Quick update: This past week had Annie spending it out with Dave Hughes at Hughesview Kennel in Clearfield, PA. This wasn’t a training operation but a trip to get her out to a stud dog. She came in heat earlier in the week and we took her out over the following weekend to drop her off. Pups are anticipated to be on the ground a week into July. Stay tuned for updates here and on the litter page.
Yesterday the grouse wagon’s engine came to life again at 5:30am. This time pointed straight north shortly after a quick detour to my parents. It seems in all the pomp from last week of Pop taking first, my dad wanted to tag along to see what this trial stuff was like. 3 miles from town a familiar truck and dog topper zipped past, which had me laughing as who I refer to as The Most Interesting Man in the
World Coverdog Circuit blew past our 55mph (and we were going up a mountain grade at the time). In our travels (better said, “passings”) it seems he doesn’t waste anytime getting there, but has all the time in the world on the ride home. He being one of the two in my favorite grouse trialing duo were parked and had dogs staked out by the time we rolled up in. A hillside in with a mixture of cover nestled back, a hill behind the loosely populated roads of rural America the roads in dotted with signs reading “Repeal the SAFE Act”. Welcome to Chemung County, New York.
The grounds were nice, plenty of cover, water and open patches to really eye a moving dog. The odds again were in our favor, not drawing the first brace having never been there. The pace of keeping the trial moving, a might slower, allowed me to walk the first brace before running Pop in the second. The first brace had our Red Setter buddy from Freeland in it, they were braced with a dog I placed third in a puppy stake in Pennsylvania earlier in the spring. The red dog really seemed to be in his element.
I pulled Pop and walked him to the line not knowing what to expect, Pop’s bracemate had been under my judgement before and showed then as a younger pup with some maturing to do. His race showed that he had progressed. Pop stayed ever forward, I don’t think he got behind once. He ranged out, but it was never really on the cusp of being out of bell (range). Something I think is good for a dog to dance on the edge at least long enough to be noticeable while showing one. He did make himself a case to used in placement, but I wasn’t totally convinced as there was some very good puppies there as well. Three or four other puppies accounted for 8 total placements in other trials, including pups that went 1st, 2nd & 4th in the Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic (Pop sat out of that with a leg tweak). I walked all the puppy braces.
After puppy braces were run we moved onto derby, something I was asked to judge. There were some nice looking dogs but the dog that went blue (1st), really seemed to put down an effort more noteworthy. His race was fast and snappy and he was pretty classy overall. He drew a later brace and was finding birds while others no longer were, nearly finished the brace with all broke work, not a requirement in derby stakes. I’d find out he and Pop have the same sire, Impact Player (a known, producing, grouse dog). After derby was do there was a brief break before shooting dog was to begin. Having walked 10 braces to that point, it was welcomed. They used that time to announce puppy and derby placements. Pop started things off with his announcement at third place. Sure it wasn’t blue or red but comparing his race the week before to today’s it was warranted. We did a few things different this past week, I’m not sure if that contributed to it but every dog has it’s day and you won’t win them all- I was happy with third.
I thought this was Pop’s last puppy stake but there’s two now on our radar… time will tell if we’ll enter.
I haven’t Facebook’d or really tweeted about the preparations spent this past week getting Pop ready for this past weekends field trial. It was an “open” (as in to both Pro’s and Amateurs) stakes trial but there were no purses and that really tends to thin out any pro’s that may’ve gone. No draw results were posted anywhere leaving me to call for our brace number and additionally ask who we were braced since that info was offered up either. I had no idea how big a puppy field there was going to be so forgive me on remaining quiet as if it ended up being a six-pup field and Pop didn’t place, well that’d be pretty humbling pending the circumstances that put you there, however there was a good turnout for the puppy and other stakes as well.
Popinjay’s breeding is Impact Player X Elektra.
On trial weeks I try to run dogs 3 times a week, at least twice- those two-day weeks preferably Tuesday and Thursday, never Friday (usually the day before the trial) as I want them rested and recharged. This past week however Pop got out Tuesday, that was it. I did run Blaze with him though for the added value of getting Blaze in on some work too, reminding Pop not every command is directed at him, and another dog isn’t as interesting as what he might find while otherwise ignoring it. Both ran well. I’d given some of the free time at home to Pop out in the yard getting in 10 minutes or so in tearing around the yard full speed Wednesday and Thursday trying to compensate for the time we’d miss in the woods. He ended up getting pretty dirty Thursday evening and got a bath Friday night as he looked like what Sherwin-Williams might call a swatch Gravel Dust Grey.
We loaded up and were on the road by 5:30am, we were in the fourth brace but I wanted to walk as many as I could beginning with the first. We made good time, the interstate isn’t yet plagued by all over summer’s road construction work. The only hiccup was putting the road into the iPhone map routing as “North” instead of “South”, we still got there in plenty of time for the first brace. I knew these trial grounds were better suited for running horseback dogs, a lot of “open” ground (in comparison to cover trials) for dogs to range out in pursuit of quail. We showed up, as I was told woodcock and an occasional grouse could be found there- perhaps that’s so but none of the courses seemed to cater to hitting that sort of cover. Pop, extensively ran in thick grouse and woodcock cover – not this type of open ground – along with his square, short coupled build didn’t seem to fit the mold here. And then once the pointers and long-legged setters started getting staked out, I thought we were going to get smoked as we were way out of our element.
At first that feeling seemed to be confirmed walking the first brace. Both dogs’ long legs seemed to just eat ground up without much effort needed. They seemed to be younger dogs however and (friendly) regarded each other a little more than I would want to see. Yet still both were usable. Out of all the pups there, only one was a dog we’d competed with (but never braced with) or I’d judged in the last year. That pup’s owner/handler being just one of the two familiar faces there I knew, and to my knowledge me being the only acquaintance of his there, had us talking a lot of dogs and leaving on a first name basis. (His pup also usable.) But as the braces continued on, largely pending Pop’s reaction and adjustments to this open ground, my confidence was slowly building. Up until Pop’s brace there was only really one dog I knew for certain would probably be in ribbons that couldn’t be denied, and up to that point in blue pending the remaining pups’ efforts. It being a “little” (compared to a field of bigger-than-average pups, used loosely- as it was a nice sized, well put together pup) liver and white pointer female. She was ever-forward, fast working and could turn on a dime; too busy hunting to be aware she had a handful of admires. Being the brace before Pop’s I wasn’t able to tell her handler/owner she was a nice dog until after ours.
Pop was on-deck. I broke off the tail end of that brace to hightail it to the truck to get him ready. I’d all ready had a collar through a bell laying ready by his box and my lead over my shoulder. I don’t know why but I took off his usual collar (red) and put on the bell collar (yellow), I usually leave both on. I snapped my lead and set him on the ground to get over to the line. Pop was particularly fired up, perhaps it was hearing and seeing everything he usually misses at these things when the wind panels are in place on the door blocking all that stimuli out. He “roaded” himself the entire way over to the start of the course, putting me on my heels at times to apply the brakes. He was ready to go, awry as can be nor did he care. In fact I loosened grip (rigid to that point) at one moment only to have him torque my wrist. It was about that time I realized my whistle still sat in the truck. Someone offered to keep Pop while I ran back and got it but knowing it was more restraining than “keeping” I declined.
Now cue the hunting dog critics’ opinions of field trial dogs being wild, unruly or even possessed, etc- so let me clear the air. Utter hogwash. Now I won’t lie, normally if I was hunting or training (bird work related) Pop in that instant, his exuberance would greatly annoy me AND if he wasn’t a puppy I’d quickly have his undivided attention and let him know what was up. Now granted I could do that at this stage but why? Look at the big picture- he’s a year old puppy and year old puppies have adult sized bodies that carry out puppy antics- their minds will catch up. He’s a statue on the table or in a tub when it’s time to get trimmed or bathed. He’ll sleep on your lap but when he’s not home, wearing a bell, in the field and being restrained, he wants to GO now!- that’s the kind of dog I want. With age, and going through the routine, the dog has never been disciplined for its enthusiasm or had its spirit or boldness squashed or hindered in growth. Heavy hands and over management will take something out you can’t put back in. A good visual of the nearly-finished product can be seen here – you’ll see a young Long Gone Zeena (Annie’s mom), as eager as can be. She knows why she’s there but is completely under control. I actually gave her a ride from CT to PA about 6 months after this was shot, she slept on the front passenger seat the entire time and was settled in before we were even out of the driveway. This is just one of endless examples of a “Wild, unruly, or possessed” field trial dog.
Now, with our (good-sized, handsome pointer male) brace mate ready along with the judges, Pop finally settled in for a moment while I was leaning over him waiting for the word. He seemed to know he was about to be let loose. I deferred our exact start to other handler, I just watch their hand on the dogs collar. Both dogs tore straight off and it quickly turned into a drag race. Yes, they blew past a 100 yards of (subpar, snow-matted no-birds-land grass) cover to get to the legitimate-looking bird cover beyond. It was there the two parted ways splitting up on either side of the trail. After Pop got through his pocket of cover he went down into more (a wood line) on our left, he was to the side but equally as forward. We were starting a gradual turn up a hill to the right so I got on him some so he’d pop out and see where we were headed. He looped out in front and powered through a fencerow (as opposed to going through the gap the course trail went through) and dove into the brushy cover on the other (uphill) side of the field we were in. He turned right on a hard turn at the top in the direction the course went but didn’t come out in time to see us make another harder right to go back down the hill, almost doing a 180. I had to really get on him at this point not to lose him behind.
After walking 70 yards or so down the hill still hearing his bell in the cover above, he came out into view right after we took a left turn at the bottom. He came charging down but took an angle that put him well in front instead of coming in from the side or behind. He and his brace mate who was out in front about 70 yards saw each other and tore off again on another short foot race before breaking apart. Pop broke and looped left and made a wide cast working back towards us while his brace mate broke right, hit edge and took it straight away. Pop now back in at about 70 yards and coming towards me, and the course now really running through (until finish) an open field, I angled right towards the wooded cover on the edge of the field and waved my hat. He went that direction and disappeared.
His bell faded quickly in the gusting wind and I thought he ended up off to the side. I got on him, calling, but he wasn’t showing. He was gone long enough for me to start worrying that waiving him into that cover was going to end up being a bad move, but before I could get too far into that question he squirted out into the field way out in front. Whew. Both dogs were working out in front shortly after Pop’s reappearance and both were ordered up now at the end of the course. Both dogs were so big they took longer to round up than the other braces. Pop ran up, actually sniffed a few people watching from the clubhouse up on the hill before keying in on my waiving hat and charging down for me. As he closed in I knelt down to bring him to foot and snag his collar. I thanked the judges quick before wheeling around to put him back in the truck and get to the line to watch the next brace. Shortly after we’d began double-timing it up the hill toward the clubhouse I stopped quick to let Pop know I appreciated the effort (I felt like a kid needing to be reminded to say thank-you) before once again scrambling up the hill. I took his collar off, put him in his box with a full water bowl and went back to the starting line.
I walked the next brace satisfied overall with Pop’s run. If I remember correctly after getting a complement on it from the owner of the “little” liver and white pointer female before I turned the subject on her and that I thought she’d ribbon. When the braces wrapped up, there was a brief break before the shooting dog stake began. Looked like we’d have to wait a while before puppy was announced. I actually think I was one of the few that only had a pup entered and no other dogs along to run. I sat out of the wind in the sun on a picnic table against the clubhouse and watched the final few minutes of each shooting dog stake thinking about everything I’d seen in puppy.
I never place my own dog in my head, and it’s honestly fairly easy not to being a pessimist by nature: I nitpick the run and explain to myself why my dog won’t ribbon… our own worst critic. Today he didn’t handle that first turn as well as he could of..etc. It just makes the winner announcements a lot less nerve-wracking. I had Pop’s brace mate at 1st and the liver and white female at 2nd. Third was not as definitive, perhaps one of the three or four dogs in the first two braces? And I’m serious about never placing my dogs… okay, well I’ll think a 3rd place may be plausible occasionally. When the liver and white pointer was named 3rd I thought Pop was 100% out of it for sure, that’s was possibly his placement. I grew uneasy when Pop’s brace mate was announced as 2nd. Who on earth can they possibly have at 1st?
“And at First Place we have “Tops”, owned by…”
Yeah, they had my name down wrong too, evidently I ran him under the pseudo “Jeff”. (I did make sure I wrote down and left all the correct info for us.) Being an unknown with an unknown pup (no one else ever saw him run or his litter mates) I didn’t anticipate that at all. I knew Pop ran hard and hit cover more than every other pup except for maybe his brace mate, but I was too busy hawk-eyeing Pop in their brace to really keep tabs on the pointer pup. I have that owner to thank for the photo below, taken with his phone… I forgot to hand mine over. Pop’s litter of 5 males, now have three winning dogs with a total of at least seven placements, and all are still considered puppies until June 30th. At any rate, I think I’ll keep running that bright yellow collar on him.
About a week ago Pop was hobbling around on three good legs with one week ago today marking the entry deadline for the Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic. I decided to scratch Pop from the entry and save the fee, as honestly I haven’t had a dog hobble around to the severity he was in some time. I had some Novox remaining from Annie’s tailbreak debacle so he got in three of those doses before he didn’t seem to be needing it anymore. . . post-draw of course. So with no commitment made to puppy classic at the revered trial grounds of the Flanagan’s (home of Grouse Ridge Kennel) we loaded up into the grouse wagon and headed due west to camp… yes Pop too several hundred miles out of judgement.
We weren’t in a big hurry, we got up there around 10am or so and it was already starting to warm up. We pulled off the road and parked sooner than normal to hit a patch of cover that always seems to hold birds – grouse that is. The little recovering pup was himself pulled and readied first. He tore off down the road before jumping into the cover on the left I cut in to as I’ve become accustomed to him working back his first stretch back towards me. He came back in and then went out to work again somewhere between 10 and 2 o’clock at 60-90 yards before stretching back out in front. I know so many books out there focus on teaching the dog how to run a hunting pattern. Perhaps some of the continental/versatile breeds that have some more hound type trailing tendencies may need that, but early on I’d heard that a forward, pocket-working pattern is a hereditary trait and the cover dog guys seemed to target it in there breedings some time ago. (There are a few cover lines out there that were known to loop back around and hunt to the sides however.) I suppose if I had to point the finger at dog behind Pop to attribute his natural tendency to keep forward, it’d have to go to Wire, who was known to be forward (among other things) and passed it onto his progeny. At this point, Pop’s wearing a long-range bell with a heavy clapper for his increasingly bigger casts. At this point it was right around 60°F, full sun, no breeze, and Pop still sporting his winter coat. He started to shorten up at the 20 minute mark. We walked the road back to the truck, Pop running back in on small casts along the road as he felt the extra urge or after we’d pass and he’d be in a puddle. – It was so warm I didn’t want to put him on the lead and have him at heel on the way back.(That also gave him the opportunities to drop into the puddles.) There were no birds. Which, thinking about afterward, it made sense where we were. We were in high stem, but little weather cover, and it had rained pretty hard the afternoon and night before. Something that didn’t register before I ran Blaze either.
Blaze was ran at the same place. Pop was ran deeper and farther back to keep clear of the road, it’s a closed -off, no thru traffic road, but I don’t even like to give pups the opportunity to squirt out onto it with my thought process being – if you don’t want “traily” dogs, don’t even give them the opportunity to develop that habit. But blaze, older and brand new all age (turns 3 in June), having not been handled from big trails or roads at younger, more impressionable develop stages (like Pop is now) stays off the road and in the cover, he hits the road edge and turns back in. Much of his run I just walked the road. He ran nice and stayed forward. Honestly I was running him to handle just as much as get in any potential bird work. Of course after all this talk of him not running trails or roads the time he did actually point was from the road. I went in to try and put something up, but I did not. There was a few grouse droppings in an open pocket underneath a laurel bush. I released him to see if he’d relocate. He was birdy in the nice patch of laurel I’d just traipsed through but he didn’t linger too long before moving on. An unproductive but not a complete waste, he smelled bird and he was mannerly throughout. The temperature was still rising and he made it to just over 35 minutes before he shortened up. I never understood the disdain at which the (english) pointer guys call setters “shags”, their hair was just longer and they’ve feathers, so what? And then I got a “shag”. Blaze… his coat- really thick and really long. Even when shaved to 1/2″ length and soaking wet, it’s hard to see his hide. After his “Hey, it’s really hot out.” revelation, the first puddle he found had him wallowing like a bull elk. Something he also does after being sprayed for ticks, getting a bath, of in fresh powder in the late season. All unashamed exfoliation for him.
I put Blaze away and headed to the main part of camp, the gathering place, ate lunch and burned though a few rounds of pistol cartridges and shotgun shells. After running in some prime real estate on top and coming up birdless I thought I’d drop into the hollows, into the shade and along all the hollow runs and small brooks. I pulled Tipper next. By the time we got down into water he was ready for it, he got his fill and went back to work. 15 minutes in his bell was silent. He was down below me, a small hollow in the bottom of a larger hollow working cover along a brook. I headed down in after him and looked for a few minutes, I couldn’t find him. Still no bell. As I thought I was getting too far forward I circle back but went in a little deeper. A bird burst out of a pine off to my right. “Whoa!” – a knee-jerk reaction as his bell didn’t even tinkle. The GunX barked and I circle back a little further yet to find my dog- up on a shelf between the brook-bottom and the higher shelf I was on originally. It put him about eye level with where the bird went from. On we went.
About ten minutes later his bell stopped again, this time he was much easier to spot. I walked down in to find him in a fairly open section along the brook with tall pines on each side. There wasn’t much cover to kick, I walked a wide loop while looking up into the lower pine limbs. Nothing seen or heard and with his intensity subsided I released him to continue on. I walked back to pickup my camera I set down, jumped the brook and got up on the other side of the bank and crawled up onto a parallel flat, as my head crested the grade I came eye level to running bird 25 feet out or so. I managed to snap a shot before it burst away. Tipper was long gone so I didn’t even bother to pull the GunX. Evidently the bird was near the edge when Tipper rolled in. We circled back around towards the ridge top the truck was on. At that point the heat was starting to get to me as well, in fact I saw the head of a deer that may have found the climb as troubling and just gave up ( pictured at the end). Honestly it took probably 3x’s as long to get back up to the top as it did getting down. We both watered up and finished off a ham sandwich, I’m not one to share lunch with dogs but this sandwich wasn’t much cooler than the inside of the very warm truck (windows up) – the kids’ pink lunch bag with rainbow unicorn design was insulated about as well as you’d expect from a $7 Walmart job – don’t judge, it was handy and I was in a hurry. (Santa still has yet to bring me option #9 from this list.)
Spent with the temperature now over 70ºF, the truck was now headed home. Annie just road along for the torture, watching and listening to everyone else run. She’ll get her time back but there was some retribution… at home when I walk to the kennels with chaps on or I’m wearing a hat, she knows we’re headed somewhere- while all the boys run around the yard and have marking wars and empty out she’s bouncing around at voluntary heel waiting for the first chance she has to get into an open box on the truck. Totally disregards any bathroom thoughts. I never pulled her out of the truck and I paid for it. Thankfully, I’ve got removable “bad dog” mats in the topper and she has a short memory and no capacity for grudges. That is one very convenient thing about the Easy Loader Kennels here, they unbolt apart and can be cleaned easily and throughly. The dogs don’t care for the act of exiting the truck topper but they are liking the times on trips where the Easy Loaders are taken along (stored underneath nested together, which also work as nice storage bays for bags and gear and slide in and out), they’re brought along to bring the dogs in at night. (One’s always on standby at the house anyway.)
Afternoon, the results had long been on for the winners of the puppy classic. As the truck rolled into cell service on the ride home the phone began to buzz with texts. One had a picture, but several people let me know about Pop’s littermates Penns Rattler Raider and Hatchet Jack that took 3rd and 4th place in the Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic that Pop was supposed to be in, pre-injury. At any rate it’s an early indication that it was a good breeding and will be a good litter (5 males) as Pop has shown he’s got the makeup to contend and he’ll get another crack at one or two (puppy stakes) before the spring trial season is over and he turns derby-age July 1st. Interestingly I had thought about taking Raider . . . but decided to go with Pop. I was dead even one them but Pop found the corner of the yard fence that had quail just on the other side, that was the “tie-breaker”. Evidently either choice would have been a good way to go. Had I had an opening, they both might be with me now. Three of the four winners at the classic were under my judgement earlier this year, two of them I used for placements.
I had Pop out yesterday. I loaded up Blaze, Annie and him to head out to an area I run dogs at occasionally. Annie and Blaze were run first, and separately. Pop was out of his box last and placed him on the tailgate like the other two. I got a bell and e-collar on him but before putting him down saw he was on three legs. Sigh. I snapped a lead on him and set him down to see what was going on. He was heavily favoring his rear right leg. Knowing these dogs have a higher pain tolerance and their 1-10 scale is basically 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 7, 8, 9, 10: I picked him up and put him away to stew over our predicament. We were slated to run in the 67th Grand National Grouse Futurity Puppy Classic . . . and had by 1pm Monday (today) to scratch before the draw. I just sent word we’d be out (via email- I mean just sent it, if it was a handwritten the ink would still be wet.) as after a few doses on Rimadyl, he’s improved a little but I know he won’t be 100% and Rimadyl only addresses the symptoms… not the problem. He’s going to be limited to his run for at least a week.
The very best case scenario has us in two more trials he can run in this spring. Neither hold the prestige of the Puppy Classic but I guess at this point even just running in these other two is what we’re hoping for. Tipper had a similar issue two years ago but he never favored his leg as much as Pop was. (Thankfully our vet is very practical (it took us a while to find one of those), and won’t take us to the cleaners with radiographs and soft tissue imagery right out of the gate as nothing is broken on swollen. Having multiple dogs and being a frequent flier, we probably won’t even have to darken his office door. Rest and Rimadyl for the week and a reevaluation the next.)
Ideally an open shooting dog stake will turn up for the older dogs as well. This is precisely why I say it’s better to have more than one dog. You just never know what’s in store for you that will shut a dog down (for months?) but that’s just the way the game is played and happens to all if you’re in it long enough.
We are now on Instagram, we go by (the username) Grousedogs there. Most of our hashtags are #grousedogs #grousehunting #coverdogs #woodcockhunting #grousepuppies .
What the heck is Instagram? Essentially, it’s a simple photo sharing (social media) website. You have a username and post photos (all squared) and tag them with hashtags like those mentioned above to make them easier to find when searching for various photo subject matter. Frankly, something called InstaHAM would have me more fired up and excited to hear more about but Instagram should serve this site well.
If you’re not on Instagram, another way this affects the site is on the Photo page. We’ve revamped the old, un-clickable icons to a Instagram gallery that can be added to and updated easily and while out on the road. It’s still being updated with photos, and will include many that just don’t make the blog or our Facebook or Twitter pages. Opening photos within in the gallery will get streamlined before to long, right now they open in a sub-site of Instagram and include a goofy ad. But thanks to the site sponsors there’s a means to get rid of these ads.
The weekend had two trips in store for me both out farther west of me in PA. The weekend started out Friday night by attending Woodcock Limited’s annual dinner, it’s sort of the high-water mark of their woodcock weekend between a board meeting and habitat workshop. It may’ve well been the last one to be held in PA for a few years as there’s talk of rotating through a few different states. The meal was excellent
and prepared by the staff at the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park. In between entrees and desert, most attendees were standing out on the patio listening and peering for glimpses of four singing male woodcock in a patch of cover stretching across the front of the inn (closed to hunting all year). The featured speaker was Tom Cooper who may be described as sort of a funnel that all woodcock studies anywhere in the nation pass through at some point.
Saturday didn’t hold a lot in store. It poured all day long. Pop got a bath, a finely-combed de-burring (as opposed to the normal post-run once-over), and his nails and feet feathering trimmed. -The purpose two-fold… the bottoms to prevent snow/ice build up and the the tops for a perception of speed under judgement. I don’t think many make a cognizant mental note about it, but overly furry feet sort of provide the perception of a slower working dog whether you’re actually watching them run or not. Furry feet only ever really seem to get “bad” enough during cold winters or inactivity (prevalent in old, retired dogs). In this case, Pop’s furry feet were subject to the cold. After all that “primping” he was fed his heavy meal mid-day, usually done in the evening, so he’d have plenty of time to empty out before his brace the next day. (No sense wasting time in the brace… catch that pun?)
Sunday came earlier than normal at 4:30 a.m, Pop and I weren’t on the road until 5:30. We hit snow on the way there and arrived just as the first brace began. As we were getting our bearings I missed the second brace as well. I walked the next four braces (3-6) and skipped the seventh to be ready as we were running in the eighth. I’d judged the stake our bracemate was in the week before, it had a big motor and got lost on a hard turn about 1/3 of the way in taking it out of judgment. I thought this pup would be a good combo for Pop. What I didn’t anticipate was the creeping pace, I let the other (Pro) handler take the lead and the pace we went
the first 1/3 of the run was about half the speed of all the other braces were walked. I pretty sure there was strategy behind it, his pup had a big motor and I think he may’ve been trying to let her burn out a tad so it’d shorten up and actually been seen a few times. Panic slowly started building with each step we take which was equally as slow in fact both judges were about on my heels. I’d been setting Pop up for a 20 minute (puppy-stake length) runs ever since grouse season closed so he wouldn’t putz and a sense of urgency would be built so he’d expend everything he wanted to while it was his turn to run and looked eager and forward from start to finish. I was worried he might shorten up at the end if we started to run over time.
The other pup’s bell faded off shortly after the start. Having the other handler “singing” (really loud, one of the reasons I let him lead) seemed to bother Pop and keep him short for the first minute or two, he got over it and stretched way out front. There was probably a 4-5 minute window where neither pups’ bell could be heard over the steady breeze that was blowing. About 6 or 7 minutes in, a call came over the radio to one of the judges that Pop’s bracemate had circled back to the starting point. This left the handler to slow even further and call back over to the pup’s direction to our left. At that point I stepped out in front and continued on at a normal pace, not to trying to leave purposely leave him behind but I had my own pup to handle and I had Pop far out in front even though I hadn’t been hearing his bell. The other pup, now being essentially out of judgement, had ended it’s handlers singing, something that I took up sparingly. I was listening for his bell which would turn up soon after out in front just left of center.
He continued to work out at that range, doing his job, so I continued only “singing” occasionally. About halfway through he came in tight on sort of an s-curve the gallery was on, while mid-curve. He moved to the front and side, which in that instant was the right thing to do, but when we finished the curve out it placed him behind and at that time he was running to create some separation. When I saw what was happening I had to blast a “Hey Pop!” (or whatever dog’s name I’m running) to get his (their) attention. He saw he was now behind and got back out in front rather quick. I don’t think that hurt him a bit. He puttered around in front a moment or two, which I think honestly was only until he realized what direction we were definitely headed, he stretched and stayed forward but wasn’t at the range he had began. Now he was in and out of sight but he was working back and forth in the pocket. Since he wasn’t as far forward there was an instant or two on a slight turn where he’d be to the side, a “hup!” was given to turn and get him back in front and in that regard he handled perfectly, moving the direction he needed to each time. I do believe he may shape up to be the nicest handling dog here.
His shortened range 2/3 of the way through wasn’t short enough to be detrimental, but it wasn’t memorable either as he was in and out of sight about 50/50 (still well out of gun range). Up until that point I felt he only really needed to show one more bigger cast the last few minutes to make a strong case for placement. To that point I had been handling him more than I normally do to make sure he didn’t get to the side or behind (handling in excess, something I don’t like to do as I think it tends to shorten a dog up), and it came down to a dice roll that ended up not panning out. The choices were either coaxing him (vocally) out front which would have possibly backfired and brought him in closer (the whistle blasts earlier didn’t do much to push him forward and I use a loud whistle, which overly used shrill whistles are about as annoying as the continual screamer-handler, I didn’t want that to have a potential negative conveyance on the judges so I ruled the whistle out.) OR leaving him be, not saying anything and hopefully he’d stretch back out on this own. It was in these critical minutes that he twice came back in from a mid-range cast stopping while looking back (within in the judges view) to see where I was, the second instance within shotgun range albeit in heavy cover… not how we needed to end. Had we started the brace at a regular pace this may’ve not had happened. – Perhaps I missed a small window to sing at that moment to keep him at that distance at least or possible push him out further. – So at the end we left the course not expecting a placement, it being a big field of 18 pups, it was just too large to expect to squeak out of the situation our last few minutes put us in. It was a scenario I’d be able to chew on and think of some possible solutions to on the way home, particularly when the interstate pace turned into a slow crawl (due to a wreck) on the way home. We still drove home feeling good about what we’d shown and will make a tweak or two. He’ll be run again, hopefully sooner rather than later.
At any rate it was gratifying to see two longtime, old veteran cover dog trialers place the same two pups at 1st and 2nd that I did the week before.
I ran Pop for the last time before we head to a trial this weekend in the middle of the Allegheny National Forest. Essentially, I’ve just been letting him roll; a lot of hands-off, no handling. Our practice course at home has one hard turn and we hit it just right last night, he ended up popping out in front shortly after the turn and stretched back out farther up front. His tail looked good. If he puts an effort down like that this weekend, that’s all I can ask for. Our brace draw isn’t ideal, we’re next to last but thankfully I’ll get to walk and learn the course (and walk all the braces I feel the contenders will be in), Pop isn’t a dog-crap connoisseur- there’s sure to be plenty of it 14-16 dogs in, and the pup he’s braced with is a big goer- she ran herself out of judgement at the trial I was judging last weekend. She was lost on a turn about halfway through and did not finish. Pop should have plenty of time to empty himself out and water up before he’s ran.
As we hit the access road again, I called Pop in and walked him on a lead back towards the truck. About halfway there a truck rolled to a stop along side us. The driver had a familiar face and the co-pilot and orange white face with feathered ears. It was an older half-sister to Pop, Full Impact. They were also out getting in a tune-up in before the weekend trial. Pop will rest up tonight, while his owners (whether my wife embraces that title or not) head to the annual Woodcock Limited fundraising dinner banquet, as well as tomorrow but probably get a bath and a nail trim in. All three pups I placed in the West Branch Grouse Trial are entered in this one. It’ll be a quality win for one pup.
Last night Pop, Tipper and I loaded up and headed down the road to a nice open tract of woods, we weren’t expecting to finds bird in it but were anticipating a nice 25-30 minute run to brush up on staying forward while making some near 90 degree turns in direction. I suppose it was just as much brush up work for me as it was them. Having watched and judged a slew of Pop’s peers this past Saturday I was pretty pleased with how he looked and ran. I also think he shape up nicely into a finished dog whether mine or someone else’s… I expect the former.
Without birds, there wasn’t a whole lot of action, the wind was a hair gusty and both dogs stretch the limits of long-range bells as it is so Pop ended up with the usual long range bell and Tipper ended up with one that had the amish kids in the valley wondering why the school bell was ringing during supper hour. Both dogs still managed to skirt out of audible range for a few minutes. I hadn’t run dogs in this patch since early this past fall when my nine year old daughter and I had two pups, one Pop and a pointer in there running (the pointer I’ve since parted ways with). I was only reminded of that when I came across a cheap blue nylon dog lead my daughter lost there… which is precisely why she was given the cheap blue lead.
At 28 minutes I called Tip and Pop back in and connected them at either end of a lead. They are in better shape than I predicted. We had a 1/2 mile impromptu heel command refresher on the way back to where the truck was parked. Pop did well even though I really don’t start heel until derby age. I’ve come to like pups brazen at a level most hunters would find intolerable which, has nothing to do with how they’re bred, but how OR how they’re not obedience trained. They only time it bothers me is while getting them belled before a run. At home, they know the routine and are plenty affable. I loaded them back up and sat in the truck for a few minutes, there was still quite a bit of daylight remaining and I decided to swing into a spot quick to prospect for some woodcock with Tipper.
After re-belling and collaring Tipper, a short walk had us in some prime woodcock habitat. It was less than a minute after that he was on point. He’ll be four in about two weeks, I wasn’t anticipating trouble on woodcock manners. As I began to circle in from out to his side I heard his bell jingle. “Whoa!”, it stopped. I got in a flushed what I would guess was a big hen. He took a few steps and had to be whoa’d again. The GunX barked, he took a few more, “Whoa”, e-collar zap (to get his attention, not punishment) and I walked up to him growled whoa at him again. Granted he’s been out of the mix on birds for about two months with the ice and crust, but broke is broke, and he’s almost four… “the bar don’t bend at this point”. I saw the area where the bird flew and dropped back down into. I made Tipper remain steady as I went over to re-flush it. Surprisingly, I walked right into it and it started running back in the direction of Tipper (this wouldn’t have been a good bird for a young) unfinished dog. I corralled it pretty good back within about the same distance he initially pointed before walking swiftly in and put it back up. It flew directly over him about 10′ above. He never moved even through the GunX crack. He had zero style though as he was just earlier put under pressure. This was the same patch we limited out in one evening 2 seasons earlier when he handle three flight birds.
After a stroke or two and his release 70 yards later his pace slowed and his tail began cranking, he was working something. Now out of sight, his bell stopped. I walked in to find him in an awkward stance very intense. I snapped a photo and went into flush. I was looking for a bird and saw a clump of feathers. A step further and I saw the heads of two male Bobwhites one on the left of the clump, the other one the right. In disbelief I tried to snap a few iPhone photos. As I walked in further the males darted, tto females then scattered as well, a covey of four birds. Not one flushed, they all took off running. Tipper creeped some more and had to be “barked” at again, four “wild” (not in a bird launcher or at the house) birds took off running in all directions 6′ from the tip of his nose, wheels vibrating ready to come off. But it didn’t end up in a manner-meltdown Not getting one up I released him to relocate and try to pin one. The male he had trailed would have none of it and rocketed off. Frankly, I’ve never seen a quail takeoff that fast and that strong. He stopped to flush and I walked him out at heel scratching my head to sit in the truck and rehash it all and study phone pictures before I turned the engine over and rolled home. What it all amounted to with him was revealing an incentive to keep quail, chukar and homers this summer to present, particularly he and the older dogs different scenarios. I suppose this spring will have me build a third loft, specifically for chukar.
I spent much of this past Saturday judging the puppy stake for the West Branch Grouse Trial Club. I did start the day showing up later than I wanted to… to watch the first brace of all-age (AA), which had a setter I wanted to watch. I missed it, but I did get to walk and watch the dogs brace that ended up winning it. For puppy, it ended up being good pool of pups to watch. Unlike the derby and AA stakes judging puppy is different, birds are a non-factor. I’d liken it to somewhat of a scouting combine, pups are putting down an effort but the game isn’t really being played. I’m not suggesting puppy is harder to judge than a derby or all-age stake by saying this, but birds and the ensued contacts can allot judges the occasional easier-to-make decision between two appearing-evenly, shown dogs- for instance if one had a one more find than the other in an otherwise evenly perceived effort, the nod should go to the extra bird. Thankfully on this day, each pup made it a clear case as to if they belonged in ribbons, and even where they belonged in ribbons. There were some honorable mentions I would’ve given, pups I do hope to see again regardless of whether I’m running against them or judging them. And I’m sure for those who walked the braces on the pups that placed, there was no surprises when the winners were announced.
At the end of the day it left me driving out wondering where Pop would’ve ended up in the mix. I’d thought about taking him along to run afterward, which I somewhat regret not doing. What I did do though was pack up Blaze and Annie and stopped on the way home to run each of them for a short time in an area I thought would have some returning woodcock.
The old, reliable grouse wagon churned down the road with two anxious dogs in the back. Driving by the area in mind I found a big muddy flat, with brushy areas that ebbed and flowed through on the higher spots filled with Silky Dogwood (a woodcock favorite). Bingo, I thought. I parked, grabbed the tick spray concentrated specifically for the dogs (and my chaps), a loud bell (it was gusting all day) and an e-collar. I dropped the tailgate, pulled Blaze and set him on the former to spray, bell and collar. I set him on the ground and let him loose, down into the slup we went, heavy camera over shoulder and GunX trainer on hip. 5 minutes in Blaze’s bell would cease.
On my way to Blaze’s last bell clap I was quickly educated that the area wasn’t all dogwood, much of the cover and tangle had “teeth” and being so dry those teeth had zero give and tore me up. I must admit, it’s in this particular type of cover I may have a somewhat irrational fear of losing pieces of ear(s) – it’s always on my mind as I’m boring through it and occasionally peeling off what may tear up more than I’m willing allow. I got in on Blaze and put up nothing, and he was in a good spot that I was expecting something but deep in the nasty stuff I didn’t bother to look for signs of drillings or splash, I’d already spent enough time in the crap so on we went. It was about 5 minutes later he’d stop again.
This time he was in more dogwood than anything, all though he himself was not in it at the time. I came in from his left and snapped a quick photo, then moved more in front of him to where it looked he had a bird. I heard what I though was ‘peep, peep!’, then Blaze’s bell, split second lull, followed by the whistling wings of a woodcock. Blaze broke and had to be steadied up, collar corrected and made to stand a might longer. As I went up to release him I saw a small feather hand from his whisker. No doubt it was a woodcock feather, seemingly a smaller on near the first hinge. The bird had to be within an arms length of his snout, literally right under his nose. I believe he got teeth on it, the peeping be it’s first to wingbeats before Blaze contested. I suppose it was too tempting to just watch. I wish I not zoomed in as tightly, I may’ve otherwise got the bird in as well. The wind had been gusting hard all day (which did slightly hamper picking up the occasional dog bell all day) and Blaze about ran the next one over with the wind blowing hard in the direction of his tail to his nose. That one had him being steadied up and collar-corrected again. In the dogs defense, it was his first wild bird run in months and his official make or break breaking doesn’t begin until probably May. He’s happy, loves birds, loves to please, and knows whoa, he’s ready for the pressure of being finished on birds.
I put up a third and final bird while he was out in front later on when we were heading back to the truck. 3 birds in about 35 minutes. After we loaded back up I drove down the road to another spot to put Annie down in. Honestly I was ready to call it a day but like fishing where you need to have a line in the water to catch fish, you also need to have a dog down to get them into birds. I gave her 15 minutes in an area that ended seeming too wet (pictured). No birds, she was still glad to be out and I was able to drive home feeling better having done so. Hopefully we’ll get into some more action tonight. Tonight is Pop’s turn, may pair Tipper up with him.
We really missed most of the woodcock flight last spring, we did time up one evening well, but that was about it. Determined not to miss it this year we began early and didn’t wait for the majority of the snow to melt, we just went south. The past weekend was a bust as far a woodcock was concerned. To much snow in areas we could access so we turned around and headed home with a stop to scout an area that would hold woodcock sans snow, but also possibly have some wild pheasant lurking. One of which we did find.
After a few days of temperatures in the 50s paired with a couple nights that didn’t drop below freezing, the snow was about gone in areas the sun readily hits. Another plus was turning the clocks forward to get that extra hour of daylight after work. I loaded Annie and Pop and headed out to a local place that woodcock seem to make a pit-stop at or even take up residence. Pop was pulled and belled first. The two priorities for him are getting into woodcock, and beginning to handle a little better. Getting into birds didn’t appear to happen all though I honestly can’t say for sure that he didn’t bump one, he gets out there pretty good. As far as handling goes, Mr. Edison’s preferred medium had to be used for convincing Pop a time or two to turn the direction I was heading. He was hearing but disregarding. Zap. He didn’t shorten much but did seem to get the message, he began responding to hard calls for a change of course.
It was 10 seconds into his run we encountered our first woodcock for 2014, not ten yards from the parking lot. Pop never heard, saw or smelled a feather, he was 70 yards down the old lane still creating separation after being “let out of the gate” a few seconds earlier. I’d had my camera on him while he tore away when that unmistakable wing-whistle started its familiar tune. It lifted out of a fencerow right beside me. I spun and hoped the continuous autofocus wouldn’t have fits with the tree branches in front and behind the bird. (It did okay as it wasn’t a disaster but sure didn’t shine.) Hopefully the first of many this spring. Pop got about a half-hour in before we loaded up and went down the road to put Annie down.
On our way through, we got behind another truck (tailgate down) that had a familiar looking double-doored grey box in the bed. They pulled over to let me pass which I wasted no time in doing, I mean after all, they could’ve been heading to “my” spot. This was Annie’s first run since she broke her tail mid-December. I think it’s safe to say the bones has healed completely, it’s a complete non-issue now thankfully. A critical piece of advice came in an email from Lloyd Murray (Long Gone Setters and coincidently Annie’s breeder), about watching for any hint of possible infection whether the skin was ever broken or not. Upon one (daily) inspection I noticed a yellowy-green scape on the breaks swollen lump and got a prescription from the vet over the phone. That seemed to really turn the tables on it and expedite it healing.
We hit some really, really nice pockets of cover yet no amount of expectant-anticipation of a woodcocks presence came to fruition. She’d finished her run birdless, muddy and as fulfilled as ever despite the lack of birds, it’s been a long three months of limitation for her. It’s good to have her back in the thick of things.
We’ve heard that a few are a finding returning woodcock, we went out this past weekend and found none. I would venture to guess that in you have access to land in the southern end of the state that slopes gradually to the south (no snow) or lots of seeps and no snow, there’s probably some birds to find there. We took an hour and half trip south and hit snow, didn’t even get out to run a dog as it was 4-6″ deep and relatively solid. We spent most of the day riding around trying to find a decent chuck of state ground that didn’t have much snow. We never did.
After heading about an hour back up north we stopped and I pulled Pop. Just to get him out and running again. The snow was still deep, but it was pliable here. It looked like pheasant “country”. Due to the heavy snow, there wasn’t much in the way of overgrown grass fields but it had a fair amount of multiflora rose and other invasives that due in a pinch for them. Pop was down for about a half hour and with the hard going through the snow it may’ve just been more like a 45 minute to 1 hour equivalent. There were some tweeties that gave him pause once or twice and a wild hen did as well. We he stopped she ran out of the patch of cover they were in and took off down a narrow clearing.
We’re all sick of the frozen tundra at this point. It’s supposed to be 52 and 56 today and tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll all be gone by Wednesday. Cue rubber boots for the muddy mess that’s sure to ensue.
Congratulations are in order to our friends at RST Shotshells on their new streamlined website. Couldn’t imagine shooting anything better over the dogs whether it’s a modern double or vintage gun.
For us, hunting season has been over for nearly a month. The dogs have had a considerable amount of time off and it’s time to start putting some work in again. Unfortunately there’s a hard crusting of snow right now, the kind the dogs don’t break through. Now I’m not one to shy away from doing work in the snow but this is the sort of condition that cancel trials, cut pads, and can create slips and slides that can tear soft tissue. Ultimately what we’re left with right now is our thoughts, our appetites (meals being the highlight of our day currently) and a little bit of yard training. There’s a real possibility of heading “south” for a quail hunt, a 28ga. double just made it’s way to our house to be shortened down for the womenfolk here but I think I may need to put it through it’s paces first. 7.5 shot RST Shells will be in order. Getting a few younger dogs on a day of quail is something that would be a perfect warmup for the woodcock that will be returning in a month or so (watch for robins, they eat worms too) as well as the trial season.
Popinjay has had his Grand National Grouse Futurity paperwork sent in to keep him eligible to run in the 70th Grand National Puppy Classic in New Oxford, NY (this year). We’ll see what the spring has in store for Pop, he’ll be getting the bulk of the woodcock work this spring and Blaze and Annie will round out the rest.
Thinking about trialing your dog?
It happens once a year, one excursion I don’t take any notes on… I wait to jot it down here (weeks later) and what I end with is the Cliff Notes version.
It had been awhile, since the trip north in November, down two dogs this time. Carrie the pointer pup moved more than 200 miles NE, placed with a field trialer who runs pointers. Annie with her broken tail, on the injured reserve roster. I was told that each time the truck took off down the road with just three of the four Easy Loader Kennel bays full, she’d voice her displeasure for several minutes knowing she was left marooned. The dogs along were Tipper, Pop, Blaze, Roscoe and Jagger, a boys only trip.
It was frigid, to the point of the rain-guns being brought out and used incase the, at times, sub-zero temps made the gun buttstocks brittle and prone to crack or split on recoil. There was some snow, not enough for the birds to really snow roost but enough to allow them to make good use of snow-enclosed windbreaks under younger hemlocks as well as create nice little pockets up against downed trees, stumps and drumming logs. We got a late start, sometime just before noon I believe. Roscoe was ran first down through the middle of the slashings. He complete it with a solid find on a bird in an older rotting, downed treetop. I’d gotten off to the side, so far of in fact I didn’t hear the 16ga. pump’s ‘chick-shick’ between shots on the bird, misses. Frankly I was impressed there was a followup going from a double to a pump cold turkey.
Blaze started his day off with an unproductive down in the bottom, we wrapped up by coming back and running him through a portion of the slashings, opposite to what Roscoe did, Blaze sort of complete a figure-8 for them. We did have one bird pop up out of the snow behind us and land on one of the bottom limbs still 10′ up a white pine before taking off, darting away. We watched it sail off.
Jagger, who took a 2nd and 3rd place ribbons as a leggy dog in predominantly short-legged-dog trials was ran next. We headed up the main road on the ridge, mostly covered by mostly shin high laurel which is something a leggier dog can handle with better ease than the shorter-legged sort. It has it’s pockets of nice, younger growth that hold birds. It always helps if the dog has some extra fire as there’s sections of that continual shin-high laurel that will still make for some tough going and a passive, older dog or younger puppy will not be able to help themselves from squirting out on the road to get out of it in some portions. Here’s where the events suffer from the Cliff Notes version… I know there was more than one bird moved on his run. He did have a point on a bird out in the pocket shortly after we’d made a hard turn. As we dredged up through the snow the bird went out behind some heavy cover and we found it’s tracks that appeared as though it wasn’t a sitting/settled bird. A lot of the birds at this time of the year up there aren’t new to the game and yet the bird wasn’t pushed enough to flush until we got there and put the extra pressure on it.
Tipper was ran next right down into the main hollow. He wasn’t seen of most of his run (neither were most of the others) but he seemed to be going pretty big and popped out ahead working the side of a southeastern ridge side. It was off that ridge he dropped down deeper into the hollow and his bell went silent. No GPS collar, we actually ended up coming down in just above him and had two go up one after the other that stayed low behind the pines offering no shot. As we continued down in Tipper broke and went to continue on bumping a third. No shot taken.
By the time we got back up out the sun was going down fast, and as a result, Pop wasn’t put down. I’d run him the following week, first out of the truck in the best cover for a tad longer than usual to try and make it up.
On a side note, another trip is planned north this fall for a (to quote my wife) “long week” of dog running and bird hunting. At tad later this year I must admit that I didn’t check the cover dog trial schedule… hopefully I didn’t create conflict. It sounds as if there’ll be at least one serious prospect added to mix as well. As one bird hunter of a different lot is known for saying, it’s all happy, happy, happy.
As I mentioned on here a while ago, Annie’s tail was somehow broken, about 2/3rds of the way out. It was done within PA’s deer season, so she either did it in her dog door, or while out roaming the yard with the others… I even have my suspicions Pop may have been involved, he plays rough. Of course it had to happen to the most stylish dog (style meaning on point, when I think of ‘class(y)’ I think of how the dog runs/moves- gait, ect). This is the first time I’ve had to deal with a broken tail. You ask around and eventually learn every tail break seems a little different. Time will tell how it heals and ends up. It appears it may very well remain straight on birds, I hope so. I’m beginning to get the feeling by watching her that she may have lost some of the feeling in it. Hopefully that won’t lead to the tip getting torn, trashed and bloody on a continual basis or have her pull that last 1/3rd of it on birds as that would be a crying shame. The vet said to keep the splint off as it would inhibit blood flow and the healing process. As an afterthought I don’t know if he really has a grasp on the job of a setter tail… always cracky only ever completely still on birds or while asleep. That freedom of movement may have cost her some nerve endings and created some additional scar tissue. She’s about halfway through a 21 day regimen of antibiotics and well as Rymadyl. If this all has a significant adverse affect on her, what an injustice it’ll be…