Monday, December 6, 2010

Learning from birds

This week was one of those Idaho weeks that was for the birds. Most areas around here had a foot of snow covering the chukar hills. I tried chasing them the first of the week but gave into the snow after the first day and waited until the end of the week and the southern slopes were melted out some. Although I saw plenty of birds early in the week they were very hard to get to even when the dogs had them pointed. Yes, there were a lot of birds lower in the draws, but they had no problem running straight up the hill on top of the snow.
Not only was the snow hard for me to traverse, the dogs also cover only about half the country.
I made it out the last three days because the snow on the south slopes was minimal and the soft ground underneath made footing obtainable. Even at that, I noticed that Riley only covered twice the country as me when he usually covers three times the ground. Maybe that was because of the snow and maybe because there were so many birds he didn't have to cover big ground to find them.
I should point out that it seemed like there were a lot of birds. Because of the snow I saw tracks and birds everywhere. It seems like birds are everywhere when there is white stuff on the ground mainly because of the visibility of tracks and birds.
It seems like every year about this time I get another education by the birds. Because they seem to be a little more vocal and you can see them better I sometimes try to be smarter than the dog. The last few days caught me moving away from Riley because I could see the chukar tracks heading for a certain area. About the time I would reach the end of the tracks with no birds in them, a covey would flush in front of Riley who was thirty yards behind me and now in the lane of  any possible shot. You have to wonder what your pup is thinking when you do this. Had there been no tracks, I would have approached my dog from the left and moved out in front instead of walking away from him.
Not only are the birds more visible to humans they are more visible to the dogs. Many times this time of the year I hear people talking of their dogs having bad habits of breaking point. I have done the same thing. I've watched my dogs bust right through covey of birds after pointing them for three or four minutes. I couldn't see any reason why they would do that. But the snow can sometimes point out what might have happened. Unless you have a totally broke dog, which I don't, quite often the dog might be seeing a bird running to take off and run through the bunch that his hunkered down.
I had several false points the last few days. I was surprised to find that Riley will point the sound of chukars. I walked 50 yards in front of him before he would finally break and head for an area where I was hearing birds. I don't know if this is good or bad, but it's Riley and that's okay with me.
Another hunting tactic Riley has developed is pointing running birds up hill from us. I'm talking 100 yards or more that are real visible. It's a very high head point but it still gets the idea across to me. After I get ahead of him and the birds are still sprinting straight up the slope, he will break and head up after them. If they don't stop, neither does he. I let him go, knowing I'll never get to them anyhow and the worst that can happen is they fly to the next ridge.
Probably the best lesson I learn this time of the year is the same thing people tell us time after time. Trust your dog. It's easier to see where the birds are going in the snow so we try to lead the dog rather then to let him take the lead. They do a great job when there is no snow so let them continue doing the same in the snow. Also, don't start correcting your dog for bad habits until you know why he might be doing so. The white stuff makes everything more visible to both the dogs and the birds creating a lot different situation at times. Remember how hard it is for you to not take a shot at a bird taking off even when you know there will be another possible better shot. It's the same for your dog.
Good luck staying on your feet in the next seven weeks and following your canine partner around the hill.


Anonymous said...

Pure wisdom Larry..
Wished i wouldn't of whacked Daisy with my hat, and yelled Whoa!!!! in her face last Sunday.
Worst part is i knew better.
Double Bingo on todays entry..

larry szurgot said...

Boy, don't I know the feeling. It's a good thing our dogs forgive us for our mistakes.