Nothing is perfect. Its true in all things I guess, and bird hunting is no exception. My early season has
been one of empty fields and little or no dog work. With the exception of a few forest grouse birds have been few and far between until today. Needless to say Tic hasn't shown much, and Sunnie has not had much to grow on so far. To make matters worse I had wanted to introduce a few friends to upland hunting this season. Several attempts to do so only proved to be long walks with dogs. Very few birds were around to participate in our hunts. Though I have learned to appreciate even the unsuccessful times a field with the dogs it is not the best way to introduce new people to the sport.

So after several unsuccessful tries two of these friends Jeff and Adam accompanied me to one of my favourite old spots to hunt sharptails. As we pulled in to the place I have parked many times over the years and started to get dressed for the day the familiar sounds of sharptails giggling could be heard in the distance. This caught our attention and we noticed a number of birds flying and landing in the area we were to hunt. Everything finally looked to be set for a perfect day. We elected to take Tic along and we were excited as we left the trucks. Even Tic seemed to have that little spring in his step that had been missing so far this season. As we closed the distance between us and the top of the first hill a single bird flushed from just over the top and giggled away. Tic had topped the hill and was out of sight. I was proud when we topped the hill and he was standing. However the air was very still and his lack of intensity led me to believe he had stopped to flush like he has been taught. Now years of experience and a little common sense has taught me to always walk out ahead of the dog when this happens. Often there are more birds holding there that is why we teach the skill in the first place. lol Well...I wish I had. Instead I proved once again that I have to learn lessons more than once. I released the dog before we got there and instantly birds exploded from everywhere. Of course they were out of range. From this point we saw birds, many and often, but Tic struggled in the still air to establish point before they flushed wild 10-20 or even 30 yards ahead. I was disappointed Jeff and Adam weren't able to see the kind of dog work that I have learned to appreciate though they didn't seem to mind. In the end we all managed to shoot our birds, and everyone had a good time. I couldn't help but be a little disappointed in Tic. I guess I know I can't expect perfection always. He proved his training needs polished I thought going in that it was. There is no doubt, that's on me. He sometimes stopped to flush and sometimes broke. The birds were flushing wild and I thought he did a nice job for the most part of not crowding them. He did struggle to pinpoint them though. Lack of any real breeze can be partially blamed for that I guess.
Nothing is perfect, but with the beauty of that magnificent morning in rural Idaho, and in the midst of that many wild sharptails who wouldn't have a great time? The sounds, sights, and smells of a great upland hunt were all there, and I am grateful to have been surrounded by it all. What a wonderfully imperfect day!
I guess the pursuit of perfection will just have to wait.

    Nothing came easy today. The dogs and I worked our tails off to put three roosters in the air. That is a
great day of pheasant hunting is in my world. There is no "get to the end of a field and birds flush in 
every direction like popcorn". Nope, here you work for birds. You walk for hours with good dogs in front in the hopes of seeing a rooster. When you do you had better take advantage of that opportunity because you may not get another. That's assuming you have acquired permission on enough land to even have a worthwhile hunt. It is a lot of trouble to go through, but when you see that setter tail frozen above the grass it is easy to think it worth while. You walk in on the point. The anticipation is all you can take. You know at any step a bird could explode. Will it be a rooster, or a hen? It doesn't matter how many times you walk in on a point it is startling when the bird finally gets nervous and flushes. With adrenalin pumping you have seconds to recognise the bird as a rooster, get your feet set, the safety off, the gun to your shoulder, and collect yourself to make the shot before the huge bird that is mocking you with a cackle gets out of range. It only takes one of those things to go wrong and that bird is gone. Remember in my world it might be your only opportunity for the day, pressure. I have seen many roosters missed because of adrenalin. Of course, I've never done that myself, but I have seen it The satisfaction of seeing the bird fall and the dog retrieve is the finish. You have won this time. Next time who knows. 

There are two things on this planet that pleasure my soul like no other. A rooster out of a point and setting mallards I have fooled with my call. All other hunting is great and fun but there is nothing else like this.

I guess at my core I am kind of a loner. I often enjoy being alone, especially when hunting. I guess I should say without human companionship rather than alone because I always seem to be in the presence of a good dog. I understand that some do not get the value of hunting alone, or maybe they just don't enjoy it. I think I am a better hunter when I am alone with a dog. It seems to me the dog performs better too. I am alone with my thoughts, left to my acquired skills, my experiences and instincts working together in perfect harmony without distraction. I suppose it is the same for the dog. I wonder if he values the time alone with me. I think he does. It can be a wonderful thing spending a day alone with a good dog. A silent partner is sometimes the best partner and I try to remember that when handling the dog in a hunting situation. We are told we shouldn't hunt alone and for good reason. Perhaps someday those warnings will echo in my mind as I am lost or fallen and in need of help. I can only hope that Tic would take after Lassie, and go find someone to tell them I have fallen in a well. I'll take the risks in spite of the warnings because I feel hunting alone is medication for my soul. It helps me stay balanced and as stress free as one can be in our society.
I still think hunting time spent with friends and family creates shared experiences and bonding that is priceless. I enjoy that too. Yet I will always find value in time set aside to hunt alone in the uplands and marsh as long as I am physically able.
Heaven on earth

My Hell Hole
Aug, 2014

    I'm not much of a traveler, but out of necessity I find myself doing it more and more. It is usually about going to a calling contest or something like that, but I often get home sick and find myself thinking of places I would rather be. I recently found myself at Niagara Falls in upstate New York. I was sent to Rochester for work, but had a chance to ride over to the falls for an evening. I rode on that little boat that travels out in front of the thing and did the whole tourist deal. I was completely blown away by the power of the energy in the form of wind and mist that comes off of that thing. Nature is amazing no matter where you are. Still I long for home, and the world that I love so much. I guess birds of a feather do flock together because I met a very friendly local grouse hunter. We visited only briefly but were able to exchanged a few stories and talk about bird dogs a bit before we went our separate ways. It was really nice to talk with him, but it made me long for mid September and a very special canyon in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

Tom sitting at around mid elevation in the hole.
    It is a place my wife, and friends have affectionately called hell canyon because they feel its evil. Many go with me once but few go a second time. It is only minutes from a major city, and has been a treasure of a hunting spot for many years. My dad first took me there deer hunting when I was a boy, and it is exactly the same today as it was back then. In my life time I have watched most everything change. They call it development, but to me it is simply the loss of another playground. I see houses and roads and stores taking over what was once farm land. Nearly all the places I hunted as a boy are gone to “development”. It can be very depressing, and it seems to happen everywhere. That steep evil little canyon up there is the same as it ever was. Though physically challenging it is my favorite place to hunt forest grouse. They might not be the grouse of lore from the east, but they are the grouse I grew up loving. Usually the bag there consists of both blues, and Ruffed grouse. I have countless memories of dogs and friends in that canyon, but today one is really on my mind.
   was in Tic's yearling season. I had worked very hard to give my young friend every opportunity to find birds on his own. I left the older dogs home often to allow him to really learn and took him out at least twice a week on his own that first season. It was late September or maybe even early October when I started Tic down into that steep canyon for the first time. A fresh skiff of snow was on the ground and I knew from experience that this was good for our chances, but not my footing. The already melting snow made the whole canyon glisten in the morning sunshine. It has the most beautiful stand of deep dark pines on one side and short heavy brush on the other. The bottom of the canyon has a tiny spring running down it and the cover around the water is impenetrable. There are also Aspens, elderberries, some kind of red-orange berry that is common in the Utah mountains, and all types of leaves and buds that often turn up in the craws of a grouse. There is so much habitat that on the best days one finds birds many and often all the way through it from top to bottom. For one reason or another it is a place they congregate when the weather starts to turn. It is so steep that the blue grouse found up high in it only have to flap a few times before diving down the canyon and out of site. It is among the best places to be period.
    It is always interesting to watch a young dog learn about new cover and terrain. He had not seen terrain this steep or brush like this before, and I wondered how he would handle it. He struggled at first but adapted quick and was covering ground well in no time. His first bird encounters of the morning were not the best. He crowded a small group of blues near the top and then another group several hundred yards down from there. It is hard to not pull the trigger and harvest a bird or two like that, but I feel strongly that it is best to shoot only pointed birds for a young dog so I gritted my teeth and watched them fly away down the canyon like they were dropping off of the flat earth. I smiled as I watched Tic all excited and hopped up on bird scent. I found him very entertaining racing all over the place being young full of foolishness, energy, and enthusiasm. I waited for him to settle down a bit after the second birds jumped, and then started back down the canyon. We worked our way down to the upper edge of those dark pines. They have some nice thick brush on the uphill side of them that often holds both blue and ruffs. Tic was hunting that stuff when I stepped around a large pine and saw the tip of his tail still and high in the thick stuff. I was so excited to see my young dog standing like that. I got to where I could see him a little better and stopped to admire his beauty for a few moments. When a took another step birds went everywhere, and I was able to connect on one. It tumbled down the hill as I yelled “fetch Tic fetch” just like we practiced in the yard he brought the ruffed grouse up the hill to my hand. I made a huge deal out of it. We rolled around on the ground while I scratched his ears, roughed him up a bit and told him “good boy!” over and over. I remember
Young Tic on this hunt.

how happy and excited he was that he had pleased me that much. I ended up shooting three birds that day. One ruffed and two blue grouse all pointed by Tic that morning. He had several other bird producing points that I couldn’t get shots at. That was the first time he really looked like he knew what he was doing. I remember thinking Hmm he might just make a bird dog after all.

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