Thursday, August 28, 2008

Early development and field work

There are many questions and ideas about developing a puppy or young dog. There seem to be two fundamental approaches. One is to get control of the pup early and not allow it to learn any bad habits (things you don't him to do), and the other is to allow the puppy to be a puppy, learn about the world and to get experience with birds before beginning disciplined training.

It could be that my experience with setters has shaped my approach to this important stage of development. Setters seem to mature a little more slowly that some other popular breeds, at least that is the common wisdom. I much prefer to take a young dog to the field and let it run and learn without restraint. But I like to get some double benefit from the early field time... I want to begin teaching the pup to handle and stay in touch.

I just put a short check cord on their collar (to let them get used to the check cord, and so that I can catch them when it's time to head for the truck), I let them drag the check cord and I walk behind them and observe their reaction to the world. Pups typically run after anything interesting, but are afraid to go out too far from your protection and security, and quickly come running back after a short dash. 

After a few sessions, I put a longer check cord on the pup and start to keep the pup in front of me by turning when he turns. It is usually possible to determine when the pup will turn, and when he is about to make the turn, I blow a double toot on the whistle and immediately turn with the pup.  Soon I start to pick up the check cord, turn the pup towards some likely cover (where he probably wants to go anyway) and blow the double toot. Through practice and repetition over the period of several weeks, the pup will learn to stay to the front (where all the birds are), take his cue from me, and turn with me on the double toot the whistle. If he starts around behind me, I grab the check cord and reel him in, and gently send him forward again. I don't holler or scold the dog, just quietly turn him back to the front. This is the beginning of handling and is 'trained' without any force. It starts out as me following the pup, and ends up with the pup to the front, but taking his direction from the way I am walking, alerted when I toot toot on the whistle. Soon the whistle is only needed to signal the dog when he can't see me. Don't signal or handle the pup as long as he is where he should be and is hunting. 

Getting the pup into wild birds is of primary importance. I do not like to expose a puppy to planted birds at this stage - he might catch one - or have some kind of event that will make him afraid of birds. The pup cannot catch wild birds, and if he is beginning to handle and gets into birds, he learns that this is where he wants to be. I never stop a pup from chasing at this point.

This is when I like to introduce the gun. I do this when we are walking and he finds a bird, flushes, and chases it. When he is a good distance away and the bird is still flying with the pup's attention focused on the bird, I fire a starter pistol or my shotgun. He will be busy with the bird and likely not react. If he stops and looks back at you, just act unconcerned - as though you didn't hear anything. I only do this a few times and when the pup is at a distance, gradually firing sooner when the pup is closer. I have never had a pup that had a problem with this, but if I did, I would stop the shooting and wait for the pup to mature further.

When the pup learns that he cannot catch birds, his pursuit becomes shorter and he will begin to stop or pause before chasing, and he may start pointing immediately. In some pups the pointing instinct is manifested early, others take longer. Any decently bred pointing dog is going to begin pointing eventually, and an early lack of pointing is no indicator of the quality of the finished dog. 

If you keep at it, the young dog will start to stand his birds long enough for you to get up beside him and take the check cord in hand. Now you can gently restrain him when the bird flushes. This is the time to move to a training field with controlled set ups using planted birds and a check cord to begin training steadiness - a whole different subject.

All of this early field work is done in parallel with yard training - teaching the pup the simple commands of HERE, HEEL, and WHOA - which should be done in the yard, not in the field, and without birds.

I've found that taking this approach and keeping the young dog with me as much as possible - in my house and in my office during the day, riding in the truck, and so on - results in a dog that will handle naturally, wants to stay in contact and please me, and that is not afraid to go after birds with fire and enthusiasm - a solid foundation to build on.

Tune up for the old Fox...

Last Fall I was hunting in Montana with Pete. Approaching one of Ted's points, and with my eye on Ted instead of the ground at my feet, I stepped in a badger hole and down I went. No, I wasn't running. In any case the barrel of my old Fox 16 struck a chunk of granite, probably the only rock in ten square yards. Result was a small dent in the barrel. I have used this old gun hard for fifteen years, carried it for many miles, and put probably 100,000 rounds through it hunting and in practice rounds.

In anticipation of the upcoming season I dropped the gun off with my gunsmith, Pete Mazur, for dent removal and a re-blue of the barrels. I picked it up today. Pete, being as observant and picky as any top gunsmith should be, found a few other things that also needed attention - so he went to work. He removed the dent, and polished and re-blued the barrels. Then he polished and re-blued the trigger bow, polished and nitre-blued the triggers and safety button, replaced the top lever trip, carefully repaired a small dent in the solid rib, found and repaired a tiny crack in the forend wood, and lastly applied a couple coats of finish on the stock and re-cut a couple dings in the checkering. About 20 hours of skilled work. It looks great, and will get get after the white-wings near Mexicali next week.

It is very hard to find a gunsmith capable of this level of quality work, and when you do, take good care of the relationship. Thank you. Pete!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Eating well when out hunting birds

Many, many factors contribute to my enjoyment of a bird hunting expedition. When talking with a couple of friends last fall we agreed that stylish dogs, nice guns, tasty food, good drinks, beautiful territory, and good friends were some of the key contributors. I think that we generally did pretty well for ourselves that fall on all points.

Along the lines of good food, Mike asked that I post my chili verde recipe. I took a gallon of this to Texas last fall and it turned into several good meals. I still remember one breakfast. Another group of hunters was eating cold cereal and toast while we ate fried eggs on top of chile verde and corn tortillas. We may not have killed the most birds but we sure enjoyed ourselves as well as anyone else in Texas.

Pete's Chile Verde
2 lbs boneless pork shoulder or other not-too-lean cut
1 medium onion
6 medium bell peppers - red or yellow or orange
6 pasilla peppers
jalapeno peppers to taste
12 medium tomatillos
4 medium tomatos
4 tablespoons Goya "Recaito" cilantro cooking base (from a mexican market)
2 tablespoons lime juice (a recent addition, suggested by Mike)
2 tablespoons mexican oregano

All of the quantities are highly variable.

First, singe the skins from the peppers, tomatos, and tomatillos. I use a good quality blow torch for this - MAPP gas works the fastest. There are other ways to remove the skins but this is my favorite. I don't even rinse the vegetables after burning the skins. The remaining skin just adds flavor.

Cut the meat into more-or-less 1 inch cubes. In a large stew pot or dutch oven brown the meat in batches using your prefered oil. Get the meat well cooked at this stage - that gives it a better texture in the stew. Remove the meat when cooked.

Cut onion into 1" slices. Clean the peppers then cut them into 1" strips. Cook onion in a bit of oil until softened. Add peppers and cook them for 15 minutes or so until softened. Add more oil whenever necessary.

Cut tomatillos and tomatos into 1/4" slices. Add then to the onions and peppers. Add browned meat to the dish. Add Recaito and lime juice and oregano. Simmer for at least an hour until the ingredients start to blend and "chilify". Chili only gets better with age and reheating.

I like to serve this with corn tortillas and black beans on the side. The beans are best if you first rinse the canned beans in a sieve then warm them in a pot using vegetable stock for liquid. A bit of dried tomato can be added to the beans for more flavor.

My wife insists that chile verde should be topped by sour cream. To each their own.

Heath Hen - Interesting website

The heath hen has been extinct since 1932. A website dedicated to the few remaining relics of this bird shows several mounted specimens and compares these birds to the greater prairie chicken. Fascinating.

Dogs in ancient America

I have been fascinated with the prehistory of America for many years.  Above is a Native American pictograph from Northern Oregon showing dogs herding deer to a waiting hunter. The archeological record is full of evidence that the man-dog relationship goes back many millennia. Interesting to speculate just how long ago this relationship began. Recent evidence suggests more than 100,000 years - long before the domestication of any other animal.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Canine reproduction and other stuff

Thanks to Shawn Wayment, DVM - Birddogdoc) - for his excellent article on canine reproduction. Very informative!

Joe Spoo - Gundogdoc - has a new, field bred cocker puppy. I have had no experience with cockers since I was a boy, when my dad had a series of cockers. They are always busy. My setters seem pretty laid back (at least in the house) by comparison.

I wish I was a vet... I could be 'Anotherdogdoc', maybe. 

Steve Bodio and friends are always dredging up random weirdness. One of the latest is the good 'ol boys who had a press conference in Palo Alto, claiming to have Bigfoot in a freezer, but they just showed pictures of a gorilla looking thing with some ugly entrails in a box... hard to figure what they are after.

I am in the process of planning for fall, starting with a Dove opener with Pete Houser in Southern California - whitewings on the menu. Then North Dakota, Montana, Oregon, and a trip to Arizona for the only species of American quail that I have not hunted or seen - Mearn's quail. 

AB 1634 is dying, and shelter programs will likely benefit

The California legislation that would have required mandatory spay or neuter of nearly all dogs and cats in the state is dying in the state legislature due to lack of support. The sponsor, Democrat assemblyman Lloyd Levine (Dem - Van Nuys) has almost zero chance to round up enough votes to get it passed this session - especially given the current (recurrent) budget crisis that is demanding the legislature's closing days. And 'ol Lloyd is termed out and will not be back next session.

Why is this good news for animals, shelters, and animal control officers?

I have been reading a communique from the American Sporting Dog Alliance that, among other things had the following report on the impact of the recent mandatory spay and neuter law in the City of Los Angeles...

The City of Los Angeles passed an ordinance this year that mandates spaying and neutering of virtually all dogs. In theory, the ordinance allows for owners of intact dogs used for show, performance events or breeding to buy expensive special licenses, provided they work through an approved registry. Thus far, no dog registry, including the American Kennel Club, has been approved.

The ordinance is supposed to take effect October 1 but animal control revenues have already plunged, an August 19 audit by City Controller Laura Chick shows.

According to the audit report, license sales and revenues have dropped substantially and the program’s budget is drenched in red ink.

Chick’s fiscal audit found the Los Angeles Animal Services Department has lost “millions of dollars” in revenue by failing to license and renew the licenses of hundreds of thousands of dogs.

A reported 27 animal control officers will have to be laid off, the city doesn’t have the money to open a new $14 million satellite shelter, there has been no money to pay for any of the required community outreach and no money is available to enforce the new ordinance

"If you don't put something behind (the ordinance), then it's a feel-good gesture, and we don't want to be a city that does empty feel-good gestures," City Controller Chick said. "I always think that legislators should research, not only the outcomes and impacts ... but should always research and ask questions about enforcement. Otherwise we, government, run the danger of enacting legislation that is not going to be enforced, which to me is the clearest of messages to our citizenry and our public -- go ahead and be a scofflaw, nothing's going to happen."

Los Angeles also has stalled on a plan to create satellite centers for spay and neuter procedures, as veterinarians simply aren’t signing up to do the job, the audit shows.

It is indeed sad that a shelter program with the potential to save thousands of animals is so thoroughly mismanaged and that politicians stand ready to apply 'feel good' good solutions to problems that are not only based on bad information and unproven methods, but actually obstruct the ability to deal with the problem. 

The HSUS spent a lot of time and money in California to shape, promote and support AB1634 and its local offspring. These have all failed - either to become law, or, in the case of Los Angeles, to demonstrate that mandatory spay and neuter has any viability as a population control measure. And we now have a clear demonstration of how big a disaster municipal animal control operations have been spared statewide. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

things I wish I'd known

As folks who keep up with our more detailed exploits over at The Regal Vizsla know, I have been exploring the world of field trialing since our younger dog's success in his first hunting dog stake – trying to understand the various different host organizations (the AKC and American Field being the two largest), the rulebooks, and identifying likely trials for us to enter this fall. But as much as I would like to think that participating in field trials and hunt tests are just extensions of our normal hunting routine, I realize that not playing to the rules of a particular game limit your ability to play fully in that game with your dog. And so I have been talking to some established field-trialers and looking for books that will help to train the handler as much as train the dog.

Two recent additions to our library have been Earl Crangle’s Pointing Dogs: Their Training and Handling and Jack Sharkey’s Winning Ways: Training Your Pointing Breed Dog for Hunting and Competition. The first came on Mike’s recommendation (and he has posted on a segment of this already) and Earl Crangle makes Jack Sharkey look like a relative newcomer in the world of pointing dog training and handling. I had seen Jack Sharkey’s book before but hadn’t paid enough attention to it. Where Earl Crangle comes from a HOF trainer’s lineage, Sharkey is perhaps remarkable for having trained and largely handled his own dogs – and in the 17 years of doing so, having produced the AKC’s first and only quintuple champion. I should also mention that Jack’s dogs are vizslas – and that the quintuple champion is Legacy De’Chartay (pictured here on the right).

It might actually be a more enjoyable read for everyone if I compare the two books rather than review each one individually. Both books have the prerequisite puppy section that emphasizes the careful selection of breed (although for Crangle there are really only two) and subsequently parents, Crangle makes the observation that even after 30yrs experience, choosing the best prospect from a litter of 12wk-old puppies is “pure guesswork at this age.” Sharkey’s book is interesting because both his first two vizslas, Hodag’s Hunter (himself a HOF inductee) and Legacy, were the runts of their respective litters. Later in his book, and while I have limited faith in the ‘wing on a string’ with very young dogs, Sharkey also intimates that while many of his dogs were pointing bird-wings at very young ages, his quintuple champion didn’t start pointing till almost 21months old! While parents’ performance is generally the best predictor of progeny performance, both of these facts serve as useful reminders that great dogs are sometimes found where we least expect them, that dogs develop at different speeds (and so shouldn’t be written off too early), and that love and a clear training plan will get most folk a very long way.

One of the things that shines through both books is that basic obedience and yard-work carries forward into bird-work. Crangle’s book has a good section on yard-work with a list of the commands he expects a dog to be proficient at; Sharkey’s are interspersed in a couple of chapters. I wish more folks had a better grasp of this before they started even relatively rudimentary Junior Hunting tests – they and their dogs would have more fun. This isn’t to say that I’ve seen a lot of badly behaved dogs, but it is to say that I’ve encountered some owners anxious about how to train for a hunt test when they have limited opportunities to get on birds and others who simply decide that the dog will now handle the new scenario of a bird-field by intuition (and then wonder why their dog gets high on bird-scent and stops responding to them after they’ve been essentially silent for 15mins). ‘Whoa’ is not a magic word, nor is its intended outcome a new one for most dogs with basic obedience training – and for that matter, if an owner decides to replace ‘whoa’ with ‘stop’ to keep it simpler for the human part of the equation, it will still be just as effective and fun for the dog.

For me, as I contemplate trialing for the first time, two things really separate these books. Earl Crangle’s has an air of the memoir to it, certainly not of him, but to give an example his last section in the book is titled ‘Some Dogs I Have Known.’ Reading Earl’s book is in some ways a look back to a ‘golden age’ of trialing when there were more opportunities for wild bird trials and more field trial grounds capable of sustaining such bird populations. Earl has had a great life with dogs – and that love and respect for them shines through. By contrast, Jack Sharkey’s book has a few more practical tips in particular for novice field-trial handlers both in terms of handling and campaigning their dogs. (Jack also offers a few insights on Hunt Tests, some of which are now unfortunately no longer correct due to the AKC rule changes in January 2008; he also has some small sections on obedience, agility, tracking and conformation competition.)

If I was looking for a single book to guide me through training, I would still recommend Dave Walker’s The Bird-Dog Training Manual first and foremost – if only because both Crangle and Sharkey walk you quickly through the spirit of a number of training ideas, but Walker has more pictures and more of a step-by-step approach. For me in my training and handling career right now, I’d probably recommend Jack Sharkey’s Winning Ways first – but for those looking for a sense of where trialing has come from and wisdom gained from decades of working with dogs Earl Crangle's Pointing Dogs is a great addition.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goodbye Toby, and thank you

Mike's October Toby - Febuary 17, 1994 - August 11, 2008

It is always difficult to say goodbye to an old friend. 

I remember Toby as he was in his prime, when he roaded a covey of chukars over a quarter mile along the steep breaks of the Grande Ronde River, pinning them in a depression and allowing me the rare opportunity for a triple on a covey rise. He was descended from dogs like Michigan Mac, CH Amos Mosley, Sam L's Skyhigh, CH Mail Order Bride, and was sired by 14X Ch Millpond Tom. He was a much better bird dog than I had a right to expect, and I am very grateful for that. Toby taught me a great deal about bird dogs and bird hunting - and about trust.

In recent years Toby developed arthritis in his hips, eventually losing much motor function and finally, the ability to walk more than a step or two. I made the decision to send him along and so yesterday he had a peaceful death while I held him to me. 

It is always difficult to say goodbye to an old friend.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fishing in Baja California

Every July I think of Baja. I have made occasional trips there, to Loreto and LaPaz to fish at Punta Arenas de la Ventanas. We have had some rare times there and caught dorado, sailfish, roosterfish, striped marlin, skipjack, bonita, cabrita, and many other species. My friend Bill Cleveland hooked a whale (a humpback, if I remember correctly) while wrestling a tuna to the boat, and the whale stripped  line until 'Pop!' and he was gone, along with the tuna. 

The yellowfin tuna in the picture above was caught using conventional 30 lb. tackle trolling a live bonito, which was caught earlier on fly tackle. This is a lot like being hooked to a horse... straight out and down, then an hour or so of getting the fish in while it does pretty much what it wants. I gave this fish to my pangero, Beto, who reported the next day that it weighed 56 kilos after being bled and gutted. This is not the biggest tuna in the gulf, but I don't really want to catch any that are bigger. 

We actually release most of the fish we catch, but usually give one to the pangero 'Para su comida'. The pangero can sell a fish like this one for much more than he makes taking us fishing. We usually fish from 6 AM 'til 1 PM or so, as it is very hot in July. On the ride back to LaPaz it is good to stop at a cantina in Juan des Planes and have a couple of achingly cold Modelo Especials right from the cooler. I love Mexico.      Photo by Clair Kofoed

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Rattlesnakes - three things that you can do...

I copped this photo from a posting on the Net - it typifies the threat that rattlesnakes pose, especially to bird dogs.

I am knocking on wood as I write this because I have never had a dog bitten by a rattlesnake. But all of us who hunt in the West - and many other areas of the country - are exposed to rattlesnakes. While I do not worry much about the threat to me, I am concerned about the menace they pose to my bird dogs when hunting and even when trialing. Thousands of dogs are bitten every year and I have had a few close calls.

Rattlesnakes carry a hemotoxic venom that attacks the blood and causes swelling, intense pain, and tissue damage. They can kill a dog in some cases. Other rattlers may also carry a neurotoxin in their venom that attacks the nervous system, which is very dangerous and can cause death by respiratory failure. The Mojave green rattlesnake and the banded rock rattler are two neurotoxic species that are native to the Southwest.

Here are three things that I have done to reduce the threat snakes pose to my dogs...

1. Snake avoidance training - done with a live rattler by someone who has experience, avoidance training will definitely help reduce direct confrontations between bird dog and rattler. But this alone does not snake proof a dog because a dog can still be struck by a snake, there is always the potential for a 'drive-by' snake bite. 

2. Antihistamines can reduce the reaction to a bite. I carry preloaded syringes of Benedryl (premeasured for each dog) in aluminum cigar tubes in my hunting vest. If a dog is struck, I can immediately start a remedial response to help reduce reaction and buy some time for the dog. Most vets will provide these if you explain your need.

3. The last defense is somewhat controversial. I have used the rattlesnake vaccine by Red Rock Biologics on 4 of my dogs. I have heard objections from vets (including my own) who question the safety and efficacy of this vaccine. With the exception of Jesse, none of these dogs has had the slightest negative reaction to the vaccine. Jesse's muzzle began to swell rapidly within an hour of receiving the vaccine, and I gave him a shot of Benedryl. Within about 2 hours the swelling was nearly gone, and he recovered fully within 24 hours. He has not received any additional vaccine.

According to Red Rock Biologics, "This vaccine works extremely well at getting dogs to generate protective antibody against rattlesnake venom. These protective antibodies start neutralizing venom immediately. This means that vaccinated dogs experience less pain and have a reduced risk of permanent injury from rattlesnake bite. Veterinarians typically report that such dogs experience less swelling, less tissue damage and a faster recovery from snakebite than unvaccinated dogs.

Factors which may influence antibody effectiveness against venomous snakebite include: the type of snake, location of bite and amount of venom injected; how well the dog has responded to the vaccine and the length of time since the last dose of vaccine was given to the dog.

This rattlesnake vaccine was developed to protect against Western Diamondback Rattlesnake venom. It is most effective against this snake's venom. Venom from many other snakes found throughout the United States is similar to the venom of the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Because of these similarities, this vaccine also provides protection against the venoms of the Western Rattlesnake (including the Prairie, Great Basin, Northern and Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes), Sidewinder, Timber Rattlesnake, Massasauga and the Copperhead. This vaccine provides partial protection against the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. This vaccine does not provide protection against the Water Moccasin (Cottonmouth), Mojave Rattlesnake or Coral Snakes. Red Rock Biologics is developing a variety of vaccines to provide the best protection against poisonous snakes for dogs in each part of the country."

While some do question its effectiveness, there is much anecdotal evidence that it substantially reduces reaction to a rattlesnake bite. My feeling is this; if it buys me time to get my dog to a vet for treatment, I will use it. If your vet does not have the vaccine, it is available in trays of a dozen (I think) doses from distributors, and single doses may the ordered by your vet directly from Red Rock Biologics. Cost is about $30 to $50 per dose at your vet.

Rattlesnake strikes are always an emergency, and the dog should taken to a vet immediately. But we are often many long miles from a vet, and additional time bought by the use of antihistamines and vaccine increases the likelyhood of survival without crippling after effects.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Cactus and repairs in the field

Mark Copeland removes cactus thorns from his GSP, Princess

Although I have a pair of Lewis dog boots in my kit somewhere, I cannot recall ever using them. My dogs have developed pretty tough feet, and learned to avid the worst of the cactus and thorns. But they are not bullet proof. Whether you boot or not, your dog will end up with cactus punctures if you run in the Southwest.

The most common thorns they encounter where I hunt are hawthorn, mesquite, cholla cactus  (at the rear of my friend Mark) and prickly pear cactus (foreground of photo). The cholla - they are found across the Southwest, and there are perhaps 20 different types - are nasty because they are clumpy with many fine thorns. They hit the dog, stick to the fur, and break off in clumps. They are often lodged tight to the dog's coat on the belly or under a leg. The dog who runs into a cholla may stop altogether and await your help. I carry a Leatherman tool on my belt to pull cholla balls off them and to remove the worst of the thorns. 

This past season in West Texas, the rains had created a luxuriant growth of grass, with many prickly pear cactus hidden below. The dogs had a tough time getting through the grass in places, and the prickly pear cactus offered a nasty surprise with inch long  thorns waiting for a misstep. 

Maintenance means checking the dogs every 30  to 60 minutes when watering, whenever they stop or limp, and certainly when you arrive back at the vehicle before they go into their crate. Remove all possible thorns. Between the toes is a vulnerable area, and sensitive. If your dog is snappy, put a jacket over his head and tie the sleeves under his chin. A pair of hemostats in your kit will help to get the fine, hair-like barbs that always seem to end up in the front of the chest and legs. Also check the tongue and muzzle area. I think little antiseptic is a good idea before you put your dog up. If his feet are really tender, keep looking for the cause, and give the little warrior a day off.

After the trip I check each dog closely for tiny red bumps in the skin - each of them will have a tiny barb that can be removed with a tweezers, and I apply antiseptic to these after pulling the thorns. It may take several sessions over a couple days to get them all out. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pointing Dogs - Their Training and Handling

Earl Crangle could be described as a second generation old time pointing dog pro. In the 1960's he began to record his thoughts and experiences in training and handling dogs for many years, beginning as a boy working with his father, Hall of Famer George M. Crangle. 

I have a copy of Earl's book, Pointing Dogs - Their Training and Handling  - and have read and re-read the book over the past several years. There is no hollow advice, no tricks, no bullshit. Just solid advice for the bird dog enthusiast. 

One of the intriguing topics is his "Mexico Method" of training bird dogs. Earl lived and trained in Mexico for a number of years, and is partly responsible for the popularity of field trials in Mexico. Here's how he describes the Mexico Method...

"The quail season in Mexico opens November 1 and closes April 1. Thus, there are five months of open, legal shooting per year. I hunted in the states of Morelos, Veracruz,  Chiapas, Tamaulipas, and Yucatan and had the use of thousands and thousands of acres of beautiful quail hunting areas that today still hold an abundance of birds. When the season opened,. I usually hunted two hours in the early morning and the last two hours before dark, sometimes accompanied by friends. Many days I found twenty bevies in the morning and an equal number in the afternoon...


If I have young dogs, from 10 to 18 months of age, I take them along on my hunting trips and brace them with an experienced, fully broke shooting dog. I never run one for less than an hour; and if hunting conditions are good, I let them hunt for two hours. The young dog is allowed to do what he wishes on his birds. If he points, I will kill a bird and take him in to find it. If my experienced dog finds game, I walk up in shooting range in case the birds should flush, and then wait for my young dog to come in... I do not try to hold my young dogs steady to either wing and shot. If they bump a covey or a single bird, I say nothing and resume hunting. Within a week or ten days of this hunting under the gun, most of the youngsters will hold all the birds they point until I flush, breaking to wing and shot. Almost all will back the older dog immediately and remain backing until the birds are flushed.

Starting young dogs in this way has produced for me bird dogs as fine as I have probably seen...

In my opinion, this is required reading for a bird dog person, anywhere and with any breed.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Animal Rights - beyond propaganda to violence

Reading todays SF Chronicle, the front page carries a story of firebombings and harassment in Santa Cruz, CA. 

Santa Cruz - The devices used in two firebombings targeting UC Santa Cruz biologists are similar to some used in the past by animal rights activists, investigators said Sunday.

The bombs were so powerful they were like "Molotov cocktails on steroids," said Santa Cruz police Capt. Steve Clark.

One struck the home of assistant biology Professor David Fieldheim on Saturday morning, forcing him to flee with his family. The other exploded just a few minutes earlier outside the campus home of a second researcher.


Clark Said the bomb at Feildheim's house was similar to those used by animal rights extremists in the past, adding, "There are instructions on how to make it on their websites."

The article went on to report other AR violence, including assault, home invasion, and another recent firebombing in Southern California. 

These firebombers are terrorists willing to put the lives of other people in serious jeopardy - and their actions are considered by the FBI anti-terror task force to be 'terrorism and attempted murder'.  Apparently, they feel that their cause justifies any action, even actions that lead to loss of life or the serious destruction of property. 

Friday, August 1, 2008

Approaching a dog on point

Approaching a dog on point is a subject I do not see discussed much, but it has an impact on success in both hunting and field trialing.  

A couple of points... never run to a point. I see this every season... someone who thinks the birds will get away if he doesn't hurry, forgetting that he is carrying a loaded gun and putting pressure on the dog. It is best, I think, to take a few seconds to look over the situation and think about where the birds may be holding, the wind direction, and the likely direction of the flush. This will assist in planning the approach and flush. Then you can walk up to the point with a plan.

When possible I avoid approaching a pointing dog from the rear because it may put pressure on the dog to move, and he cannot see you approaching. Moving in ahead of the dog at an angle between 45% and 90% creates a pincer movement, blocking part of a possible escape route, usually allows the handler to see the dog, allows the dog to see the handler, and tells the dog to stay put while flushing. It also allows a safer shot after the flush. 

When chukar hunting dogs often point facing birds below - sometimes a steep slope. In these situations I try to move to the side about 10 yards, and move quietly downslope beyond the position of the dog by 20, 30 or more feet. Then I move towards the covey's likely holding area. When done right (which occasionally happens) the birds are trapped between me and the dog, and will flush overhead offering the best of all chukar shots. More likely, however, the birds will fly before being trapped, and offer the shooter the next best shot - a downhill crossing shot. In these situations approaching the flush from behind the dog will often result in a straightaway flight going out and down. The out and down shot is almost a snap shot as the birds go over the edge of the slope and disappear downhill. You will often end up taking a quick shot over the dog's head - tough on the dog's nerves at best, and dangerous at worst - and a poor shooting opportunity.

In field trials you should obviously avoid flushing the birds over your dog and creating a temptation he may not be able to resist.  With planted birds you also want to get the bird in the air quickly and avoid a prolonged flush and possible let down in the dog's intensity, and to avoid having birds running around on the ground where the dog can see them.