Firelight Bird Dogs

Firelight Bird Dogs

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The 2013 Tour Has begun: We're off!

The Open Range is hooked up, guns and gear packed, dogs are loaded up and we are crossing North Dakota as I write this. We have felt pretty organized the past few weeks as we prepared for this trip. We are planning to be on the road for about 8 weeks which is a good length of time but feels a whole lot easier than last year when we had to prepare for 4 months on the road. Having a house here in Kansas cuts our road time in half since come November our hunting will be just a few nights away at a time or even some day trips out of the house.

Our first stop last night was at a campground in the Sheyenne Natl Grasslands at a lovely, spacious campground and we were the only ones there so were were able to let the dogs stretch their legs a bit. Our brand new generator quit after just a few minutes which left us a bit hot with no AC but the RV fans got us through the night and the company is over nighting a part to where we will be tomorrow. Now we are on to western North Dakota for some dinner plans and tomorrow we head into Central Montana.

In MT we will be running Jack in a field trial, it is a wild bird, all-breed pointing dog trial but a different venue than I have ever been to. The EB club requires dogs to have been successful in both trials and at shows before being bred so we recently decided to enter him. This gave me about a month to take a dog who has been allowed to break at the shot for thousands of birds and make him steady to flush and shot. I have been training by myself, old school style with only his leather collar and checkcord as equipment and his progress is proof positive that a good dog needs nothing more than that. After the trial we will let, actually encourage, him to again break at the shot because especially with roosters we want every advantage when it comes to recovering birds we shoot.

The MT season opens Sept 1st and we will explore and hunt the central part of the state which is new to both of us. There are pockets of forest in addition to prairie with the possibility of a variety of bird species. Daytime temps will likely require early morning hunts with afternoons for fishing or driving around. We hope to meet up with a New England friend who is making a quick trip to MT himself: we had dinner together shortly before moving to KS but this time there should be wild game on the table instead of a jaw dropping tab. As it cools we will head east to the familar areas where we hunted last year.

We will post photos and updates when we can find internet access. This year we have a new camera that also shoots video so we will be trying our hand at that as well. Also, after years of people asking me if I had a website for my dogs I finally broke down this year and had a modest site set up. I got a referral to a wonderful young man who is starting his own business and it was fun to work long-distance with him as he attempted to rein in my verbose, photo laden style and make it work on a site. If interested, the address is I still need to add to and fine tune some details on it but that will have to wait until we return.


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Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Pack of 2013

We are excited that this year we have 4 adult, experienced bird dogs plus 2 pups heading into the bird hunting season. That may seem like a lot but given that we usually run 3 at a time and we will likely hunt 100+ days this year we think it sounds about right. We will rotate 'teams' according to cover as well as how each dog has been hunting.

Jack is 4 now, making his 5th trip to MT. While we are up there he is also going to run in a wild bird EB trial for the fun of it.

Dee is 2-1/2 and glad to be back on the full time roster. He continues to have occasional issues with the regrown foot pad from his HBC accident last year so we have dog boots on hand if needed to keep the boy running. He is embarrassed by the bling (they don't really have lights, that's a reflection from the camera flash).

Tweed was spayed this summer so she will be able to have an uninterrupted season this year. Last year she figured out the moves that old, sneaky roosters pull and promises revenge this year.

Storm is 3 now, given how well she did last year as a novice to the prairie we are really looking forward to see what she does this year.

Seth and Sally are the 2 pups we kept from Tweeds 2/13 litter. They are almost 7 months old and we can't wait to get them into birds. We plan to hunt them all season and then will be keeping one of these 2.


And we can't forget the Back Seat Drivers, Patch and Worf, both 14.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The lost post: SOB Gobbler

I owe Mike an apology. I had not written a blog post in quite awhile and the other day when I opened the BlogPress app I discovered that I had left the following post that Mike had written sitting there as a draft, somehow I had messed up and had not published it. So the following is out of order, it obviously should have been published some time ago but I know you will enjoy it regardless.

The SOB Gobbler

One evening as Lynn Dee and I were sitting out on the patio relaxing we could see a gobbler all fanned out just down the draw from the house. He and a couple of hens were about 200 yards off. It was mid May and spring turkey season ended in 2 weeks. I had already shot one Tom and had been hunting frequently trying for number two. It had been a grand season, waking with the wild life in the country. So, I decided to try for this Tom the next morning.

Like usual, the turkeys were already gobbling by the time I was walking down the road from the house to get set up. I was all set up with a couple “working girl" decoys out front. There were gobbles all around including one from where we saw the gobbler the evening before. That Tom was answering me when from across the corn field I heard another bird get off the roost. The Tom down the hill kept answering, as has happened all season, but would not come over. Then I saw a bird sneaking through the corn field and peeking at me about 100 yards out. He vanished behind a terrace, only to reappear at the end of the field out of range. He looked my “girls” over but walked off to not be seen or heard again until the next morning. The next morning about 5:30, I was awakened by a gobbler gobbling just down the hill from the house. That SOB, I said out loud. I came home from work that day and once again he was gobbling his butt off just up the draw. That SOB. It may come down to me actually getting up early for that SOB. We will see.

Second try for the SOB gobbler. I had a perfect setup; Hen and Jake decoy set just inside a planted corn field. I am hiding under a mulberry tree in the fence line. I thought that Tom would be roosted about 100 yards away at the end of the corn field. But, no..... that SOB is roosted in a dead cottonwood behind me in a pasture. He gobbles on the roost a couple times answering my call and I hear him gobble on the ground coming my way. I look over my right shoulder and see him at about 75 yards away. He is fanning and gobbling softly every time I call. He moves my way, directly to me. But about 50 yards out he sees the decoys and veers away behind me just like he did before. The SOB is decoy shy. I call a few more times and nothing. There is an early morning thunderstorm moving in so I am ready to call it a morning but when I get up I can see that about 300 yards away over a terrace in the corn field the SOB is all fanned out with two other lesser Toms and a bunch of Jakes. I call a few times and they continue to strut around, but moving away across the corn field. I have to wait for them to get far enough away before I can move. It just starts sprinkling when I walk into the garage. And I turn around and I can see the dead cottonwood from the drive way. You SOB.

Third try. So far, this bird has kicked my butt. I even thought about giving up and throwing the towel in on the SOB. But, the evening after my second encounter, Lynn Dee and I are relaxing on the patio again and there he comes out about 300 yards away all fanned out courting a hen. He follows the hen off up the draw, gobbling the whole time. That SOB. So it is mano-a-mano tomorrow morning, no decoys. My tactic that I employ on the third encounter is to go around where he usually roosts with his entourage and try to cut him off as he and his buddies wander away.

There is a bright full moon as I leave for the hunt, giving me a moon shadow. This concerns me as I need to cross an open field to where I want to set up and I am afraid that the roosted birds might see me walking in, but I stay on course and get set up around 5:15 am. It starts to get light, but no gobbling. Did the turkeys see me walking in? No… I hear a gobble just down the field and into the timber. I call a couple times, and nothing. I call a couple more times with my slate call and nothing. Then I hear the SOB gobble and it sounds like he is on the ground and walking away. Shit, he must have seen me walking in, in the moon light. As I wait patiently, I see a couple jakes coming out of the timber across the field about 200 yards away. Then a few more jakes, I think 5 altogether. I give up on the slate call and go back to the mouth call that I have used on the previous two encounters. And lo and behold, I get a gobble across the field where the jakes come out.

Out of the shadows come the three kings. Well, one SOB and a couple lesser SOBs. The SOB is all fanned out strutting around like he is king. I call with the mouth call again and he does his quiet gobble and struts around, not coming my way. I am trying to be really patient and not over call, but I want that SOB. Slowly, the jakes leading the way start moving toward me. In the middle of the field, about half way between the birds and me is a grass water way that the birds will need to cross to get close enough for a shot. I call a few more times and he fans and struts, the other two mature birds and jakes are just watching the king put on a show. It was a good show, but I need him to continue to come another 50 yards and cross the water way, and then some. I call again and I notice that the jakes have started to cross the water way and the mature birds are starting to follow. I continue to call and he continues to move closer, looking for me. He crosses and is straight out into field from me and it appears that he may just keep on going by me like he had the previous two encounters. I take the shot.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

It's almost time!

The blog has been very quiet, I apologize for that. And things are about to change a lot!

We have been nice and busy this summer. Mike took a summer position with Kansas Wildlife and Parks doing habitat management at a 10,000 acre wildlife management area here in our end of the state. It has been hard work but he says, " how many jobs would allow you to hear quail calling all day?! ". His rich knowledge of Kansas flora and fauna has been enhanced by working closely with several biologists and lots of wildlife encounters. Including crossing paths a couple of times with a rattlesnake species that had not previously been seen in the area. The biologists were much more excited about that sighting than I was.

I have been getting settled into our home and the area, discovering how simple it is where people give directions such as 'go north 3 miles, then west 2" instead of Vermont's "turn left where the old red barn used to be then right after the big hill." I bought a bike to explore the endless miles of quiet dirt roads around us and have watched as the corn has grown taller than me. We have had a nice amount of rain this summer, ending the drought of last year and filling up our pond which was at a record low level. The temperatures have been much more pleasant than I had feared. I love the beautiful sunrises and sunsets and how they cast amazing colors onto the pond and the many flowers in the gardens left by the previous owner.

But we are feeling energized because in only 13 days we will be loading up dogs and guns, hooking up the Open Range and pulling out. Although we had considered hunting Idaho this year, conditions in Montana are reported to be too good to pass up. The scheduling of a French Brittany breed club event in central MT at the beginning of Sept decided it for us. Our plans are to stop in both South and North Dakota on the way to MT to renew friendships and let the dogs stretch their legs as we all get used to living on the road again. We are thinking that we will spend September and October in Montana and return home in time for the Kansas season opener on November 9. Let the season begin!

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