some general cleanup and maintenance, nothing major. Unfortunately, this has caused me to neglect my bird dogs and they haven't got the exercise and run that they've become accustomed to. I've walked them and taken them for short fun runs a couple of times, even put them on the treadmill a few times but not the full out run that they get while hunting. Well after a few dormant days in the yard Chief decided to remind me that a bored young dog can be one of the most destructive forces of nature. 

He had been carrying on all that day. Barking it up, wrestling rougher than normal with Hazel, bouncing off the back door. I even got after him a couple times to be quiet. But, I didn't pay him the attention he was begging for. When I finally went out to spend some time with the dogs it was already getting dark. He greeted me by spitting this red plastic thing (above) at my feet. At first I didn't know what it was, it looked familiar but I couldn't place it. Then it dawned on me and all it took was a glance at my machine to realize that he had found a way to keep himself busy.


He ATE my snowblower.


"CHIEF!! ….*&^%$#$.... WHAT THE.... @#$%^&%$#!" MUTHA…..!@#$%^&*"

He had chewed up the plastic ignition key, chewed off the pull string handle, chewed the exit tube that throws the snow up out of the machine and somehow dismantled the engine brake mechanism. Little bugger. I could of thrashed him.

Chief didn't run away. He just lowered his head in shame and just looked at me with a sad hound dog look. I realized that this mess could of been prevented with a simple 10 minute game of fetch or a quick 20 minute romp at the park. These dogs (birddogs, gundogs) have to be stimulated both physically and mentally daily. You (I) can't just leave them to their own discretion for very long or this is what happens. Anyone who gets one of these animals needs to know the full commitment that is involved. Chief gave me a nice reminder. Sorry Dogs. Luckily we haven't had any deep snow here in the valley so I haven't had to use the snowblower yet. Ordered the new key and other than some cosmetic damage it should still run fine.

Lesson learned I took the dogs out to a local WMA area the following week and let them tear it up. We got up 5 pheasants and a couple ducks off the river. It was a very windy day but the dogs didn't care. They were winding roosters from a long distance and I was able to see some beautiful long distance points. Towards the end of our romp we were working a large ditch and both dogs were very birdy. Chief got up a couple birds but I was below it all and didn't see what had occurred. I ran up to the top of the ditch bank and Chief was out of sight. He must of chased after the pheasants that flew. Hazel then starts working this side of the slough. She go's on point. I finally had the foresight to get my camera out of my backpack and snapped the picture below. Hazel then stops and looks at me with a "what do I do now" look. Not thinking or noticing her change in demeanor  I walked up and squatted down to get a better photo when I see the grass to my left move. I thought to myself "awesome, there's the bird" but I quickly realized that instead of feathers I was looking at black fur and we had a skunk. I called Hazel off it and we got the heck out of there. It was just a little skunk but I'm sure it could of made the rest of the afternoon miserable for us all.


Hazel's been sprayed before and I'm glad it was her rather than chief that found the skunk. I'm not sure if I would of been able to call him off. All is well that ends well and both dogs came home tired and we had a very peaceful rest of the weekend.

Skunk Spray Remover Solution in case you ever need it. 

1 bucket
1 half gallon of water
1 small box baking of soda
2 quarts hydrogen peroxide
2-3 teaspoons of dish soap
1 set of rubber gloves

Mix all the contents together in the bucket until its a thin soapy paste and liberally "frost" the dog with the solution in the contaminated areas. Be careful not to get it in the dog's eyes. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes and rinse and repeat until the offending odor is diminished. Then give the dog a regular bath with shampoo to rinse the solution completely away.


I  try to keep it all in a bucket in my truck. I've only had to use it once but I was so happy I had it. 

The time I used it Hazel was dowsed by the biggest skunk I've ever seen. It looked like a giant walking floor mat until it raised it's tail.  I think that big skunk had been storing it's spray up for a while and gave Hazel both barrels to the chest. My dog was soaked in enough skunk funk to gag a sewer rat. She literally looked like someone had thrown a bucket of skunk at her chest, she was soaked with it. We were only a couple blocks from home so I threw her in the open bed of my truck and went to my house. I tied her up to an apple tree in the yard and went to work with the above mentioned solution. Meanwhile the whole neighborhood was wondering if a skunk was stuck in their window well. It took 4 dowsing of the solution and a bath with the most perfumed shampoo we had in the house before I could stand to be near her. She slept outside for a couple days and she still had a very faint skunk odor for a about a week after the incident. Skunk juice is powerful stuff. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

2011-12 ANOTHER SEASON IS IN THE BAG

Last Chukar of The 2011-12 Season
Saturday was my last opportunity to get out and hunt chukars before seasons end on February 15. I was hoping to take a day off work and get one more hunt in but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. Like every season we had good days and we had other days that were… lets just say… not as productive. Overall this year was a little disappointing in the fact that we weren't able to make some of the trips we were planning on. Locally we didn't get into as many birds as I would of liked but that is always the case. Forest Grouse numbers seemed to be down this year. Chukars seemed about the same as last year, maybe a little better and the Pheasants are always scarce and I wasn't able to get after much else. But, scattered throughout the year there were days that were as good as I could ever hope for. 


Both of my dogs showed a positive progression. Hazel has come into her own and has grown into the dog I always knew she could be. She is such a cool dog, I love hunting her. I've never owned such an obedient animal. She has an eagerness to please and do right. I think the europeans bred that into these dogs because I'm not that good of a trainer and she is such a attentive, disciplined girl. When she has it rolling in the field it is a lot of fun to watch. She has all the drive and athleticism you could ever want out of a hunting dog. Some days I just have to step back and just admire what she does. Other days I want to pull out whats left of my hair. But that's how it is with this dog. It's a give and take. Way more positive though. I take responsibility for all of her faults. It's never because a lack of ability or desire with her it's more of take the foot off the gas, if you know what I mean. I swear that there are times she runs past me and you can almost feel the ground shake but at the same time she is so smooth and moves so well in the woods that it seems like she's hardly touching the ground. She is by no means perfect and she has her faults but who doesn't. She creates so much in the field that she compensates for any mistakes made along the way. On top of all that she is the best retriever I've ever owned. She was born with so much natural ability. I love this dog and can highly recommend the Pudelpointer as a breed. From my limited experience they are outstanding animals.

Chief has gone through that crucial first season and I think he did great. The first part of the season he was hunting hard but wasn't initializing many bird contacts. But he naturally progressed and by the end of the hunting season he was hunting so well that I had to constantly remind myself that he is still a pup. He fulfilled all my expectations for his first year. He's holding his points, he is adamantly always searching for game, he is obedient for the most part. He is interested in hunting with me and given the opportunity he will make a retrieve. What else could you ask from a first year dog. He did awesome. I'm very proud of him. I just wish we had another month to hunt. It feels like he was just really getting it and the season is over. I will need to make sure he maintains his progression until next season.

Laurel Mountain Wasatch Chief at 7 mos. Grouse Hunt
Chief is my first setter and I wasn't sure what to expect as far as a pet goes or what kind of personality he would bring to my hunting experience. He has been fun. Like with all young dogs there have been moments when he tries my patience and I have been known to call him "dipsh!t" once in a while but for the most part he's been a real good dog. He's acting more mature all the time and he will be fine. He's just a big friendly goof that still hasn't learned where his body begins and ends. I also love having a bird dog with a long tail. It has been a long while since we've had one. 

In the field Chief  has always been a natural and requires nothing of me other than to shorten up his range at times. He is bigger than I expected but he is not too large. He will probably end up in the 55 pound range. That's a good size for a male hunting dog in my opinion. He is tall and fine boned with long legs.  He is athletic and has all the speed I could ever want. He has good conformation and I think he is one of the most handsome dogs I've seen. I love watching this guy hunt. He's got the power and the speed along with the grace, beauty and style that attracted me to the Llewellin breed. 

A pleasant surprises has been how tough and durable he is. After a long hunt when the older dogs would be walking gingerly and were happy to crawl back into their crates, Chief would look fresh and ready to go for another round. I used to joke "no brain no pain" but that wasn't the case at all. Because he's smart, he's just tough as nails. He has really good, tight feet that have held up well in the chukar hills. .Good feet are a big deal when it comes to bird dogs who hunt the high desert. The dog's feet take a pounding in that terrain so the tougher the better.

I was a little worried about the setter coat but it hasn't been a problem. It does require some maintenance and I do need to spend a few extra minutes at the tailgate pulling burs and such but not much more than I've had to do with the wooly wirehairs I've owned. I brush my dogs daily no matter what coat length they have so the additional minute or so to clean his out is not a problem. I believe getting a dog up on a bench for a couple minutes and giving them that extra attention goes a long way with the dogs attitude. My dogs are usually bouncing off the garage walls when I get home from work but when I throw either of them on the bench and brush them out they calm right down. I usually go through this routine before I do any yard training too. This little bit of attention just seems to help them get their mind right and calms them down so they can absorb the training. Next summer I will clip him when I clip Hazel and give them both a clean up trim just before the season begins. I'm sure it will help with the burs and tag-a-longs we pick up during grouse season. I've done that with Hazel the last couple of years and then just let the coat grow out through the season and by the time chukar and pheasant season gets rolling the dog has a nice heavy coat to deal with the colder weather.

Hazel and Chief with the last grouse of the 2011 season. 

These two dogs together are quite the combination. European Versatile paired with the American Birddog. They are really starting to work as a team and compliment each other. They are quite a pair of canines. Both are excellent bird finders, He still has a way to go to be as fine a hunter as Hazel is but I think he will get there. He showed me so much towards the end of the season. Chief will retrieve downed birds if he sees the fall and if he doesn't f Hazel is more than happy to search out a downed bird. Chief will get better at retrieving, he shows a good desire and with a little work he will be solid. Both dogs are starting to que in on one another and starting to hunt at times as a team. It's amazing to watch and I know it's just going to get better the more they hunt together.  Some days it seems like neither want to honor the other and they will get over-competitive with one another and push birds too hard. But on the days that it all works and both are honoring one another and they are tag teaming coveys… It just doesn't get any better. I'm lucky to have two cool, unique hunting companions like them. The future of my kennel is bright. I can see myself hunting over this combination of breeds or similar type dogs for the rest of my life. I really like the versatile/setter combination.

Besides adding another dog to the lineup the other major change to my hunting style was the addition of an semi-auto shotgun the last couple of months. The Franchi 48/AL is a great gun. I really, really like it. In 12 gauge it weighs less than my 20 gauge New Haven pump. Its a joy to carry and It fits me well. I can't say I'm dropping more birds but I'm having a lot of fun trying. On chukars it has been awesome. It was a nice addition but it won't replace my doubles. I can't imagine not using my over/under 12 on pheasants  or not using my 28 sxs on grouse. Life is too short to always be using the same gun. My wish list still has a 16 gauge or 20 gauge sxs on it and I still need a camo duck/turkey gun semi-auto of some type. There is plenty of room for expansion in my shotgun collection. 

Regrets for the year: I didn't make it to some of the places I really wanted to hunt this year. I have a couple of mountain ranges in mind that I think may hold some chukar and I never made the trip out to see if I'm right. I didn't make it to some of my favorite grouse haunts. The biggest regret was the fact that the trip to South Dakota we planned on never happened. Hopefully next year all of it will work out better. Time and money is all it takes and lately I'm short of both. 

Another regret was my physical conditioning was not what I like it to be. I was hunting slower than usual at the end of the season and I need to get back to were I was a year ago. My dogs are in great shape and I'm sucking wind and having to take frequent breaks on the chukar slopes. My dogs use my treadmill more often than I do. I need to get in the habit of biking, increase my walking and improve my core. I'm getting older and things aren't as automatic as they used to be. I need to make more of an effort for my health sakes. Hopefully that will lead to better hunting.

Goals for next year:
Take a couple of bird hunting vacations, even if it's just a weekend to Idaho. Improve my shooting, get to the clays coarse more often. Get in shape. Keep the dogs progression improving. Get my kids into the field more often and get them more involved. It's hard to take the kids chukar hunting but a grouse hunt here and a pheasant hunt there shouldn't  be a problem. If I can accomplish these things I should have a great 2012-13 season

Overall, I did get into some birds. I brought a young dog along and my other dog keeps progressing nicely. I had some great days and have some great memories from this past season. I'm blessed to have done what I did, to live where I live and have the means to own the dogs and the time to do what I do. Hunting is my fountain of youth, my own personal time machine. When I'm hunting I still feel like that 14 year kid wearing his old, too small ski coat, pockets overflowing with shells. Clinging to a single shot 20 while chasing a bird dog through some thicket during an after school hunt. What's really cool is the same brother who was with me on so many of those adventures 25 years ago is still at my side today enjoying it all with me. We have the same love and passion for it as we always did. This never gets old. We will. But the feelings and experiences won't. I hope it never ends.  Because when it does then I'm afraid that will be the end of me. 

 I'm already excited for next year but I say that at the end of every season.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

SUPER BOWL CHUKAR HUNT



Taking advantage of my lack of interest in this years Super Bowl. I decided to go chukar hunting. My family was going over to my in-laws for a party and I figured why not use the time and get in another hunt before the season ends next week. Besides I could record in on the DVR. It was one of the most enjoyable days I've had this year. I witnessed some spectacular points and awesome retrieves. All under a blue sky followed by a crimson sunset with a full moon shining down on me as we finally got back to the truck. It was simply a beautiful day to be in the field.

I got to my mountain about 2:00 pm and started trudging up the mountainside. In about an hour we were in the area where I suspected the birds to be. Both of my dogs switch gears as soon as they were into a lot of chukar scent. All the way up they were just ranging out wide and far. They were hunting but I knew that the chances of us finding birds down low with the warm weather we've had lately were slim to none. As soon as we were within the last 500 yards of the mountaintop the dogs slowed down and their body language was telling me that we were in business. Birds were in the area. Once I caught up to the dogs there were tracks, scratch marks and chukar droppings everywhere. The adrenaline started kicking-in. Where I was sucking wind moments before, I marched up the last ascent knowing that birds could be anywhere.

Chief had the first find of the day. A beautiful point on a covey of about a dozen birds that were held up in a small draw among the deadfall. I called whoa and Hazel backed from about 50 yards above us. Chief held the birds beautifully and I was able to approach from the side. When the birds erupted I had a hard time focusing on a single bird (I need to get some prescription shooting glasses) and by the time I picked one out it was the trailer of the group. 5 ……( yes 5) shots later I was standing there dumbfounded that I didn't see that bird fall. I wasn't surprised I missed. Missing is par for the course, but I felt like I had caught that bird at least once. I gave the "dead bird" command just in case I just missed the fall, Both dogs searched for a few minutes to no avail. Dejected and feeling like I had failed Chief, we move around some rimrock in pursuit of that covey. Chukars will sometimes fly around a hill and it's possible to find them if you look at the same elevation on the opposite side.

As we crested the rimrock that was blocking my view of where the birds flew I saw chief flash point at what appeared to be nothing beneath a burnt juniper. Hazel was right behind him and stopped for a moment and then a lone chukar flew erraticly down the hill. The bird was obviously hurt and Hazel scooped it up in no time. I was so happy to get that bird. I should of had at least a couple out of the covey but I was glad to have dropped the one. Below is that bird. Chief seemed happy about it to.


When I hunt this particular hilltop I usually approach from the south then work around the hill to the edge of a canyon and follow that ridge up and over the top of the mountain. Today I went down instead. The dogs wanted to go downhill so I decided to follow them and see what would happen. We worked back and forth down the hillside to a point where 3 canyons meet. This spot has been productive in the past and I hadn't been there yet this season so I was hopeful. I was watching Chief from afar because Hazel was a little closer and acting pretty birdy so my focus was more on her. I lost Chief for a moment and I became concerned because he was close to where I suspected the birds would be. Then I found him. He was holding a beautiful point and his sickle tail  was sticking up above the cheat grass. It was obvious he had found them. It was such a pretty site, I had to try and get a photo as I approached him. I took the below photo and was moving in for another one when the covey blew up about 10 yards behind where chief was pointing I dropped my camera and didn't get a shot. I picked up my camera and moved in closer to where they where. 


That's when Hazel came through the area. She slams into a point (photo below, I know its hard to see but that brown spot in the center of the photo is Hazel on point) soon after Chief had returned and was now backing Hazel. I reach again for my camera to take another photo and just as I turn it on another half dozen birds come up between us all. I dropped my camera again but kept focus that time and aimed at a single that veered left  while the rest of the covey went right. I got on it and made a long shot and saw the bird get hit and flutter awkwardly to the ground. 


Yes!  I called "Dead Bird". Both of my dogs had followed the covey the other direction. But they broke the chase quickly and started hunting dead for the wounded chukar. Both dogs scoured the area to no avail. They widened their search to the point I didn't think they were looking for the bird any longer. I called both dogs over and gave the "dead bird" command a second time. Same thing but this time Hazel wanted to go North and soon I could tell she was working a track. She ran all the way over to the edge of the hill and disappeared over the edge with Chief in tow. About a half minute later I hear Hazel yipping and barking and I'm guessing they busted a covey on the far side of the hill. But to my pleasant surprise back over the hill came the dogs and Hazel had a nice young but very alive chukar in her mouth. She brought it to me and delivered it to hand. Apparently I had  just clipped this bird and broken its wing. So this bird hit the ground running and ran about 300 + yards across the hillside and down into the far canyon to hide from us. Cleaning the bird exposed that other than the broken wing it only had 3 other bits of shot in its right leg and thigh. I'm glad we found it. It was the retrieve of the year. I can't say enough about Hazel and her ability to find downed birds. She's awesome. 


The sun was beginning to drop behind the mountain and I was a couple of miles from my truck so I hurried back up over the hill for the long descent. What a beautiful day. I know I only came home with 2 birds but I couldn't be happier. I was very pleased with the performance of both of my dogs. It was one of those days that it all came together. I felt justified. A good reminder of why I love this upland hunting game so much and why I put so much energy into it. 

While walking the last descent during the last slices of daylight. I watched my dogs run down into the next canyon. I was about to call them back because a herd of Mule Deer were watching us from the next ridge. Hazel strutted low and cat-like towards the canyon bottom. Behind her Chief was drifting back and forth with his nose up in the wind. They both pause in unison and a few moments later covey of a half dozen birds flush cross the canyon and disappear into the dusk. Wow.

…………. and my camera was ok. Just a little scratched and dented. Like the rest of my chukar hunting gear. :)