Paxson will soon be thirteen years old. He is surprisingly healthy, but his rear-end just isn't really with the program so much. So we took Paxson Double Barrel Ranch so he could get some action, and Booker was brought along for back up - as we were pretty much counting on the fact Paxson couldn't make the whole hunt. Also, we brought young Robert, my four and a half year old son, for his first pheasant hunt. All in all, a good time was had.
Just so we are all on the same sheet of music, I found the classic graphic I believe most "pointer people" can agree on to define the various "levels" of steadiness.. The further to the right, the "higher" the level of steadiness.
In the world of pointing dogs this can be quite the debate. In Real World hunting situations, with all of the people I have hunted with and all the different dogs I have had the opportunity to hunt over I have heard a lot of things, mostly yelling, cussing, copious whistle bleating and even witnessed a tantrum or two over dog performance for one thing or another. The one thing I never heard a peep over is a guy complaining his dog was too steady.. Let that soak in for a quick minute. Hell, I'm guilty of this. Please allow me to digress...it is my blog after all...In fact my first real bird dog from puppy is Paxson. I thought knew a lot about dog training already, read a half dozen books on Bird Dog training - man I got this, I thought. I was living in New Mexico at the time, and The Poof was about eighteen months old. He spent his first year and change living in Amstenrade, The Netherlands and had only seen a few pheasant and Grey Partridge when I took him out for walks in the South Limburger countryside.... Back to New Mexico. It was a banner year for Scaled quail, the coveys out on the mesa where epic - hundreds of birds, just in a single covey! It didn't take long and Paxson began to point naturally, doing an amazing job really. People have paid more to trainers and got less - just saying and since I thought I knew so much I allowed Paxson to be hunted with my dear friend's yellow Lab, Drake. I love Jim, and I really thought the world of Drake, but he was no pointing dog! True to type, he'd blaze on in and the quail would fly. Soon this became a competition for Paxson and turned into a behavior I have never been able to completely rein in. I learned I couldn't hunt him with another dog and so Paxson, despite being an amazing bird dog, has never had his talents showcased to anyone wanting to run their own dog during the same hunt.
Overall, the birds are down. In fact the past several years have seen a steady decline. Each year a step down from the year before. This year was supposed to be a good year, the monsoon rains were on time, and in good quantity, reality is, they were spotty. Still, some reports allege a violent mid-Sept storm decimated the young bird population... I can confirm the spotty monsoon reports, the rain was absolutely right in a handful of areas, and those ares where a tremendous amount of fun to hunt. Overall we had some nice dog work which made the whole trip well worth the time, energy and effort. Meanwhile, just to the North, Arizona wine country continues to deliver pleasant surprises: Like newcomer: Deep Sky vineyard, and places I've made threats to visit for years only to just now make the visit happen Rune Wines made for some nice tasting opportunities. While tried and true stalwarts Callaghan Wines, and Dos Cabezas delivered to expectation. Good times.
It is no secret, the birds have been slow this season. However, if you aren't faint of heart, willing to do some serious research and hard hiking there are a few pockets in this rough country holding nice quantities of birds. We shared one of these finds with our trusted friend the other day. Naturally, he was blindfolded, dizzied, and the batteries to his GPS were confiscated. I mean we don't trust anyone that much ;-) In areas like this, you can always wish for easier and/or better shooting but only a crazy person could have asked more more birds, or better work from the dogs. #DoubleDutch #PowderPower #FowlerTheDrent
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) in dogs can be caused by a range of things, from serious illnesses such as cancer or other underlying health disorders. But more commonly, the condition can be induced by fasting a dog or in this case hunting. Hunting requires a lot from a dog. I have written about the mileages recorded by the GPS collars worn by my dogs being upwards of 36 miles in a single day. Most upland birds do not live in conditions which mirror pan flat parking lots. They do live in some incredibly rugged country. Can you imagine running a marathon in Hell’s Canyon? Not running the shore line, but up and down while busting through thickets of dense brush repeatedly the whole day. Working dogs are extreme athletes with incredible energy demands! Because of this exercise induced Hypoglycemia is something we need to be aware of.
I wrote not so long ago about the need for quality veterinary care for the older dog. Like people, as dogs age some of their systems just don’t work as smoothly as they once did. When in doubt get with your Vet and have them run those panels and observe your dog. Know what is going on so you know how to spot an onset of Hypoglycemia and how to manage it. Well, as you might have guessed, I have an older dog who is susceptible to Hypoglycemia.
When Hypoglycemia strikes, typically it will come on quickly and the sooner you can recognize and acknowledge what is going on the easier the episode will be on your dog. The most common symptoms to look for are: extreme lethargy, muscle twitches, possible loss of appetite (this can make recovering the dog super challenging), trembling, loss of coordination, unusual behavior, blindness, and unconsciousness. Please note, this list is far from being all inclusive of all symptoms a dog can display when Hypoglycemia presents itself.
In my case Booker, ten and a half years old now, goes from a hard charging bird finding machine, still capable of covering twenty miles in a day, rather abruptly. From hero to a dog who appears lost, confused, lightly trembling, and uncoordinated. It happens fast and to be frank it can be scary. Worst of all, it’s not entirely predictable other than after a good chunk of intense and prolonged activity the odds of an episode increase.
Once an episode is underway and detected, what you need to do is: Step 1: Stop doing whatever you are doing and get yourself and the dog to a safe area as quickly as practical. Step 2: You have to raise the dog’s blood sugar levels as quickly as possible. Hunters I know use energy gels used by human endurance athletes, they are cheap, small, easy to find and full of maltodextrin. Some use packets of honey. I prefer using pouches of soft dog food, as they pack much more than sugar… If you don’t have any of those options readily at hand, what do you have? How far are you from being able to have something – time is of the essence? Get what you have into your dog! Step 3: “If you were able to feed your dog” Just wait. See if they will take water. Encourage them to sit or lay down. Help them to remain calm. In a few minutes they should perk back up and become themselves again. Step 3: “If you have nothing to give your dog” my friend, you are in a jam. You need to get something into your dog immediately, and you need to be prepared to carry your dog out. He cannot afford expend any more energy. Good luck! Step 4: monitor your dog, don’t be afraid to feed him a small amount again in a little while.
If your dog has gone unconscious, you have a high order emergency on your hand and irreversible permanent damage is likely to be happening to your dog. Time is of the essence. You really need to get to a veterinarian – any veterinarian immediately. The vet will most likely have to administer an intravenous cocktail of dextrose and other fluids to stabilize and save your dog.
Once you know that your dog is susceptible to Hypoglycemic episodes there are a few things you can do. Talk to your veterinarian, run those panels, and see what is going on. What your dog needs may not be what someone else’s dog needs. If your dog suffers from the exercise induced variety which I am mostly writing about, make sure your dog has eaten but has had time to settle before intense activities. Pack, gels and/or soft food packets and feed the dog well before an episode occurs. Be cautious about feeding gels indiscriminately! I feed Booker soft foods periodically during the day if I am out for a long period of time* this is a better strategy for the soft foods versus the gel packs. *This is subjective based on conditions: is it Cold? Wet? Super hilly? Deep cover? Some or all of those conditions? Etcetera... Feeding could begin only 2 hours in, easier conditions 3 or 4…
Usually I make one big post once I am done and back. This year I thought to do a little something different. The season opener was met with a brutal downpour and hail storm, so to say it was wet...was an understatement. The going hasn't been easy, but when is it ever? Despite the reputation of the Mearns quail holding well and being the perfect bird for pointing dogs, they aren't out there giving themselves up for the shot. Scenting conditions are critically important and can dramatically affect a dog's ability to effectively locate and point these little speed demons. Add in tricky cover, steep side hills and a field strewn with millions of ankle breakers. Footing is tenuous and the shooting quick. It all adds up to the make the challenge of hunting Mearns quail.
These photos are of one of Powder's days afield. She really performed incredibly well, sadly not much can be said for my shooting. Enjoy.
But it is best to have it before you do! Conibear traps are out there, and in some of the damnedest places. Most of our Drents are too big for most of these deadly traps, but for young Drents and some females they are a real threat. Downloadable PDF guide HERE. Be safe and enjoy your time afield.
is nearly always a chore, one which can be richly rewarded from time to time, but oftentimes is good old fashioned hard work. Unlike released birds at a preserve, wild pheasants don't just hang around and wait to be harvested. They mostly like to cut and run like hell putting as much thick brambly stuff between them and you. It's a reason most like to use a flushing dog on them. To get the pressure up, and have the bird make a tactical mistake - fly. With a pointing dog, you need a dog that can put that kind of pressure on the bird, but also lock up once the bird thinks it is safe. Today, I hunted Booker & Fowler together and they where able to coax a few to make just that very mistake. Looks like Pheasant Schnitzel is back on the menu boys!
This morning in the Netherlands Joeri got to earn his kibble working for five gunners. Enjoy
Happy New Year to all! Best wishes to you and yours for this coming year: to your success, good health and happiness. Normally I would be starting my hunting trip in Patagonia, but as luck would have it, with a heavy Air Force influence, I have recently returned! Your hunting report: it was hard this year. Over 90 days without rain in the region, so to say it was dry would be an understatement, and it was unseasonably warm. I had 80+ degrees on my thermometer regularly.
The monsoon rains weren't in the right places, but came at the right time, so none of the quail populations benefited... in fact they were all given the short end of the stick. Meaning numbers of all species really weren't much to speak of. Still, no one is feeding their families on desert quail. You go for the dogs, some camaraderie with friends, the country and it's amazing vistas and maybe some of the wines of the region. A special shout out goes to Scott Conley for making the trip south to meet with me, he's tried for years now, but it seems there is always something that comes up. This past trip was no different, sicker than a dog he managed one hot day afield over Booker, we got into one covey and the shooting was terrible. Such is the game. None the less Scott is an amazing gentleman and it was a true pleasure to finally meet him in person after all these years!
So my concussion recovery more or less synchronized with a break in the terrible smoke conditions we have been having. We managed to head out to the North woods to see about some forest grouse. While the action was slow, it's hard to complain when a limit is taken. We happened upon a group of ruffed grouse, and took a pair of juveniles. Pure dumb luck brought us to a nice mature male, and later on Jorja managed to roust a juvenile out feeding. All in all, a really nice day!
That will happen to a guy with a toddler, four dogs, adding a bunch of new merchandise to the DPCNA portfolio, and some simblance of a life. But we are still getting out there. Here are a few photos from this season that I enjoy. I've not been carrying the DSLR this season, just the cell phone, which has it's plusses and minuses. It means much fewer photos, since I have to take my glove off to tap the screen, and outside the need to zoom, the quality of the phone is now on par, or even slightly better than our aged DSLR... Otherwise I hope you enjoy.
Powder and I got skunked on Valley Quail today, but pup was able to have lot of fun with Pheasant! I was hoping we might get lucky and find some Quail in the larger structure, or even pick up a random covey of Hungarian Partridge along an edge, but no there were Pheasant by the truck load, which was fun enough for us to almost be late to meet the Fosters. Here is a link to 1/3 of the video I thought I had shot - enjoy!
This video was shot on a cold and blustery day on 1,700 acres of private property not too far from home. All in all Booker must have made at least 50 points, over hundreds of Valley Quail. Enjoy the last shot, even though the covey pop-corned out, from my vantage point they were all within a two and a half foot diameter circle. Thanks Rob, at BOOyah Films, for the great day, and for those of you stopping by, enjoy.
This year I was committed to capturing dog work on video, nothing fancy, just using my phone. That idea lasted about two hours or so. I had another great idea, which complicated the great idea I just mentioned. To save the battery life of my phone, since most of the places I hunt have either no cell service, or only Mexican cell service I would put my phone on “airplane mode”, which is great unless your phone clip fails, and your phone is lost deep in the Manzanita, even retracing portions of my Astro GPS track recovery proved futile. On airplane mode, your phone cannot be tracked via GPS, an important note if you are planning to go on a crime spree. In lieu of recovering my phone, I did find a nice insulated camo jacket, a low quality but in good condition crusher hat, and a pair of colorful fuzzy socks (one at time in different locations) all recently jettisoned by drug smuggling coyotes. Garland proved to be an excellent good luck talisman, as we found covey after covey, the dog work was fantastic, and my shooting could hardly have been better if I had used a genie wish! I managed three doubles, one of which was on a pair of cock-birds, and went five for five one day. Too bad he had to return to Kansas. After hunting the Coronado extensively for the past six years, it took a hunt on a rainy day for Dave and I to come face to face with five coyotes, not the furry kind, the ones with bales of marijuana strapped to their backs. We kept our dogs from getting close, and they thanked us profusely and hustled off. At our first opportunity we reported our encounter to a passing Border Patrol officer, and within minutes the area was swarming with agents, truly an impressive response. I hope they were successful in capturing them. Despite the bird numbers “being up” I found fewer coveys than last year, and in odd places, but the ones I did find tended to be very large for Mearns quail and full of little bulls versus being fairly balanced. Thanks to Garland, Jim, Cindy, Marc, Tom and of course my adopted older brother Dave for a memorable time in Arizona this year.
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Forty some odd years later this is what you get.