Friday, June 15, 2018

Here’s Something to Worry About…

There is not a lot of difference between using rabbits for beagle field trials and quail for bird dog trials. The fight may be coming.

One woodcock and two wirehairs.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

What’s It to You ?

Speed on the water.

     I once lived amongst the world of diehard sailors. Some raced two or more times a week and had to be the first to everywhere. Every piece of gear on their boats was of cutting edge technology. Other sailors just wanted to be out on the water, headed for a quiet cove to spend the day. Some had to cross an entire ocean to be happy. A few never went anywhere, but instead used their boat mostly for entertaining or just a platform from which to read a book. Many of my friends worked on boats, lived aboard boats, and went sailing on their days off. Every one of those sailors enjoyed their boat and who’s to say who enjoyed theirs the most.
Which fly today?
     Fly fishing is sometimes like that. One angler has to match whatever insect is hatching, while another is quite content to throw the same fly that he threw the day before and the day before that. Some fish as if their life depended on it, while another may find a sunny spot on the shore to stretch out and take a nap. Who’s having the most fun?
     Bird hunting can be the same way. Some hunt until their legs are ready to fall off, with anything less than a limit an impossible thought. Others may mosey along, content to watch the dogs work while they chat with a buddy. Many love their old shotguns and bird hunting is an excuse to get them out. Bird dogs are the passion of a huge number of bird hunters, and many wouldn’t bother to walk into the woods without one. To some, it is an excuse to be out in the woods watching song birds, looking for deer tracks, and possibly shooting a bird along the way. Who is having the most fun?
     When I was younger killing birds seemed very important, much more so than it does now. My dog was steady to wing and shot and, by the time a day was over, my legs would have felt better if they had fallen off. I have to admit, I always slept soundly after a day in the woods.
Georgia pinning a ruffed grouse.
     I sleep just as well now, but during a day afield I notice a lot more. Around here there are old stone foundations and long lost apple trees. A beaver pond might harbor a wood duck or a half dozen black ducks. A woodcock or two might hide among the alders in valley around the other side of the hill…or is it the hill beyond that? Sometimes I just follow an old logging road to see where it goes.
     Every day is an adventure. My dogs no longer are steady to wing and shot. Hunting alone that was difficult to enforce and caused a lot of frustration, both for me and my dogs. They still hunt hard and point with intensity, but more like cowboys than mechanical soldiers. If dog safety is an issue on low flying shots, I just let the bird go. One bird in the game bag feels great, and after that anything more is a bonus.
     Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch dogs preform flawlessly and to see birds drop in front of gunners that never miss. You have to admire the determination and discipline that brings such results. If it makes them happy, and I certainly hope it does, it makes me happy.   
     Instead, my dogs are my buddies, under foot both in my shop and in our home. I still try to rule the roost and make sure their manners are impeccable, and we do get out in the woods often, probably much more than most. Experience and birds in front of the dog’s nose are the best teachers, so we try to get out a lot..
     But I’m willing to cut them some slack, as long as they are willing to return the favor.