Orso Finally Got It!

We went hunting in Central Nebraska this past weekend.  The original plan was to hunt pheasant but there were no pheasant, so it was decided that we would hunt quail instead.  Pheasant are not an especially hardy bird at the best of circumstances and with the severe drought have not fared well at all.  Now since it was determined that quail was the only option to hunt I decided to forgo carrying a shotgun and carry a camera instead.  I am not fast enough to shoot quail.  On the occasions we have flushed a covey of quail in past hunting trips, I was always startled at the delicate fluttering of birds and as soon as I realized that I could shoot at them, the birds were way out of gun range.  So I figured I would stand a better chance of getting some shots of the dogs and Mitch with my camera than hitting a quail with my gun.

Saturday was cold and cloudy, with temperatures in the forties with a mild breeze, making day seem pretty raw.  The dogs headed out with Charlie ranging a bit too far in front as always.  We have to call him back often otherwise he’ll flush a bird three counties away.  AJ wandered a lot slower and more methodically this year, his age showing.  Orso as usual headed off lumbering along just happy to be out with everybody bumping into the closest body to wherever he ended up in the field.  Charlie was the first to flush a bird and Mitch actually shot it.  I was shocked.  I didn’t really think that any birds would get shot the entire weekend.  Charlie fetched the bird up with Orso sniffing away at this new creature.  He has shown no interest in pheasants at all.  But this new one smelled pretty good to him. 

Orso started off and actually put head down and used his nose to search for a likely scent.  This was a bird he liked and wanted to find.  Who knew?  Orso wandered farther into the field head down, stopped for a brief moment then lunged forward catching a bird in his mouth before it could fly.  He came trotting up to Mitch with the bird in his mouth, its’ little white head poking out to the side.    He did this not once but three times.  Orso had great success at quail hunting.  He only needed us to carry the birds after he caught them.

Maybe there is hope for him yet.

Stinky Dog

What is the attraction to dogs with dead disgusting thoroughly gross smelling animal carcasses?  And it’s not only animal carcasses, it’s animal poop, urine or the likes that dogs love.  Charlie especially.  The more wretched the better.  I’ve lost track of the number of times Charlie would be off exploring on our walks, then come racing back to me with a proud expression of excitement on him, as if he’d won the lottery.  He would smell so bad I would barely be able to get close enough to put the lease on him and take him home for a bath in the basement garage.  Because no dog will come into my house smelling like that. 

This hunting trip was no different.  Monday, last day of the trip, Mitch and I were working a small stand of tall prairie grass, about the width of a football field and the double the length.  Perfect for four hunters, but also manageable for two.  We’d made the trip from one end to the other without any success and decided to walk back through one more time, just to give it a complete sweep.  I was in the middle of the field and Mitch was close to the south edge, when I heard Mitch hollering at Charlie, “No Charlie, get up.  Quit!”

I asked him what was up and Mitch told me that Charlie had found a deer carcass and did the stop, drop and roll.  He came up thoroughly pleased with himself.  Charlie came running over to me for a whiff.  Lucky me.  Both Mitch and I said simultaneously, “You’re getting a bath today, Buster!”

Feeling sorry for the dead deer and sorrier for me, because I was the giver of bathes, I restarted working the field.  We hadn’t made it twenty feet when Charlie came upon more remains of another dead deer.  Thinking he’d hit the jackpot, Charlie dive bombed head first into the disgusting pile of bones, fur and flesh.  I yelled at him to stop, but he was in stinky dog nirvana.  I finally had to use his shock collar to get him to stop.  Charlie was so proud of himself, he strutted up to Orso with his head high, as if to say I am the king of stink!  Smell me I smell absolutely wonderful. 

What a stinker, literally.

Learning Something New

This year on the annual “Great Pheasant Hunt” the weather was more cooperative.  Saturday was sunny and chilly around 38 degrees to start the day.  Too windy, with sustained winds around 20 miles an hour, but it was dry, no rain or snow.  Not too bad all things considered.  AJ and Charlie were beside themselves with energy and excitement for the upcoming event.  Orso was just along for the ride, as usual.  No interest in hunting, just happy to be with us. 

Even though we’ve been pheasant hunting for decades, Mitch for almost five decades and me for twelve years, every year we either learn something new or a better way to prepare for hunting.  Because we don’t get the opportunity to go hunting as often as we would like nor do we work the dogs as much as they need to stay at the top of their game, the first day has always been very chaotic.  The dogs have so much pent up excitement at finally being able to do the one thing they were bred for, hunt birds.

Fifteen minutes into our first morning, we always tell each other that next year we need to come up a day earlier than everyone else to wear the dogs out a bit and never do.  This year was no different, but now we’ve added a twist, next year we plan on getting set up about an hour before the others and work the dogs away from where we plan on hunting, so as not to chase off any pheasant that may be loitering in the area.  We definitely don’t need any more handicaps. 

This brilliant idea came to me watching the dogs the second morning totally out of control running through six foot plus tall dense prairie grass, losing sight of them almost immediately.  I stomped down the hill and up to Mitch, poor unsuspecting soul, and said, “I have a thought.  This area is too hard to manage the dogs with all of this energy.  We need to slow them down.  I think that we should take them across the draw to the open hilly field and run them to burn off some of their exuberance.  What do you think?”

Mitch was experiencing as much frustration as I was and quickly agreed.  We both knew that there were birds laying low in dense grasses and didn’t want the dogs to scatter them.  So we called everyone out of the prairie grass, called the dogs and regrouped.  As expected one was missing.  AJ was nowhere to be found.  I told Mitch to hold on to both Charlie and Orso while I tromped off to find AJ.  Orso, thinking he was going to miss something immediately started wailing so I told Mitch to let him come with me.  I found AJ heading back to the cars having lost us.  After getting all of us together, Mitch explained our plan and off we headed across the electric fence that we always forget to unplug until one of us remembers the hard way.  Everyone else that hasn’t touched the fence yet laughs at the victim, really glad it wasn’t them. 

Even though it was only 40 degrees, the dogs found the pond at the bottom of the dam a refreshing swim.  Brrr.  Hydrated and renewed, the dogs bolted off up the open ground.  We started yelling, “Whoa!” as soon either Charlie or AJ got too far ahead of us.  The plan was to keep both of them working close to us.  Orso wasn’t a problem never straying too far ahead, as I constantly clomped him in the jaw with my heel.  He prefers to let me clear a path, less effort on his part. 

After walking and working the dogs from one end of Todd’s land to other, we succeeded in taking some of the out of control excitement out of them.  We decided it was time to head back to the tall prairie grass and give it a thorough sniffing.  The dogs worked wonderfully and rewarded us with two more birds.

Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?

Who Takes a Cell Phone Hunting?

First morning of the annual “Great Pheasant Hunt” was a crisp sunny morning about 38 degrees with 20 mile an hour sustained winds out of the south.  This made it a challenge for the dogs trying to catch a promising scent.  The windy conditions made it a challenge for us too.  The dogs quickly disappear in the six foot plus tall prairie grasses.  So we have to stop, watch for movement of the grass and listen for the sounds of someone or something moving in the dense grasses.  This is to determine where my fellow hunters or the dogs are, which direction they are moving and which way I will go. 

We hadn’t walked fifty feet when a pheasant bolted for the sky catching us all off guard.  We watched its’ flight and marked where it landed, so we would get a second shot (literally) at the bird.  Moving on, we headed in the direction of where the pheasant landed, the dogs were almost out of control with pent up excitement and finally getting to do what they’ve waited a year to do.  Within twenty feet of where we had marked the bird’s landing spot, AJ was dead on the bird.  It took two shots, one from me and one from Mitch to take him down.  First morning jitters, I hoped.

 We started up the hill spread out to cut off any retreat of a wayward bird and to not shoot each other, intent on anything that flies, and ready to shoot at the first sound not belonging to one of the dogs when there was a melodious sound of a CELL PHONE RINGING!!!  Who brings a cell phone hunting?  I understand the safety factor of having a cell phone with us in case of an emergency, just like carrying identification so they can identify the body.  Not only did he answer the call, but went on to have a lengthy conversation with the caller.  The temptation to shoot the offending party was great but I refrained. Willpower…does a body good.

Happy Birthday Charlie

Charlie turns seven on Halloween. His date of birth sort of says it all when you describe him. He is the sweetest most lovable psycho dog anyone would ever want to own. One minute he’s sitting beside you looking up at you with the softest expression then a split second later his face changes and no one is sure who’s inside there looking out. It’s pretty unsettling to anyone who comes over.

 Charlie is animal aggressive thanks to a dog attacking him as a puppy owned by a woman that lives around here once in our yard and another time on an encounter while walking him. That pretty much set the tone for all other dogs in Charlie’s mind. We have to be very vigilant around other dogs. It has taken months of hard work to get him to play with our friends’ two dogs. When their two dogs and our three get together, we are all on guard for any change in the force.

We have our first pheasant hunting trip coming up shortly and now that he’ll be seven, we’re hoping that some of his exuberance at being out in the field doing what all of his instincts are screaming his brain to do (better known as running around in the field totally out of control, flushing birds a mile away) will be diminished. Not likely! But we’re holding on to hope. What can I say, I am a Pollyanna.

This year we’re going hunting with middle aged to senior citizen dogs. AJ is eleven, Charlie will be seven and Orso (non-hunting Lab) is five. Mitch is still optimistic about Orso. I don’t hold out much hope though. Maybe we’ll get to work the fields at a more sedate speed instead of the 4mph walks I’ve done in the past.