Friday, November 28, 2008

Chukar and Fox

I don't like 'tailgate photos' of a row of dead birds and grinning hunters.  Seems like a missed opportunity to record a bagged bird some better way. I shot this photo about a dozen years ago, and like the composition with the frost colored leaves. Nikon F2AS - Fujichrome Velvia

Pulled Pork and Lexington Sauce

Lousy day here today - gray and damp. I am thinking of things related to warmer weather - like BBQ.

A slow cooked pork shoulder with hickory smoke... pulled from the bone and served with Lexington sauce is amazing. Add a side of coleslaw, dill pickles, BBQ beans, white bread and a cold one and you have the makings of a great picnic.

I use salt, lime juice, and a Jamaican jerk dry rub with allspice, brown sugar, scotch bonnet pepper flakes and other mystery stuff in it. Rub thoroughly into the pork and refrigerate about 12 - 24 hours before cooking. I use a very low temperature (about 250 - 275), in a roasting pan with rack and water in a second side pan. Wrap some wood chips- hickory is traditional - in foil, put on the grill (punch some holes in the foil), and cook for about 4 to 6 hours, depending on the size of the shoulder. This is the 'quick' pulled pork method. The sauce goes on the side. Hope that you like it.

Lexington Sauce:

2-1/2 Cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 Cup tomato ketsup
2 -3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 -2 Tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce (Crystal or similar)
1/2 teaspoon of Liquid Smoke (Hickory)
4 Teaspoons of salt
4 Teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 Teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Teaspoon ground white pepper
1-1/2 Teaspoons of the dry rub used on the pork shoulder

I heat the vinegar, add all the ingredients and stir until smooth. Then I put it in a clean jar, allow it to cool, and put it in the fridge for storage. When serving, warm the sauce and provide individual side bowls for dipping the pulled pork.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What we eat, where it comes from

In his book The Omnivorne's Dilemma, Michael Pollan contrasts four meals - fast food, 'supermarket' food, 'organic' food, and food he gathered himself. He presents the origins and economics of what we eat and how it gets to us... a long and interesting trail. He reveals what we no longer (for the most part) know about our food chain. 

I recommend this book. It may change your view of food, or not, but it will certainly make you think. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


It is better to give thanks with a meal that comes to hand warm and cloaked in feathers, than cold, naked and wrapped in plastic. To have gathered your family's meal from a thicket of alders or a ridge top grown in fir trees seems more fitting than waiting in line at the supermarket with a basket of strange food grown, killed, picked and packaged by people unknown, in places unknown.

My Thanksgiving prayer is that we always have both the places and the freedom to celebrate the bounty we now enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Misconceptions about field trial dogs

Many people seem to have the idea that a field trial is a sort of greyhound race, and that trial bred dogs are useless to the hunter who walks behind his dog. This view has been promulgated by the many outdoor scribes who are long on opinions and short on actual experience. People read their words and believe and repeat them. It becomes 'fact' because everyone 'knows' it is true.

Other folks are skeptical that field trialing achieves the goal of improving the breeds of bird dogs.

But are these common perceptions really based in fact? Let us consider for a few minutes what qualities the IDEAL bird dog might have...

1. Endurance - a bird dog should be able to hunt at a good clip for a reasonable amount of time. My average hunt for birds in the West is between four and seven hours. I don't usually have the priviledge of looping back to my truck to exchange dogs, so I need a dog that can go the distance. I doubt that there are many hunting venues that ask more in terms of endurance than a day of chukar hunting in the river canyons of the Northwest. For this reason, I have put endurance first on the list. It may be less important to you.

2. Nose - without the physical ability to detect birds, a dog is decoration at best.

3. Intelligence – a dog must develop ‘bird sense’ by this I mean the ability to learn and retain the skills required to efficiently search out birds and to handle the birds so that the hunter is allowed the best opportunity for a shot. This requires some intelligence in the dog.

4. Ground application - the ideal dog is effective at hunting the available terrain and cover by intelligent application and must have the physical ability to get this done in all types of terrain in any weather that the owner may want to hunt or trial in. The dog needs to look at the terrain and cover and set off to search the high probability areas for birds. He should be swift, and not potter around every clump of cover.

5. Biddability - I am not a professional trainer. Like most amateurs, I want a dog that has a lot of natural ability AND that takes training quickly and retains it.

6. Handle - a dog that wants to be with its owner and is naturally inclined to please that owner will learn to hunt co-operatively and happily. It will be easy to teach, and eager to go about the business of finding birds for its owner. It seems that some dogs handle to the front and co-operate naturally.

7.. Temperment - My dogs, and I am sure many of yours, live with me year around, and are my constant companions. I want them to be calm and mannerly around me, my family, strangers, and other dogs - especially when hunting or trialing.

8. Style - as long as I am asking for all the attributes above, why not ask for a dog that looks great running and on its birds? Because we have to look at them, we may as well like what we see.

I think that most hunters who love dogs would like to have dogs with the appropriate mix of the qualities above. And it is no big leap to understand that field trialers seek the same qualities in the dogs they trial - and in many cases hunt behind. A trialer may value some of these attributes above others, depending on the venue he trails in, but they do want them all, and they judge dogs based in large part upon these attributes. Trialers, judges and breeders are all looking for "the whole package". This is true whether the trailer is running foot handled cover dogs, walking Shooting Dogs, or horseback handled Shooting Dogs and All-Age dogs. The ultimate goal of field trialing is to breed and demonstrate dogs with these qualities. While perfection is seldom, if ever, attained, it can be approached.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A gift from a friend

I first met Gary Goudy in 1972, when he was living near me and starting to develop considerable skill as a stock maker. Since that time we have been fast friends and hunted together in the Western US and Canada. He has stocked a number of guns for me, and I have learned a great deal from him. There are very few friends that I value as highly as Gary.

Gary has extraordinary skill with his hands. He says, "My brains are in my hands." I dunno, but he can make a saddle, carve, checker and finish  an exquisite gunstock, and does wrought iron work 'on the side'. He built an beautifully done VW 'dune buggy' with a dashboard of hand carved English walnut. 

I recently visited Gary at his home in Dayton, Washington and we had a day hunting pheasants together.  At that time he showed me some leather braiding work that he was doing for fun, and it was extraordinary and imaginative. He said that he would like to braid something for me, and I said I'd like a whistle lanyard. He sent an e-mail today with photos of the lanyard he made for me - a real beauty. Thank you, Gary!

Blue grouse

After hunting blue grouse as an 'incidental' bird for some years, I am finding them to be challenging quarry in their usual habitat, 

Blue grouse often roost in large trees on the edge of a canyon or swale that allows a launch downhill into escape cover. In northeast Oregon a spot I often visit has a number of large fir trees along the edge of a very steep canyon - growing in a row about 150 yards long. One day years ago I walked the edge of this row of trees and flushed five blue grouse that launched from the trees, dropping like rocks into the bottom of the canyon, and missed all five birds. I swore to learn to learn to connect on these shots and did improve after some specific practice. This translated into better, but not stellar, bags of birds.

Here is a bird that I bagged while Pete and I were hunting last season near the Snake River. The bird flushed from a copse of trees, I shot and thought I had missed shooting through the screen of evergreen branches, But 45 minutes later, and more then 300 yards down the draw he 'escaped' into, Jesse found and pointed him - laying below a tree with his feet in the air. Lesson learned - follow up the birds that I 'miss'.

The gun is a Joseph Harkom 16 gauge boxlock that I sometimes carry when an ultra-light gun seems to be called for.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Paul Garrett on setters

Paul Garrett of Colorado is one of the 'setter people' that I respect and look to for advice and general insight into the breed. Paul is not just a field trialer, he has hunted extensively over his setters for many years, and has seen many of the great dogs run in trials. And he has owned a few, too!

I will excerpt a few comments from writings and e-mails from him.

I've had about 50 setters over the years. The best of them were neither "hard" nor "soft", and their development was based on frequent, one to one contact and interaction. Setters are known to take more time and effort to train, whether hard or soft. They seem (to me) to have more desire to get to birds than pointers do, thus are harder to steady up. The old time trainers often didn't try to put the brakes on a setter till he (or she) was 4 or 5 years old - that being said W.C. Kirk had Johnny Crockett broke as a three year old and he won a 65 dog all age stake in Oklahoma. But Kirk told me he put a tremendous amount of time in on JC. The old trainers (back in the early 1900's) would run them through several yard breaking courses, had lots of wild birds, and lots of good ground to train on.

On temperment...
You have to work setters harder and more regularly than pointers, live closer to them, and watch their behavior carefully to understand what to do. John Gardner called them "heartbreak dogs" - hard to break, but brittle cause they would cave in when you put the necessary pressure of breaking on them. That's why Elwin Smith/Harold Ray looked for dogs that would "take breaking", 'cause in field trials a great bird dog that isn't "broke" isn't worth a damn, and that describes a lot of good setter bird dogs. Where [Tekoa Mountain] Sunrise contributed a lot was that his better puppies seem to break easy enough so that they didn't have to be beat up or have a lot of pressure put on them to break out - and those are not in the majority - just look at setters in field trials - the pointers have the edge in numbers that will take breaking and often in ability as a field trial type (all age) bird dog. The best setters can compete, but frequently aren't as consistent as the best pointers - why who knows. 

I also say had Commander/Wonsover bred setters for many years until I let them go on a cross country move and life change. I would take them all back right now and quit my day job, cause I've learned more about training and self control - which is the answer to a lot of it. The dogs weren't the problem, I was.

Gun dogs and field trial dogs...
There is a big difference betweeen field trial dogs and gun dogs. Am not sure I like all the artificial judgement we use in field trials, even though I enjoy running, cause there are lots of folks now who have rarely hunted birds and just go by some "rules". It is hard to judge a bird dog well - and too many times we don't get to judge them "head to head".

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Little Church on the Prairie

About 25 miles south of Malta, Montana, on a gravel road leading to a few ranches, stands the Scandia Lutheran Church. Built in 1915 this structure seems to be unused, but is still cared for by people who obviously remember what it meant in such a small and isolated community. Looks right sitting out there on the prairie.

Hun's plumage

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tommy's first horseback placement

I ran Tommy in the Open Derby stake yesterday at the Santa Clara Valley Bird Dog Club trial at the Narbaitz Ranch near Little Panoche, California. This was his first trial, and he placed second in the event. He handled fairly well, ran big, hit more objectives than the competing dogs, and did well for a 15 month old dog. 

Tommy's sire, 2X CH Jetsetter, just won the All Age championship at Inola and finished Runner- up Champion at the Region 8 Open All-Age Championship. He is now qualified for the National Bird Dog Championship at Ames Plantation in February. I will be rooting for him, Allen Vincent (his trainer/handler) and Jim Michaletz, his breeder and owner.

Ted ran in the Twer Walking Shooting Dog Classic, but went with the second bird he found after the flush and shot. A 'tame' bird right under his nose was just toooo much after all the wild bird hunting we have done this fall. Back to the training field.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rosie and Ted

Pete snapped this photo of Rosie and Ted pointing sharptails across a gully in Montana. Rosie on the left, Ted on the right. Pretty, eh?