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Besides time with friends, training together has other benefits for you and your dog

Besides time with friends, training together has other benefits for you and your dog

How often do you train with others? The saying goes “many hands make quick work,” but it’s not just about productivity. Often, the payoffs are more subtle, but just as valuable.

Everyone has a story or two: about hunting spots they’re willing to share, pedigrees and reading between their lines … even if it’s just a tip on a piece of gear you can’t live without (okay, several pieces).

But there’s more. Watching other dogs work, you think of your own. Pitching in, your on-the-ground observations take on added relevance. Do you see your own dog in others?

In medical school, so they say, the best way to learn is to teach. And while we may not be “teaching” when we trade chores like planting birds, the lessons are there for the taking.

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You'd be pooped too, if you'd been in front of a TV camera for two days

You'd be pooped too, if you'd been in front of a TV camera for two days

Watch any good TV show, and you’ll soon come to the conclusion that pieces are recorded at different times in different places, for different reasons. From Desperate Housewives to well, Wingshooting USA, opportunity, circumstance, timing, and a dozen other reasons come into play when scheduling a shoot.

Which leads to the last couple days, in which Buddy and I were in front of a camera for most of the daylight hours.  We recorded 13 different “Buddy & Me” segments that will be part of the new show. I’m no dog trainer – more of a “trainee,” but that’s the simple way to describe these short features. They are really about what I learn from dogs, and about hunting, and getting (more…)

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Windy? Sure, but it beats working.

Windy? Sure, but it beats working.

I don’t know about you, but here in Oregon we’ve had one of the windiest springs on record. I’ve been chasing hats across parking lots way too often.

Drilling for Buddy’s NAVHDA Utility test (and a segment on the new TV series Wingshooting USA), we braved gale-force winds yesterday at a local preserve. Mother Nature had her own ideas about our practice session, though. What do you make of this?

Buddy would lock up staunchly, I’d walk in, and about the time I would get in front of him he’d move. Sometimes, a creep, point, creep. More often, he’d move a lot, circling wide, heading far upwind of where I thought the bird was. I’d kick around, searching, but there was never a bird where it should have been.

According to the local TV weather guesser, the wind was screaming 30, 40 m.p.h. so I think I’ve got an idea: wind-diffused scent from dozens to hundreds of yards off sometimes hit his nose, other times a gust moved it out of his reach. When it went blank, he was off in search of it again.

What I’m most curious about is the circling. It was always to the right, swinging wide 50-60 yards in a counter-clockwise circle ending up about where he started. He’d hunt on from there, sometimes whiffing scent again, sometimes not. Any ideas?

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Well folks, see what you think. Here’s the first video/audio installment from the Road Trip, recorded in the field just after the hunt. Comments?

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Not to get all new-agey, but a great place to get "centered" and end the season

Not to get all new-agey, but a great place to get "centered" and end the season

We talk a lot about “closing the loop,” reaching a logical and finite ending to all things business, social, financial, etc. The term is appropriate for yesterday, the last day of wild bird season here in Oregon.

I began the season at a spot that holds history and pre-history (read: dinosaurs), fond memories, and a sweet spot in my heart for the peace it brings me. I closed the season in the same place. And once again, it didn’t take much to bring satisfaction.

Buddy hunted hard, making up for too many road miles and not enough field time. He tore from objective to objective along the little creek laced with beaver dams and head-high brush. Once the breeze finally stirred he worked it well, and soon the beeper’s hawk scream signaled a find.

Trembling on the opposite bank, nose vectored into a tangle of reeds and marsh grass, Buddy’s right front paw saluted the hidden birds. From the other side, I praised him then wondered how the heck I’d get across to make the flush: three feet deep if it was an inch, the dark water held no attraction in late January for an involuntary dip.

Rather, I staked out a brush-free spot on my side and hoped the bird would blink first, offering a shot through one of the corridors in the creekside vegetation. A fruitless search for rocks, sticks, or anything else to lob into the bird’s hideout led to my throwing an empty VitaCal tube, but no flush resulted and now I had a cleanup project following any shot I might get.

Buddy held steady, even when released to flush, and I reveled in my brilliant training methods (hah!). I wandered the bank, finding half a beaver dam that might lead to a hummock or sunken log to get me all the way across. The mud-and-stick barrier held – sort of – and I was three steps into the crossing when two mountain quail fought their way free of the tangle. One arrowed upstream through the tunnel of alders arching over the creek. The other buzzed, kamikaze-like, straight for my forehead before firing the afterburners and launching for the stratosphere. 

Pivoting on the muddy dam, I slapped the trigger and watched the most beautiful game bird in the world fall to earth, still as it landed, the silence returning to claim my attention and focus my gratitude, at the shot, the bird’s contribution of life, and for not falling in.

This mystical place, full of spirits from woolly mammoths to shamans, delivered to me a perfect end to a season full of challenge and beauty. I think I’ll start next season in the same spot.

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