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You still have a chance …

Road Trip 2014 logo-003Almost 8,000 Wingshooting USA TV fans have already risen to the challenge in the third annual “Cabela’s Awesome Upland Road Trip … destination Kansas” contest. The sweepstakes is in its final stages, with prize values growing as the Dec. 31 deadline looms.

Fans of the show are asked to outfit host Scott Linden’s Amped travel trailer and his hunting dogs for a 6,500-mile journey across bird country. On the trip, Linden signs copies of his What the Dogs Taught Me and visits fans at Cabela’s stores, and makes future episodes of Wingshooting USA. Fan suggestions ranged from the ridiculous (hot tub for the Amped trailer) to the sublime (a day off and pampering for Linden’s hard working dogs).

Practical suggestions ranged from ammo to electronic dog training collars. A Stack-On gun cabinet and Rough-Tuff dog kennels and storage gear were added enroute due to fan suggestions. Early in the contest, fans also suggested stops along the way, including the Kansas City Cabela’s store and a hunting lodge in South Dakota where Linden dropped by for a meet-greet-hunt. Many entries are accompanied by photos of entrants and their hunting dogs.

Upcoming prizes in the run-up to contest end include a SportDOG Tek GPS collar, Mossberg Silver Reserve shotgun, and $500 Cabela’s dog gear gift card.

Entries and photos can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/wingshootingusa/app_451684954848385

Sponsors of the Road Trip included Cabela’s, Kansas Tourism, EverGreen RV’s “Amped” toy hauler trailer, SportDOG and Mossberg.

The most-watched upland bird hunting show in the U.S., Wingshooting USA is the official TV series of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It is broadcast year-round on seven television networks. More information: www.scottlindenoutdoors.com.

Easy to carry, keep it in your vest

Easy to carry, keep it in your vest

With the season in full swing, a little reminder:

This little kit won’t take up much weight or space but it could possibly save your dog’s life. Do your best hunting buddy a favor and carry it every time you get far enough from your truck you wouldn’t want to carry him all the way back.

Cotton swabs: clean wounds, remove seeds from eyes

Benadryl or other antihistamine: reduces windpipe swelling from snakebite or insect sting

Duct tape: all-around bandage, emergency boot

Blood-clotting gauze

Triple antibiotic ointment: prevent infection in wound

EMT Gel: stops most bleeding, speeds healing

Hemostats: pull porcupine quills, foreign objects from wounds and nostrils

Phone numbers, open hours and locations of nearest veterinarians

 

Stop to …

Along with the other things we’re practicing, Manny is now learning that a gun shot means “whoa.” Yep, I sometimes shoot birds that fly wild, nowhere near my dogs, especially on a slow day, the first day, the last day, or any day when adrenaline is flowing faster than wisdom. If and when I actually hit something, I want my dogs to find it.

By stopping to the shot (or a flush, or a command or a whistle) Manny and Buddy might actually see the bird drop. If not, at least they are ready for the fetch command and a hand signal assist to the general area. When a chukar tumbles among the rockfall, I like to think they appreciate the heads-up – literally.

In the NAVHDA Utility Test, there are several instances where a shot-equals-whoa sequence will come in handy: after pointing birds in the field, sure. But also when standing at the duck blind, watching birds fly and hearing shots from several directions. The duck search also includes a shot and a pause prior to sending him to the water.

As an aside, I’ve found many uses for a long whistle as another “whoa” command, much like the retriever guys use. Last night, Manny did me proud – 150 yards from me, he locked up tight when I trilled. Good boy!

Bang, tweet, whirr ... all mean "whoa"

Bang, tweet, whirr … all mean “whoa”

Go away from your catchline, then come back toward it when the sun sets

Go away from your catchline, then come back toward it when the sun sets

While a GPS can be a lifesaver, map and compass skills will bail you out when batteries fail. At a minimum, know how to find a “catchline” that will lead you back to a known location:

Study, then bring along a copy of a map of the area you will hunt. Make note of a stream, road, ridgeline or other long relatively straight feature in relation to where you park or make camp. That’s your catchline. You will hunt away from that location, and as long as you know which direction you went in relation to the catchline, you’re home free.

Example: I’m camped along a river that runs north-south. I hunt away from camp to the east. When I want to head back, I simply walk west until I reach the river. Camp is either left or right along my catchline. If I’m really smart, I’ve overshot camp on purpose (say, to the north) so I know to walk south when I hit the stream.

I doubt he knows the difference.

I doubt he knows the difference.

Why do you hunt?

“Being able to watch your young dog come into his own.”

“My Springer Bonnie. It’s not a day in the field without her.”

In my viewer surveys virtually all of you said something similar. Dogs rule, and we hunt so we can watch them perform magic in the field.

So why condemn pen-raised birds?

One reason might be our own biases. I’m not judging your leanings, mine are probably similar. But if we’re honest about the pre-eminence of dog work to our experience, why aren’t well-raised planted birds just as valuable?

Do dogs ignore the scent of a liberated bird, while pointing a wild bird? Show me the evidence. For that matter, can you distinguish a well-raised planted bird from a wild bird without looking at the peeper hole in the beak?

Does your dog’s tail droop when pointing planted birds? At a preserve, does he trot instead of gallop, boot-lick rather than range? When you command “fetch,” does he spit out planters?

“Watching a setter work in a beautiful field on a gorgeous day is always the best day.”

Maybe it’s all in our heads, and I get that. We love wild places, untrammeled ground, off-the-grid coverts. But that’s not what we’re talking about (or is it?). Unless a covert resembles something from a Mad Max movie, I wonder if your dog cares whether it is aesthetically pleasing or simply a bird-holding environment.

But how wild is wild? Beyond the quails and grouses, virtually every upland bird we shoot at was planted at some point. Do you shun chukar hunters because their birds were planted in Nevada in the thirties? Wild pheasants are simply descendants birds Judge Owen Denny “released” on his Oregon farm in the 1880’s, or similar, later efforts in Redfield, South Dakota, etc. Gotta problem with that?

“Wild hatched” might be a better description of the birds some cherish more than their domestically-reared cousins. But why can’t we value a released bird that acts just like its wild counterpart, much as our dogs do.

“Seeing the dogs do what they were born to do.”

We’ve all encountered bad planted birds, bad apples that spoiled entire barrels of good introduced birds. They flounder instead of flushing, our dogs catch them on the ground, and nobody’s happy, especially the birds. But many of us have also encountered released birds that thunder, tower and jink just like wild birds.

My dogs don’t seem to know the difference and truth be told, I’ll bet yours don’t either.

Pay attention; you'll learn something.

Pay attention; you’ll learn something.

Shut up. Listen carefully. Trust your dog. Live in the moment. These are lessons it took a ruffed grouse and woodcock hunt to remind me why we go hunting.

Is is relevant to any bird hunter? Hell yes.

Your dog is your best hunting partner. When he’s virtually invisible in the trees, you’ve got to know he’s working for you. If not, head back to the yard for more training.

When pup – or your partners – are working (or for that matter, out of sight or right next to you), pay attention. You’ll hear new sounds, learn from the woods, and you might see a pileated woodpecker. It’s how you find your dog, too.

But most important is the low-level adrenaline rush that starts when you leave the truck and only ends when your head hits the pillow that night: Where are the dogs? What was that roar – a flush? Is pup on point? Where? Where am I? Woodcock or grouse? The anticipation preceding every step, every stumble, branch cracks and leaf crunches is inestimable.

Keep 'em cool.

Keep ‘em cool.

Hard-earned experience, tips from the professionals, and plain old good advice:

– If you can, approach chukars from above – start your hunt at the top of a hill and only go downhill enough to find them. Bonus: you’ll have cut off their usual escape route – uphill.

– Use as low a volume to deliver your voice commands as will work in your situation. Dogs hear better than us and may construe unnecessary volume as anger.

– If you carry one of those Mylar “space blankets” in your survival kit, check it every year for age-related rips. I opened mine once and found that every fold had become a full-length tear. Luckily, it was at home, not in the woods on a cold, rainy night.

– Set out and light your camp lantern before dark. You may have a hard time finding it after the sun sets.

– Permethrin is the most effective tick spray, if you use it right. That means applying it to your clothing before you venture out. Hang, spray, and let dry for at least two hours before you put it on. In formulations for clothing, it is not appropriate for dogs.

– One of the best fire starters is a tangerine-sized ball of duct tape.

– Warm up by fueling your internal furnace. Carbohydrates burn fastest, proteins slowest. Best is a snack food that offers both for sustained energy.

– Buy a bandanna. Silk or rayon, get the big ones that real buckaroos wear, available at farm supply and western stores. Keeps your neck – and the rest of your body, in turn – warm. A multitude of other uses around camp from sweatband to oven mitt.

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