While I expect I'll never be famous, my name rolling across the big screen, I am doing what I can to make Ginger a more readily recognized dog. Especially amongst the field trial and hunt test crowd. As good as she is (understanding fully that she needs more work) it should also be pointed out that she's damned cute too. And it's this cuteness that I've employed to attempt to both get her on the cover of an Orvis catelog, and to help Orvis raise money for the Morris Animal Foundation to research canine cancer. What can be better that getting a beautiful dog face like Ginger's spread across the country, and helping to end canine cancer all at once? So, If you can spare a fiver, I'm asking for your help. And should you find a cuter dog (doubt it) while browsing the entries, you wish to vote for,....well, thats fine, too. This is really about the dogs. having lost my pal. Austin, to cancer I believe this is a cause worth supporting.
Time to put the ASO name behind a couple more products. I don't think too many readers won't be familiar with these next two endorsements. I've chosen them because they've proven themselves in the field. Both Filson, and Stormy Kromer have been around for quite a while, and are no stranger to the working man. They've left their mark, and it is my belief that these products can improve a sportsman's life.
ASO pro staffer BK has been wearing Filson Tin Chaps in the uplands of New England for years, and I don't see him changing anytime soon. I own, and have put one of their upland jackets through the paces, and it's proven to be a serious fowl/cold weather staple.
A Stormy Kromer hat recently, after wanting one for a long time, joined my family. From day one of my Maine deer hunt I knew this hat would be getting the called up as my go to deer hunting hat. Warm, comfortable, and with a timeless style, I'm shopping for another (non-blaze orange) one to add to my regular hat rotation.
With October drawing to a close, and November coming into bloom, the ASO crew found themselves moving about and getting down to business. Some of our travels proved more fruitful than others, but regardless, camps were filled, boot leather worn down, lungs filled with crisp air, and time was spent afield.
ASO regular S.S. took a crew deep into the North East Kingdom of Vermont on a grouse hunting adventure. S.S. has been talking about hunting the NEK for a few years now, and this year he threw down the gauntlet, and took on the challenge. The reports were far from disappointing,and the guys were thick into birds. And considering they were hunting dogless, I'd say that speaks well of the grouse and woodcock populations in the NEK. The area they hunted was only a stones throw away from my regular haunt just over the border, so perhaps next year I'll spend a little time over that way, too.
Some Vt Scenery
The ASO Crew
Grouse N Gun
A nice Vt Covert
Vt Mixed Bag
Shortly after the crew held their successful pilgrimage to Vermont, I found myself in Maine. I hadn't hunted Maine in about 10 years, but I had a hole in my schedule, and an invitation that fit, so I headed up. My good friend from the kennel, Bruce, invited me to join him and his friend John in deer camp.
While I'm not anywhere near as serious about deer hunting as Bruce and John I accepted the invitation. The plan was, I'd grouse hunt in the mornings, and if I found good deer sign, sit with my deer rifle in the afternoons. I wish I could tell you all that things worked out that way, and I shot a bunch of grouse, and a deer. It just didn't work out that way, however. Road prospecting the area I found lots of cover that looked promising, but we just weren't finding any birds. Oh, they were there, just not in any significant numbers. I was finding lots of good, fresh deer sign. So after two days of fruitless grouse hunting, I put down my double, and picked up my rifle.
I'd decided to concentrate my deer hunting efforts on a spot that had two things I very much like when hunting any species; fresh sign, and no other hunters. I found such a spot, and the deeper I got into the woods away from the heater hunting locals, the more fresh sign I found. In fact, every visit I found more fresh sign. I was getting excited.
The plan, as it developed, was to basically get into the area with the thickest sign early and sit on a stump. Then, after the morning had passed I'd sneak about as quietly as the forests carpet would allow, hoping to make my own luck. Hopefully a little snow would fall, quieting things up for a bit, but that, too never happened.
The last day I found myself in the "zone". The weather had warmed, the melted frost quieting the leaves under foot, the wind seemed to miraculously be blowing steadily in my face no matter how many course changes I made, and I'd carefully selected the night before's meal so as to sully the area with flatulence. Now, I can't say with any certainty that the obviously large animal I herd making it's departure from the crest of the ridge 30 yards above me was a deer, but it sure made enough of a fuss busting over the top. Nor can I say with any certainty, that had it not busted out that I'd have seen it, or even gotten a shot at it. But I can say this, I blame that damned red squirrel, and all it's chatter. All was not lost; I had seen a deer a few days earlier. Just not anything with the required head gear. Oh well. Being in camp was still great, and I firmly believe that a good campfire beats out television any day of the week.
A Selection of Rubs
A Fresh Scrape
A Couple of Fresh Tracks.
(These were tracks I found back tracking that had cut my track)
A Big Clump of Moose Hair
Hunting camps all around the globe are filled with various traditions. My annual grouse camp wouldn't be complete without Old Fashions in the evenings, scrapple in the mornings, and the annual "Toast to the dogs of yesterday". Bruce and John, too, have a tradition, and it is because of their tradition of watching Escanaba in da Moonlight that I've finally seen this hilarious movie.
While the content of the movie might well fall squarely into the "you can't make this stuff up", our camp too, experience a bit of that. Shortly after arriving in camp Bruce received an interesting text from his brother Doug. While we were driving north, Doug, a die hard bow hunter, was sitting in a stand behind the kennel. Yup. He killed a big 205lb, 11 pointer. You can't make this stuff up.
Bear hunting as we know it in the state of Maine is in danger of being irreparable changed. Special interest groups, which is a nice way of saying anti-hunting groups, have decided that they know what is better for Maine, and it's bear population that the professional, wildlife biologists and managers who are employed by the state. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting are collecting signatures to get a referendum on next Novembers ballot that would stop trapping of bears, and the hunting of bears using bait, and dogs.
If you've ever spent any time hunting bears then you know that to manage the bear population in bear rich state like Maine without the use of these management tools is impossible. In fact, even with the use of these tools it is quite difficult, and Maine's bear population continues to grow. It is important to manage all species of wildlife, and bear in particular, with all the tools available to both minimize bear human encounters, and for the health of the bears. Yes. For the health of the bears. Any area of habitat used by a species only has enough resources for so many of that species. Once a population goes above the carrying capacity of the habitat the species is subject to malnutrition, starvation, and disease.
So what can you do, you might ask? First, check out savemainesbearhunt.com to fully educate yourself on what is happening, and why it is bad. While your there, check out, and like them on Facebook, so their message may be spread further. Then, be sure to educate your friends, especially if they live in Maine. And lastly, if you're in Maine, please remember to vote next November.
And remember, even if you're not a bear hunter, or a big game hunter, the tactics used by HSUS can be used against you, to attack your sport one day. We must all stick together to make sure that sound science, and best quality management practices are used in our woodlands and forests.
Time for sportsmen to take action. It has come to my attention that Square Inc. has changed their user agreement forbidding the sale of firearms, and ammunition by their users. If you're not familiar with Square Inc., they are a company that created a device retailers can attach to an iPad, or iPhone allowing them to swipe a credit card for sales. With lower fees than conventional credit card apparatus, Square Inc. has grown in popularity with small business owners. Time to take action, and write a letter to Square Inc., and do what we can to make Square Inc. feel the effect of this poor decision. Square User Agreement
In my quest to entertain and educate sportsmen I have decided to further expand my endorsements. I've added an endorsements page where you can see the products, retailers, outfitters, and things all seasons outdoors that I believe warrant attention. All you need to do is click on the endorsements tab just below the ASO logo to see what products I believe in.
I've included a couple new endorsements. If you live in New England and need new equipment or clothing there are only two retailers that I believe know what the sportsmen of the region not only want, but need. While some of the bigger names have fancy advertising, and large, colorful catalogues, I've found that their regional marketing often falls flat. This is especially noticeable when you visit their mega-stores looking for something you could use. It is for that reason that I am endorsing both Kittery Trading Post, and LL Bean. Both of these retailers know what the north east outdoorsman needs, and both have knowledgeable salespeople working their (in the case of LLB, flagship) store.
Friday, October 25th marked the start of the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association's 89th annual field trial in Howard NY. As the parent club of the Springer Spaniel I was eager to run Ginger in the amateur stake of this trial to be held on the 27th. So the car was packed, the GPS set, and on Saturday we started our journey through upstate NY. We reached our hotel in Troy NY 6 hours later, where we kicked off our shoes, and relaxed with a pizza and some beers.
Rising early the next morning we made our way to the trial grounds where we changed into appropriate clothes, gave Ginger a quick stretch, and joined the gallery in the field. Set atop a hill, the grounds offered stunning, though intermittent due to fog, panoramic views of the surrounding farm land. Thick wet cover made seeing the dogs work a little difficult, as did the rolling terrain that had dogs sometimes working above you, and at other times below. Before we knew it the dogs and the gallery had made the turn at the wood line, and were heading back. About that time I realized that Ginger and I would be headed out with the next group of dogs, We'd drawn the 9th brace, and the field was passing, and dropping quickly.
Gathering Ginger I made my way slowly out, keeping well behind the gallery, and the commotion of the flushes, gunshots, and other dogs to keep Ginger from getting too worked up. When the time came we made our way to the front, and marched out to the judge. We were running on the right hand side of the course which sloped down hill from the left to the right with enough elevation change that we could only see the heads of our bracemate's handler, and judge. The wind too, blew steadily across the course from above us. The judge and I quickly made our introductions, went over his instructions, and Ginger's lead was slipped off.
No sooner did I cast her off, and I knew something wasn't right. I'd cast her down wind, to our right, and she took off like a shot in that direction. But rather than going out a bit, and switching ends to quarter back across in front of me, she kept going. I was forced to blow a whistle on the first cast; not good. Even worse was the fact that for whatever reason Ginger decided not to handle. Sure she came around, but rather than coming across in front she shortened her turn, quartered a couple times in front of the gun, then checked our back trail. Something wasn't right. So at the judges suggestion I hit the whistle a couple of times, and got her back in front where she belonged. Now we could make our way down the course, as she'd started quartering properly, using the wind, and even showing her self to the gallery on casts to the left.
It didn't last long. We hadn't even made our way ( well, maybe just made) one flag down the course when Ginger made another long cast down wind. This time I didn't whistle her around as she wasn't terribly far past the gun, and she was most certainly making game. Her body language was unmistakable. I didn't expect a flush. We'd only gone a short distance down the course, and our starting spot was the spot the previous dog had flushed and retrieved his second bird. I expected Ginger to figure out that is was old scent, and come around across again. I was wrong, and Ginger made a hard move which produced a hen pheasant which flushed back down the field. A quick find is good, and Ginger stopped on the flush, watching the hen fly out down the course. I was liking it. The gun fired a shot, and the hen continued to fly, Ginger still steady. The gun fired a second shot, and still the hen continued to fly, Ginger still,.....SHIT! Yup. About a split second after the second missed shot Ginger decided she's get the bird for us anyway. The judge didn't need to say anything. I let slip an expletive I won't repeat here, and muttered the words "She broke" (no sense in denying it). The judge replied with a rather solemn "Sorry". I blew the come in whistle a couple of times, slipped the lead over Ginger's, and walked out of the field. We'd been picked up.
Now, one might expect that I'd be mad at the dog, but I wasn't. I'm new to trialling, but I'm not new to the dog world. Always expect the unexpected. I've also talked with a lot of people who've been trialling for a long time, and came to realize that this kind of thing happens to everyone. I think I'd be hard pressed to find a trialler who has never had the pleasure of being knocked out in the first series. This time it was my time. In fact I kind of looked at it as a kind of initiation into the trialling community. It would have been nice if it didn't happen at a trial that was 400 miles from home, but.... I've also notice that in most cases, when a series goes wrong the handler know something is out of sync the moment the dog is cast on.
I also learned a lesson about myself, and the importance of a pregame routine. Prior to our last trial, and hunt test I took Ginger out for a run away from all of the action to let her burn off some energy, get over some of the excitement, and to focus a bit. I didn't do that. I ran her right out of the crate, and for a young dog, she's only 2 1/2, it was probably too much for her to bear. Because of this I view the whole episode as my failure, and not the dog's.
With another trial experience under my belt I now know what I need to do for us to be successful. Sticking to a pregame routine isn't hard. In fact it's easy, and I won't skip it again. I've got a month until I get a chance to redeem myself at another trial. The application has been filled out, and it's going in the mail next week. The stakes are a little higher at this trial, as Ginger will find herself being reunited with her mother for the first time. And yes, they'll be competing against each other. In the meantime I'll do some remedial steadiness drills with Ginger (already started- getting her on local woodcock), and spend 10 day in Maine hunting grouse.