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Posts Tagged ‘upland hunting’

With Christmas breathing down our necks, have you ever considered the real gifts we receive? There’s the goodies, rich food and tchotkes that decorate our lives, clutter our mantels and boast our material wealth.

Sometimes, it's places like this.

But what have you learned, experienced, and remembered? I mean really, truly, deep-down indelibly etched in your mind as a result of this season’s experience? What is under your (figurative) Christmas tree?

Did your dog gift you with a solid pin-down on a brace of ringnecks, that you turned into a picture-perfect double brought to bag? Maybe it was your puppy’s first find, a ground-level ornament of trembling point and stumbling retrieve. You may have found a new hunting companion of the human variety – who understands what’s really important in life. How’d that sugar-plum of a new shotgun perform?

Other times, it's who you share them with

I may be a slow learner, but over time I’ve concluded that birds, dog work, and beautiful places are just part of the equation. They may be bright, shiny adornments hanging on the tree, but when all is said and done, much of the joy and satisfaction comes from the people with whom we share our experiences. Even hunting alone, I often long for the camaraderie of others après hunt: to relive the high points, seek counsel on technique or strategy, or simply to remind me that when all is said and done, we are members of the same tribe.

You? What’s under your Christmas tree?

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What does yukky weather do to your hunting plans? I’m looking at a Courier & Ives winter scene: eight fluffy inches of snow against a deep green forest … all that’s missing is a one-horse open sleigh.

Did I mention the two wirehairs snuffling around in the white stuff, looking for God-knows-what and bringing half the snow load back into the house?

The original plan was a weekend in the chukar hills of eastern Oregon … steep canyons along a secret stream – the only place I’ve limited on valley quail, chukars and pheasants in the same day. But six hours driving each way, most on icy roads, then slogging through at least as much snow was daunting enough to incent me to indoor chores and office work instead. [Did you get my survey re: dog club needs?]

So where do you draw your line in the sand, er, snow? What conditions are you willing to tolerate and which aren’t? Would you hunt in the rain, mud and slush? What’s your, and your dog’s upper temperature-tolerance range?

I hate wind! Is there a type of weather that is completely, totally off the table for you? And how about practical concerns? We shot sporting clays last weekend in cold and fog and one gun (or one shell) experienced what muzzleloaders call a hang fire. My guess was, sticky firing pin due to cold affecting whatever lubricant was in the works. You?

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Buddy on point at Ravenwood. Gun at the ready?

Elusive bobwhite quail flummox Buddy and his Pointer friends at Ravenwood Lodge. So what’s new? Lots of flushes and some wacky shots punctuate this visit I made to hunt with my friend Ken Corbet. Enjoy it by going here.

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The casino sign said “all you can eat buffet,” but the banquet didn’t end there. Clear Creek Sports Club near Corning, California, offers its own unlimited menu of bird hunting options. For decades I’d been driving past the sere rolling hills for which the casino is named, tempted to stop and explore the undulating terrain, explore the grasslands that looked virtually unchanged since the land was granted to some Mexican bureaucrat by the king of Spain hundreds of years ago for meritorious service.  

This was my chance. 

Brad Henman was kind enough to tolerate my dogs instead of the polished shorthairs he favors. That is testament to the hospitable treatment you’ll receive at Clear Creek. He’s a second generation outfitter who has hand-crafted a hunter’s treasure-trove of gullies, open fields, creekbeds, grasslands, CRP, and water features that will delight – and vex – anyone who loves the pursuit of ringneck pheasants … and doesn’t mind being humbled on occasion. 

Some rough footage from the hunt:

Unaccompanied by his uncle Buddy, six-month-old Manny was tentative in the first field … hunting close and moving cautiously, until his first whiff of pheasant, when the light came on and stayed bright the rest of the day. A few prancing steps and his first point was steady and classic: right leg tucked tight to his chest, tail as high as any pointer’s, just shorter.

A close shot was followed by sheer instinct: Manny was carrying the bird toward me before he realized it was time to play keepaway. He had more important tasks at paw anyhow. Another bird was somewhere upwind, tempting this puppy and his awakening nose. Unlike all those compulsive gamblers just up the road, we ended up winners, feasting on scenery, camaraderie and colorful, hard-flying birds.

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We are OFF. And I don’t mean mentally. The Awesome Upland Road Trip version 2.0 is under way. A bit of a high school reunion atmosphere in Portland, Ore., as director Tad Newberry and camera operator Lynn Berland convened at the airport, piled in luggage and gear, and everyone met Manny.

Where else for lunch on a trip like this, than the Pheasant Grill in Arlington, Ore.? And yes, I’ve shot some nearby but there are now more chukar in the area than the long-tailed birds. (Factoid: Arlington is where Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinson was born. He was by far the coolest dude to come out of this Columbia River port town.)

The promise of new country is always part of the discussion during the first-day’s drive and we were not disappointed with Little Creek Shooting Preserve near Peck, Idaho. Sonny Hairston and his family have carved a little piece of hunting heaven out of steep canyon walls and rolling benches planted with the thickest cover I’ve encountered.

This is Manny’s first road trip – and beyond a few practice pigeons, his first bird contacts. I am stoked! He shows so much promise, has so much doggy street smarts and is such an indefatigable little guy; if only I don’t bugger the process he should be a cracking-good bird dog.

Okay, okay, just to when your appetite here is a behind-the-scenes clip from our first hunt, featuring contest winners Bernie Moore and Jim James doing the gunning:

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So, what’s new? A LOT … 

Wingshooting USA captured a “Telly” award last week. It’s sorta the Emmy of cable programming. Edited by Tad Newberry (as they all are), it told the story of a mother-daughter team of English Pointers hunting Hungarian partridge among the coulees and prairies of Central Montana. You can watch it here. It is  Episode # 2. I am especially honored, as the 31st annual Telly Awards attracted more than 13,000 entries. Wingshooting USA was the only upland hunting series honored in the “TV Sports” category, which included entries from Nike, Golf Channel, Warren Miller Entertainment, and Bank of America. 

Sidney starred with her daughter in the award-winning episode of Wingshooting USA

 

Why the title? Here’s a capsule description: Montana’s big sky country is the setting for big-running Pointers after Hungarian partridge on the prairies. The mother-daughter dog team scales rocky ledges and sweeps through coulees to produce these elusive imports for the guns. The hunt comes full circle in a number of ways: we start and end at a yard of round hay bales … acquaintances become friends by the end of the hunt … and mother dog shows daughter a thing or two about hunting! 

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I have just been named a contributing editor at Versatile Hunting Dog magazine … bestowing what little dogology “wisdom” I have … you can be sure each column will be brief. Most of the revelations came from the 150-plus dogs I’ve hunted with on TV … believe me, I couldn’t come up with these ideas without their help! If you’re not a member of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association, you should be. Join here. 

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Finally, I’ve just signed a design consulting contract with dog gear manufacturer Spindrift … and will be putting in my two cents’ worth on bird-dog equipment based mainly on my pet peeves about bird-dog equipment! Manny and Buddy are already hard at work field testing product #1 … watch this space! And if you have suggestions for better stuff you’d like to see manufactured, let me know!

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Okay, I’m back from nine relaxing days in the sun, rain, humidity and assorted drinks with too much fruit in them. But it wasn’t all fun in the sun. We got a lot of exercise. So rather than the usual “what I did on my vacation” essay, here’s your quiz on my trip. Watch the video then answer these questions:

Where are we?

What kind of dogs are these?

What are they doing?

Why are they so quiet?

Why did it rain every time I set foot outdoors?

The most creative (and somewhat accurate) answers will earn Blaze Buddy Bandannas, so plant your answers in the comment section!

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