Monday, February 27, 2012

Over and out

March 1 is the legal end of another bird season.  Unless the world economy collapses before then - not completely unrealistic by the way - mine drew to a close Sunday.  With a prior engagement later in the afternoon I ducked away to a site not far from town where we've found a handful of birds this year.  We managed one covey that flushed wild and the singles gave us the slip.  But the dog got a snootful of scent and I got the mental images to carry through the off-season.

For years I've held the conviction that dogs have a sense of time.  People have told me otherwise and although I can't mount a scientific argument I can serve as witness. Yesterday Wyatt hunted harder than he ever has, ranging farther and working cover more thoroughly with not a bit of urging from me.  It was pure joy to watch.  Kinda like he knew this would be the last time for a while. That's me projecting two unrelated facts on top of each other, I know, but I can't get the thought out of my head.

This dog has been a lot of fun to have around.  He was way behind the game when I got him, three and a half years old and never hunted outside of a training field, and I don't think he'd done that in more than a year.  I doubt he'd ever been run without a check cord.  The first time I took him hunting he never ranged farther than maybe twenty yards from me.  Each time he got a little more comfortable, stretched it out a bit, sorted out the different smells and figured out exactly what it was we were looking for.  When we'd get into the birds you could see the drive ratchet up a bit.  Just like it's supposed to.

He's money on pen-raised birds.  I don't know how different they smell from wild birds but I know they do. My last dog would never, ever, bump a wild bird.  Put him on a pen-raised bird, though, and he'd hold point only until you got close enough to watch him dive in and get it.  And he got every one.  Never even tried it on a wild bird.  Go figure.

Wyatt's struggled a bit figuring out the wild bird equation and the lack of readily available wild birds hasn't exactly helped the situation.  Geez, how many hours did I spend walking through fields thinking about taking him to South Dakota or Saskatchewan or some other Valhalla of birds, a place where we could have contacts all day long and in a week's time have a very educated dog?  Enough to become a bit obsessed with the idea, that's how many.  I spent a few more trying to work out the logistics of disappearing for a week or two in the fall.  Didn't quite get that part fully resolved.

Bird dog on point

He's getting there, just a bit more slowly than the last time I went through this process. Hey, I got time.  No sense in screwing up something so sublime by being in a hurry.

And it'll give me some good things to think about for the next eight months.  Seasons and hunts are spots of brightness linked by everyday life.  There are other spots of brightness but every man, woman and child has one thing, an event, an activity, a happening that is as good as it gets.  Everything else is just something in between.  And now we're in between.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The only good coyote....

With only two weekends left in the season I don't see a whole lot of downside in trying some new spots, the old spots being marginally productive and becoming a bit too familiar.  I pulled into the turnaround area on some national forest land this morning, cup full of coffee and optimism based on some positive reports from early in the season, and stepped out of the truck to this:

coyote remains

After a little scrounging around I found the missing pieces:

coyote paw

I'm not 100% on the ID but I'm pretty sure it's a coyote.  And this is the form I like to see them in.  A little more scrounging revealed some duplicate parts, pointing to at least a second casualty in the vicinity.

Only question is did someone drop the carcasses here in a display of pride or did some creature drag them here for a pagan feast?  Odd karma oozes from either possibility.  

Oh, and lest you think I'm a complete and total lesser canid bigot, there is one example of the species I hope never completely dies.  Since the beginning of time this earth has not seen a creature with more mechanical ambition and misguided persistence and as a guy with an engineering degree who is trying to bring back bobwhite populations, well....let's just say I know where he's coming from.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Would you please stop doing that

It's a rare bird dog that doesn't have at least one annoying habit.  Mine collect them like cockleburs or beggar's lice, oblivious to efforts at breaking them and at times reveling in my irritation.  One liked to ride in the front seat, no, loved to ride in the front seat.  Remember the guy in school who always called shotgun at the first mention of going anywhere?  The guy who was simply too good to ride in the back?  Cover him with fur, make him walk on four legs and juice him with an overdose of persistence and you'll know what I suffered.  Over, under, around, and he never stopped trying.  Grab him by the collar and drag him over the console into the rear and he'd beat my arm back to the front.  He pounded me into submission every single time.

One snatched food off of the kitchen counter, a standard feature in about half of all canine models.  He'd let enough time pass between episodes to make me think I'd cured him and then, without any fanfare, he'd do it again.  No shame, no apologies, not even a hint of disguise.  He was the unrepentant prisoner telling the parole board, "Yep, I did it.  Nope, I don't regret it.  Yep, I'll do it again if I get the chance."

My latest edition is really excited when I get home in the evening.  This is a habit I never want to take out of a dog, so pleasing is it to know that regardless of what's happened over the last eight or ten hours I'm still the greatest thing in the world to at least one being. There are limits, however.  He used to jump up and plant both paws squarely on my shirt and even on the driest of days managed to stow dirt in them just long enough to transfer it. A trainer showed me a trick to get him off my chest which, unfortunately, didn't kill his desire get his paws on me somewhere, somehow.  Now he gets within a few feet and, bouncing up and down like the front end of Julio's low rider, stretches his paws toward me.  One of them always finds its way to my pants, and always has mud or dirt on it when it does.

No matter what, you can't seem to break them of these habits.  It's what makes them individuals.  Otherwise they'd be perfect, and perfect dogs only exist in legend.  Strangely, so many of the things that in the beginning annoy - knocking over the water bowl while I put food in the dish, climbing on the couch only when soaking wet, that look over the shoulder just before taking off in the other direction, completely removing the flowers and potting soil my wife just painstakingly put in the flower pot - become of part of the package that you can't separate from the rest and you just kinda come to accept.  And then one day the package is gone and you miss all of it.