My poor neglected readers, I can tell that you miss me. Yet hunting season is upon us and who needs any other muse? I typically write forwards chronological, but today I’m feeling reverse chronological. That way my title makes sense.
Snipe, Sora and Early Teal
Yesterday we hit the local swamp in search of snipe, sora rails, and early teal. It is a pretty popular swamp, as there were a couple of sets of duck hunters in there before we were. Since we were late to the party, we went to the other end of the parcel. We spent an hour or two there and each of us missed a sora rail. At that point we figured that the duck hunters had moved on, but first Charles wanted to go to town for a hot dog.
So when you roll into small town Nebraska with a crazy dog box in the back of your truck with dog heads hanging out of it, a travel carrier on top with stickers from all over the country, and both of you are dressed in camo: you are crazy old man bait. The old man had some great tales: how he had just intentionally ran over a whole flock of turkeys (because of the myth that they kill pheasants and grouse. He even showed us the carcasses in the back of his truck), his pheasant hunting escapades in South Dakota, how much he wants to retire to Oklahoma (really? why?), he showed us pictures of his purple ’67 Dodge Charger, then proceeded to do a massive burnout with his pickup (when you squeal your tires on purpose) on his way out of the gas station. I love Nebraska.
We went back to the main parking lot of the secret swamp and had the place to ourselves. But the duck hunters had left their mark. Shame on them.
Once we got up into the swamp, Charles got a sora after I missed a few. Then with his keen eyes, he spotted a couple of teal on some open water about 20 yards ahead of us. I love how teal just let us jump them, we never get away with it with mallards. Charles grabbed Fire by the collar and I grabbed BB (here is where good healing training would come in handy, but we’re pretty rusty), and we crept up to the pond. When the two teal jumped, Charles hit the one in the lead with his first shot, I hit the one behind with my second. Both were really solid hits, his to the head and mine to the body, so we didn’t have any flapping in the water (which I hate). Fire was right out on the water retrieve, which BB proceeded to steal (bad dog). Fire went back out for the second duck too. Chief had no clue really, we just had him out there for exposure.
From there we made our way out to the snipe field. It is sort of a wet field that cattle graze so that the grass is all short. It is really muddy in places and where is isn’t muddy it is pocked with deep cow hoofprints. This place kicks my butt, I have yet to shoot a single thing there and I’ve been hunting it for years. It has even claimed a pair of my rubber boots: I sank in and couldn’t get out, so I had to walk by to the truck in my socks. During dry years, we stumble across the embedded boots every now and then.
We worked the eastern end of the field to no avail, we figure the flights aren’t in yet. We work the central part of it, and again nothing. Right as we start to slack off and let the dogs work ahead…BB locks on point and Chief and Fire proceed to bust a flock of about 10. Out of range, no chance of a shot. Yet the way that snipe work there are always stragglers. Charles knocks a couple down. I proceed to whine about how many snipe he’s shot and how I’ve yet to hit one, so he lets me walk ahead. I proceed to blast away at another 5 with no success, while he bags a couple more. As we’re walking back, BB again locks on a solid point. I go in for the flush and yet again miss the snipe. But wow, to have a dog who knows how to point snipe, that is pretty awesome.
AWPGA National Specialty 2015
I just had to drive a couple of hours over to Des Moines, Iowa for the National Specialty this year. It kicked off on Thursday morning with a fun hunt at Doc’s Hunt Club in Adel, Iowa. I accidentally left my camera at the hotel that day. But we had a good turnout and folks took turns taking their dogs out with birds. I sent all of my dogs to the Sandhills with Charles, so I didn’t have any. We did a lot of visiting and had a burger and hot dog lunch in the clubhouse. There was a tracking seminar held in the afternoon, but I have worked AKC Tracking tests with our local kennel club before, so I skipped and sat in the hot tub, then took a nap:) In the evening, we had our annual meeting and welcome reception.
Friday was the big show. It was great to see so many owner handled dogs. Remember Gino Troy from the NAVHDA test in May? Well his bitch took Best of Breed. Yay, Gino and Brie (and his breeder Kristi Rogney of Whiskeytown Sporting Dogs).
We were free for the rest of the afternoon and evening, so I found a new home at the Court Avenue Brewing Company in the Historic East Village of Downtown Des Moines. The people there were so friendly and the atmosphere so nice (like a mini Old Market Omaha Upstream Brewery), that I thought that I’d give them a free plug. If you need some beer and grub in Des Moines, this is the spot. It was packed on Saturday for the Iowa vs. Illinois St. football game, but I had the place to myself on Friday after the specialty show.
We had a great time at the banquet Saturday night following the supported entry show, where I won a set of four of cool beer steins in the newly launched pre-banquet games (pictured here with 24 oz. each of Nebraska Brewing Company India Pale Ale). I had the winning bid on the silent auction of two books to add to my collection of dog books in French that I can’t read.
So, that puts learning French on my to-do list over the next few years.
The food was excellent and so was the company. There are some things in life that I just love above all others. Food is one of them. From left going clockwise: roll, seven layer dessert bar, pork chop, potatoes, creamed corn, green beans with bacon, spring green salad, and a fried boneless chicken breast in the middle.
Jay Hoth of Switchgrass Sporting Dogs was solo, with Lisa back in Oklahoma looking after the kids. He had some company at the banquet: Sheryl Dierenfield, Shona Welle, and Kina Palmer on his right all from Colorado, then myself and Julie Baker, both from Nebraska on his left.
I wish that I had won this sign in the games, but I didn’t. Some of my other problems:
I was able to put my amateur auctioneering skills to use at the live auction. When I was a child growing up in Valentine, Nebraska, there just wasn’t a whole lot to do sometimes. So my dad would take me to the sale barn to watch cattle being auctioned off. Between that and all of my time spent as “auction model” in my younger days for Pheasants Forever, I was able to pull it off.
I was under the impression that supported entry on Sunday was later than it was, so keeping with tradition, I overslept the morning after the banquet and missed it (last year in Maine, I overslept and missed my flight).
It was a small turnout, only 37 dogs entered in the specialty show, but we managed to have a heck of a good time regardless. Great job, Ruth Vogel and the 2015 specialty committee. Next year, we will be turning it up in Helena, Montana Sept. 19-26. Hunting seasons will also be open, so we’ll be there!
Sandhills Sharptailed Grouse Opener
Charles and the dogs had a great opening weekend in the Nebraska Sandhills chasing sharptailed grouse. They limited out within two hours of their start time each day. Only 8 shells shot and 6 birds in the bag! I kept saying to myself in Des Moines, “I can’t believe I’m missing opening weekend to watch a dog show”. But I’m pretty committed to my dog club friends and glad that I didn’t miss them being in the neighborhood.
I have probably missed around 100 snipe in my hunting career, so I’m going to be in pursuit. Probably starting tomorrow. I’m taking at least a semester away from teaching and am just going to hunt and dog train full-time. I had thought about going solo and doing Wyoming sage grouse in a week, but I really need to get into shape (and save our money) for duck opener in the Sandhills the first week of October, and North Dakota mixed bag mid-October. Here’s sort of my goals/timetable:
- I’m going to handle Chief for the first time in NAVHDA Natural Ability in the Spring.
- Charles will NAVHDA UPT Fire in either the spring or fall of next year.
- We’re going to train BB back up, giving her a year off from whelping, so that I can handle her in NAVHDA UT in the fall of 2016. Depending on where Fire is at, she may also UT at the same test with Charles.
- In the next 2-3 years, I want to do Nevada chukar. I am not in shape enough for that terrain. Also, I have Montana staring me in the face next year, I’d like to chase some mountain grouse (blue, spruce, ruffed, ptarmigan) and the sage grouse while we’re there. Time to get to work.
I was super excited to see Brian Koch make contact with the Himalayan Snowcock in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada within the last couple of weeks. He doesn’t have this pic up on his Ultimate Upland website yet, but here’s the photo from his Facebook page:
That is one for the bucket list! Keep chasing birds