We had a busy summer bringing along our latest batch of pups so we were looking forward to getting out hunting. Unfortunately our Sage Grouse season was cancelled so we missed out on that for the first time in 30 years. A large chunk of prime habitat was burned – kudos to Fish and Game for closing the season. It wasn’t a popular decision.
We took our annual trip to Wisconsin in October despite predictions of low grouse numbers again this year. Numbers of birds were better than last year but still spotty. Unlike last year we shot mostly juveniles, which bodes well for next season. We succeeded in getting our youngsters into a few birds highlighted by Lock showing us our initial impression of his ability was correct. We shot a grouse he didn’t see flush and marked it down, apparently dead. We called Lock over and told him “Dead Bird”. He looked around and soon headed off away from our mark so we called him back and told him “Dead Bird”. We figured he’s young so he didn’t know to look for the bird where we told him. He again took off, in the same direction, but this time he pointed the bird thirty yards from our mark before we had a chance to call him back. The bird then ran about fifteen yards and hid in a brush pile where he again located and pointed it. The nose knows.
After our deer and Elk seasons we went to see if Chukar numbers have recovered from the harsh winter of 2016-17. They did. Unfortunately so did numbers of hunters which made them a little spooky/flighty. That isn’t all bad – it makes it a little more challenging for the dogs. Despite the difficulty the pups looked good, following running birds and making a few finds. They didn’t make any solid points but they were learning fast.
There was snow on the ground which makes climbing hills interesting but it also gives us a huge advantage. We can see where birds have been and we can tell when they’re running ahead of the dog. Without snow it’s much more of a guessing game. Is the dog roading birds or just being overly cautious? With fresh tracks lining out ahead of them it’s obvious what’s going on.
Couldn’t resist throwing in this short video of Lock’s first Chukar “point”. He still hadn’t seen a Chukar despite having followed a couple coveys that flushed wild so we showed him a freshly shot bird.
We again finished our season in Kansas surrounding the RymanSetters.com gathering and hunt. It was cold and windy for most of the trip and the roads were in terrible condition, making it impossible to get to some covers. Unfortunately we tried…
After limping in to camp around midnight it was nice to have a fenced-in, stress free place to let dogs out.
Bird numbers were up from previous years, at least for us, and we had no trouble finding quail. Coveys were big and we had really good hunting. The pups put it all together and the older dogs continued to get better at locating difficult to smell quail. Several hunts produced nice covey finds and multiple points on singles.