The Friday after Christmas I had the day off and fully intent on hunting grouse for the day. With Annie’s broken tail the other three dogs and I headed off without her, her Easy Loader Kennel bay empty with me wondering where to wander for birds. The 5-6″ of fresh snow that fell the day before was still unsettled and fluffy, I didn’t envision that birds where going to be very mobile and would either be on the limbs of white pine or at their bases and those of hemlocks.
I ran Blaze in an area that was clearcut 15 years ago or so that for whatever reason the white pines were left standing, the area also had patches of laurel as well. The snow was still heavy in the trees and didn’t seemed phased by the gusting wind. While working up a small rise on a ridge while just out in front I saw Blaze point at the rise’s peak before it dropped back down. As I closed in I saw he wasn’t real intense and as I got near him he started to release himself, and looked like he wasn’t smelling bird anymore. I whoa’d him as I had come at little out of my way his direction for the flush and thought I’d at least use the chance to reinforce some whoa training. I walked out maybe 15 feet in front of him in a semi-circle, my attention on him when I heard a flap behind me. I spun around and saw a bird making it’s way through a stand of white pines behind me. I mounted the gun and had no real presence of mind where I was pointing it in relation to the bird but just remember seeing the bird. The gun recoiled light and I saw the bird hit the ground and stand on it’s feet and scamper away, I stood perplexed I connected for an instant before the question of what to do next about the bird. Blaze saw this and tore off in pursuit, not a good scenario for a dog that’s supposed to be in the process of being broke. I knew I wasn’t going to catch it let alone even get a bead on it, so I “looked the other way”. He was on it quick and it was an easy catch. When I saw he had it I made my way towards him and called him over. He turned my direction, looked at me and took a step or two, then he dropped the bird and sort of went back to work but putzing around nearby. His broke training evidently being an afterthought for him (at the sight of me) and tried too act like it didn’t happen. I grabbed the bird, put in the bag and steadied him back up again before releasing him to make our way back towards the truck.
Pop ran so big he got himself lost, I know this because I stood on the ridge above him and watched him run back and forth on an old skid trail below me stopping at each end for a moment to listen for me. He went out just shy of 500 yards and dropped from one road down over a ridge and eventually onto another, perhaps forgetting about his descent and thinking he was still on the same road we started on. I followed his tracks in the snow and they showed no signs of slowing the first 400 yards. Imagine that on a trial course with a couple turns on it and you can imagine what maybe required vocally to keep him going the right direction.
None of them had real long runs as they’d all be out doing the same thing again the following day.