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Posts Tagged ‘Irish Setter’

In this country, rush hour is a herd of whiteface cattle who refuse to stay in their own lane. There are more cows than people here, so we usually yield right of way to them. Besides, what’s the rush?

enchanted canyon on the horizon

Through the windshield: enchanted canyon is at the end of this asphalt rainbow

It’s easy for me to say, when I actually choose to end my hunt early because it was so good.

I don’t mean a vest overflowing with birds, not even close. But enough, in the right places. Dog work to match. Both left a satisfying heft in the bag and the mind.

A creek bed thicket offered one covey of valley quail, a bird dropping into a small forest of alders and willows only Buddy could negotiate, dropping it gently in my palm. A single against the steeply dropping bank, again, only found thanks to the marvelous canine nose I’m privileged to feed twice daily.

No, this trip ended early because the senses were sated, all of them, in very special ways.

I pointed the rig north beyond familiar canyons and draws, looking for new coveys. My eye turned west, drawn to a brilliant yellow vein of aspens snaking downstream, tracing a small creek’s route out of a towering rock cleft straight from Lord of the Rings. The road ended at the lava gateway to this mountain range, and we hunted every inch of the watercourse.

Not a single wingbeat interrupted our visit to this enchanted place, and after the fact, I’m grateful. Yellow, gold, red and amber leaves formed an unbroken ceiling above and covered the desert floor. The stream bottom was similarly paved, deserving of a magazine cover (and me without my camera!). It was as a Narnia-like world, where fantasy meets reality, and you’re not quite sure which is which.

But my camp was still miles away. A small desert lake, void of anglers this time of year, was my destination. I reveled at the chance to cherry-pick my spot, and headed for the far side. The tallest fault block mountain on the continent dwarfed our little camp. A fan of bare sand forms my personal beach, and soon a fire is crackling and the Scotch is poured.

Buddy roams, unfettered by neighbors or responsibility. He doesn’t quite know what to do, unleashed and free, so stays close to me and the warming fire. Together, we watch a flock of Canada Geese graze in undulating lines toward the lakeshore, stalked by a coyote. He hides, they move, he creeps, they adjust the distance. Eventually, the geese prevail, reaching the water, well fed and safe for the time being.

From both ends of the lake, mule deer materialize in ones and twos. Soon, two dozen are drinking. At the far south end the dominant buck emerges, four points on each side, regal in his aloneness. Stars soon carpet the sky, a few shooting, all sparkling.

In the morning coffee’s sharp jolt kindles a brief memory, leading to the only logical conclusion: how could you top that?

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Scott B. called with a question I’ve had a LOT of personal experience with: dog boots. This topic has generated more frustration among more hunters than almost any other (besides over/under vs. side-by-side).

At the top lie chukars, and rough going for barefoot dogs

Whether it’s cactus or lava rock, sand burrs or goatheads, our pooches’ paws sometimes need a little help if we’re going to hunt more than a day or two in a row. If not, the risk of a foot injury immobilizing your hunting companion is just too high. Besides the cost, I’ve found most dog boots fall off and get lost, or wear out in the course of a day of chukar hunting. I’ll offer my own solution in a minute, but if you insist on using boots, here are some suggestions:

Augment whatever attachment scheme the manufacturer provides. Many hunters will duct-tape the top of the boots to their dog’s leg … just be careful not to wrap too tight and impede blood circulation. To avoid the inevitable howls when removing the duct tape, some guys will put a turn or two of Vet Wrap on the dog’s leg first, and wrap the duct tape on that.

In Texas, a lot of professional guides will do the same with short lengths of inner tubes – motorcycle seems about the right diameter. Cheaper, the foot still “breathes,” and you’re not as mad when they fall off in the puckerbrush. tape the “toe” up if you like, many leave it open so grit falls out with each step.

Here in the volcanic Northwest, we’ve gone completely over to duct tape alone. Dozens of boots per roll, and the price is right. Be very CAREFUL about wrapping – loose is better than tight. Tear off a foot or so of tape, and place your dog’s foot in the middle (sticky side up). Slowly and carefully (not too tight), spiral each end in alternating wraps around the foot (a couple layers), then up the leg a few inches. Kinda like a bandage. If your dog is the strong sensitive type, you can put a baby sock on first, so the tape sticks mainly to that.

It’s not pretty, but it works as well as Cordura, leather and rubber, and the price is right. And when Fido comes back with a bare paw, you’re out a few cents and a couple minutes of re-application, not a pile of dollars.

PS: If you know of a really, really, great dog boot, let me know. I’d love to find one that works!

PPS: Starting to get a lot of requests for the Blaze Buddy Bandana – see here for details on this great safety item for your dog and fundraiser for a good cause. And if you haven’t downloaded the newly-updated Ultimate Upland Checklist, do it now and make sure your season is hassle-free!

Safe hunting,

Scott

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Rivett’s Refuge Preserve near Mina, SD: When you hear ringnecks cackling from the front porch, you know it’s just going to be a great day. Founder Ron Rivett brought his high school friends (class of who-knows-when) for a hunt at the refuge and preserve bearing his name.

Standing corn can drive a semi-claustrophobe like me frantic, but the prospect of flying roosters kept the mania under control. Dogs, hunters and pheasants darted among the rows, and as usual, what Hell there was broke out at the end of the walk. This writer was glad to move to grass and sorghum, where at least you can see everyone, and sometimes the dogs.

The joy of a place like Rivett’s is the variety of covers, so no matter what the weather, condition of the ground, even wind direction, we could hunt with confidence. Beautifully planned shelterbelts were the most fun … dogs coursing the trees, the scream from Buddy’s beeper signaling point after point. Birds erupted from the ground, tangling then disengaging from the tree branches with a clatter. I connected with one bird in spite of the branches between us. Another towered above the trees for a clear shot and fall into a small pond right into the frame of camera operator Lynn Berland. Of course, Buddy tiptoed around the water rather than through it for the retrieve.

Our walk to the bus yielded the brightest of many spots in the day: all aboard but Mike, camera operator Tad Newberry and I, almost tripped over Buddy locked solidly in a tangle of grass mere yards form the bus. Tad rolled, Mike ducked and I kicked out what has since become known in these parts as the “bus bird.” Awesome!

As the commercials go, “but wait, there’s more.” And there was, as we walked back to the lodge through trees, grass and bean fields. Incredible finds, solid points, and a bird for Jason that will soon occupy a place on the wall – inch-long spurs and a body tinged in pastel colors, lighter than any bird short of albino I’ve seen.

It’s a lot easier after a couple days like this to be grateful. And I am. Watch for it next season on Wingshooting USA.

Please remember to vote NOW for your favorite dog, non-profit, and breed and help them and possibly yourself in our Wingshooting  USA features …

www.wingshootingusa.org … Take one of your kids hunting on the show next season. Click on the “Win a Shot on the Show” icon.

www.blackswingandclay.com… Cash for your conservation group, Cabela’s gear for you! Click on the “Hot Dog” icon.

www.nativedogfood.com … a TON of food for a hunting dog rescue club. Click on the “”Win a Ton” icon in the upper left corner.]

Thanks sponsors: Black’s Wing & Clay Waterfowl, Irish Setter, TriTronics and NSFF/www.wingshootingusa.org. Leave a comment, you might win a pair of Irish Setter boots and hunting jacket!

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P1010030

Buddy awaits the next hunt in cold, windy Aberdeen

Mother Nature frowned on us this first day of the Celebrity Pheasant Hunt in Aberdeen, South Dakota. We were there to make another episode of Wingshooting USA, chronicling both the good works of the fine folks raising money for kids, and a classic block-and-drive pheasant hunt. Torrential rains had flooded many fields, creating impressive duck habitat but scattering the ringnecks and idling the combines that power this area’s economy.

Tony and Lynn Gauer took charge of the hunt at their place, doing their best to find relatively dry fields and shelterbelts, and keep us well-fed. We were still in over our high boots often. Wind to 30 miles an hour sapped our strength and will, and after more wading than walking we called it a day and regrouped in town for the first fundraising event for Camp Gilbert, South Dakota’s camp for diabetic teens.

The next day dawned bright and clear at Rivett Refuge Preserve near Mina, SD. Our Celebrity Hunt contributors piled into the bus with as many dogs as hunters and we headed for carefully-tended and strategically chosen fields (thanks Ryan Rivett and Mike Helms). Sorghum yielded birds and a few shots … some even connected. Three-ring circus is an apt description of the canine-induced pandemonium. At one point we had seven dogs on the ground. Or maybe a hundred. 

As things settled, we hunted CRP grass, a few shelterbelts, and more sorghum. Birds flew, shots were taken and dogs were rested. The sun shone and life was good again. More from Rivett’s soon.

Please remember to vote NOW for your favorite dog, non-profit, and breed and help them and possibly yourself in our Wingshooting  USA features …

www.wingshootingusa.org … Take one of your kids hunting on the show next season. Click on the “Win a Shot on the Show” icon.

www.blackswingandclay.com… Cash for your conservation group, Cabela’s gear for you! Click on the “Hot Dog” icon.

www.nativedogfood.com … a TON of food for a hunting dog rescue club. Click on the “”Win a Ton” icon in the upper left corner.]

Thanks sponsors: Black’s Wing & Clay Waterfowl, Irish Setter, TriTronics and NSFF/www.wingshootingusa.org. Leave a comment, you might win a pair of Irish Setter boots and hunting jacket!

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You can see Canada from the deck of your safari-style tent at Sage Safaris, a brand-new hunting operation north of Havre, Montana. Between our neighbors to the north and the tents are more whitetails per square mile than I’ve ever seen, and healthy populations of sharptail grouse and ringneck pheasants.

Kind of “roughing it smoothly,” the tents are heated and the beds are soft. (See video here.) Most importantly, the game in the coulees and plains is plentiful … if you’re willing to work. Or should I say walk.

Buddy was in the zone, covering ground according to the cover (closer in the cattails, running bigger in the grasslands). Surprisingly, a sharptail was the first to fall to my gun following a stalk through short grass and low sagebrush. Several ringnecks flushed wild in the distance, skittish from the wind and sounds of a gang of humans – likely the first they’d heard all year.

Now, for a short commercial message:

Please remember to vote NOW for your favorite dog, non-profit, and breed and help them and possibly yourself in our Wingshooting  USA features …

www.wingshootingusa.org … Take one of your kids hunting on the show next season. Click on the “Win a Shot on the Show” icon.

www.blackswingandclay.com… Cash for your conservation group, Cabela’s gear for you! Click on the “Hot Dog” icon.

www.nativedogfood.com … a TON of food for a hunting dog rescue club. Click on the “”Win a Ton” icon in the upper left corner.]

Thanks sponsors: Black’s Wing & Clay Waterfowl, Irish Setter, TriTronics and NSFF/www.wingshootingusa.org. Leave a comment, you might win a pair of Irish Setter boots and hunting jacket!

Back to the story: The “moose pit” yielded our first pheasant, so named because even the plains of northen Montana harbor a few of the swamp donkeys. Buddy tracked, crept, pointed and then finally and tremblingly, held solid for this bird, which Jake dropped into the buffalo berry.

(more…)

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ALONG LAWYER’S CREEK near Kamiah, Idaho: This desert rat was in heaven: three gun dogs, a cottonwood-lined creek and plenty of shade. Do you know the feeling? A change of scenery, fresh perspective, everything seems brand new and full of potential. All participants were cooler by a large measure than during our last hunt at Flying B Ranch, a blistering chukar expedition called on account of heat at 9 a.m. [Watch the very raw sky-cam footage, above.]

The ringnecks that dwelled among the thorns and cattails of this valley knew their neighborhood well, testing the dogs’ noses and hunters’ shooting abilities. Often more like a ruffed grouse hunt with brush-busting and tangle-inducing vines and branches, there were times when your shot was pointed at a white neck ring and nothing else in the shadows of chokecherry and cottonwood.

Guide Rich Coe’s dogs were trained to handle the bird flushing when needed, and they were needed often. Maybe you don’t like the idea (can you say porcupine?), but it was most appreciated by this bruised and battered, scratched and skinned-up hunter. Finding footing and swinging room for safe shots (two camera operators in tow) was tough enough without having to boost every bird from it’s hidey-hole.

And boost we did, flying a lot of birds, shooting at some, and hitting a few. One memorable flush ultimately yielded four roosters; we gawked instead of getting close enough for a shot, thinking each was the last to fly. (Count to four real slow … that’s how it played out.)

The jungle-like cover took its toll, as did the jinking and juking pheasants. But plenty of birds ended up headed for the table of a deserving family somewhere in the Kamiah metropolitan region.

Thanks sponsors: Black’s Wing & Clay Waterfowl, Irish Setter, TriTronics and NSFF/www.wingshootingusa.org. Leave a comment, you might win a pair of Irish Setter boots!

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Fueled up? Yes. Dog in truck? Uh huh. Ammo purchased? Yep (ouch!). Must be time for the second leg of the Awesome Upland Road Trip. We’ll be making TV shows across the West, for next season’s Wingshooting USA.

New friends and old, some fresh scenery, and lots of birds are some of the highlights of this trip, which starts at Double Barrel Ranch near Spokane, Wash. Ron Olmstead is a sensitive dog trainer and great host and this is a repeat visit (we made some Cast & Blast episodes there about five years ago). Strong dog work (except when Buddy’s on the ground) is a given on the rolling hills and coulees of eastern Washington

From Spokane we vector toward Havre, Montana and a new outfit, Sage Safaris … interesting concept for an upland hunting operation. Sara and Jake have outfitted their place a la’ luxury African safari camps – floored tents, real beds, wood stoves, etc. Should be interesting.

Dog is my co-pilot: Buddy always wears his seat belt.

Dog is my co-pilot: Buddy always wears his seat belt.

From Montana we head to beautiful downtown Mott, North Dakota. It’s been on my list since a friend here in town bought a place there just for pheasant hunting. We’ll be just down the road from Larry (there aren’t that many in Mott), at Tailfeather Inn, and hunting ringnecks and a few sharptails on nearby farms. Tailfeather promises an interesting stay: part of it is a restored convent (no smart remarks you former altar boys). Looks like the bird numbers are strong in this part of North Dakota, so we are pumped! Thanks to everyone at North Dakota’s tourism department for logistical support, especially Mark Zimmerman.

Then, it’s back to my favorite state, South Dakota. Ever had this thought? If there was a Nordstrom nearby, I’d try convincing my wife to move there! I’m hunting near Aberdeen, where I’ll help out at the Camp Gilbert Celebrity Hunt there, raising money for that great operation that supports kids with diabetes.

If they’re not sick of me and the crew after the celeb hunt, we will hunt the area for a couple more days, basing out of Rivett Refuge Preserve. Trees, water, sounds like a good time.

And in what’s becoming an Awesome Upland Road Trip tradition, we conclude again at Ravenwood Lodge near Topeka, Kansas. Ken and Bev Corbet run a beautiful place, full of history and incredible habitat. It’s like a tailor-made hunting amusement park, with a little of everything plus sporting clays! Want a preview? Go here and see some snaps and a report from last year.

Watch for the rig, give a honk or stop by and say hello! And safe travels on your own Awesome Upland Road Trip. Let the dog ride up front.

[Thanks to road trip sponsors National Shooting Sports Foundation and www.wingshootingusa.org, TriTronics, Irish Setter and Black’s Wing & Clay Waterfowl.] Speaking of which, leave a comment and you might win a pair of Irish Setter boots and hunting jacket!

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