Planned Breeding Announcement
Ben and Velma are going to be bred for a Spring Litter 2016. I will be raising the pups the last several weeks before they go home and placing them in their new homes. We co-own Velma (De Jac’s Zip A Dee Doo Dah, NA I Score 112) and currently have 7 month-old “Chief” out of their Spring 2015 litter. Ben is the son of our foundation dogs, Sam and Sue. Photos and more information about Ben, Velma, Sam and Sue can be found on the “About Our Dogs” page. Information about purchasing a pup can be found on our “Puppies” page or by contacting us at (402) 682-9802 or email@example.com. This will be the last litter between Ben and Velma; and Velma’s co-owner, Aaron, will be keeping a female pup this year. My 6 year-old son has been asking, “Who is going to have puppies?” and saying, “I can’t wait for all of the little puppies to follow me around”. He has never known a spring without puppies, so I’m glad that we’re able to fulfill his wishes.
North Dakota 2015
Many people wonder why we choose North Dakota as our hunting destination as opposed to South Dakota, since SD is closer. Really, it is a cultural thing. Almost everything in South Dakota is pay-to-hunt. There are slews of “hunters” in South Dakota, many of them just telling their wives that they are going hunting so that they can get drunk and hang out with strippers. Where we go in North Dakota is stodgy German Lutheran farmer country where you can’t even find a Pizza Hut. Not to say that there aren’t hunters, but they’re not present in the numbers found further south. Primarily they are from Minnesota and Wisconsin. There are a few far flung outfits, but not like the massive migration that SD takes in. Additionally, if the landowner doesn’t post his property “No Trespassing”, it is open to access, which is really nice that so many of the landowners choose to let us walk in.
The week prior to our arrival, Aaron and Velma had a heck of a time in the same area of North Dakota, with 90 degree heat and 50 MPH winds. A party of three hunters over a week only harvested 11 birds, which is super tough hunting. Charles and I took about the same number of birds, except that I’m a notoriously crappy shot on roosters. One of my Facebook friends posted this meme the day that we got home and it totally cracked me up.
There’s something about his cackle and his color and his fancy tail that just throw me for a loop. I’m a great sharptailed grouse and duck shot, but Charles just expects for me to miss roosters anymore. As Alice in Chains says, “Yeah, they’ve come to snuff the rooster…you know he ain’t gonna die!” Yet I digress.
We had fabulous weather: the coldest it ever got was 35 one morning, but usually stayed in the 60s for the highs. The wind is omnipresent in North Dakota, but it wasn’t obnoxious. Our arrival was early afternoon on Saturday the 17th, so we hurriedly unpacked the truck and headed out to what we call “the big hill”. A rooster got up way out of range. As we approached what we call “the magic bush”, we were both prepared for something to pop out. Something is always there. Today it was a lone sharptailed grouse about 10 yards away from me. I took it with one shot. Our 1 1/2 year old female, “Fire”, came in for the retrieve. I had forgotten that I was wearing the GoPro and pulled out my pocket camera (as you see in the video), I was so excited.
We hit a couple of other spots and I took some pictures, but we didn’t see any more birds that short day.
Monday morning we hit up a Federal Waterfowl Production Area. These areas turned out to be the areas with consistently great hunting. In this spot, there were about 200 ducks on the pond, there were pheasants in the lowlands and we could see sharptailed grouse flushing in the high hills. It was tough to know what to go after. I am very rarely close enough to Charles to get a good video of him taking a bird. But the first rooster of the trip was the exception. BB and Fire were super birdy, locking up, we’d walk in and kick around, then we’d release them to relocate. Finally we got into this flat and neither one of them would budge. Charles is trying to release them and they would not move. I had turned my back to move on (I was really distracted by those 200 ducks on the pond), but then heard a flush behind me. When the bird flushes, you can see where we are with training. Fire stops on the flush like she is supposed to, since we’ve been working with her a bunch. BB is out of practice and totally breaks on the flush, which puts her in position for the retrieve.
We continued to follow the marshy slough and again the dogs got birdy. A rooster got up in my sights, but I missed both shots and Charles got it on the clean-up shot.
On our way back to the truck, we thought that all of the ducks had flushed from the pond. There was no sneaking up on most of these guys, they were way too wiley. But a slow female shoveler found its way into Charles’s bag. Fire was the first one to get to the duck, but BB was rude and stole it from her.
The finish for the day was this little dried cattail swamp chock full of roosters. We had walked 7 miles at the WPA, so I was pretty fried, but still pushed through as best I could. I have no idea how many roosters I missed, but it was fun listening to the dogs scrounge around through the cattails and rooting them out. Charles was able to take his last rooster for a limit on the day.
We went back to the WPA on Monday, trying our hand at hauling in our portable duck blind, chairs, and decoys. Once we got our gear set up, we went after a rooster that we had missed the previous day. He was waiting right where we expected him and Fire took us right to him. Both of us shot at the bird and initially Charles took credit, but once we cleaned the bird, we could see that we had clearly hit it from both sides. So it was a team effort.
After sitting in the blind for an hour, all that we had drawn in were coot. The 200 ducks that were there the day before were nowhere to be found.
This is a photo of Fire waiting patiently in the blind. It was taken off of my right shoulder, so she’s resting her head on the butt of my gun and on Charles’s elbow.
A few more spots in the area were covered, but to no avail. That day we spooked up the biggest bodied whitetail buck I’ve ever seen in my life, he was probably 250-275 lbs. and when he ran off it sounded like a galloping horse. There was also what I’ve dubbed the “Corgi Coyote” that we came upon. It was the shortest legged coyote I’ve ever seen in my life. Seriously, it had a normal sized body, was really poufy and furry, but had super short legs. Fire easily caught up with it and towered over it. But we decided to avoid getting the dogs torn up and called them off of it. A one rooster day it was, but better than getting skunked (or coyoted).
Our Tuesday morning stop was yet another large Waterfowl Production Area. Not ten steps from the truck we got a rooster up. I took a shot and missed, Charles took both shots and peppered his butt. He soared over into a little cattail ditch and we took chase. Once we got over there Chief and Fire went on solid point, the rooster got up and Charles nailed it. Another one soared out of range off into the distance, which we took note of as Chief got his first wild rooster retrieve at 7 months. (I have all of this still on my GoPro and haven’t downloaded it yet. It was all pretty far away from me and the quality probably isn’t good enough to post anyway.)
Instead of chasing after the other rooster that had gotten up, we opted for the north end of the lake, where we found nothing. So chasing the known rooster to the south it was. As we made our way along the bank, BB knew that there was a rooster somewhere there. Shaking her birdy booty, she scooted along tracking the scent. Then she locked up. I kicked around and kicked around in the cattails. Finally, I got under a bent down tree and out he came from the other side, where Charles shot him. I took a shot, but had no chance, since I was tangled up in tree branches. But that bird is just as much mine as it is his.
It is tough to write about long distance trudging and make it interesting. It took us nine miles of swamp hiking for us to get those two birds. Swamp hiking is not like walking across a prairie. It is high stepping while crashing down cattails and trying to keep your feet from getting tangled in reed canary grass. It is hoping that your boots hold up to keep your feet dry and praying that you don’t walk into too soft of mud and sink in to the point where you can’t get out. It is tough.
Our last full day was Wednesday, October 21st. We were headed towards a new WPA, but saw a promising piece of private ground that we decided to work, with lots of harvested crop ground surrounding our favorite: the cattail swamp (see a pattern here?). Charles took the first bird, with another one heading around to the far end. I was on it. I was not going this whole trip without getting a rooster. Sure enough, the dogs got in there and rousted him up and I shot him squarely on the first shot. He went tail straight up and nosedived down. It took the dogs awhile to find it, the cattails were so thick. I started wading into them towards the bird when I heard Fire wagging her tail and hitting the cattails behind me. I turned around and she handed me my bird.
Once we moved on, our journeys took us back to the little cattail swamp where I missed a whole bunch of roosters. I proceeded to miss a whole bunch of roosters again. One of my favorites was where I was shooting at this rooster’s tail and he was furiously flying away from me and laughing with his evil cackle as he went, but he was flying straight at Charles. Charles totally lit him up and he went end over end before crumpling to the ground. Charles finished off the day with a nice limit.
Thursday morning brought us to packing up the cabin and heading for home. But on our way, we couldn’t help but hit up one more Waterfowl Production Area. Charles took a rooster and the dumbest bufflehead duck on the planet. The dogs just so happened to be working back towards us and pushed the rooster so that it was flying right at Charles. The duck seriously flew into us about 5 minutes later and landed on the pond. We had to yell at it and flap our arms to get it to fly. I have both the rooster retrieve and the duck retrieve as video on my phone camera, I just haven’t figured out how to get it into a YouTube yet. But here is the photo with a big North Dakota rock (there are lots of rocks in North Dakota, deposited by glaciers).
I wish that I could muster up some sort of profound conclusion or insight from the trip, but waxing philosophical about hunting is not my forte. I will not talk about how my soul was reconnected to the spirit of the wild on this trip, or how hunting draws us back to the activities of our primitive ancestors, or that it is all about camaraderie of hunters and spending quality time with the dogs. Hunting is fun and my dogs need the practice. As Charles said, “this is the forge”. We learned what our dogs training weakness is: the NAVHDA Utility Test Duck Search. They did great searching in dry cattails, open field, or open water. You get them into cattails with knee deep water and they were at a loss. Usually Sam covered those retrieves and we just never had to worry about it. Well, now that Sam is gone, the rest of the crew needs to step it up. We will be doing lots of practice on that between now and next fall when Fire does her first UT with Charles and I re-test with BB.
Although I was not very happy with my shooting, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for roosters. I need to practice more. What I was happy with was that I swamp hiked 45 miles in 6 days while carrying an 8 pound shotgun and loaded down with gear. And never complained or quit. My right ankle (which is an old high school sports repetitive injury) took a good pounding from all of the rocks and critter holes, but I’ll be ready for Nebraska pheasant opener this weekend. We’re going to sit out Saturday to try to avoid some of the craziness and see what we can come across on Sunday.
I do have pupdates, but I’m going to save them for next week when there isn’t so much hunting stuff to post up. And it is time for me to go to our sons’ Halloween parties.
We ate at a South Dakota Pizza Ranch on our way home and this song came on. I had never heard it before and thought it was funny and appropriate for this forum. Good luck to all of the hunters out there!