Friday, April 24, 2020

Stay at home! And yard-work dogs...

Indian Head Storm - "Kate"
It's hard to believe a month ago 40-inches of snow had accumulated here at home. It melted rapidly, as it generally does this time of year, and conditions weatherwise are now, "spring-like." Mornings are cool, afternoons are warm, and the grass is really coming on.
Stay-at-home restrictions, and a serious shortage of funds, have limited my travel from home to other locations where I might get some training done. Fortunately, the dirt roads have dried-out and I'm able to road the dogs, around here, every other day off the quad. I haven't done a lot of bird work because a flock of sheep and it's guardian Greater Pyrenees has occupied the bird field. So what I have focused on is yard work; heeling, whoaing, coming-to-here, standing, loading into the truck, loading into the crate… Dogs young and old are being put through the process every other day; going through the motions with the pups, and polishing-up the older dogs.
In the picture above "Kate" (Kelly's IB Butler X Kelly's Funseeker), 12-months old, is on a board and fully rigged-up, learning to stand-in-place and get comfortable in the gear she needs to associate with the breaking process. She's looking good doing it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

March Miracle, and then.....

Photo by Sutter Rogers
Until Saturday March 14, snowpack in the Sierra was suffering at about 50-percent of normal. For two weeks prior, the daily highs had been in the mid-60's to 70-degrees, it was dry, and the horses were literally sweating standing still. Their winter coats just starting to shed-out, the animals seemed to be going through more salt and water than they typically do in the summer heat.
Well, that Saturday evening it started coming, with a good 16-inches settling-in overnight, and for four consecutive days it came and came; a total of 40-inches of the white stuff accumulating on the railing of my deck. I was on a backhoe tractor 4.5-hrs each day plowing snow so we could get 26 horses fed and watered, and our vehicles in and out our drives. Fortunately, the power was only out for about 36-hrs; in past winters we'd gone four to five days without power during such a storm.
This is a pretty typical winter weather scenario in the mountains; nasty conditions for a few days, the power goes out, you have the woodstove for heat, the fridge gets emptied into a cooler on the back porch to keep things cool, beer into the snowbank, you suffer for a couple days without electronics, read by candlelight.... Then things go back to normal.
Just as the weather began to clear in the northern Sierra, the 600-pound grizzly that was stirring in our midst the past couple months started to move; and it charged hard. COVID-19 got real across America; it became more than just something affecting hot-spot cities and far-off nations. Stay-at-home and shelter-in-place restrictions were implemented in States across the nation, the Dow took a dive, unemployment went form an all-time low to an all-time high, the list goes on and on....
People with and without the virus are suffering in the States and around the world. It's impossible to do this reality justice in words because it's hardly comprehendable. A true shit-storm! I'll take four-feet of snow any day......

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Pointing Chukar

Sammi pointing Chukar
Photo by Holly Higgins
Sammi had as a pup, out of the shoot, a ton of point; butterflies, grasshoppers, bumblebees, stalks of grass blowing in the wind; you name it, she'd point it, and with intensity! Initially her pointing, it seemed, was focused on moving objects that caught her eye; something would move, she'd point, and then pounce and chase.... When Sammi was about 6-months old I started running her in the bird field, into electronic launchers loaded with pigeons; she had a great nose and pointed with intensity. From the start, I could get in front of her and launch birds before she would chase. After letting her chase a few times, it didn't take much effort to keep her from chasing more than a few feet. Walking up to flush for her, I could see her drinking up the scent; high tail and head, mouth opening and closing, eyes staring into the distance, body motionless. I remember thinking to myself every time I ran her in a training situation, "this is a bird dog." Toward the end of this bird season I was fortunate to get her into Chukar country and get her into some birds. Unfortunately, on both occasions I had her down, her littermate Ella was down with her, and before I could get to Sammi to kill a bird for her, Ella came in and ripped them...

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

On Point!

Photo by Holly Higgins
In this photo, Meg and Wheels are backing Gertie, which is just over the ridge, too the front, and out of the picture. This was the last hunt of the season and all three girls were put down together for the final-final. Wheels and Gertie had backed each other on previous hunts, but Meg had only seen the backing silhouette to that point. And the birds were there!

News From Chukar Country

After the Thanksgiving snows, and successive subsequent storms provided much needed moisture to the eastside, birds began to disburse and the hunting improved. Chukar could still be found in the clouds if you chose to go that high, but much of the front country was littered with birds as well; birds that were now finding fresh feed from the green-up which occurred across the landscape post precip. Both dogs and hunters were rewarded with birdwork, not just exercise....
By the end of the season birds had begun to pair up, so pairs and singles were let fly anticipating the clutches that might be produced this spring by these early cohabitors.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Thanksgiving Pheasant Hunt

Photo by Holly Higgins
We hunted pheasant Thanksgiving day hoping to harvest a rooster for the table that evening, but at the end of the day were glad we had thrown a chicken in the cart (just in case) while shopping the previous evening. That morning there was a skiff of snow on the ground and tracks were noticeable everywhere in the cover; criss-crossing through the sage and native grasses, down fencelines, in and out of the willows. There was a chill in the air all day and the frost never left the cover except when one of us, or a dog, brushed it off while hunting through it. When the wind came up you felt it anywhere there was bare skin or wet clothing. The dogs were the heroes of the day, hunting hard in the cold and wet persistently. We managed to put a few birds in the air but pinning a bird down was tough....

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Green-up Is Coming

Photo by Sutter Rogers

In late September, early October, Fall seemed to be coming-on like a lion; a fair amount of rain, a skiff of snow, and some chilly mornings had us believing it was "on" for chukar season. But for the last month, since a week-or-so before the season opened, "dry and dusty" best describe what conditions have been like. It has been warm and dry, almost too warm to get the dogs out for more than a few hours in the morning. And birdwork has been at a premium, at least in southern and eastern Oregon.
It's now Thanksgiving and things seemed to have changed. As much as a foot of snow has hit the eastside! The snow should get them moving, but after this cold spell when temperatures reach the high thirties and we get a little sunshine some green-up should occur in the cheat grass and the chukar should begin to disperse as feed becomes more readily available. Something to be thankful for?