Archive for the ‘Quail’ Category

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Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Finger off the red button!

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Smell ya later

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Tell me he's not smelling fun.

Tell me he’s not smelling fun.

Crack open a bottle of Hoppe’s Number Nine and you’re transported to another time and place. It might be your grandfather’s shop, or a favorite hunting spot, maybe something altogether personal and secret, but you will go there. There is no better time-travel device than our nose.

Science tells us of all the memory-kindlers, our sense of smell is superior to the other four. There is a four-lane freeway from nostrils to the memory center in our brain, and we are in the express lane every time we inhale.

For we bird hunters, perhaps more so. After all, our four-legged partners make a living with their schnozzolas, so we are in some small way tuned into their incredible olfactory abilities, mimicking them to a pitifully small degree. But even at a smidgen of their scenting ability, we can appreciate the remarkable way our nose takes us on hunting trips long after the blisters have healed.

Our chukar desert emits a pastel-hued atmosphere, fueled by a mélange of sage, hot sand and bitterbrush. The reaction to its quenching by a sudden downpour is genetic, first the smell of wet air and ground reaching us, then drops – if we’re lucky – soon after. Deep down, we know life-giving water is good, even if we must crouch under a rocky overhang until it abates. Even a wet dog reminds us water is good.

A cold snow has texture and an odor like no other winter phenomenon. It sticks in the throat, penetrates deep into the lungs. Add the tang of pine pitch and you are suddenly in a different world.

Skunk in the distance is the quintessential smell of rural America. Up close, we use other descriptions, and we never forget that day (nor does our dog).

We relive every shot from every hunt when the gun opens and smoke drifts from the barrel. That hard left-right crosser, the double over a staunch point … where and when, whom you were with are retrieved from the subconscious every time burnt powder bites your nostrils.

We’ll never suss out the mystery of what our dogs feel when they drink in the elixir of bird scent, except to know for certain that it is a deep, deep pleasure. Do they recall every bird? Is it a brand-new experience every time? Are there special birds? What makes them special? Is he hoping this is the one he can pounce on, swallow whole, and enjoy again later when it magically reappears in front of his retching muzzle?

Or rather delivered to us (we hope), where the coppery aroma of startlingly-hot guts taken from a small body assaults our senses.

Musty leaves beyond crackling, destined to join the soil they sprang from last year. Wet rocks along a stream that beckon a dog that deserves a quenching drink. The musk of mud and still water. Anticipation of the first bitter snort-gulp of icy beer shrinks the distance between ridgeline and truck.

Campfire smoke is the perfect accompaniment to old whiskey in a tin cup – like a wine snob, don’t forget to inhale as you sip. A charcoal grill, rib eyes sizzling, signals the end of a good day.

Long after the snow flies, I watch my dogs while cooking birds we’ve hunted together and wonder: is it the raw meat that draws them inexorably to the kitchen, or the stirring of memory …where they pointed, how they felt, the intoxicating odor of feathers recalled in a breath?

I might be giving them more credit than they deserve, hoping they recall the magical time when two predators worked as one. Maybe you do, too.

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In praise of pigeons

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

One of their many uses - teaching steadiness.

One of their many uses – teaching steadiness.

Sky rats. Vermin. Urban scourge.

Not my pigeons. They may not be the most elegant, or the smartest bird. Nobody  waxes poetic about the common rock dove.

Columba livia domestica is much maligned, even among those of us who keep them. Like most others, it’s unlikely I’d be a pigeon fancier if I didn’t have bird dogs. George Hickox said it best: “no birds, no bird dog.” And it’s true.

My birds are first and foremost, a training tool. But watching them roost, calmly ruffling feathers on a nest, elegantly circling the loft, even pecking the ground for grit, they are in many ways like our horses. Both exude a calming influence, a soft and peaceful aura enveloping nearby humans.

It helps that most people find them objectionable in one or more ways. After all, we do need to abuse them a bit and a certain disdain softens the blow. But they are partners in our dog training effort and I appreciate that.

Stoic, patient and maybe a bit oblivious … all are attributes that fortify a pigeon for its job, a job that is crucial to the polishing of our dogs’ skills.

Europeans and Middle Easterners have revered pigeons along with their cousins the doves, for eons. Steeped in romance and history, they’ve been hand-in-glove with humans since Egyptian times, enshrined in hieroglyphics and lauded in papyrus scrolls. In World War I, lowly pigeons couriered vital information. Such noble genealogy has not stopped modern society from relegating them to the role of cooing ornaments in city parks, denizens of grain elevators, desecrators of windshields.

Some passionate racers still exist, speaking in hushed tones about breeding and strategy. Sure, they have their quirks (the same can be said for bird dog folk), but many of us are grateful for their culls.

They are not chukars, ringnecks, or even pen-raised bobwhites. But rock doves are available, inexpensive, and tough. When a bob will often die of fright on its first retrieve, a pigeon will heroically endure numerous retrieves, ultimately arriving mangled and bloody, but ready to go again after a few days’ rest. They are quite content to be the bird we have to use, but don’t want to use.

There’s a certain amount of pride among dog owners who also keep pigeons. There’s an element of propriety in one’s loft design, birds’ homing abilities, even colors become the subject of endless debate, the tone of which clearly indicates a visceral connection between man and bird. I won’t call it affection, but look deep enough and you detect the same attitude one has toward a good set of  tools.

For all of us, let me say thanks, pigeons.

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Dog of the Day: Elli

Friday, March 21st, 2014

BirdDogNBen Fleischacker’s English pointer pup ”Elli” is pictured here showing off after Nebraska’s Franklin County Quail Forever youth mentor hunt.

“Thanks for a great conservation group!” said Fleischacker. “The boys down in the Franklin County chapter know what they’re doing!”

Have a bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Rehan Nana, Quail Forever’s public relations specialist, at RNana@quailforever.org.

 

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Dog of the Day: Windy

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Windy-II

Dog of the Day: “Windy” with a chance of quail. Owned by Scott Cormier, a hunting guide at Pine Creek Sporting club in Okeechobee, Florida.

Have a bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Rehan Nana, Quail Forever’s public relations specialist, at RNana@quailforever.org.

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How do you make a new hunter?

Monday, March 10th, 2014

One way? Take a good dog!

One way? Take a good dog!

Congratulations. My viewer survey tells me you took newcomers on their first hunt hundreds of thousands of times in the past year. But how do you get to “yes” when you’re scheming to invite a novice into the field, become a member of our fraternity?

Feasting is a way to celebrate our outdoor experience. It closes the circle of life, celebrates the tribal origins of our sport, and justifies our current rationale – we are obtaining food, among other things. Sharing organic protein with a non-hunter is a savory recruiting tool. Yep, hunters are the original locavores.

I started hunting when I watched my newly-purchased puppy point a pheasant. Wow, if he’d do that, the least I could do is learn to shoot! If I had a nickel for every non-hunter I’ve induced to take a long uphill walk in chukar country because they could watch dogs work, I’d have a lot of nickels.

Have you ever challenged a clay shooter to try the “real thing?” I wonder how they would react to an invitation to quit pretending and join you in the grouse woods.

Anglers are another source of new hunters. In fact I was casting a fly long before I shouldered a shotgun. Already familiar with some of our challenges, they might be suitable candidates. Or are they, with the catch-and-release ethic, for example?

What gets kids away from video games and social media? Hooked on make-believe games of full-auto guns and car chases, could a youngster make the transition to recoil and real blood? How would he/she explain that to his eighth grade social studies class?

Think back to your own introduction … or your introduction of someone else. What pushed you – and them – over the edge? What turned you/them into a hunter? Give it some thought, then go do it again for someone else.

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Dog of the Day: Quinn

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Quinn_600x400

Quinn, the English pointer, was 15 months-old in this photo (showing his first point on quail), but by the looks of it, Quinn was already a pro.

“(Quinn is) one of the best dogs I’ve ever owned, and I’ve had some good ones,” says Quail Forever life-member Wayne Kinzel of Missouri. “He is 11 years-old now, but still has great intensity on point and has always been very biddable.”

Have a bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Rehan Nana, Quail Forever’s public relations specialist, at RNana@quailforever.org.

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Video post: Could your dog call you a liar?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

If you trick, beguile or fool your dog when training or hunting, he’s not only confused … he learns he can’t trust you. Watch this video and see if you’re guilty.

03 Buddy&Me w-TV sponsor-Program Stream

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Video post: So you bought a pup? What else will you need?

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Dog food, collar, bedding … what else will make both your lives better? Here’s a short list.

26 Buddy n Me

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What I learned on my fall vacation

Monday, February 10th, 2014

It's a big damn country ... take my word for it.

It’s a big damn country … take my word for it.

Florida, Georgia, Alabama, New York, Kentucky, Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, California, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Oregon.

That’s 20 states I’ve hunted, many more than once and several, dozens of times. It is a daunting list, not just because of the road and air miles invested but because so many of these states are full of wonderful people and places I’d like to visit more often.

In all of them, I’ve made new friends. I’ve shared truck cabs and wall tents with good old friends. My dogs have banked enough windshield time to get a driver’s license.

What have I learned from so many border crossings, time zones and area codes? Where to start?

Keep things ship-shape in the vehicle. Everything in its place, every time. When you stop for gas, check the oil, diesel exhaust fluid, and clean the windshield because next stop, it might be cold or raining.

Feed the dogs on schedule. It’s one of the few constants they have on a road trip. Bring extra batteries and owner’s manuals for everything.

Cram in as many warm clothes as you can. Bring extra rain gear for someone else. Carry a bottle of something old and brown and leave it with your hosts. Save your back, invest in those fabric fold-up dog kennels for pet friendly hotels.

Call ahead and stop to visit friends along the way, even if you don’t think you have the time. Send thank you notes. When you stop, water the dogs first. Find off-the-beaten-track places to park so dogs are safe and unstressed. I like high school athletic fields and county fairgrounds. Bring tie-out stakes.

Carry water for your dogs and yourself. Refill at every opportunity. Same for your fuel tank; there are a lot of empty spaces on the map. Bring bowls for your dogs.

Eat at local joints instead of chains. Be nice to wait staff. Carry a thermos. Buy your groceries close to your destination – in many communities you are economic development. Learn a little bit about the place you’re visiting. Pronounce place names correctly. Visit with kitchen staff at the lodge.

Find something to compliment: your buddy’s dog, good shot, a well-managed covert, fine booze, special dinner.

None of this will help you shoot more birds or make your dogs steadier. But in the long run, you will be enriched by the memories you make, the friendships forged. The journey will rise a notch or two on your life list.

Whether your trip is across the county or the country you will be a better hunter. And person.

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