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Before I die I will shoot a snipe and other tales from the prairie…

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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

Charles and Charity ready for some fun

Charity and Charles ready for some fun

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.

Party foul

Party foul

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 heeling 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.

Charles with four snipe, a sora, and a teal

Charles with four snipe, a sora, and a teal

Charity and Fire with a Teal

Charity and Fire with a Teal

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).

Best of Breed Ring

Best of Breed Ring

L to R: Kristi, handler, Brie and Gino

L to R: Kristi, handler, Brie and Gino

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.

Court Ave Brewery Des Moines

Court Ave Brewery Des Moines

AWPGA steins

AWPGA steins

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.

French Griffon Books

French Griffon Books

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.

I took some of everything.

I took some of everything.

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.

Jay Hoth's big date

Jay Hoth’s big date

I wish that I had won this sign in the games, but I didn’t.  Some of my other problems:

Addiction

Addiction

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.

Charity auctioning off a cool welcome sign

Charity auctioning off a cool welcome sign

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.

Opening day limit. From back to front: Fire, BB, and Chief

Opening day limit. From back to front: Fire, BB, and Chief

Day 2 limit, back to front: Sam, Fire, and Chief

Day 2 limit, back to front: Sam, Fire, and Chief

Parting thoughts

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:

  1. I’m going to handle Chief for the first time in NAVHDA Natural Ability in the Spring.
  2. Charles will NAVHDA UPT Fire in either the spring or fall of next year.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

Brian's Himalayan Snowcock encounter. Photo by Brian Koch ultimateupland.com

Brian’s Himalayan Snowcock encounter. Photo by Brian Koch ultimateupland.com

That is one for the bucket list!  Keep chasing birds

Pheasant 2014: North Dakota and Nebraska

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North Dakota Wrap-Up

As mentioned in the last post, Charles and the dogs were in North Dakota last week from Sunday until Thursday.  Sunday they got a hun, and Monday a duck and two pheasants were in the bag (both of those photographs are in last week’s blog post).  Tuesday they bagged 4 ducks, but they were mixed in with everything else on the stringer in the photograph and it was getting dark, so I opted to spare you another body count photo.  Wednesday, they got a snipe and a rooster.

Snipe and Rooster from Wednesday, October 22nd

Snipe and Rooster from Wednesday, October 22nd

One of Charles’s friends tipped him off to a good spot to hit on his way out of North Dakota, where he got a limit in an hour and a half on Thursday.

North Dakota Rooster Limit

North Dakota Rooster Limit

I apologize for the body count photos, especially to one of my regular readers who scolded me recently about having too many of them on my blog.  We’ll get some more artful action photos with dogs in them and such next year, I opted to stay home since I got in plenty of travel earlier in the year.

Nebraska Opening Weekend

We decided not to wade into the fray of opening morning, but I was bound and determined to get out on Sunday.  Charles decided that he wanted to come along too even though he had a cold and had just spent the whole week hunting.  We went out midday and by the time we were headed back to the truck later in the afternoon it was 86 degrees out.  Way too hot.  He got 2 roosters within the first 5 minutes of our arrival to the field.  I got a shot off on one a bit later, but missed.

The second rooster that Charles shot yesterday still had enough juice to fly 80 yards or so into some thick sunflowers, making Sam and Fire work hard to find the carcass.  Fire was the one who found it and brought it right to Charles.  He wanted to make sure that he got the bird from her in a timely fashion, so I didn’t have a chance to take a picture since I was carrying my shotgun.  Darn.

I took Wednesday morning of this week off from work so that I can get out on my own.  Not that it will necessarily change my shooting luck with rooster pheasants, but I’m going to give it a try.

Yet another dorky hunting selfie from Charles and Charity

Yet another dorky hunting selfie from Charles and Charity

It appears that the top pheasant in the photograph below was released by Nebraska Game and Parks this year, if you notice the nostrils are enlarged from the blinders that were on the bird during its time in the pen.  The bottom bird is either a survivor from last year or a wild hatch.

Notice the size of the pheasant nostrils

Notice the size of the pheasant nostrils

Pupdates

Bob from Minnesota sent me an e-mail and photo of “Ed” from our 2013 “E” Litter from Sam and Sue.

Just wanted to give you a quick update on Ed.  We finally made it out pheasant hunting in MN this past weekend.  I managed to get Ed and my oldest daughter, Faith, out for a bit.  In a year in which MN DNR says the numbers of birds are down, Ed managed to find and point 7 birds in a quick morning walk.  We have done no live bird work since last year and he was flat out amazing!  He is definitely ready for our annual trip to North Dakota next week.  I will get you some pictures upon our return from that trip.  Definitely looking forward to it.

Ed and Faith in MN

Ed and Faith in MN

Curt out in Central Nebraska shot this video a couple of weeks ago of our Fire’s sister “Gracie” doing her first water retrieve at 8 months of age: 

Congratulations to Lindsay and Bluestem’s Big Sky Rendezvous CGC NA I “Midge” in Montana for qualifying for the AKC Owner Handler Series.  Midge and Lindsay were #8 (tie) in conformation show points in the series (click photo to enlarge results).

AKC Owner Handler Series Rankings

AKC Owner Handler Series Rankings

I hope that everyone who celebrates Halloween has a happy and safe one.  I do not dress up my dogs, so don’t even think that you’ll be seeing that next week.  Not gonna happen.  But thanks to all of my owners for the updates and I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to what is going on here.  Happy Haunting and Hunting!

 

More Snipe, Training, and Pupdates

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The weekend before last, Charles and his friend Matt went out and got into some snipe with success, each of them got a few.  Fire had her first full wild bird retrieve.  She had picked one up earlier in the season, but BB rudely stole the retrieve from her.

Some snipe, Charles and Fire

Some snipe, Charles and Fire

Last weekend, Charles, Conrad, and Fire were been out working on drills for Fire’s Natural Ability test, specifically the water retrieve and the track.  Conrad was my cameraman during the training session and got some pretty good pictures!

Charles, Fire, and the chukar for the track.

Charles, Fire, and the chukar for the track.

Fire bringing in a long water retrieve of a canvas  dummy.

Fire bringing in a long water retrieve of a canvas dummy.

Fire with the nasty old dummy

Fire with the nasty old dummy

We are looking forward to the opening of Nebraska High Plains duck season this weekend, especially me, since I have a big fat goose egg on hunting season thus far.  Much of it has to do with my opting to stay home or carry a camera most of the season and only having three days in the field with a gun in my hand.  Charles has to decide whether he’s going to North Dakota or South Dakota for his weeklong hunting trip later this month.  I am going to sit it out since I already missed one of my grad school class sessions to go to Maine.

Pupdates

Although we were skunked on our sharptailed grouse outing last month, I’ve been hearing good reports farther north and west.  TracHer got some retrieves in from Susan and Tom’s good shooting up in North Dakota.  TracHer is from our “C” Litter of Sam and Mae.

TracHer on retrieve in North Dakota

TracHer on retrieve in North Dakota

Closeup of TracHer and the sharptail

Closeup of TracHer and the sharptail

TracHer's retrieve to hand

TracHer’s retrieve to hand

TracHer just recently lost her younger brother, Max, an 18 month old German Wirehaired Pointer, to blue-green algae exposure.  I had never really taken it seriously, but will from here on out.  Very sad for Susan and Tom, we were sorry to hear it.

My friend George saw Sandi with our pup Zoey in Michigan at the Midwest Griff Fest, which was held just a couple of weeks after the National Specialty.  Not sure how George had the energy to make it to both events, but kudos to him!  Zoey lives in Oklahoma with Sandi and Jimmy, and is from our 2013 “E” Litter from Sue and Sam.

Sandi with Zoey in the harness and an encroaching gang of griffs.

Sandi with Zoey in the harness and an encroaching gang of griffs.

Sandi and Zoey overtaken by the gang of griffs

Sandi and Zoey overtaken by the gang of griffs

Sandi and Zoey get to know the griff gang.

Sandi and Zoey get to know the griff gang.

Last but not least, Lindsay and Midge took Winners Bitch two of the four days of the Gallatin and Helena Cluster Show up in Montana a couple of weeks ago for two points.  I’m not sure how many points Midge is up to these days, but it sounds as if Lindsay is determined to put a conformation championship on her as hard as she is working at this.  Great job!

Lindsay and Midge

Lindsay and Midge

Thanks to everyone who submitted pictures over the last couple of weeks for me to include in the blog, I couldn’t do it without you!  Good luck to all of the hunters out there with the big season openers across the country this month!

Duck Hunting the Atlas Blizzard, BB’s NAVHDA UT and more news…

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I think that I am finally caught up on my kennel e-mails and phone calls, but if you’ve tried to get in touch with me and somehow fell through the cracks, please reach out to me again at bluestemkennels@cox.net or (402) 682-9802.  Charles has been on the road during the week for his corporate job 3 weeks in a row now, then we’ve been traveling on the weekends for hunting, testing and training.  I’m currently taking care of the 3 dogs and 3 kids, working as a substitute teacher in middle school and high school English, writing for Lion Country Supply and finishing my master’s degree in secondary education.  So sometimes the wheels just come off the bus and not everything gets done as it should.  I did manage to get my introductory blog post on to the Lion Country Supply site: http://blog.lcsupply.com/2013/09/postcards-from-the-great-plains-first-post/  It is different than writing for here, where I just sort of talk to you like I would if you were sitting here at my kitchen table with me.

But what did get done as it should was our duck hunt in the Nebraska Sandhills on opening day.  It was extremely cold and windy, as we caught the southeastern corner of what is being called the Atlas Blizzard that devestated the cattle industry in southwestern South Dakota (I’ve been following on another blog: Just a Ranch Wife http://www.justaranchwife.com/).  It definitely pushed the ducks south and right to us that day.  We both got our limits by midday and it’s a good thing because I had cotton pants on that just got completely soaked by the flying snow and I was locking up with some pre-hypothermia symptoms.  Our favorite method is jump hunting, so we were taking the action to the ducks.  I managed to catch a duck double that I shot on GoPro video and I posted it on our YouTube channel:

And the final shot on the day.  Let me tell you a bit about these end of the day shots.  I have my camera on a tripod and use the 10 second timer to take these.  I don’t look into the mirror before we take them.  I line everyone else up, hit the timer, then run into the picture.  I will never look like one of those cool, sexy huntresses in one of these pictures.  Like this one, I look like I have a damn chef’s hat on.

Charity and Charles with BB on 2013 opener of duck season

Charity and Charles with BB on 2013 opener of duck season

The following day was completely blue sky and right when we get ready to hunt, I realize that my license must have fallen out of my pocket the day before.  No hunting license, duck stamp or HIP number anywhere.  So I just carried the camera instead (after a good cry, of course).

Charles and BB started Sunday with a wood dock drake

Charles and BB started Sunday with a wood dock drake

Charles and BB leave the wooded pond

Charles and BB leave the wooded pond

The head of a wood duck drake is one of the most beautiful gifts of nature

The head of a wood duck drake is one of the most beautiful gifts of nature

Charles and BB back in the open looking for snipe

Charles and BB back in the open looking for snipe

I call this one "Anticipation".  This is Sam having to let BB go as lead duck dog for the first time.

I call this one “Anticipation”. This is Sam having to let BB go as lead duck dog for the first time.

Charles and BB creep into a wet spot

Charles and BB creep into a wet spot

Snipe way up in the air

Snipe way up in the air

Charles and BB also got a snipe on Sunday

Charles and BB also got a snipe on Sunday

A week later, BB received her NAVHDA Utility Prize III at the Heartland Chapter Fall Test in Thurman, Iowa.  Although I had planned on attending and helping out with the test, my kids all caught colds and we just really needed to stay home and recouperate.  We had considered pulling out of the test the weekend prior just because of having too much going on, but we had already paid our fee, so off Charles went.  BB had a “no-pass” in Sioux Falls in August due to not doing the duck retrieve, so we have been focused on water work in both our training and hunting.  She did what needed to get done with the duck search, steady by blind, and duck retrieve.  She aced the track, as always.  She was the last dog to run in the field and she was false pointing piles of feathers and breaking on the flush, which she hasn’t done in awhile.  But we’ve been so focused on getting over the water hump that she hasn’t been on upland birds since hunting sharp-tailed grouse at the beginning of September.  But we’ll take it!  So BB is now officially Bourg-Royal’s CB Bluestem JH, NA I, UT III.

Our co-owned female, Velma (De Jac’s Zip A Dee Doo Dah NA I) who is the same age as BB, is now dual registered with the AKC and NAVHDA, which was the final step in preparing to hopefully breed her within the next few months, in addition to the females who live with us.  I paid her a visit a month or so ago in order to take pictures that the AKC needed for registration.

Velma at 2.5 years

Velma at 2.5 years

I had originally capped my reservations at 10 but there were more folks really wanting to get on the list, so it looks like I’m at 13 now after 3 verbal commitments yesterday and in the process of finalizing with deposit.  As we are trying for 3 litters, I have high hopes that we will have enough puppies!

Speaking of puppies, we have our fingers crossed that Sam’s stud successor will be born around Halloween!  He is coming from the same kennel that we acquired BB, Bourg-Royal Kennel in St. Lambert-de-Lauzon, Quebec, Canada.  Should he be born and it isn’t a litter of all girls, he will be parented by two French imports: sire GCH Fortis des Sonnailles du Haut Davy FD NA I and dam Crystal D’O des Roches de Vouise.

Fortis on point.  Photo by Amy Caswell

Fortis on point. Photo by Amy Caswell

Crystal on point and posed.  Photos by Claudette Blackburn

Crystal on point and posed. Photos by Claudette Blackburn

We are so very excited and hope that all goes well for human mom, Renee, mama Crystal and the babies!

Last but not least it is time for some pupdates.  We got word from Kyle in Illinois within the last couple of weeks that Gomer got his NAVHDA Natural Ability Prize I with a perfect score of 112 points.  I don’t have the name of the chapter, but will keep my eyes out for it in Versatile Hunting Dog magazine.  He is from 2012 “D” Litter from Sam and Sue.

TracHer from 2012 “C” Litter from Sam and Mae took a limit of sharp-tailed grouse with owner, Susan, a week ago.  TracHer and Susan live up in North Dakota.  Susan said, “It is so rare that I hunt alone with just one dog, and very nice to go my own pace.  TracHer did great.  Ranged a bit, but would come back in.  It is also rare that I get my limit!!   TracHer found and retrieved to hand all 3 birds. “

Susan and TracHer with a limit of sharp-tailed grouse.

Susan and TracHer with a limit of sharp-tailed grouse.

TracHer’s sister (but not littermate), Midge, is from Sam and Mae’s 2013 “F” Litter and is really looking nice!  I hear that she’s had some pheasants shot over her in Montana within the last couple of days.

Midge at 7 months old

Midge at 7 months old

Hearing lots of good reports from other owners as the season kicks off and I can’t wait to see the hunting pics!!  Kyle from across town here said that he got Gomer’s brother Duke out on ducks, “I had the chance to get Duke out duck hunting a couple times this weekend. He did awesome. I didn’t get any pictures, but we got into the teal and wood ducks. ”  Duke is also taking after his mama Sue, Kyle said, “I saw a while ago that you posted a picture of Sue with socks and toys in her mouth. That must be where Duke gets it from. We can’t keep socks in one place at our house, he finds every dirty pair and carries them around. Haha.”  That really made me smile!

Oh this blog post has taken me way too long to write.  Thank you owners for keeping me up-to-date with the pups!!  What’s next for us? Saturday, Charles, BB and Sam leave for the big North Dakota trip.  Charles will be focused mainly on guiding his old friend Ozzie from New York.  A week from Friday, I leave for AWPGA National Specialty.  If we can just make it through October, we’ll try to have a less insane November.  But hunting season is only so long.  And you only get so many hunting seasons in your life.  So stay tuned for more craziness.

A Day for BB

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Saturday brought us BB’s first solo wild bird adventure in the field, on a snipe hunt with Charles.  It is good for the six month old pup to run with the older dogs to learn the ways of the game, but it is essential that she also be allowed to hunt independently.

As there has been a warm spell up in the northern area of the flyway, the migrating snipe were not yet noticed, just the resident population that we last hunted at our snipe swamp in Southeastern Nebraska.  Charles and BB put up several snipe, but he passed on many shots since the birds start out flying so low to the ground, it is often a risk to the dog.  He also didn’t want to shoot birds on the edge of range, as he wanted an easy “hunt dead” for BB, so that she would not get discouraged.

BB has mastered the art of the search, knows bird scent, gets birdy and points.  Right now we are still working on the retrieve with real birds, as she will mark the bird and pick it up, but not yet bring to hand reliably.  She will retrieve a dummy or dokken to hand without fail in the yard, heck, she’ll even retrieve our 2 1/2 year old’s stuffed animals when he throws them with the fetch command.  It is all just part of the process that we’d like for her to work through naturally within the next few months of hunting, knowing that with her griffon instincts she will put the pieces of the yard training and the field work together in due time.

BB's first wild bird after a long day in the snipe swamp

Reflections on Snipe Hunting

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Sam, Charles, Sue and BB with 4 snipe, a teal and 2 doves

The habitat of the snipe is nothing that I had ever expected.  As we wandered our way down the path through the cattails, I kept my eyes sharp, looking for the zig-zag flight of the long-billed swamp bird.  Yet my vigilance was wasted in those areas of dense swamp cover and we eventually wandered into a 20 acre flat, recently grazed by cattle.

“This is where it gets interesting,” Charles warned.  We split up to cover opposite sides of a small creek that ended in a cattail marsh.  I mistakenly headed once again into dense cover, thinking that the sneaky birds would tuck themselves into the reeds.  I was sinking quickly into the mud and got my rubber boots stuck, just in time for an incoming snipe, who landed in the distant short grass.  I was able to extract myself from the mud and we walked towards where we saw the bird land.  He jumped up way out of range, but it became obvious that we were dealing with a resident population, as they did not want to leave their 20 acres.

We worked over the creek half of the plot, spotting a few more snipe getting up out of range.  Our favorite technique for birds that won’t hold tight is to tire them out, flush, then follow, flush, then follow, until they are too tired to be overly flighty.  There was no luck to be had in that half of the small territory, so we headed towards the area where the flushed birds landed.

In a spot that we had covered, next to the tiny creek in tightly grazed grass an unexpected snipe popped up with its classic, “screeee, thwicka, thwicka, thwicka”.  Aside from its larger size, the call of a fleeing snipe is the one sure way to tell it apart from a killdeer.  The chosen path of the snipe is frightening for the hunter, as it begins by flying very close to the ground, at the same height of the dogs and sometimes right among them.

The bird flew clear of the dogs and Charles made the shot, with Sue on retrieve.  Right after that, a dove flew by me in range and I watched it go, choosing to focus on trying to get my first snipe.  Another shot was fired from my husband’s gun and he took down the dove, with Sue doing another great job on tracking the small bird to deliver to her master.

Our walk continued towards a small pond, where all heck broke loose.  Charles quickly bagged another snipe in the flat next to the pond and while he was busy with Sam’s retrieve, the crazy swamp creatures were zig-zagging all around above my head.  I missed several shots on snipe, while a couple of teal busted out of the pond.  Charles was lucky to be close enough to the pond to take one of the teal, which landed in the water still alive.  The injured teal made its way towards the cattails on the edge of the bank in an attempt to hide from the encroaching dogs, but Sam was able to snatch it out of the water.

Close-up of a snipe, with a blue-winged teal in the background

The pond was completely shaken down, so we decided to head back to the creek area we had already covered.  I was in a hurry to cross the watery thread and thought I spotted a muddy area that was dry and vegetated enough to handle my crossing.  Epic fail!  I was immediately sucked thigh deep into the mud, both legs.  Charles was still trying to give me hand signals as to which direction we were going and began to walk off into the distance, so I had to shout him down to come and hold my gun so that I could attempt to remove myself from the gluey muck.  I wiggled and squiggled, but my cheap rubber calf boots were not budging.  My only choice was to leave the boots in the mud and concede defeat to the snipe swamp, pouting my way sock-footed towards the truck.

Defeated by the swamp

Not wanting to wander too far in my socks or ruin Charles’s hunt, I stood on the edge of the 20 acres as he walked back and forth with the dogs, taking two more snipe and one more dove off in the distance.

My adventure ended in the style of a proverbial snipe hunt, as defined in Wikipedia, “…also known as a fool’s errand, a type of practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of credulous newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task.”  Yet I am intrigued by this interesting hunt and unusual habitat.  I will be purchasing some hip boots before I try this again, but am sure to be back and better prepared.

If you are interested in reading more tales of snipe hunting from around the globe, check out Worth Mathewson’s rare book Reflections on Snipe.

Snipe 2010 and More Youth Hunt Pics

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Charles took Sam out last Sunday for a snipe hunt in Saunders County, Nebraska.  Yes, snipe do exist, and a “snipe hunt” isn’t a joke!  They are a swamp bird that sort of looks like a small woodcock.  I’ve never shot one myself, but I have seen them flush out of the marshes.  They fly in a strange zig-zag pattern.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sam, Charles and Caleb with three snipe

I received some additional photos from the Heartland Chapter #491 Pheasants Forever Youth Hunt that took place a few weeks ago.  Thanks to chapter member Ron Funk for getting these shots.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sue on point

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sue retrieving a pheasant

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Charles, the unidentified youth (again) and Sue filling the game bag

The dogs are getting this weekend off due to doe only deer season.  Charles didn’t have any luck yesterday morning and decided to take our 6 year old son, Conrad, with him today.

Deer hunt

Conrad’s first deer hunt

We’ll see if they have any luck with the afternoon deer hunt.  The dogs will be back in action next weekend hunting ducks in the Sandhills.

Thank God for “The Good Life”!