Thursday, March 15, 2012

B.K.'s Ramble; The Certainty of Taking Game

     Hunting is loosely defined as "...the chase or pursuit of game with the intent to kill or capture." Lets focus on the "chase" and "pursuit" parts of that definition. We make great efforts to locate game and places to hunt game. Then even greater efforts are made to get in the presence of the game once it is, if it is, located. We trudge and tramp, most times with cumbersome equipment and gear, over remote field and marsh. We sweat and freeze, sometimes simultaneously, trying to get to the places we have located. Up hill mostly it seems. All of this in an effort to put ourselves in range of game that we can, hopefully, get a shot at and maybe kill. There are no guarantees. You can surround yourself with potential targets, literally swim in them, and come home with the exact number of shells you left with. There is no certainty in taking game. No matter how hard you work or prepare. Sometimes you win, sometimes, you simply do not. Sometimes you fail spectacularly. Those are some of the best.

     I have had my share of surprises, successes, and missteps over the years. Most of my favorites feature myself in the direct presence of hard sought game whereupon I fail "to kill or capture" said game. My (mis)fortunes with Aix sponsa, the wood duck, are becoming (all too) routine and humorous. Too many times now I have located, shot at, and missed these paranoid puddle rockets. An incident comes to mind. Years ago I had scouted out a group of these ducks that were frequenting a particular bend on a local river. My birds (see, already cocky) would be well below me as the only approach for a shot was from a high bank. A slow belly crawl and a quick peek revealed at least a half dozen, and almost all drakes. This was going to be great, almost too easy. However, if you know wood ducks, you know that this peek, as careful and as fast as it was, was enough to begin the inevitable chain of events that would begin to unfold. You simply do not approach wood ducks, in the woods, and expect them not to notice or not to become acutely aware that something is amiss. Where many ducks will at least wait to see, a wood duck flees at the mere suggestion, hell maybe even the thought alone. I waited a good minute or so to let the vibe dissipate, then jumped. Apparently, I was expected, they were all staring right at me, waiting. They exploded off the water with tremendous haste and immediate purpose. I picked a lone drake launching left to right, then took two pokes at another straight away drake. Giddy, excited, thinking about my beautiful trophies in hand. I knew the result immediately, but it took a good twenty seconds for full acceptance to sink in. Queue disbelief, add bitterness, blend with anguished embarrassment. Not a single feather was cut. A lone wad bobbed mockingly in the water.

     Wood ducks. I find them everywhere, mostly in places where they cant be shot, or where the odds are so stacked in their favor it begs ponder. Sometimes they just defy common sense. Some time ago I killed a bird almost overhead and watched it cartwheel some 40 yards away into a bend in the marsh stream. I approached my prize from the water. A seemingly dead bird with wings out, head in the water, surely good and dead. Just before my hand would have made contact, it disappeared. That was it. Gone, leaving ripples like a stone dropped in water, never to be seen again. This past season put me on a fantastic hole in flooded timber holding a fair number of woodies. After three days of scheming, repositioning, struggling to see in the early dawn, and one single miss, the birds moved on - probably more annoyed than pressured or scared. My on again off again shotgunning when faced with this particular target is not helping. It’s all mental, baggage built up over the years. Sure we have taken our share now, but the overall percentage is not pretty. It helps if I don't see them for very long, surprises work best. Indeed.

ASO pro staffer B.K. likes to shoot things that fly. He and his Black Lab, Ruby, have been know to chase feathers throughout Western Mass, NH, and upstate NY, where the grouse, woodcock, and greenheads haven't been anywhere near as lucky as the wood ducks. He's a damned good cook, too. Look for more contributions from B.K. in the future.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Woodcock, and Water Work

     The woodcock are back. The woodlot where I frequently train Ginger has been devoid of game for quite sometime. The wet fall flooded the area driving the woodcock out early last year. The area has drained, and the temperate weather has brought the bird back in. As you can imagine, having birds to run your dog on is good for a bird dog, and Ginger is no exception. Yesterday, a 200 yard swath of cover gave us 12 woodcock flushes. Today we trod lightly, only working half of the area. We were treated to 4 real nice flushes.

     The warm up of the weather also means that all the remaining ice on the water has melted. Naturally a young spaniel will want to swim whenever it can. Here too, Ginger is no exception. So swim she did. But not freely, as I'm sure she would have liked. I set up a couple water blinds, and with hand and whistle guided her to the retrieves. They could have gone better, but for her first blinds of the spring, I'm happy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Action Alert; Mass & Ct Trouble

     Okay, Sportsmen. It's time to make some noise. It has come to my attention that there is trouble brewing in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. It's time to pick up the phone, and write some well crafted letters to the powers that be.

     We'll start in Conecticut. The governor there has decide that in an effort to close a budget gap that he would end the states pheasant stocking program. This is a problem in so many ways. First, pheasant hunting is a great tradition. Many sportsman list pheasant as their number one pursuit in the outdoors. As the state has failed to find ways to manage the wild pheasant population, ending the stocking program would end pheasant hunting in the state. Pheasant hunting is also a great way to start out a newbie or a youngster, and with hunting license sales generally dropping across the country we need a venue like tis to keep the hunting tradition alive. But I think the most disturbing thing about the attack on the stocking program is the fact that it won't really do anything to help with the budget trouble. Pheasant stocking programs are paid for by the hunters. The sale of hunting licenses are where the stocking money comes from.

Here's a link to an article about the trouble in Conecticut. Pheasant Trouble

     On to Mass. A dog loving rep has seen fit to file a bill that would change the way we care for our dogs. Apparently Rep. Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera thinks owning a couple of mutts makes her more knowledgeable about dog care than the rest of us. She has filed a bill that would limit how you confine your dog. The bill goes so far as to say that a kennel must meet the approval of a building inspector. And get this, dogs will no longer be allowed to be kenneled outdoors between the hours of 11pm, and 7am. The language in this bill makes me sick. The good rep has obviously never visited a kennel of working dog, met or talked to any of the mushers in the community, nor have any understanding of the different breeds.

Here's a link to the bill. Bill H.2809

Yup. It's time to make some noise

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Flight Fright

     Each spring as the mercury slowly rises a bit more each day I look forward to the return of the woodcock. As the migrate south each fall, they return northward each spring. Their return means a few weeks of dog training on wild birds. Any gun dog owner should use these few weeks to keep their dog sharp and tuned up. Woodcock run very little when pressured making them perfect for training a young pointing dog. They generally spring straight up into the air when flushed, making them ideal for for steadying a spaniel too.

     The preferred food of the woodcock is earth worms, and their long flexible bills are built for that mission. This, unfortunately, is what causes me worry this year. In years past, a late season or early spring snow and it's subsequent ground freezing has meant trouble for woodcock. If they can't get to the earth, and it is frozen hard they can't eat. This year's unseasonable warmth throughout the winter months has seemingly fooled the woodcock into thinking it's time to head north again, as I've come across a few out training Ginger. This wouldn't be a problem but for the seasonal storm which once again froze the ground and dropped a bit of snow on us. While the storm was what should have been typical may have had the same effect of a spring storm on the woodcock. Fortunately, the warmer weather has returned, and the earth has thawed. I just hope the week of cold and freezing we had didn't have too much impact on the already suffering woodcock population.

Here's a little video of some preliminary steady to flush training I'm doing with Ginger. There's another you can see, plus other videos on the All Season Outdoors Youtube Channel.