Petroglyphs up there – one of the lessons to learn.
In another life I must have been an historian. I love the past, reading about it, talking about it, and especially the dazzle of discovery. Besides being with dogs, the chance to span the decades (even centuries) is high on my list of reasons to go hunting. Cresting a ridge to find everyday stuff lost or discarded by those who walked the same path brings dusty books and mind-numbing lectures to life.
I’ve stumbled over sheepherder stoves and peeked (not too far) into abandoned gold mines, camped in willow corrals and counted bullet holes in a Buick abandoned after a foiled bank robbery. Man-made artifacts, each with a tale to tell those lucky enough to walk a bit farther.
A ranch driveway bears a faded sales pitch for an insurance agent, painted on a boulder when the rutted gravel was the only road into town. Pictographs and petroglyphs are a regular discovery in the tumbles of lava that define chukar country. Rock cairns called “stoneboys” by Basque sheepherders, were piled to counter the boredom of minding a flock. Stories from different ages, for differing reasons.
Wagon wheels, lead-soldered cans piled among shattered crockery, square nails from abandoned homesteads, all tie this life to past lives. Everyday junk joins us to predecessors.
Why did someone leave that wooden bucket on this ridge? Who knapped arrowheads, leaving a pile of obsidian chips glittering at the base of this rock? Was that intact spear point dropped in the heat of a chase? A clean miss? What – or who – was the target?
That’s why I love this stuff, the stories. Do you have any?
Posted in bird hunting, hunting dog | Tagged artifacts, bird hunting, chukar hunting, flink knapping, history, natural history, Petroglyphs, pheasant hunting, pictographs, versatile hunting dogs | 2 Comments »
Like one stick on top of another, one tiny step follows the last, leading to excellence in the field.
Weaving our way among the sage and bunchgrass pigeon in hand, it hit me: dog training is like building a castle out of Popsicle sticks.
To be structurally sound, the sticks must lie flat. As they’re only about a millimeter thick, it takes a while to see a wall rise. Likewise our progress in the field. Tiny increments, often barely noticeable. An elegant find and front leg tucked might be worth two Popsicle sticks’ of height, but most times it’s less noteworthy. And just as you must raise tiny, utilitarian wooden walls before adding gaudy towers and flying buttresses, you’ve got to lay a firm foundation for the magazine-cover poses.
Add too much glue, a drop here, drop there piling up in millimeters and soon one corner is higher than the others. Use too much correction (or praise) and your training might tilt to one side. Put the balustrade up without a well-engineered wall, and it will assuredly come tumbling down. Skip a step in training, and a dog will disappoint you some time, somehow.
Day by day, Popsicle stick by Popsicle stick, the castle takes shape, or the dog (and human) grow. If we have to buy another pack of frozen desserts and it takes a few more days to finish, I prefer orange.
Posted in bird hunting, hunting dog, What the Dogs Taught Me | Tagged bird hunting, dog training, German wirehaired pointer, hunting dogs, versatile hunting dog | Leave a Comment »
Three years old today.
Manny, thank you. You have taught me so much in three short years: patience, introspection, tolerance. And you have learned much of the same.
We’ve been through a lot together. Some not so fun, a bit most distressing, but much of it incredible: hunts in a dozen states with good friends new and familiar, physical and mental challenges, new birds and crazy weather. Your puppy-like unfettered enthusiasm still astounds me, so I guess what they say is true – wirehairs do take longer to mature (and I’m grateful for it).
In many ways, you keep your great-uncle Buddy young, too. He’s still rightfully wary of you, jockeying for the alpha post in the pack, but your joie de vivre infects him as much as it does me. As you grow into the lead dog and your uncle slows, I trust you will show deference to the wisdom and tolerance he’s shown you for 36 long, trying months.
We have a long way to go but every day you take two steps forward and I seldom take more than one back. Your hard-headedness is an attribute at times (so German!) but once in a while there is a glimmer of softness in your look, your actions, your demeanor. Your mistress sees more of that than I do, but that’s her job – pointing out the positives in a life full of challenges.
Live up to her hopes, and mine. Be a good boy. Happy birthday.
Posted in bird hunting, dog training, hunting dog | Tagged bird hunting, Buddy, dog training, German wirehaired pointer, hunting dog, Manny, puppy, versatile hunting dog | Leave a Comment »
Double on Montana Huns … now that’s an indelible memory, boots or not.
I don’t know what you have on your end-of-season to do list, but it seems like mine gets longer every year. One of the topmost chores is saddle-soaping my hunting boots. Today was the first spring-like day here: blue skies, last week’s rain rising from the ground to weight the atmosphere, and a blazing sun … ideal boot cleaning conditions.
With brush, water, saddle soap arrayed on the porch, out marched the footwear, pair after pair after muddy pair lined up like so many recruits awaiting their first day of basic training. Scrub, wipe, array in the sunshine to dry … assuringly familiar, this routine, a note of finality with each pair dispatched.
The tall boots rekindled memories of a hell-bent stream crossing after valley quail, alone but for my dogs. The mountaineering boots proudly wore scars from jagged lava rock, abrasions suffered in pursuit of chukars with a college chum. A cushy, “civilized” pair were worn only once this season, on a memorable bobwhite hunt with some real Yankees from Vermont, quite at home in Alabama, also quite genteel. Each boot brought another memory bubbling up from the subconscious, as vivid as the video footage you’ll eventually see on the show.
Last week, gun cleaning. This week, boot cleaning. Next week, I’m sure something else will find it’s way onto the list. Until then, I’ll pour another cup of coffee and relive my time in the hills and prairies, reminiscences now written onto the soles of each boot.
Posted in bird hunting, hunting dog | Tagged Alabama hunting, bird hunting, boots, chukar hunting, hunting gear, versatile hunting dogs | 1 Comment »
Despite the gun control debate and continuing economic doldrums, upland bird hunters are bullish on their sport and their future participation, according to Wingshooting USA television producer/host Scott Linden’s “Upland Nation Index.” Now in its third year, the survey compares a statistical base of 2011 to subsequent years. The most recent numbers are garnered from a survey of over 600 respondents chosen at random from Wingshooting USA viewers completed in January.
Overall purchasing plans for the year show a gain of almost 9 percent versus the base year. Strong categories included hunting vests (up 24 percent), Trucks/SUVs (up 31 percent) and electronic training or GPS collars (up 18 percent). Other data shine light on that optimism: plans to purchase more than three cases of ammo (up over 3 percent), plans to hunt more days than last season (up 12 percent), and number of respondents who hope to hunt at a lodge or preserve, up 18 percent. Over 30 percent hope to buy another hunting dog in 2013.
Linden says recruitment also indicates a market’s optimism. The number of viewers who took a newcomer hunting three or more times last season spiked significantly, up 238 percent over 2012; the total number of viewers who took a newcomer at least once also jumped, up 35 percent versus the prior year.
The Upland Nation Index also measures brand awareness and market share in key product categories. Most categories remained relatively flat through the three-year period. However, several companies saw significant increases in brand awareness: shotgun company Caesar Guerini USA saw an almost 19 percent leap, training collar maker Dogtra jumped 7 percent, and Nutrena’s Loyall dog food brand enjoyed a 53 percent bump. Not surprisingly, all three brands invested heavily in advertising during the period.
“Wingshooting USA viewers are clearly excited about the coming year, whether it’s because the election season is behind them, they are working or earning more, or have simply decided there’s no time like the present to pursue their passion,” Linden said.
The Upland Nation Index is not just about dry statistics, he added. Like his TV show, Linden puts the fun in market fundamentals, asking his viewers which dog breed is their favorite (tie: Labrador Retriever and German Shorthaired Pointer), their favorite game bird (ringneck pheasant) and most popular out-of-state hunting destination, South Dakota.
Wingshooting USA is the official TV series of the National Shooting Sports Foundation and its initiative, www.wingshootingusa.org, where you will find a directory of thousands of hunting preserves and lodges and can enter to win a free hunting trip with your child and appear on the TV show. Other Wingshooting USA sponsors include TruckVault, Happy Jack Inc., and Cabela’s.
Posted in bird hunting, dog training, hunting dog | Tagged bird hunting, economic forecast, hunters' optimism, market research, Scott Linden, Upland Index, Upland Nation, Wingshooting USA | Leave a Comment »
One reason to head uphill.
The chukar hunter’s axiom is don’t give up altitude. It’s more often-employed corollary is don’t gain altitude. It’s a palatable rationale unless you see or hear those running devils in the rocks above. But hold everything.
Most people don’t bother climbing, which is why you should. Ascend. Head for the high spots. Sure, you’ve got a goal: getting from here to there, finding a bird hangout, searching for a a hunting friend on the other side. But even without an excuse or the rattle of chukar calls, an uphill detour is often worth time and energy.
Hill or hummock, knob or knoll, a mere bump in the landscape is all it takes to reveal Nature’s secrets. High spots are ideal roosts and bedding spots harboring pronghorns and mule deer. Ancient hunters surveilled from rocky aeries, chipping obsidian arrowheads or scratching designs on rock to bide their time.
A mirror-like pool of water in a hexagonal rock bed, band of bighorn sheep sneaking over a rocky saddle, interrupting a coyote’s mid-day nap, eagle nests, a gold prospector’s rusting dreams, a chance to see three states from one point. All are discoveries I’ve made by climbing a few – or a few hundred – feet upward.
The sea-level adventurer strides on, oblivious. But not you, right?
And another. Birds up there.
Posted in bird hunting, News | Tagged bird hunting, chukar hunting | Leave a Comment »