Friday, November 2, 2018

Hiking or Hunting


Can the dogs tell the difference?

Colby helping Val
pick blueberries.
We love our dogs and treat them like family members. That means they go almost everywhere with us and enjoy outdoor activities that can be shared with them. A great way to keep bird dogs in shape during the summer is to take them hiking. We are fortunate to live where upland birds are abundant and hiking trails abound. Can our dogs tell the difference between a day of hunting and a day of hiking? Of course they can.
Whenever we work the dogs on birds, whether hunting or training, they wear collars with bells attached. Hearing those bells brings on a level of excitement that exceeds anything else. The dogs love to go on a hike during the off season, but it isn’t the same as putting on those belled collars.
Val and our old girl Chara
on a summer time hike.
In April and May, when ruffed grouse and woodcock are nesting and have young broods, we hike less and pick our walks carefully so not disrupt the birds. April up here can be muddy and is a great time to work on the next year’s firewood supply. May is a great time to do a little trout fishing.
During normal summer hikes, the dogs run ahead and make swings back through the woods, just hunting for fun, but generally don’t go too far. The exercise keeps them and us in shape. There are frequented trails that they remember and longer trips to explore new country, sometimes miles in the woods. It's a great way to find new bird country and sometimes a beaver pond to fish.
Slip on those collars with bells and they kick into high gear, hunt hard, and point solidly on birds. The transition is like flipping a switch.



Maggie on another summertime hike.

    

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wet


     Like it often is late in October, the weather became wet, snow covers the ground in high places, and the sun has remained hidden for days. The only sensible thing to be doing outdoors is hunting, but even that brings into question one’s sanity at a certain point.
     The grouse don’t want to move far from the shelter of softwood trees, but they have to eat. The cold weather requires more calories for them to stay warm. Following the edges of clearcuts we have found a few birds. Too often the birds are a whir of wings with a flash of feathers and gone. The shots are tough, with the softwoods swallowing up the birds in a blink. After almost a month of hunters in the woods, the grouse have seen it all and become skittish.
Maggie is learning every day.
     The dogs still manage to point a few. Maggie, our youngster, is learning stealth, something that is hard to teach and best learned on her own with exposure to wild birds. She does her best after she runs enough to burn off some energy and slow down a bit.
     Today a friend’s setter, Russ, was a delight to watch today as he winded a bird and tiptoed along with his head high. Maggie eventually caught the wafting scent too, but we never found a bird. Was it in a tree laughing at us? Probably, and maybe far ahead across the cutting.
     Up behind a cutting, Russ pointed next to a blowdown. Dave, the dog’s owner, walked in and one bird rocketed low out the far side, offering no shot. Another shot back over his shoulder, but avoided two ounces of ounces of shot he tossed its way.
     Some days are tough, but if it were easy we would soon be bored.
   
 
Cuttings and softwood.