Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Well as happens every year, or is it every day, I have managed to screw up a good thing. Luckily, the damage was with a very smart dog, Riley, who knows how to forgive and forget quickly. The damage done was opening my mouth and trying to do the hunting for Riley. About a week ago I posted about the perfect dog day, well today was the "a chance to be a perfect idiot day". A day where the birds were plentiful and the weather was beautiful. There was more soft sand than shale rocks to traverse the hills in, making walking a lot easier. The chukars were talking making their prescence very obvious. It wasn't long before Riley's first point. He held the birds for my flush. My first shot dropped a bird and my second hit also, but it was one of those shots that didn't take affect until the bird had flown a couple hundred yards, flew straight up in the air, and dropped down the canyon out of sight. Riley was soon on a trail 50 yards away and heading towards where the birds flew to. I recalled him and told him dead bird. I walked to the area where the first bird had fallen and repeated dead bird. Riley acted like there was no bird there and headed for the other side of the hill again. After all these years of hunting with good dogs you'd think I learn to trust them. No, not me. That's why I'm a chukar hunter. No brain. I kept recalling Riley with the same result. No dead bird. After about a half hour of frustration, I decide to head down to where I thought bird number two was. Another fifteen minutes or so and not even knowing for sure where the bird went down at, I turned back up hill towards where the first bird was shot. Loosing two birds had me really frustrated, a feeling dog owners should let go of fast. We got to where I felt the first bird was and gave it another fifteen minutes of frustrating search with no bird to be found. With discust
, I finally headed in the direction the large covey of chukars had flown. Knowing where the birds had gone I kept calling Riley back, trying to locate him where I wanted him to be in relationship to where I thought the birds had gone. Riley was obviously getting confused with my directing him, but for some reason I persisted on helping him find the covey. The birds were where I thought they'd be and Riley put up another great point. I moved below him where he could see me approaching and dropped the second chukar I shot at. Keeping my mouth shut I was tickled to watch Riley find the bird and bring it to me. I remember thinking, "thank God, I thought maybe Riley forgot how to find dead birds".
As we headed back up the hill, Riley locked on point again. His head was high and he kept relocating back in the direction of our first encounter with the covey. He finally locked up and I moved in for the flush. No birds. Riley then broke point and picked up a dead bird from the trail we were near. He enthusiastically brought it to me and headed off hunting. We were about two hundred yards from where I had shot the first shots of the day and as you probably have guessed, I followed the trail around to find Riley's tracks in the sandy soil. This was the trail Riley was on when I was trying to get him to come back for a dead bird. My dead bird was a cripple and Riley was on his scent when I kept calling him back..
I started up the hill following Riley's lead. I heard some birds talking off to the west and could even see one jumping from rock to rock. My dog was down on the east side of the hill working the breeze. I wanted to head back to where I knew the birds were but common sense finally grabbed hold of me. Keep your mouth shut and let Riley do his job. As the day progressed I did just that. Riley didn't fail me and before the day was over he even took me to the covey of birds I had heard earlier. Too many birds and easy walking conditions can sometimes create a bad dog day just because us humans think we can become better predators than our canine companions.
I was reminded of a cardinal rule of training dogs today. Luckily, I have a good companion with lot's of experience. Getting frustrated like I was has no place on the hill with a dog. Let it go or get off the hill. The best way to ruin a dog is to lose your temper and control. If you've done your job as a trainer and a hunting companion your dog is out there trying to please you because he/she loves you. They make mistakes the same as we do, but not half as many as we are inclined of making. Over and over I think back to Tucker and his training of me. Sometimes I half to be reminded the rules of companionship, and how a team really does accomplish more than an individual. I don't know if it's macho to admit this, but man I love my dogs.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Normally I don't hunt quail, because sometimes they teach pointing dogs to chase. But when my grandson, Conner, asked me if we could try a little quail hunting, there was no way I could say no. Conner turned 10 this year and after passing hunter safety, he has his upland bird hunting license. The memories of this day will be with me forever. I was concerned about the safety factors of a first year hunter, especially behind a dog, but I was soon impressed by his safety with the gun as well as his ethics around both the dog and myself. I'm looking forwards to many more hunts like this and I know Riley is too. Riley and Conner have been best buds since the day we picked him up at the airport. One day, maybe Conner and his dog will take me on my last upland hunt. I hope that day is many years from now and many hunts in between, but until that time comes here are a few of the memories I have of this young man maturing into a hunter early in life. There right in here Conner.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I headed out early this morning not knowing what to expect from the weather. It called for rain but the radar looked like there might be a break in the direction I was heading. When I arrived at my hunting destination the rain was still coming down but I could see a break further off to the west, the direction the storm had come from. I'm not much for hunting in the rain and I've never had a shorthair that was very excited about it either, so Riley and I waited for the clearing. It wasn't long and Riley and I were out heading up the hill in the stiff breeze that followed the clouds. My guess was about 15 mile an hour winds. That's what made it the perfect dog day. The rain had washed out all old scent and any scent that was fresh would surely be picked up and carried to Riley's nostrils. The temperature was 54 degrees. Very comfortable. About 15 minutes into the hunt Riley had his first point. He was about 200 yards away, but his staunch point told me I had plenty of time to side hill up to him. He had the birds pinned. I picked a bird out of the covey and Riley retrieved the bird in short order. Riley was off to find another covey. There wasn't a false point all day. Riley covered the mountain with his long strides and high nose and as soon as his pace slowed and his head lowered some I knew it was time to start heading his way. He was never over 300 yards away but with the steepness of the hills it still took some time to get to him. By the time I got to where I last saw him he would be locked in again. This was the kind of day when the point left no doubt about whether or not birds were there. It's perfect weather conditions like today that can really make the relationship between hunter and his dog the way it should be. I'm not saying that Riley didn't bust a couple of coveys today. He did. But through no fault of his. While chukar hunting you can't always be hunting into the wind. Sometimes while making those big casts you have to turn with the wind to your back. But more often than not, on a day like today you are going to get some good dog work. Now is the time to try and put it together. The dog is locked in on a fresh scent. It's time for you to move in on the birds in a way that your dog is accustomed to you doing. Moving in a calm manner helps the dog stay a little more focused and calm. If you have to whoa your dog from creeping you do it in a calm voice letting him know you are there as a team. Now is a very important part of the team aspect with your dog. The flush and shot. Very seldom do you hear anyone mention the shooting aspect of hunting with a dog. The dog needs to know that when you flush and shoot at the birds there will usually be one there to get in his mouth. That's part of the big equation. Dog points, hunter walks in on point, flushes bird, shoots and the dog gets to retrieve. Believe it or not, missing enough can cause a dog to start chasing. Today was perfect. Not because of the number of birds we got, but the way we got them. The whole picture was there. We worked as a team. I knew when Riley pointed there was no question as to where the birds were. The wind was strong enough to remove any doubt and the scent had to be fresh. I could approach the birds from a position where Riley could see me. If Riley crept a little I knew the birds were further up the hill but If he stayed staunch I knew they were right there. My shots usually hit the mark today. Mainly because the birds were where Riley told me they would be. It's not always posssible, but when you have a day like today, when the conditions are perfect, take advantage of it. Put it together with your canine partner. Make things happen so your dog knows how it is supposed to work as a team.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Okay, getting older has a lot more advantages than disadvantages, but after my last three trips out chukar hunting and my dismal shooting I have found one more excuse for misses. Hearing. In my case directional hearing. After thousands of shots at chukars with no hearing protection I still have decent hearing but have had some changes in my directional hearing. Last night while watching a football game, I mentioned to Barb how the surround sound seemed a little messed up. With her look of "what a dummy" she informed me it wasn't even on. Well, the sounds I was hearing wasn't coming from the direction of the TV. From there my mind (what's left of it) went back to the chukar hills and the events of the past few days. Misses were a big part of it. I'm a little of a fanatic about keeping records of events on the hill while chukar hunting. The shots I was successful on were the ones Riley had the birds pinned down and they busted where I expected them to be. The ones I missed were the ones Riley pointed but didn't flush where I expected. I remember one time even turning the wrong direction as I heard the flush. Even though the birds flushed well within shooting range, by the time I got situated for the shot, they were well out of range. Over the years I have slowed my shooting down. Even though 80% of the birds I get shots at flush at twenty five yards or less, I usually only get one shot. Except when there is a straggler. My reaction time obviously has slowed over the years, so I concentrate on making that one good shot. With this new directional hearing problem I have developed along with a slower reaction time, by the time I am getting to the bird I'm having a hard time catching up to it. I'm shooting behind the bird. That split second of time is making the difference between getting a smooth swing through the bird and not. On the range I always where ear protection and usually know where the pigeon will come from but in the field that isn't always true. I've done some research into hearing protection while chukar hunting, but haven't come up with anything positive. Anything I put in or over my ears seems to enhance the sounds of heavy breathing and also my heart beat which would drive me nuts while walking the steep hills. So I've decided to just put DIRECTIONAL HEARING LOSS into my arsenal of excuses for missing chukars.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
I was recently asked by a fellow chukar hunter named jojo about the specifics of my changing from shooting right handed to left handed. It seems that he/she has the same problem as I have. Left eye dominance. I swapped sides when I was in my early twenties when it was quite obvious my left eye was my dominant eye. It was a good thing, because now I can only see movement from my right eye and can barely tell the difference between a cow and a deer standing twenty yards in front of me. Back then I shot a 870 pump and I don't recall it being real difficult to shoot left handed but I do remember missing a lot. But I was missing right handed too, so I wasn't too stressed out. Getting used to taking the safety off and on and pumping the action smoothly was harder than the shooting. It's amazing how the mind works. There were a lot of jerky moments when the brain was still telling me to do things right handed since I had been doing so for about six or seven years in the past. Looking back, it would have been a lot easier to change had I been shooting a double barrel gun. All I could afford then was the good old reliable Remington 870 which I shot for many years. I shot this right handed gun for many years successfully before I could afford a 1100 automatic. Boy, could I put some shells through that gun fast. Of course it was right handed too, so when the shells ejected they were going right in front of my face. After the first few it never bothered me. Then one day while shooting clay pigeons, a fellow shooter mentioned how unsafe the gas and propellants flying in front of my face was. I had been shooting that way for many years now and never had a problem but I suddenly started getting particles in my face and eyes when I shot. I now had saved enough money to order a Benelli Montefeltro in the left hand version. That was about twenty years ago and I can't remember the specifics, but the safety was reversed from the right hand guns I had been shooting. That was the most difficult problem I have encountered over my years of shotgunning. My brain just wouldn't accept pushing the safety in the opposite direction. I even got to the point of taking the safety off as I appraoched a pointing dog but as I whipped the gun to my shoulder at the flush my finger automatically went to the safety and pushed the button which slid to the safe position. I'm not talking just once or twice, but hundreds of times. I couldn't beat my subconscious telling my hand how I had reacted many thousands of times before. After a year of trying I finally had a gunsmith reverse the safety for me. I now shoot an over/under that I really shoot well. For what reason, I don't know. It's not a left hand model (if there is a difference in over/unders) and was never fitted for me by a gunsmith. I don't pay much attention to all those terms that fits a shotgun to your size. I do know that lining the rib of the shotgun up to the target works whether it's the right or left eye and that once I convinced the rest of my body to cooperate I became a better shooter left handed. The only thing that could have helped making the change easier would have been to catch the problem early. Shoot with your dominant eye before you develope all these sub conscious habits that seem to take over your brain when you are making quick and snap decisions like shooting.