Friday, July 10, 2020

Bird Dog

With Indian Head Intrigue
photo by Holly Higgins
Deep chest, slim flank, great heart to stand the pace
And that unerring wizardry of scent
To trail the quarry in it's secret place;
Power and cunning, speed and wisdom blent -
these are the immemorial gifts that came
Out of  forgotten time's unfathomed gulf;
These are the fierce ancestral fires and flame
Undimmed, unchanged still - Son of Wolf.
Grave eyes, grave bearing, dignity of kings;
The gentleness and trust of a child;
The flawless poise that veils old savage things
But half remembered from the vanished wild -
These are the kingly qualities that came
On unremembered fields where sports began;
This is the clear glow of a steady flame
Undimmed, unchanging still - Comrade of Man
                                                       C.T. Davis

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Days of Summer

Photo by Holly Higgins
It's that time of year again. Time to get the dogs we hunted and field trialed last season back in to shape, give the broke dogs a tune up and get the puppies that have been pointing and chasing, broke before this fall season. It's a tough time of year to train; the weather is hot, the weeds (foxtail, cheatgrass, madusahead, speargrass) are dangerous, it's snakey, and the hours at work are generally long; time is a scarce resource. The dogs feed is being cut back to help burn off the winter layer of insulation and prepare them for early season field trials and hunts; they will typically be three- to seven-pounds heavier in the winter than in the summer; depending on the dog. Some folks like to change feeds between the high activity level seasons of fall and winter, and the lower activity level seasons of spring and summer. I've always stuck with the same feed year-round, a high quality 30/20 mix, and just regulate the once-daily ration of feed according to the dogs needs. Each dog in the kennel is different in it's daily consumption; some are easy keepers and most aren't. I have a small female that weighs in at about 36-pounds, and may be a couple pounds heavier in the winter, and a male that will go 55-pounds in winter and down to 47-pounds during field trial and bird season. Even at their heaviest, my dogs have a waistline. If hipbones and spine begin to show as they cut weight during the summer, I'll add a little feed to smooth-out the bumps. Pointers and Setters are world class athletes and need to be kept in top physical condition to do their job in the field at the highest level. High quality feed, and access to clean fresh water throughout the day are important in managing your dogs physical condition year-round.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

De La Valdene

Guy De La Valdene is mentioned several times, in Thomas McGuane's "The Longest Silence, A Life In Fishing." Poling Key West with McGuane, angling for bonefish, tarpon, permit (the big three), and mutton snapper among other species. A quick web search put me into a list of De La Valdene's books, and I chose "Making Game...", mostly because I hadn't done much reading on woodcock and the description of the contents of the book sounded interesting. This book covers a few good hunts, but also focuses on habitat, migration, the conservation of the species, and the bird as table fare. I don't know any woodcock hunters, but after reading it, I imagine this book would fit into the niche of "a must have" among the tried-and-true. Russell Chatham illustrated the book, Jim Harrison makes an appearence or two, you get the point..... good stuff!

Thursday, June 4, 2020


"The Longest Silence, A Life in Fishing," was composed by Thomas McGuane some twenty-plus years ago. His essays of both salt and freshwater angling span the globe, as McGuane pursues gamefish that most of us only dream to oneday have on the end of our outfit. Anyone that has spent any time on the water will appreciate how McGuane puts you in the moment; whether it be poling the flats of Key West in search of tarpon, permit or bonefish, or presenting a dry to a fat cutty on a gin-clear Montana stream, it's as if you're there with him, wind at your back, hauling line, presenting, and anticipating the strike. I found this book hard to put down. A great book for the spring season, when most of us are looking for a spot to wet a fly, trying to get our birddogs in order, and anticipating the upcoming fall....

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...