Firelight Bird Dogs

Firelight Bird Dogs

Monday, October 13, 2014

Montana 2014 in the rear view mirror, Part III, the dogs

I have come to really enjoy taking photos while we hunt.  We even have a little routine where I download them onto the laptop or ipad when we return from hunting and while we eat dinner I set it to playback the day's photos in a slideshow.   Lots of fun to relive the moments and discuss details that maybe one of us had missed at the time.  The photos also sometimes point out things that both of us missed, such as additional birds flushing off to the side or a dog backing - or breaking - that we had not noticed in person.  So I hope you all get some pleasure from my photos as well.  This will be the last batch from our MT trip.  But.....stay tuned, because in 2 days we are leaving for a spontaneous trip to Vermont to hunt grouse and woodcock!  

For now, back in MT, it was fun to have 2 pups along again this year.  Belle, one of the Fr Brit pups, was only 9 months when we left.  These first pics show her first points on sharptail.  We think she's going to be a good one: she covers the ground very nicely, handles easily, and seems to have a good nose.

Jazz, our other Fr Brit puppy, was only 5 months and still pretty small in size so we decided to hold off with hunting her until quail season here in KS.  She did get a little exposure to sharptails though, you can see how short she is in the grass.  Look closely to see the sharpie standing in front of her in the grass.  Overall, she is adorable and I can't wait to hunt her.

Often in photos the eye is drawn to the setters since they are bigger and white, but the 2 FB boys Jack and DW always put on a show, we are very fortunate to have them.

Sally is just 1 yr old and it is great fun to watch her speed across the prairie.  She has the darn'dest habit though of going on point only in the densest of cover where you can barely see her.  She reminds me a bit of the TV show Tool Time where the neighbor always had his face half covered.  This year Sally got quilled by a porcupine not once, but twice, but fortunately they weren't too bad and we were able to pull the quills ourselves.  The second time she yelped when it happened I am hoping that she learned to leave porkys alone.  

Can you see Sally on point in the photo below?

Fortunately, Tweed and her daughter Storm are much easier to see.

As always, thanks for looking. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Montana 2014 in the rear view mirror, Part II

The forecast showed too-warm days for a couple weeks straight so we decided to take a couple days off from hunting and go visiting as well as to see a part of the state we had not before seen.  We went up to Plentywood in the northeast corner of the state and met up with friends new and old.  Folks who spend their whole bird season camped in the same campground in town and hunt the areas around there.  It was a pleasure to meet for the first time a couple of fellows that we 'knew' through the online hunting board and see their dogs, including one who has the same number of dogs that we do which somehow gave me a small sense that we are not crazy, well, at least we're not alone in that.  Driving around always gives us the chance to see the countryside and get a feel for the land.

The combines were rolling, so we can all have our daily bread

About that time my new point&shoot pocket camera disappeared so there is a gap where I did not take any photos while hunting. (the camera was later found buried at the bottom of the glove compartment)  We headed back to our favorite area where we camp remotely.  We usually dry camp on state or federal ground and stay in one spot for up to a week before we have to head into town for supplies and water and then relocate.  The Open Range (OR) has a fresh water tank that holds an impressive 85 gallons and with additional water jugs for the dogs we have learned how to stretch our water for a week without feeling deprived.  The OR has been a remarkable rig, we have hauled and parked it in places that most would not think to take a 30' trailer.  We have camped in it in temps from single digits up to 99 degrees.  After long days of hunting, we cook dinner, feed dogs and as dark falls around us, it feels quite luxurious to drag our tired selves onto our queen sized memory foam bed.

On my August trip to New England, I had brought back a 2 yr old setter that I had bred who belongs to wonderful friends in Vermont.  Dixie was to spend a month with Mike and I, we would introduce this grouse dog to prairie birds and condition her for the grouse season back home.   Her owner would then come out to join us for a week.  Warren had planned to by a new truck this fall so instead of driving out/back by himself he bought a truck in Denver, flew into there to get it and then drove up to MT to meet us.  His maiden voyage in it unfortunately was dinged by a large rock that flew up into his windshield, smashing a handball sized dent in it and I'm sure making his heart skip a few beats.  But he arrived at our little campsite safely and happily took a beer to steady his hand after greeting his beloved dog.   We had a wonderful week, although on some days the weather made the hunting challenging.  With Warren making for a second gunner, I was able to carry my DSLR and take photos all week which was a lot of fun for me.

 Happily reunited

Dixie got to see lots of the sharptail cousins to her favorite ruffed grouse

A few shots I took of Warren walking in on points during the week.
DW and Storm down hard on a bird that was right in front of where Warren is in this photo


Jack and Storm on point out in a cut wheat field

The dogs really stretch their range when out on the prairie which means gunners often have to do some walking to get to the point.  You can click on photos to enlarge them to see the dogs.

In this photo, DW was on point about 300 yards out in the upper right, Storm backed him 100 yards back to the left, and Jack then came in and backed Storm, Warren is walking in from the left.  I put arrows to show how far away and small the dogs look out there!

The white dot in the center is a setter on point

After a very full week of birds, wind, giant steaks, beer...and more beer, it was time for Warren to head back to Vermont. 

 Not long after, Mike turned to me and said that he was ready to go home.  We had originally planned to stay until the opening of pheasant season, but the dogs had been pointing so many phez all along that it seemed almost an afterthought to put some of them in the freezer.  So after 40 days on the road we packed it in and headed east and south.  It did feel good to pull up to the home gates.

I still have quite a few photos I would like to share so it looks like I will have to write another post soon.  Thank you for reading along!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Montana 2014 in the rear view mirror, Part I

I am making this post from our home here in Kansas.  We returned home earlier this week after making the decision that we were ready to be back.  Our Montana trip was full of birds, varying weather and adventures - including some misadventures!   I have photos and stories to share....I will have to share them in multiple posts to prevent this from becoming too long.

After some time in the mountains we were ready to get back to the plains.  Our last morning in the mountains was a chilly one, when we retracted the slide-out a large sheet of ice came crashing down where rain had pooled and froze.   Mike had seen signs and mapping for a lake in central MT that was on the way to our favored hunting region and we thought it would be a nice place to stop and even hunt some new ground.  Pluses at this site turned out to be:
- another very nice hunter who was there with his French Brit and Dachshund shared his freshly caught walleye with us for dinner
- once he left, we were the only ones there
- a full moon and beautiful sunsets

- there were many deer in the area, including some nice bucks
However, there were some minuses there also:
- a close call between myself and a rattlesnake (no, I didn't take the time to take pics of this)
- a flat tire on the truck.  Usually a simple enough task, but complications turned it into a half-day physical task.  Our new motto is now "sometimes, you just need a bigger stick."  
- waking at 3:00 AM to hear it raining, with all uphill gravel (mud?) roads to get out, and the nearest people/ranch were at least 10 miles away.  We were up and breaking camp by 4:00 and fortunately, the roads were indeed gravel.  

Glad to be safely on the road, we watched as the rain turned to snow as we headed east.  Slick roads are always so much fun when towing a 30' trailer

The weather worked for us though as the snow turned to rain and cool temperatures which made for very good scenting conditions for the dogs.  The next 4 days gave us perhaps the best hunting days of the trip.

Shhh, don't tell Mike that I posted this pic: Mike watering 3 setters with no FBs in sight

The temps then quickly climbed and we began to rise before sunrise to get in a couple hours of hunting before it became too hot.  I shot these pics from the RV as Mike hunted alone out the front door one early morning.

Jack impatiently waiting for the vest to go on and gun to come out

Joyful to be headed out

Walking in on point/back by Jack and Storm in a cut wheatfield

Afternoons were spent quietly at the OR.

To be continued.............