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.
I've decided it's time for ASO to to endorse a few products. Quality products that are affordable, accessible, and make sense to the everyday sportsman. At ASO we care more about a fulfilling time in the outdoors, than about looking good (though there is nothing wrong with looking good), and think our readers probably feel the same way. So, here is the first round of the All Seasons Outdoors endorsements.
LaCrosse Alphaburly boots are my first choice of a product for an ASO endorsement. A quality wellie style of boot with and secure ankle fit, a good tread, and a stiff yet comfortable sole. This boot has become my first choice of footwear when venturing afield. That's why it is ASO endorsed.
EMT gel is my next choice. All dog owners, and gundog owners particularly, know that dogs have the ability to make a mess of themselves at the worst possible time. When it's a bloody mess things get even trickier. EMT gel is easy to use, and effective. That's why it is ASO endorsed.
Complete Springer Spaniel Training Series by Buccleuch gundog training in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland is a fantastic 4 DVD set that guides one through spaniel training from puppy to finished gundog. While this DVD set focus on training a spaniel the British way there are still tons of tips and drills that can be incorporated into other training programs. Whether you're a fan of the British or American spaniel training method, I recommend watching this set through to get an understanding of the method, and then making selected drill fit your program. That's why it is ASO endorsed.
Attention dog owners. It has come to my attention that the FDA has issued a warning about jerky type dog treats. There is a mysterious illness associated with the dog treats, and several hundred dogs have died as a result. Please keep your dog away from any jerky type treats, like Waggin Train, which has issued a voluntary recall. Link to recall Link to news report
There are many ways in life to define success, just like there are many ways in grouse camp to define success. Many define success in the grouse woods purely by how many grouse they take home at the end of the day. I don't disagree, but find success in the grouse woods to be about so much more, especially when you're at camp. And this year, Grouse Camp 2013 was a success on so many levels.
Camp started out on a bit of a low note; BK had made plans for his father to join us for the week. It would have been not only his first grouse camp, but his first grouse hunt, and first days in the uplands. It wasn't to be. An unfortunate, and impossible to live down error in vacation planning had BK and I driving to camp while BK's father prepared his gear for the camp (our camp) which he had thought was next week. He'd mistakenly marked his calendar, and scheduled his vacation a week late. We'd sally forth without him, and I suspect next year he'll make up for his lost season. I'm planning now to spend extra time on the clay course, as I'm sure he's doing now.
Arriving we found the camp and the beautiful view to be how we've grown to expect them; rugged, and welcoming. The weather, however, was not helping our cause. It was warm, and wet. rain fell every night, and even dampened us a bit during the day once or twice. The temperature, too, was discomforting, hovering in the hi 50's to low 60's, we sweated it out, and the dogs were watered often. The lack of a hard, killing frost meant the understory was still quite green, despite most of the leaves being down. Green down low means tough scenting conditions, but they never really became an issue.
Bird numbers were reported to be down, but we found that to just not be true. Sure, they weren't as thick as last year, but there was certainly no shortage of grouse. Woodcock, on the other hand, though we did find some, were much thinner. Remember those temps I told you about in the last paragraph? Well, it would seem that with out the ground freezing hard up north, the woodcock haven't any reason to travel south. And they hadn't. In the end, we averaged about one grouse flush every 20 minute, as compared to the one flush every 15 minute we experience last year. Of course, that's an average. Some coverts were hot, and others required we walk a bit further between birds. The wettest mornings seemed to be the best; one morning showing us 13 grouse before noon, and another showing us 16 grouse and 15 woodcock before noon. With camp being about so much more than just killing grouse, we seldom hunted in the afternoons, opting for 9-12/1ish days, with an occasional end of day 30-60minute hunt. In total we hunted roughly 18 hours, and I was party to 56 grouse flushes, and 24 woodcock flushes. And yes, BK and I each killed a few birds. They were delicious.
Over the years I've made many changes to how I do things. A lot of time wearing out boot leather is a great way to get first hand experience that opens ones eyes, and gives inspiration to try other methods and things. Sometimes the simple suggestions buried in the pages of an outdoors magazine strike that nerve, and add up to a progressive change. Whatever it is, if we're still doing it, it must have worked.
One thing I remember reading several times over the years was that the majority of sportsmen seldom travel more than 1/4 mile into the woods from the road. Seems natural actually; travelling in the woods is harder than on a sidewalk or road leading people to think they're deeper in than they probably thought. Coupled with the practical mind thinking about the effort it takes to drag a deer out, how the effort compounds in the dark, and the ingrained desire to not get lost, it's easy to see why the darkest corners of the forest seldom see sports. Not getting lost, and what to do if (when) you get lost has become an industry here, too. Television shows highlighting survival tips are on almost daily, and the celebrity like status of the hosts has them hocking their wares must have survival knives, at every camping outlet. The electronics world has changed the landscape more than anything. One can venture afield knowing exactly where they are, with a device that not only tells them where to go, but also whose land they are crossing, the terrain ahead, and the moon phase. Soon, I expect there will be a GPS with a stock ticker connected to online trading.
But don't mistake this as a GPS rant, it's not. I very much like GPS, and use one almost every time I'm in the woods. I use my GPS so frequently that I've got a battery recharger, and several pair of spares ready to go, changing out every morning. Sure, I wish I was more of a natural outdoors man, with a mind for remembering the features of the land, and an internal compass. I don't, so GPS has become my friend, and has led me to a change in how I do things.
What is it I do differently, that I didn't do before? Well, after years of not trying to get lost in the woods, I now just just head into the woods, and essentially get lost. Of course I'm not getting lost in the sense of not knowing how to get out, but in the sense that I just go where the cover leads me. Heading in I have no idea where I'll be when I decide to return, so I've no idea how to get back. Marking my starting position on my GPS allows me that freedom, and gives me a heading back to that point when the time comes. This practice routinely puts me a mile or more from my starting point, and I seldom see another sport when I'm in that deep. This tactic, should the cover be right, also puts me into game that doesn't get disturbed by sport or dog as often. While I use my GPS most often for grouse hunting, it has been useful on the few occasions when I've attempted to track deer in the snow. The wood lot where I deer hunt is pretty small, so its never a long walk out, but knowing exactly where I was allowed me to get to one of the trails in our network, and get out more easily.
There are a couple of preparations to be made before venturing forth this way. The first is mental; you can't be scared to just go, trusting your GPS to get you out. This is probably the most difficult hurdle to over come, but a little practice with your GPS in familiar surroundings will help you establish trust in the machine. The second is to make sure you have a back up method of navigation should your GPS malfunction, or you leave it on the roof of your car (like I did) after setting it down to put on your gloves. Knowing what direction you are headed when you leave the road, and the general heading of the road will provide you with a direction to head (in the most general sense) to get out of the woods.
Whatever species of game you hunt, getting away from the crowd will benefit you. Now, go get lost.
Iconic Vermont deer hunter and author Larry Benoit passed away Monday after a prolonged battle with cancer. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a deer hunter who doesn't know of Larry and his legacy. In 1975 Larry wrote the book, How To Bag The Biggest Buck of Your Life, and changed the way many Americans hunt deer.
Larry's deer hunting legacy is being carried on by his sons, Lanny, Lane, and Shane, who all are proficient deer trackers, and also have published several books on the subject, as well as videos.
Shut Down/ Melt Down
The recent government shut down has created quite a buzz in the sporting communities. Across the country many hunter, and anglers are wondering if they'll be shut out of their favorite spots just because it happens to be federal public land. And in case you're wondering, many of the closures seem to be happening just because it is federal public land. It seems that in the infinite wisdom of our leaders that federal lands should be closed whether those lands have been manned by a federal employee or not. Yes, you are reading this correctly; The feds have closed areas where we've never seen a fed before, areas where we've never needed the assistance of a fed before. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the effort they went through to chain up, hang signs, and erect gates cost more than what it would have cost to just keep the areas opened, and operating at the same level as the pre-shut down melt down. Hence, I am declaring this not a shut down, an operation which when done orderly usually makes sense to those around it, but rather a melt down. A melt down, as in when a child or an unstable person reaches their upper most stress level, and start doing things that make no sense in an effort to reduce said stress.
Fortunately, The nature of those most prone to spend a lot of time in nature is independence. Many sportsmen, without meaning to making them sound radical, really have no need for government assistance in their sporting endeavors. We've all landed nice fish, hiked scenic vistas, tracked deer, and stargazed without the government holding our hand. This is where the government needs to pay attention. Sure, we appreciate the laws, and the efforts to keep lands public, clean, and healthy, but the longer this goes on, the more the sporting public, who are the real stewards of the land, will realize we don't need you. It is evident everywhere a sportsman has ignored a closed sign, barrier, or gate, and entered into the Public land their tax dollars paid for regardless of the senseless closure. Just yesterday I drove past one of the public boat launches that access a federal wildlife preserve. There I saw business as usual, as the chain stretched across the parking lot entrance had been cut, and the closed signs piled in a corner. Boaters and anglers who've never seen, or needed federal assistance at the ramp were discovering that they still don't need any federal assistance. So, while I hesitate to endorse, or encourage any kind of protest or anti-social/anti-governement behavior, I whole heartedly hope that sportsmen refuse to let the melt down keep them from enjoying what is their's. While I hunt and fish quite a bit on public land, I only skirt the edges of some federal land. I doubt very much I'll encounter any "closed" signs, but I can assure you that I won't be kept out should I stumble upon one.
The world of the die hard Ruffed Grouse hunter is filled with as many secrets as the CIA man. Among those secrets, the most valuable is the locations of one's coverts. I, too, hold my covert cards close to my chest, and hope that never will come the day when I stumble upon another's spent shell in one of them. Truth is, it happens quite frequently, and I know full well that others hunt many of the same spots I revere as my own. Even my honey hole. And amazingly there are always birds there.
Sometimes, however, it seems like elements are conspiring against me, and I don't like it. Several times I have opened an outdoors magazine to find an article detailing the wonderful grouse hunting in the exact town I hunt. Once I read an article that listed three towns in different states, two of which I travel to frequently. I've always found this to be distasteful, and a little hard to swallow. The truth is, however, other than a few more pickups on the road, and a bit of a longer wait for a beer at the pub, it's never impacted my hunting any more than just the cyclical nature of grouse populations. The birds were still there. In fact, I have been surprised on several occassions, when my hunting party has been doing quite well, to talk with another hunter, who'd travelled from afar, that wasn't doing well, and wasn't impressed with the area. Pondering this, I've come to the conclussion that magazine articles do little more than bring those who are interested in grouse hunting. Those who grouse hunt,...they know where to go, and how to find the birds. So in the future I'll be trying not to have a terrible knee jerk reaction to the articles. Still, somethings will remain a secret.
Lately I've been spending a lot of time dog training. More than anything else in fact. A well trained dog is essential to a successful hunt. It's not everything, practicing your wingshooting at skeet or sporting clays is important, too. With Ginger's introduction to hunt testing, and field trials, however, I've been focusing more on her performance than mine. Considering we've got two more trials before the year is over, I think that's a good thing. Fortunately, I've got a couple of friends lined up to shoot over her at grouse camp, and a few skeet days earmarked.
With all the training I've been doing I've begun thinking about different traits I like in a dog and have pretty much come to the conclusion that if there was one trait I hold above all others it's Calmness. To be clear, calmness has nothing to do with drive, and the way the dog's motor propels it. A calm dog will hit the cover, or the water just as hard as any dog. A calm dog is just a dog that isn't overly excitable, and has learned that there is nothing wrong with pausing, taking a deep breath, and getting the job done right the first time. This kind of calmness most often seen in a well trained Labrador retriever, whose non-slip work is second nature. The kind of dog that sits patiently in the blind while ducks splash dog in front; often the result of age and wisdom.
A couple years ago, at a spaniel training clinic, David Lisett (if you haven't heard of David before, you could spend your time in a lot of ways worse than Googling) of Buccleuch Gundogs in Scotland told me of a theory he holds. David believes dogs have two modes of operation; "Thinking" and "Doing". A dog can rush right into a task without thinking; "Doing Mode", or a dog can pause for a second or two, think about what is needed, and then rush into a task; "Thinking Mode". Over time as I've reflected upon this, and have had opportunity to converse with other trainers, with other methods who may not agree with this, I've likened the "Doing and Thinking" theory to thinking before speaking in humans. Sure, we can all manage to communicate when we need to, but how about that time when you've needed to say something important, and stumbled on your words. Now, how about that time time you stopped, thought about what needed saying, chose your words perfectly, and sounded like a genius. This is what I interpreted David's theory as.
David Lisett works with a young Cocker from the U.P.
David's theory was for the most part illustrated in non-slip retrieving drills, where a bumper would be tossed, but the dog wouldn't be sent until it had relaxed, rather than from the rocked forward, locked and loaded position. It wasn't just a matter of making the dog wait, but rather letting the dog learn it wouldn't be allowed to proceed until relaxed. Ah. Calmness. I started instilling calmness in my springer, Ginger, from the day she got home. She was gently steadied when retrieving tennis balls in the hallway, steadied before being let out in the yard, steadied before being allowed to jump into or out of the car. In short order, with gentle steadying, she learned to be calm, and that good things were going to happen in due time. She learned that there was no reason to be wound up; she was going to get to do what she wanted. It resulted in having a a non-slip steady springer at 5 months of age, not by training, but rather by conditioning.
This calmness has manifest itself in other aspects of training and dog work. Steadying to wing, shot, and fall has all been made easier. Once a dog learns that it will be released from a stopped position, it becomes easier to get it to stop, and subsequently will learn that in order to be released it must be paying attention to you. Once you move into a more difficult training realm, perhaps long blind retrieves with cover, a calm dog will do wonders in calming a frustrated handler. Talk about a benefit.
I don't think there are too many breeds that wouldn't benefit from pups that were conditioned to be calm from the onset. Imagine a retriever trainer having a pup that he doesn't have to fight to steady, or a pointing dog that easily understands that it'll be released from a "whoa" when the time is right. Sure, depending on the breed you might have to do things in a different order, and some dogs may take longer than others, but all the training we do is a lifetime commitment, anyway. And lest you believe calmness will dampen drive, think about this; a dog will do a memory retrieve out to well over 100 yards with great gusto. Do you really think it will be any different if you insist the dog uncoil the mental spring for a moment? A process that takes no more than 30 seconds? All we're really conditioning the dog to do is to think before it speaks.
I took a trip to the headwaters of the Connecticut River
recently. I naively yearn for fishing locations where I have to bushwhack my
way to the water with a machete, but I’m not alone in my love for fishing, and
the world is such an overpopulated mess that I can walk up and down well-worn
paths along both sides of any river that still has fish in it and be happy
while my idealism slowly dies.
One morning I got down to the stretch of river between Lake
Francis and Third CT Lake.It was pretty
crowded… Every one of the real fishy spots had a guy in waders standing in
it.This is not a big whoop, by the way,
those other hearty souls have every bit as much of a right to be on that river
as I do.I should have gotten my ass
over there earlier if I didn’t want to hike farther into the river system than
anybody with any sense wanted to in order to find myself a nice patch of
fish-holding sweetness that hadn’t had 50 years of daily beatings.
I got down to a nice hole that I’ve had success and failure
in before, but there was a guy there already.As I made my feet fall softly and moved slowly among the ferns by his
pool, he hooked a fish and had it ready to net.This is where the shit-show started and a lifetime of sadness and anger
boiled up inside me.Instead of bending
down and netting the fish while it remained in the water, he lifted it out of
the water with his line and started trying to catch a bouncing fish in the net from
mid-air like it was a toy.The fish was
wiggling like crazy and his first few attempts failed to catch the fish in the
net, but he did give the suffocating, horrified fish a good beating with his
net.Once he grabbed the fish against
his chest with a dry hand and tore the hook out of its mouth by yanking on the
tippet and he squirted the fish back into the water like you would a bar of
soap in the shower if you were seven years old and having a bit of fun.
He was a friendly enough guy.I talked to him for a little while even
though in my heart-of-hearts I kind of wanted to beat him with my net, but I
kept an eye on the water close to us while pleasantries passed between us.There was a little eddy about 5 feet away,
and sure enough, belly-up for the entire world to see, our recently deceased
trout was swirling around in there.I
pointed with my rod-tip and said, “Hey look, there’s a dead fish, I wonder what
He said, “Whoa, he looks like a good fish too!”
I just wanted to fish, so even though my innards, on every level,
coiled like a snake, I blew it off and didn’t press the issue any further
because the river already had its corpse for one day. There was nothing I could
do to help the fish, and I figure crayfish have got to eat too, so I just hopped
from boulder to boulder downstream thinking about the great circle of life and
all of that.One thing I can do after
the fact though is contemplate a few finer points of releasing a fish that you
don’t intend to kill, bring home, and share from a generous heart.
1.A trout that’s out of the water for more than
30-45 seconds is going to croak whether you put it back in the water or not.Scientists have studied this shit.Science is not a vast political conspiracy. This
is going to vary from species to species and between individual fish, but that’s
roughly how long you’ve got to free the hook, get the trout back underwater, and
hold it there until it swims off under its own power to go be a trout in peace.I have gotten into the habit of holding my
breath while I take a fish off the hook.While I’m doing my best to free the terrified creature, if I feel like I
need to breathe, odds are that the fish does too, so I’ll give up if I haven’t
gotten the hook out and submerge the fish for a little while so it can regain
its strength before I try again.Oh, and
the clock started ticking while you were swinging the fish around trying to net
it in midair, you fucking retard.
2.If you had your fun catching the fish and want
to let it live to fight another day, wet your hands before you touch it for the
love of all things holy.The slime that
coats a trout’s entire body, the one that’s a total pain to clean off when you
are preparing a fish you want to cook… it’s part and parcel of the fish’s
immune system.That slimy coating keeps
molds and other infections from taking root on the fish’s skin, considering
that it occupies a rather moist environment, and it will replenish itself if
only a small amount is wiped off.If
your net has a giant slimy spot left in it once you let the fish go because you
were squeezing the fuck out of it with a dry hand, that fish is going get sick
and die a prolonged, agonizing death that you bear responsibility for.
3.That beautiful trout that you have decided to
benevolently release into the stream just spent the last few minutes fighting
for its life.It had no way of knowing
that you weren’t going to kill it, so it just spent every, last molecule of its
being trying to escape from the alien abduction we call catch-and-release
fishing. You were able to net it in the first place because it gave everything
it had and is near death.What you are
supposed to do is hold the fish’s tail in one hand and cradle its belly in the
other. .. Holding it right-side-up, you move it gently back and forth in the
water until it regains its strength and swims off on its own once it has
recuperated.If you are particularly
attentive, you will observe bubbles escaping from its gill-plates which means
that said gills are finally covered in water again and the fish is breathing
healthily. I don’t give a fuck if the water’s cold and it makes your hands
numb, which is going to happen because trout tend toward cold-water
environments, wait for the fish to leave on its own.If you just toss it in the water like some
piece of shit you don’t care about, it’s too tired to swim and it’s going to
drown, which will fuck your holistic idea of harmless fun into a thousand
pieces as the trout suffocates in the very environment it is meant be breathe
If you fuck one of these basics up, the fish will be lucky
to survive, but if you fuck all three of them up the fish will be dead before
the next piss you take, and some stranger might happen by to know you for the
asshole you don’t think of yourself as.
I have no problem
with taking a fish, by the way, when it is done with purpose.This isn’t one of those elitist rants that
fly back and forth between fly-fishermen, power-bait people, and live-bait
sportsmen that makes by behind pucker up.The only people on this stretch of river are fly-fisherman
per-regulation… A fisherman can keep
fish within clearly defined limits, if they so desire. When I imagine myself as
a man who is two inches long swimming across a clear pool of water, I doubt a
trout would think too hard before it swallowed me entirely so they and I are in
a karmic balance. Fair is fair, that’s the entire idea of catch-and-release, but
it’s a twist on nature’s eternal conflict because human’s can show compassion
in a way that is rare in other animals when we feel like it.If you intend to bring game home from the
out-set and survive based on the product of your hard work, I commend you; you
have struck a blow against all of the forces in society trying to control you
and mutating your food supply while they’re at it.
With all of that being said, I’m pleading to my fellows to make
a decision about what you’re going to do with your catch before you even go to
the river, choose your weapon, and land a fish. Stand by your decision like a
man.If you are going to let your fish
go once you have held it in your hands, make sure the thing’s going to survive
if you have already decided not use it to further your mortal coil. Commit.Take responsibility.I can
guarantee if you’re cutting corners with your catch and release, you’re cutting
other corners in your world that damage everything you touch. If you’re going
to shine one shoe, shine them both.If
you’re going to make a woman pregnant, be the best father you can be even if it
wasn’t what you planned on before you started fucking.If you bring shit home from the grocery
store, eat it before it goes bad.Don’t
be lazy, wasteful, and ignorant while you turn an otherwise good world into
shit one act of carelessness at a time.If you can button things up with whatever your quarry may be and bring reasonable
care, commitment, and compassion into the rest of your world, I’m betting
things are going to start looking better and better for you across the board. You
will be a complete person and the world will be your oyster. I’m doing it, and
if you do it too, maybe someday the first thing I see when I get back to Boston
won’t be a homeless crack-head begging for change by the highway… Think about
As I'm sure you can tell, GW is passionate about his fishing. Oh yeah! He's outspoken, too. Salty as GW may be, he's right. Please take a minute and consider your technique when handling fish and other game.
In ones journey through the outdoors, they often change, and evolve. Over time one learns what works, what doesn't, what they like, and what they aren't too keen on. I've been no different, and my last post illustrated a few of those changes. But there are a few more.
When it comes to guns sportsmen can easily ramble on and on for hours. Everyone has a favorite, and seldom do two people agree. The sheer number of gauge, action, barrel length, choke constriction, stock configuration, chamber size, configurations is overwhelming. And that's just shotguns. I've shot quite a few different shotguns, and have developed a taste. While my main upland work horse is a 20 gauge side by side, I've discovered my taste has changed somewhat. Sure, there is nothing wrong with the 20. Being a bit of an anglophile I wanted a straight stocked gun, and I still like a straight stock. What I've come to realize, however, is that I like a bit more barrel lenght than the 26 inches it is sporting. Coupled with the fact that I actually do, like most, shoot an over and under better, I expect I'll be carrying my 12 gauge over and under a bit more than I usually have in years past. The superposed barrels, with a bit more heft, and length tend to swing a bit smoother for me.
While the 12 gauge has proven to be fitting for me, I still haven't lost my love for the sub gauges. I will be looking for a 28" barreled, 20 gauge over and under this winter, and I will probably spend a bit more time shooting my 28 gauge over and under. While my 28 is also a short, light gun, it is a joy to shoot. Sporting 26" barrels on a true 28 gauge frame it is really quick. The gun is a looker, too, with a nice slim English style stock, and two triggers, it turns heads. Problem is, it needs to spend some time with a gunsmith, having trigger seer issues.
I've come to realize a few things over the years. Some of these revelations were immediate, while others developed, and were a bit hard to swallow. I think every sportsman has a time when they finally sit back and reflect on their inner outdoors. It'd be hard not to, as many outdoor pursuits offer plenty of solitary moments when it's just you and mother nature.
I've finally admitted that I don't like deer hunting. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. Sure I'll continue to hunt deer. After all, I love eating venison. But I'm not one to sit still. As rewarding as it is to score a deer with archery equipment, I just don't have too many stand sits in me, so they'll be few and far between.
Thankfully there are other methods of collecting venison that don't require long sits. Deer driving can be a productive way of filling a tag, and it's quite fun. I participate a number of drives each season, and seldom get bored as were constantly moving, and repositioning, and starting new drives. Deer tracking is another exciting example. Some years back the Benoits, of Vermont, introduced the world to the art of tracking big bucks in the snow, with a series of books and videos. Actually, The Benoits reintroduced the art, as their father had written and published a book detailing the art back in the 60's. I've tried my hand at tracking, and have found it to be enjoyable. Though I've yet to score a deer this way, I've had some close encounters. A couple of seasons ago I snuck off on Christmas morning. Fresh snow had fallen, the wife was sleeping in, and I had a doe tag (like I said, I like eating venison). I cut a pair of fresh track right away, and judging from the stride thought they might be moving lazily along nearby. I crept along slowly, scanning ahead, fortunate enough to have the wind in my face. The thud of snow falling from some branches to the ground off to my right caught my attention, and when I looked back ahead I found myself staring at two does who'd been laying down 20 yards ahead, just over the crest of a slight incline. No sooner did a realize they were there, they were gone. No shot was fired, but it was satisfying none the less. I walked the ridge, back towards my car, scanning for a bit of fresh track. I found it too. No doubt this new, big track, crisp and fresh, crossing the road within sight of my car, was that of the big 10 point that had been seen on many a trail camera, but never in the flesh. Unfortunately, it was Christmas morning, and I only had a 1/2 day pass.
Other revelations revolve around food. While I enjoy eating game, there is some that just doesn't satisfy on a regular basis. Coupled with the fact the the only game my wife will eat being venison, I've decided that there are some species to be left alone. Geese, and hares are the first that come to mind. Geese are quite large, so I will never eat one by myself. They also tend to vary in taste considerable from one goose to the next. I'll still shoot the occasional goose, but it'll be during one of those rainy grouse camp years where we spend more time in a dick blind than in the woods, and the goose is sure to get eaten by the crew at camp. I may also one day find the motivation, and desire to make a batch of goose sausage.
Hares are not a very potable species in my opinion. While they are abundant in many of the areas I grouse hunt, I don't expect to be tipping too many over. Sure, I'll kill a hare once in a while. The dog still needs a little practice handling them, so it'll get boiled down and feed to the dog. Besides, she needs a little spoiling. Cotton Tails, however, will be shot, and tabled any chance I get.
My fishing exploits have suffered a few revelations, too. While I still enjoy fly fishing, I feel like I've been spoiled after having the opportunity to tie into some big fish in upstate NY. After that, I just didn't want to catch average sized trout anymore. By my estimation, after catching salmon on a fly rod, catching smallies in a light weight rod is the next best thing. Though, striped bass on a fly rod is kinda fun, too.
These revelations don't only come in negative values. There are things that I have positively identified as areas of interest. There are big game species that I'd very much like to have a go at. Black bear has long been an interest of mine, and I hope one day to get to tag one with a bow. Likewise for moose. To be able to get close enough to take a moose with a bow must be a real rush. not to mention the quantity of venison you'll be bringing home. Being primarily a meat hunter, I'd also like to have an opportunity to one day hunt deer in a place where I feel like I have a chance to kill a big buck. Not that I'm planning to convert to antler chasing, but I'd sure like to see several bucks in one day, rather than being happy to see a couple of bucks in one season.
My revelations don't stop with big game. I've got some wingshooting ideas, too. Of most interest to me is the idea of wingshooting in Great Britain. Driven pheasant on an estate, and grouse in the moors sound like real adventures to me. The whole social aspect of the British style of shooting appeals to me. But get this. Over the years, as I've studied and investigated the shooting culture of our cousins across the pond, the one type of shooting I'd like the most to experience is pigeon. For some reason the relative DIY, blue collar appearance of pigeon shooting has really captured my interest.
The true beauty of revelations such as these are that they are organic, and ever changing. Come tomorrow I may realize that I really do like catching average sized trout, and the taste of hare. Doubt I'll ever really develop a long term interest in treestand sitting, however.
If you live or hunt in Massachusetts you've no doubt noticed that the Mass Wildlife web site has changed considerably. In fact, it's just plain confusing. I've had a hard time navigating the site, and finding the info I need. In Particular, it took some effort to find the waterfowl/ migratory bird season dates, and regulations. Well, now that I've found it I thought I'd link it here in case others are having difficulty finding it.
Serious sportsmen and women around the globe are constantly finding new ways to show others their craft and passion. Changes in the way we get our information hasn't gone unnoticed, and Youtube has been a fore runner in delivering entertainment to millions. It is on Youtube where I found a couple of channels worth promoting.
The first channel is The Consummate Sportsman, where a group of friends take us on all kinds of hunting, and fishing in the Mid-West. They have quite a few laughs, catch some big fish, do some good shooting, and have some pretty good dogs. http://www.youtube.com/user/ConsummateSportsman
The other channel is The Shooting Show. This UK based channel is all things shooting, from wingshooting to big game, clays, fowl, and competitive. It's a look into the shooting lifestyle of our brother and sister sports across the pond. http://www.youtube.com/user/theshootingshow Check it out.
From viewing we move on to seeing. If you've aged at all like I have you've no doubt suffered a bit in the eye sight department. As I sit here typing this I am indeed bespectacled, my trusty reading glasses perched on the bridge of my nose. It isn't too hard to imagine some of the issues the visually challenged sportsman must encounter; try tying on a size 22 midge, or reading a gazetteer without a good set of readers is just about impossible. Well, there is no need for the sportman to look more aged than necessary in a pair of drug store glasses. Orvis is offering a few nice pair of readers so one can look their best, and see. Offered in several styles from which one can choose. I am partial to The Consultant and expect to order a pair real soon. Check them out.
The Patriot Sporting Spaniel Club held a field trial in Conway NH over the weekend. I decided the time had come to enter Ginger, so a few weeks ago we sent our check in, and awaited our place in the running order. Ginger's performance was far from flawless, but good enough to get us to the second series, which was good enough for me. If you haven't ever been to a spaniel field trial before you may want to consider attending one someday. A field trial offers all that is fun, and flashy in spaniels; hunting, flushing, and retrieving. And if you've got a spaniel, I highly recommend giving trialling a chance, if for no other reason than it's a lot of fun for both you and the dog. We had a great time, met lots of nice people, and got to see a lot of good, and exciting dog work.
The puppy stake
An exciting puppy retrieve
A steady pup watches a fly-away
Another exciting puppy retrieve
Dan Lussen & FC Pondview II's Secret Agent (JB) in the open stake 3rd series, on their way to a 4th place finish.
A Triple River pup
Me and Ginger waiting for our debut run
Instructions from the judge, and we're off
Ginger honors her brace mate's flush and retrieve,