Sunday, September 21, 2014

SATURDAY GROUSE HUNT


I was able to take the dogs out for a few hours yesterday. The morning started out great with a group of 3 birds right off the side of the road. Hazel had the first point and find of the day and I complimented by missing with both barrels. We had to work for a while to find our next birds but again Hazel pointed 2 young grouse on a brushy hillside and I managed to knock one down. There was a tree in front of Hazel and I had to wait until the birds flew past it before I could get a shot. There was that moment of uncertainty whether or not I'd even had a shot. But luckily one of the birds flights went a little wide to the left and I was able to get a bead on it and make the kill.

Chief on point with Hazel backing. Chief was starting to break-down when I took this shot. Note the low tail. He move another 15 feet or so up on the bird then pointed again. The bird flushed about 20 feet in front and above him in the brush giving me no shot. Nice work from both dogs.
Chief had a nice point on a single but the bird busted out of some high cover that didn't give me any kind of shot. (see above)

The One That Didn't Get Away
Overall it was good day afield even though it was short lived. It was a very warm day and the temperature rose into the 80s. We were in the truck headed home by noon. I actually became ill half way through the hunt and struggled to get back to the truck. Either I caught a virus or ate something that didn't agree with me or came down with heat-stroke. Whatever it was it sucked, but I'm feeling much better today.

I believe the weather is about to turn or at least I hope it is and we are going to get some cooler temperatures going forward. We will then be moving into the thick stuff and hopefully get into some ruffed grouse. I can't wait.

Some good news that I just heard and read about is the Chukars are doing well and numbers are up. With last summer's mild weather there was a good survival rate for this spring's chicks. Hopefully we can get the numbers back up to where we were in 2006. We should expect a good hunt this year.

For more info check out the DWR site: Utah Chukar Numbers Are On The Rise

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HAZEL

Cedarwood's WitchHazel at 8 weeks old back in 2007
Hazel The Day After I Brought Her Home with Her New Surrogate Mom - Zoe the BullMastiff.  Zoe was stoked. :)

She's been a strong retriever from day-1

Today is our pudelpointer Hazel's 7th birthday. It's hard to believe that much time has flown since we got her. She's been awesome since the day I brought her home. I'm not saying she's perfect or the best hunting dog ever but when it's all working with Hazel it's as good as it gets. Her personality makes up for any faults she has. She's loves hunting and not just finding birds, I believe she likes the interaction between us humans and with the other dogs as much as the hunting.

Hazel's 1st Grouse. 
Have you ever had your bird dog give you a joy-growl when it's retrieving a bird to hand or angrily bark at you to release her from a WHOA-command if the other dogs point is unproductive. I have and love the attitude and personality


she brings to every hunt or every romp in the yard. She's the best retriever I've ever owned. She loves water and will wear your arm out with a tennis ball. She's good with the kids and is a perfect family dog. She's awesome and I love her.


She's sold me on this breed. I can't imagine not having a pudelpointer in my life. Hopefully I can get another one with her attitude, spunk and loyalty.

Hazel, The Day Before Her 7th Birthday covered in mud and stickers. Doing What She Loves Most.





Monday, September 15, 2014

DUSKY BLUES OR BLUE DUSKY... UTAH GROUSE HUNT CONTINUED


Hazel and I enjoying another day afield
I was blessed with another day of chasing grouse across the Utah mountain-tops. I can't get enough of this. So far it's been a fun yea and this years hatch seems to have been a good one, at least for the Blues in the area's I've hunted.

I invited my friend Jeff to come along and I believe I've sold him on how fun hunting grouse with dogs can be. He was surprised at what strong fliers the grouse are and the distances they can travel after they flush. We had a blast and it was nice to get to know him better. He's a great guy and we had a good time hunting and just B.S.ing about work, life, family and such. We put on a lot of miles but I think he'd agree that in the end it was all well worth it. 

We bagged a few and missed a few but overall it was a very enjoyable, relaxing day in the woods. We saw some deer elk and a couple moose. One moose was quite impressive. I love seeing those big, majestic animals and appreciate the sheer size of them.  Moose are just cool.... from a distance.

Another Bird in the Bag
The dogs did well. That's becoming the norm. They have their moments but both dogs are talented. I used to worry about what others thought of my dogs and get embarrassed when they screwed up. It doesn't seem to happen much now days. Maybe after all these years of hunting I just don't care anymore. At this point they are what they are just like I am what I am. With a better trainer I know they both could be amazing but I do what I can do and hunt them as much as I can. Chief busted a covey of blues right off the bat but he soon recovered, he calmed down and gave us some great points and good opportunities on the singles from the initial flush. Hazel batted cleanup and did all the closer work and handled most of the retrieving duties for the day. She even backed Chief a couple of times (rare and not a natural ability for her, she's a bird-thief at heart).

I love starting the year on grouse. Blues are perfect for dusting out the upland hunting cobwebs. Start the season out on Blues and once the weather gets colder move to habitat that holds Ruffed Grouse and before you know it it's Chukar season and Pheasant season for a couple weeks and then back to Chukars to finish the year. If your lucky you have opportunities to hit some other species intermittently throughout the different seasons. It's a good progression and it makes sense throughout the year.

The only downer we had was at the very end of the day when we were just coming up on the truck. Chief found a dead elk or deer and decided to perfume himself with the musk. His white hide was yellow with funk and he smelled like death. In my truck I had some horse mane conditioner that I use to aid in sticker removal so I dowsed him with it and dumped the rest of the drinking water we had over him and gave him a scrub with another rinse. Then I drove to a pond and made him go for a swim. He smelled much better but he wasn't happy with me. It's all good though, I think all is forgiven from both sides. It's a given…. dogs will always behave like dogs. 

Tired Boy
That night I had Chief up on the bench and was picking stickers out of his fur. He was so tired that he kept dozing off even while he was sitting up. I'd be brushing and working on him and I'd see his eyes start to shut and then he'd start to rock forward. I thought I might have to catch him so he didn't fall over. It was funny but at the same time I admire that boy. He gave everything he had in him that day. He worked for every covey, every single, every point, every cast. He ran and ran and ran with his nose high. The next day I was cleaning out my game vest in the back yard and had his full attention as I scraped out the feathers and sprayed out the blood. I went back inside and hung up my vest in the garage. He had noticed the vest in my hand when I went inside. He laid down on the lawn and started to howl and whine. I believe he thought I was going hunting again and he didn't want me to leave him behind. There is so much will to hunt in that dog. I had to go out and love on him to calm him down. He can't wait to go hunting again and I can't wait to take him. I love to watch him run and hunt. It's a sight to behold.

Jeff with a nice mature Dusky (blue) Grouse
 Best of luck to everyone in the chase.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

EVENING GROUSE HUNT



I was able to get out for a couple hours tonight to chase some grouse. I got a late start so by the time we got up the mountain to the area I wanted to hunt there was only about an hour and half until shooting hours were over.

We made our way down into the area and when we walked in to the oak trees Chief got all birdy and up popped a nice mature male blue grouse.  He flew away from me but then made a wide arching right to left crossing shot and I was just able to get a bead on him and down he went. It was a pretty good shot if I may say so.

As soon as I shot Hazel came bounding into the area leaping right past me about 4 feet in the air. It made me laugh, she looked like a deer. She was stoked! I called "dead bird" and both dogs were in pursuit. Then... nothing.  ?  They hunted dead for a few minutes but soon both dogs were over-heated and needed a break. I watered them and we looked again, still no bird. I started to wonder if I really hit it. Then I started looking. No feathers, no sign that a bird had fallen anywhere that I could see. Still we looked to no avail.  Damnit I hate losing birds, at that point I was starting to second guess if I had even hit it.

It was getting late and I wanted to try one more spot so I called the dogs and left. Leaving just didn't feel right. We hunted the other spot for about 20 minutes and got up 2 more birds but I didn't have shots on either of them. It was starting to get dark and we were about 40 minutes from the truck so I decided to head back.

Along the way that original bird really started to nag me. I never like the idea of leaving a wounded bird behind. I replayed it over and over in my mind. It sure looked and felt like I had hit it. I decided to go back and work the area again. We didn't have much day light left when we returned to the spot and I replayed it in my mind and sent the dogs to hunt dead again and still nothing. I circled the area where I thought it had fallen twice more with the dogs and still no bird. I then widened my circle and tried again. Just when I was about to give up I realized that I hadn't seen Hazel for a minute. I quietly called out to her... "Hazel?" She let out a little whine. She was just 20 feet from where I stood rock solid on point. All I could see of her was her fuzzy brown tail sticking up above the cover. I took a step towards her and up pops that grouse with an obviously broken wing. It comes back down and by this time both dogs are chasing it. It attempts to fly again and Hazel leap up and nabs it in the air by the tail and brings it down and then delivers it to hand. It had glided or ran a little outside of where I thought it was. The dogs had worked that area before but I think it was just too hot and they weren't catching it's scent. But we got it. Yep,  we eventually got it and I couldn't of been happier.

What I'm most excited about so far this season is Hazel is back on her game. I was worried about her. For whatever reason she was deferring too much to Chief last season. Not terrible but she just wasn't acting like herself. This season she's behaving more like herself or the old (pull your hair out but keep on your toes because she could do something amazing at any second) Hazel. I missed that fire she always had. So far she's looking like her old aggressive bird finding self and I love it.

Above is the terrible picture that I took right as the sun went down.  There was hardly any light left so it's awfully grainy. I'm so glad I went back to look again. It was a good lesson to never give up and to trust the dogs and make sure to give them every chance to do their job. They were pretty happy about it to.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2014 UTAH UPLAND SEASON OPENER

Typical cover we were finding blue grouse in that morning. I felt like I was sharptail hunting in Montana.

Forest Grouse season opened on Labor Day this year and my brother, nephew and myself were able to get out that morning.

We made it out to one of our favorite grouse hunting spots right after sunrise and the air was crisp, cool and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We knew this was going to be a short hunt because the forecast was telling us that the temperature would be up around 80 degrees and that was just too hot to be running dogs or fat middle aged hunters for very long.

The morning started off slow with only one flush with no shot. But within an hour I heard my nephew's shotgun and my brother's voice over the radio saying, "Get down here. They are in the grass!" I thought that meant in the edges of the meadows between the stands of aspen and pine but he meant out in the big open areas.

The blue grouse were in the open feasting on grasshoppers. Once the action started we were pretty much into them most of the morning.

Hazel working it!

We saw some good points, we shot pretty well and we didn't lose a single bird.
The dog work was pretty good for the opening morning. Every dog had his or her moments to shine. We were all very proud, hot and tired at the end of the day.

The scouting I have done locally put up a few birds but nothing like this area. They had a really good hatch this year. Every bird we bagged was young but all of them were strong flyers.  I was surprised at some of the shots they presented. But then again I rarely see them in the open like that. They aren't the fastest flyers so they are a good bird to start the year with. They also make great birds for the dogs to start the year on. Early season Blues are not the most challenging game bird. But they are fun. The birds held for points really well and were widely spread out. The points is what made it fun.

Hazel did awesome and found some tough retrieves and had some good finds. One particular gorgeous point comes to mind where she was up on a rock looking down into some brush and rock solid. I should of taken a photo. She was just beautiful. I can't believe she's already 7 years old. It doesn't seem that long ago that I brought a little brown fur ball home from Idaho.

Chief had some good points and found a cripple that I didn't think we'd ever find. That dog is so fun to hunt with. Monday he was like an old pro. He was under control, poised and did his job with style. He had so much fun I swear he's still smiling about it.

Chief and Hazel are more content today than I've seen them all summer. Very relaxed and calm. It say's a lot about how these dogs work both physically and mentally. They need to hunt, it's in their bones.

Shawn's shorthairs also did really well and had some gorgeous points and good finds.

We had our limits by 11:00 am which was perfect because it was already too hot and the dogs were starting to break down from the heat. We walked back to the truck with guns unloaded and 12 birds in the bag.
That is a rarity in my world.
Great memories.


The nasty tailgate shot. Chief can't get enough.