That is how my calendar is marked, and with this post you may begin to learn why. This was a good trip despite quail numbers being at the low end of mediocre. Sadly, hunting pressure was way up from the previous year, and we hit the late season... Still, only a madman complains about hunting quail in Arizona, in particular Mearns quail.
Round trip we drove 4,800 miles, 1,600 of which were spent on Forest Service roads in search of our quarry. The autofocus in my beloved DSLR totally went out, so it was up to the cell phone to save the day. We managed to capture a few nice landscapes and a couple of okay videos, shared below.
All in all, we did well, and as an added bonus I got to meet a few members from BD&FF I've known from Facebook for quite a while, got to run around with an old coworker/friend, bumped into some old friends at the Steak Out, visited a good number of the local wineries, discovered a real treat along the way called the Meading Room, and even made some time to evaluate a dog for the DPCNA.
I recommend you not go...Mearns Madness, once you have it there is no known cure!
Here is another nice video from Standing Stone Kennels and something you are likely to have to deal with if you do a lot of back country hiking, and/or upland bird hunting like us. Last year we spent over eighty three days afield hunting, and easily as many just out hiking. We had two Q-Pine incidents, just in 2018. Ethan does a pretty good job here and I'd like to add a couple of pointers to help you get your dog through this. First if it's a fairly minor incident like one one captured in the video, by all means, do your best to calm the dog and get those quills out. I keep a pair of spring loaded leatherman pliers on me additionally my hunting vest has a pair of hemostats on board just for the purpose of grabbing quills. You really cannot pull quills with your fingers, but you can use your teeth! I only advocate the use of your teeth if you are either crazy, or you dog is ultra-calm. If you have a helper, like in this video, have them help calm the dog - it will feed off of the anxiety - so breath deep and chill. Even more importantly, have your buddy do their best to keep quill impacted skin puller tight. As you remove quills the skin will be able to slide against the dogs body normally, this is the high-risk time when broken quills can and will pull through and go under the skin - this is a trip to the veterinarian. Ethan does a really nice job giving his dog an good exam, which is just perfect. If your dog has really been hammered by Ol' Porky - disregard all of this, and get him (or her) the the vet as sedation is most likely going to be necessary.
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.
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Fifty some years later this is what you get.