Sunday, December 30, 2007

final hurrah of the season...

With the regular pheasant season winding down tomorrow and Their Majesties headed off to training camp on Wednesday, I figured it was a suitable occasion to meet up with Bob and Belle and get the boys out on some birds.

Tom Mackin's a good friend of a good friend, so we decided to check out the TMT Preserve up in Staatsburg. Tom also has a sporting clays course on his land which he operates when bird-season is all done -- and being old-school, the clays are all hand-thrown by a trapper who walks the course with each group of shooters. We got a good view of a lot of the terrain and that course should be a cracker.

While I waited for Bob to get there, I shot the breeze with Tom... a good egg who used to raise and train Springer spaniels, but one of whose first dogs was actually a Vizsla. But now, when a group of clients needs a dog, he calls in friends to guide. And I overheard that the other group's guide was to be a guy named Danny Cordero... and as soon as I saw Danny I knew I recognized him. Danny was one of the judges at the second set of hunt tests we took Momo to down at Flaherty Field in CT. While he didn't judge Momo, he was one of the two judges who politely removed the crazy dog that Rich and Adrian's Ella was braced with for her Sunday run allowing her to show what she was capable of. He brought his Brittany, Roscoe -- and it would have been fun to watch him hunt that dog.

Bob and I both liked TMT, if for no other reason than the terrain was a nice mixture of hardwoods, taller grasses (now flatter after the snow), swamp, and the occasional conifer or two. Not quite as beefy stalking as at Fullflight, but more challenging than Wing Pointe. We had asked for a mixed bag of pheasant and chukar... and the chukar were chukar... run, hop, fly... but his pheasant were beautiful. Big, flighty birds. Tom keep his birds in some big flight pens out back and you could tell. Jozsi got a beautiful point on a cockbird which corkscrewed around a pine and then took off. For miles. We abandoned hope of finding it again. But after needing an initial 'tuning,' Jozsi looked like a million dollars during his run. He's young and loves birds -- and so getting him to 'whoa' while you walk in and flush the bird is our work-in-progress. But as this picture shows, his first two points and 'whoas' were beautiful.

But here are a couple of pictorial highlights courtesy of Bob. (I was a little busy trying not to shoot like Roy Orbison with my 'new' 20ga side-by-side.) This one here is Momo backing Belle's point on a hen pheasant. Momo has really internalised this part of his style-manual -- in part it's his slightly deferential personality, but as you can see, he knows exactly what's going on.

The final pic is of His Junior Majesty looking like he's set to wrestle any bird, any time. We watch him stretch at home and just look at the muscles in his hind legs pop out like he's a track-sprinter. He really is looking like he's going to be a firecracker.

Thanks for the pictures and the company, Bob!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

what does 'sporting' mean?

Dan's comment on my last post made me concerned that perhaps I wasn't being clear in how I used the term 'sporting'. And to be honest, I was using it in several ways, several of them sarcastic, some of them ironic, and probably only because I was forced to be relying on the HSUS's terms of debate.

Dan reminded me that Matt Mullenix (of Querencia fame) had written a few words about the forced disjunction between 'sporting' and 'subsistence' hunting. These can be found here. Matt's basic point is this:

"To separate the acts of hunting birds and eating them is to establish a false dichotomy and, simultaneously, to weaken the strongest defense for all hunting. Most bird hunters (and all the ones I know) eat birds; whatever our motivations for doing so, however practical or aesthetic or spiritual, our sport is undeniably a form of subsistence hunting."

I have said it myself that not to eat the bird you have killed is to lessen its life. As Matt points out, most of us have a variety of choices about the food we eat and where we can acquire it. I was a vegetarian until I discovered small -scale, artisanal farms that supplied cruelty-free meat; and I only became a hunter after I watched my dog reach down into his genetic well. And so, for me, any hunt which understands that killing is a way to put meat on a plate which will hopefully be savored and appreciated for the life it embodied is a hunt worthy of the life taken.

But what does 'sporting' mean in such a context? Matt has said a few more words about this:

"The competition between predator and prey is not something that needs a point system to understand or appreciate. It is a hunt, the object of which is to catch, kill and eat the quarry, which for its sake seeks to avoid this long as possible."

That's a wonderfully succinct definition. It actually makes me realise that one of the reasons I hate shooting poorly is because if I do miss a bird, the dog will hunt it again. That repeated hunting may make the bird wilder, or it may make it weaker. But the fact remains that it is a competition -- and while folks like me may stack the odds slightly by having well-trained, experienced dogs, we are still in a competition, the outcomes of which are far from certain.

I leave you with a picture from a recent, and unsuccessful, trip to Sterling Forest. And yes, that bruiser on the right is His Junior Majesty... 7 1/2 months old and 45lbs.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

price is wrong...

Dan (and others, including Steve Bodio and Pat the Terrierman) have blogged on why pending legislation, AB 1634, in California is dumb. Bob Barker has recently joined the renewed campaign to have this mandatory spay-neuter legislation get through the State Senate... and while he may have kicked Happy Gilmore's butt, I am beginning to wonder whether he's lost his grasp on reality since retiring from popular television. There's a huge difference between ending every broadcast of 'The Price is Right' with an appeal to spay or neuter your pets and pursuing legislation that would mitigate Californians even having the opportunity to choose.

PetPAC is one of the organizations lined up squarely against AB 1634. And I leave these two pieces of evidence to demonstrate why, ultimately, I have to agree with Dan, Pat, and the folks at PetPAC: first, whether he uses this as an administrative or pedagogical technique for the future, I think Dave will get a kick out of 'how to make a phony graph'; second, myths and facts about spaying and neutering from the folks at the Humane Society of the United States (who endorse AB 1634 and appear to be perpetuating a few more of their own). Again, I think some of what these folks at HSUS are trying to do, ie. have folks be responsible owners, is well-intentioned and not all together incorrect. However, what I object to is:

* having statewide mandates to control the behavior of 5% of the human population
* mis-diagnosing either the problem or the root causes of the problem
* using bait-and-switch rhetorical techniques

But I didn't actually start this blog to add further to this particular debate. I actually wanted to say a few things about HSUS's wildlife programs. I hunt, I hunt with our dogs, and frankly only enjoy hunting with our dogs. I fully understand friends who hunt only with their dogs and a camera. And at least when I do take a gun with me, my blogs can adequately document that even with good dogs, hunting is still very much a 'sporting' activity for me -- even when going after stocked, preserve birds.

Wayne Pacelle at HSUS has written a piece about 'wasteful' pheasant stocking programs. He begins: "The pheasant hunt has, in many cases, devolved into a pathetic blend of factory farming and canned hunting: The birds are planted, the killing is all but guaranteed, and the "sport" is non-existent."

[The picture is courtesy of the Suisun Marsh Program in the San Francisco Bay-Delta.]

Again, Pacelle isn't entirely off-base: I have witnessed a preserve pheasant hunt where four guys, with a guide and a dog, essentially walked up a strip of managed bird-cover and beat birds into the air. Stacking the odds?... yes... 'sporting'?... not by my definition... Have I seen evidence of pick-up trucks lined up waiting for a State stocking truck to pull up to a Wilderness Management Area and heard stories of what is essentially a bi-weekly slaughter (because the stocking schedule is posted on the internet)? You betcha'. 'Sporting'?... again, not even close.

But my problems really begin here. "Wild pheasants aren't heading the way of the passenger pigeon, but their numbers are diminishing rapidly as chunks of farmland habitat are gobbled up by urban sprawl [and larger-scale mechanized farming etc.]." This is the kind of bait-and-switch that actually annoys me. As stated by Pacelle, this is the problem: a paucity of suitable habitat for wild pheasants to grow (and be hunted in a sporting fashion). And so the solution to decreasing wildlife habitat is to... stop pheasant stocking programs. Huh? And bearing in mind that pheasant are exotic to North America, when does a pheasant get to be 'wild'?

Again, do I find tower shoots or even traditional flighted bird shoots to be anywhere close to 'sporting'? or that live pigeon shoots are good 'sport'? No, I don't. This is not to claim a moral high-ground but simply to say that using these examples as typical of all (or even a majority) hunters is frankly insulting.

Pacelle goes on to say that: "A week after their release, according to Bird Dog & Retriever News, some 40% will have starved to death or been killed by predators. After a month, the mortality will reach 75%. By the end of the hunting season, only a small percentage will have fallen to a well-aimed wad of lead shot. By some estimates, only a scant 5% will make it through the winter." Hmmmm. Let's assume these numbers are correct -- although I suspect any language that relies on phrases like 'by some estimates'.

Using Michael Furtman's data from Ruffed Grouse: Woodland Drummer, he estimates that fewer than 40% make it from the egg to the first autumn, approximately 18% make it to the first winter, barely 8% make it to their second mating, and barely 4% make it to their third mating (pp. 71-2). So, an entirely native, wild bird has a maybe 8% chance of survival through the winter. And the impact of hunting by humans is "minimal, since to a large degree, this harvest is what biologists call 'compensatory' mortality -- a great portion of the birds taken by grouse hunters would have died anyway that fall or winter." (p. 79)

I realize I'm making a phony graph because I don't know what the mortality rates of farm-raised pheasants are from egg to field... although my inclination is that it's much higher than the 40% for ruffed grouse.

But my point is this: genuinely wild, native birds don't enjoy long lives. This is not to cheapen the lives of stocked pheasants, but it is to say that whether it's a ruffed grouse or a pen-raised pheasant, their first year is one rife with danger and likely death. The only real question to me is whether pen-raised pheasant suffer from non-compensatory mortality, ie. they die at a higher rate than if they were born and raised in the woods.

Pacelle says this about pen-raised birds: "Raised in intense confinement and habituated to humans who have fed them since hatching, the newly released pheasants can take up to three weeks to learn to forage—by which time they may have starved or become food for scavengers or predators such as foxes, raccoons, and raptors." Now, again, I have no inclination to even participate in a tower shoot, nor have I seen the kinds of game-farms that Pacelle actually describes. But I have been to several -- and I would make several observations -- that the pheasant I've seen were in far less intense confinement than any large-scale poultry farm operation and those birds were in fact protected from predators and were certainly wary of any human or canine proximity despite the presence of a real, physical barrier. (So now I doubt these mortality figures for grouse and pheasant are that far apart.) To be fair, HSUS is also sponsoring legislative action against factory-farms and large-scale poultry operations.

The challenge for me is that Pacelle seems ignorant as to where birds of most kinds fit on the food-chain and to how pheasants might actually become 'wild.' There's a reason that, with grouse, after the first year, the annual mortality rate drops by 50% per year. Because the birds learn more about avoiding predation, human and otherwise -- they get wilder. And so, in that regard, Pacelle does the very birds he thinks whose lives are being wasted a massive disservice.

Again, I have no problem with HSUS sponsoring anti-bear-baiting campaigns in Maine. But if, as National Geographic neatly equates -- "Human population grows. Habitat shrinks. -- the question is why is HSUS wasting legislative effort on mandatory spaying programs for pets when the much larger solution to the problem appears to be mandatory spaying programs for humans. And the HSUS has no apparent plans to pursue that particular line of humanity.

Because one can use numbers in a variety of ways to make any particular point, I understand that Pacelle's piece on what may be a somewhat sell-fulfilling financial prophecy -- on hunting licenses paying for the kinds of state stocking programs he abhors -- may have some accuracy. However, in that piece, he states:

"So while the financial contribution of hunters is hardly voluntary, the money still greases the engine of a circular system designed to ensure its perpetuation...The system must be changed to benefit wildlife rather than to promote its destruction, and to benefit the public, allowing people a meaningful voice in wildlife management and more than a fleeting glimpse of wildlife in nature."

Firstly, hunters do give money voluntarily to non-governmental organizations. Pheasants Forever has over 115,000 members, and an annual revenue of $26.8 million -- 89% of which is used directly to preserve habitat. What does political action by groups like Pheasants Forever translate into? As of last week, the US Senate passed its version of the Federal Farm Bill which contains several major conservation provisions that benefit farmers and wildlife alike. These include over 39 million acres of land set aside for wildlife habitat, 13.5 million additional pheasants, and over 170,000 miles stream habitats protected.

Secondly, what does 'wild' mean if people get "more than a fleeting glimpse in nature"? I find it ironic that Pacelle would seem to prefer mankind watching wolves or elk, or for that matter wolves killing elk, from discrete viewing platforms so that we can respect their lives rather than have us get used to the idea that 'wild' might actually mean something close to slippery, magical, and elusive.

Thirdly, a "circular system designed to ensure its perpetuation"? Hmmm. Sounds a lot like humane society shelter management to me. Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black.

*******************

Along the way of writing this I did discover a couple of great blogsaboutdogs I need to check out: Christie Keith's Dogged Blog and Vet Tech.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

wrestlemania

The weather is crappy again -- and so we missed another chance to go chase birds with Bob and Belle. Time is running out. It actually makes me sad to think we're taking the boys to training camp in just over a week -- even if they'll have a great time and emerge like even bigger super stars.

And so, while Meg has been a real trooper taking Their Majesties out in the crappy weather, I decided to do my part to take some of their edge off. This is how we do it here in the Bronx... full on and no safety net!

video

Now all of this pales in comparison with the video-clips from Annie's jam session. I like #5 the best, mostly because I keep imagining the two dudes wearing knit-caps and singing khoomi-style throat-singing are going to break out into a Tom Araya impersonation.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

things must be winding down...

We tried to get out and chase birds today... the weather was lovely... the 30% of precipitation didn't materialise, and so we zipped around in the sunshine and occasional cold breeze. I wanted to get up to Stewart because my secret sources had found a stocking schedule that was supposed to include this week. But when we got there, the main gate was all locked up and no-one had been up the access road since the snow last Thursday.

It would have been nice for them to have left either a message on their phone-system -- or even a note on the front gate. Who knows if this means they're now done for the season.

So we jetted back down to Stirling to see if there was any evidence of ditch-chickens. There was none. Lots of rabbit and deer tracks, but nothing resembling Big Bird (who we gather may be in Hovd, Mongolia). So, here's a little video of the two boys... grouse-bells, flapping ears and all.

video

Sunday, December 16, 2007

calms in the storm

Hiatus #1: The University of Michigan has a new football coach... at least it seems really likely. I'd hate to herbstreit things at this point, but it sure looks like Rich Rodriguez is leaving West Virginia for Ann Arbor. Bill Martin is still a buffoon, but at least Rodriguez is someone to get excited about.

Brian at MGoBlog has the whole rigmarole. The sad part is that I think both UM and West Virginia are going to lose in their bowl games. Nevertheless, GO BLUE!

Hiatus #2: I have been remiss in all things Central Asian again. And in the interests of full disclosure, the one thing I love but really don't write about on The Regal Vizsla is music. I love music. But I am a distinct amateur in the Victorian sense, one who loves music but has no professional ability, academic or performative. This is slightly embaressing for the son of a music teacher, but I think it makes my father chuckle when I try to get him to explain weird time signatures.

Nevertheless, as I went to work today on the subway, I was captivated by a song from Music of Central Asia Vol. 1: Tengir-Too Mountain Music of Kyrgyzstan. The song -- Küidüm Chok (I Burn, I Smoulder Like Charcoal) -- was sung by Zainidin Imanaliev. You can find more info about Imanaliev here (although this is him on the album cover doing his Hendrix impersonation). I hadn't known of the Smithsonian Folkways collection till yesterday when I heard about the release of the second trilogy of CDs in the series on my National Geographic World Music Profiles podcast. So I surfed the iTunes store and, while I didn't find all the volumes, I did find volume 1.

There is something very simple about the two- and three-stringed 'lutes' of Central Asia, the komuz of Kyrgyzstan and the dombra of Kazakhstan. When we were in Almaty not only were we able to visit the National Museum of Musical Instruments in Panfilov Park, our friend Patrick Francis also recounted the myth that one of the reasons that the dombra was actually a difficult instrument to learn and play well was because it only had two strings... and so there was nothing to hide behind.

I norm
ally listen to PRI's Global Hit podcast -- and there was a great back in January from Kazakhstan on the dombra. (If you click on this, you'll go directly to the mp3 download.) Anyways, sometimes you just find gems when you have no idea you'll find them. If you get a chance, even if you just listen to that one song, Küidüm Chok, you'll hear some incredible vocal technique, phrasing, and wonderful komuz playing.

Azamat: apologies for not visiting recently. If you have any other recommendations for Kyrgyz music, please post them here.

Hiatus #3: We've had a couple of icy days here which has been a pain for getting out and chasing birds, but it makes the boys even more snuggly. Here's a nice picture from the other day of all three of Meg's boys lying on the dog-bed in front of the radiator. Check out how big the Evil Boy Genius is! Zoiks!!

Friday, December 14, 2007

baseball now maybe as credible as cycling...

The Mitchell Report came out yesterday. No huge surprises. Slate.com has a nicely titled piece 'Dope Springs Eternal' that explores what kinds of meaningful outcomes will come from all of this.

Needless to say, that with a paucity of current Red Sox players named in the report and an abundance of former and current Yankees in starring roles, there is some conspiracy-theorizing about George Mitchell's partiality (especially seeing as he serves as a Director of the Boston Red Sox). As Mitchell himself pointed out in his press conference (and documented here at MLB.com), the evidentiary epicenter of the report lay in Kirk Radomski's testimony. Living in New York and working for the Mets, Radomski's knowledge and testimony was therefore bound to be weighted.

As Josh Levin speculates at Slate.com: "I guarantee that Batboy: The Rise and Fall of Kirk Radomski (or maybe The Unnatural) will be a major motion picture in the next two years. It's like Blow meets Almost Famous meets Major League." I wonder who would play Radomski? Dolph Lundgren? Or Josh Hartnett?

Referring to each team's number of mentions in the Mitchell Report (with the Yankees earning a report-high 14 mentions and the White Sox the lowest at only 1), Josh Levin keeps it real by concluding: "If I'm a Chicago White Sox fan, I'm asking why our guys aren't willing to compete with the rest of the league."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

when will we see your like again...

Haven't been over to The Debateable Land in a while and, because the ice-storm we're in right now aborted our midday field-trip, I was able to see a lovely post by Alex Massie on the hypnotic appeal of Scottish nationalism -- and its curious adoption by various factions. Frankly, what caught my eye was his use of Hugh MacDiarmid's The Little White Rose as the subject line.

Alex references The Daily Telegraph's 'Call Yourself British' campaign -- which seems (not too) strangely reminiscent of Gordon Brown's repeated speeches on 'Britishness' (one of which can be found here). The Telegraph's announcement links to an essay by Brown championing Lord Baker's appeal for a National Museum of British History. Gordon Brown then goes on to suggest he would want to see an 'Institute of Britishness' as well -- presumably staffed by Bill Oddie, Ronnie Corbett, and Andrew Sachs.

Braveheart is perhaps not quite as wretched a movie as Alex would have us believe -- because arguably, it is still good messy fun. (I realize this comes close to saying Pearl Harbor wasn't a pile of dross and therefore improperly skewered by Team America World Police because it had incredible aerial dogfight footage.) Arguably, its biggest vice is that it can be anything to almost anyone -- but the weird affinity for Braveheart I discovered was in Yo'Av Karny's great book Highlanders: A Journey to the Caucasus in Quest of Memory. As he puts it in his preface:

"It was no accident that soon after its release in 1995, one of the most popular foreign films in the North Caucasus was Braveheart... Many hundreds of pirated videocassettes of the film circulated in Caucasian markets, and it won fulsom praise from military heroes and tribal potentates. One of its greatest fans was Shamil Basayev, a daring Chechen rebel field commander who terrorized parts of southern Russia and led invasions of Daghestan in the summer and fall of 1999. By his own words, he was a William Wallace of the Caucasus." (p.xiv)

Karny's book is great in all kinds of ways. It makes some solid sense that you would have an Israeli journalist go to the Caucasus to try and decode the subtleties of national identity, homeland, faith, and ritual. And perhaps most importantly, while he begins with an archetype -- "an ancient saga of highlanders instinctively reaching for their swords in defense of the most basic liberty: not to answer to a foreigner" -- the book constantly resists falling back on that archetype. Which is why Braveheart may actually be wretched after all.

The other weird, and far more disturbing affinity for the mythos of Scottish identity can be found in Blood in the Face, a documentary about the KKK in Michigan. I was pleasantly surprised to find this NYT review by Vincent Canby still available on-line. While Canby mentions some of the ritual costumery to be seen in the film -- the Nazi regalia and biker/camo chic -- he doesn't mention that alongside the white hoods and jackboots are handfuls of folk standing around in full highland gear. Now, the history of the Klan (the "clan") is one sadly interconnected with Scots heritage -- having seemingly been formed by Confederate Scots cavalry officers.

(And while some have argued that the Klan's burning crosses and secret initiations have their origins in, respectively, the summoning of a clan to defend itself or the Society of the Horseman's Word, these seem historically tenuous. Here is an interesting and thorough explication on right-wing groups and ideology by Timothy Baysinger that makes some mention of Scottish origins.)

What is more disturbing is that, in the film, Pastor Bob Miles describes the Scots as one of the original Aryan nations... as if wearing three-feet of pleated tartan towards the end of the 20thC provides one with a 'Kilt of Genetic and Moral Supremacy'. There are any number of ways to take this: the hypnotic power of ritual, the need for collective membership, the ease in blaming and suppressing others instead of simply elevating oneself. But, and as much as I don't see the clowns in Blood in the Face as reflecting my Scotland, perhaps in hindsight it is as simple as Alex makes out: Braveheart is a wretched movie because it carefully chooses which bits of 'Scotland' and 'William Wallace' work for it and sidesteps anything potentially dangerous about the quest for self-rule or what happens in the vacuum once that basic liberty -- of not answering to a foreigner -- has been attained.

I leave you with these words from Hugh MacDiarmid.

“I suggest to you that we don't allow ourselves to be fobbed off with any talk about the problems and difficulties that varying degrees of devolution would present us with. We don't require to bother about that. We're going for devolution right to the end, that's to say for complete independence, and we rest our case on the virtue of our own personality and the strength of our own determination. Thank you.”

-- Hugh MacDiarmid, Speech at Glasgow University, 6 April 1968

The rose of all the world is not for me.
I want for my part
Only the little white rose of Scotland
That smells sharp and sweet – and breaks the heart.

-- Hugh MacDiarmid, The Little White Rose

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

merciless...

1) UM Football Coach needed:
Brian at MGoBlog has an amusing transcript from an alleged interview between U.Michigan and Les Miles of LSU. What I think he intends as spoof is sadly how I really read this sad state of affairs.

And I have to believe that Dan was right about Brian's commentary, that it really might be the best site for Michigan sports. I feel compelled to include it on my blog-roll, too. Especially after this nice spitting of Billy Martin.

Jerry Moore at Appalachian State looks pretty good to me. Seems like a nice guy, too. But he has no sailing experience. Nor jowls. As for Les Miles being done with UM: two words: Nick Saban. And I don't trust him much either now.

2) The Ice-Storm approacheth:
Just when I thought I might be able to get the boys out to chase some birds again, we go and get our first really crappy winter weather on the horizon. Meg's brother, legendary in most of Central Asia, and known simply as Johnny-bek, is frozen in in beautiful Kansas City. Happily his time spent living in former-Soviet apartment buildings has prepared him well for the joys of unreliable, intermittent electricity.

Need to head to bed. But hopefully we'll have some exciting technological updates from here at Team Vizsla -- NYC chapter.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

random roundup

1) Just heard some reassuring news from my wife's uncle John, that he had in fact decided to go into partnership with Pheasants Forever to restore a significant chunk of his property in eastern Wisconsin to a native prairie state. The following is excerpted from an e-mail to me, but I thought folks might appreciate a bunch of the details involved:

"Pheasants Forever was here this Sept. and prepared, along with my help, 20 acres of my 42. That entailed: removing volunteer trees/large bushes, marking off the area, which undulates around the interior of my land, bush hogging to a height of 10 inches with a "Rino" 3 blad/3 part bush hog drawn by a 150 hp John Deer tractor, spraying "Garlon" (a herbicide) with a ten man team, in an all day effort, to treat the cut stems of my red osier dogwood, and finally, for this year, the Co-op came in with a boom sprayer truck and treated all of my cool season grasses with 1.5 qt of 2-4-D/acre herbicide and 2qt of Roundup/acre, also a herbicide. That is it for this year.
The plan for next year starting in probably late April (depending on the weather and temperatures) is to bush hog the entire area again, then the last treatment of chemicals, only Roundup, at the same quantity as in Fall. Then, a controlled burn will be conducted of the entire area, and then in approx. late May/early June the drill planter will be brought in to plant all the native Wisconsin seeds( consisting of about 5-6 grasses, 25 to 35 fobs(flowers), and several legumes(bean plants). During the rest of the summer to Fall a couple more cuts with the bush hog will be done to keep down any non-native plants that have survived all of the above.
I have hated chemicals for a long time, but after much research and many visits of chemists, naturalists, biologists form the University of Wisconsin, Madison and from the WI Dept of Natural Resources, plus input from several environmental organizations and a lot of reading and visiting other prairie sites, I have come to accept this approach (including the chemicals) in order to establish a native prairie.

The estimates I have gotten, this close to Lake Michigan, is that it will take 3-5 years for the prairie to establish itself. The life of the prairie is unlimited as long as we employ controlled burns every 4-5 years to discourage non-native plants from reasserting themselves."

Good on you, John. I need to do a little more research into Pheasants Forever. (I'll admit that while the Ruffed Grouse Society has a great national record for percentage of revenue dedicated to conservation (93% as opposed to PF's 89% or Duck's Unlimited's 82%), I haven't heard squat from any of the local chapters since we joined. I don't need a bunch of new friends, but it'd be nice to know that they need me for more than my annual membership fee.)

2) In cycling news: the Flying Kazakh has officially retired after receiving a one-year suspension for blood doping during the Tour. Perennial sponsor T-Mobile has also decided to end its relationship with professional cycling, leaving Gorgeous George Hincapie mildly high-and-dry. But with a revived team, now under the moniker Team High Road. But it does look like everyone may finally get paid at Team Astana.

In other news: it's the full-on cyclocross season and Sven Nys is riding like the beast he is. Here he is winning the World Cup race in Igorre, Spain. This nice picture is by Joel Roberts, poached from cyclingnews.com. For those that think cyclocross is for patsies... try this on your road bike. This is Bart Wellens riding through one of several sandpits at the World Cup race in Koksidje, Belgium. Tried it a couple of times... not fun... unless you like lactic acid. The pic is by Luc Claessen, also lifted from cyclingnews.com.

3) I'm sure Dan is lamenting, but the season is over for the Lakers of Grand Valley State. They were solidly beaten by NW Missouri State in the NCAA Division II Semifinal two days ago.

4) While I gently berated Dan for hoisting MGoBlog over The Regal Vizsla on his blog-roll, it really does seem to be the place to go for insight into Michigan sports. And according to Brian, UM still doesn't have a coach. Or many great prospects. And Billy Martin, the Athletic Director at UM, was an honor student at the G.W. Bush School of International Diplomacy.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

like Ray Charles...

I owe the expression to my co-worker, Ed. But yes, after what seems like an eternity away from chasing birds, the boys did well... and their dad shot like he was wearing dark glasses (and playing a piano, for that matter).

I couldn't take deer season any longer. And so we splurged for the 'Quail Special' and headed out to Hamburg, PA, to Wing Pointe. Their website makes it sound really schwanky, but it wasn't... in a good way. This is not a Nemacolin or a Sandanona, but the facilities were well-laid out, modern, well-maintained and all the staff we met were really nice, down-to-earth, and helpful... although I introduced them to Ed's aphorism about my performance and imagine they'll be using that one themselves.

So here's a nice highlight picture of Momo in action. He really does rock. And I hate missing birds when he's done a great job to find and hold them. After the first couple of points and missed birds, I think he got 'hunt test madness' for a few moments... and wanted to run around and spook birds. But we got him re-calibrated and he did his business like a champ.

Jozsi had moments of brilliance. Getting him to hold is our current challenge. If the bird starts to run, his inclination is to charge it and pin it. Not terrible, especially for his age, but 'awfully poor form' in terms of good pointing style. But he does love to run and chase birds. A lot.

But we all looked like amateurs compared to this beautiful hawk. (I think it's a red-tail, but I'll take correct answers.) Click on the picture and you can actually make out some nice details on it. Now as cool as this bird is for hunting avian prey, it wins the award for stealing a bird I had already shot but left by one of the marker posts to be picked up and cleaned. Genius.

Hopefully we'll be able to get out after ditch-chickens next week, once the deer-hunters have left for the season. I'll make sure I have my white stick with me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

hoots, mon

Chinggis was a Scotsman! Or at least maybe an honorary one. Post facto.

Annie just sent the announcement that there will be a St. Andrews Night Celebration on Friday at the Steppe Inne, Ulaan Baatar's coolest, diminutive nightspot. As Paul Bacon writes on iExplore: "Whereas most embassies around the world are more renowed for diplomacy and issuing visas, the British Embassy in Mongolia is famed for the pub that sits in its grounds."

Alexa, a former NGO worker in UB, has a little of the history of the Steppe Inne here from her 2006/2007 blog, AYearinMongolia.

Andrew McLaughlin of Slate.com mentions the Steppe Inne in a longer journal entry about the non-Mongolian food selections in UB. He wrote his piece in 2003: I enjoyed a Millie's cappucino when we were there in December 2004 -- and while we did enjoy the food at Taj Mahal, if you're looking for Indian food in the capital, we heartily recommend the restaurant at the Puma International Hotel just off Sukhbaatar Square.

And here's Dan Murdoch's very recent post about passing through UB in a mini-convoy of Trabants. Not so much about the Steppe Inne, but a fun, funky, and random travelogue entry on their way through UB last week: "The Mongolian version of Vodka Red Bull. I'll have a double Genghis with Genghis."

But here's an encylopaedic entry on St. Andrew from Wikipedia: incidentally, Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, and Russia. But they don't have bars in Mongolia.

Monday, November 26, 2007

update from Team-Vizsla: eastern MA chapter

Here's a couple of great pictures from Rich and Adrian. Here's their junior majesty, Khumbu, the 85ft Vizsla pup. (Great low-angle pic!) He's just shy of 4mos old and already 27lbs -- and a looker just like his sister. He's already has his first points on training birds. Good luck with that little firecracker!

And here's a nice B&W pic of Ella taken back in late September. Rich had better take a few shooting lessons so he doesn't let his, now, two beautiful bird-dogs down.

Thanks for the pics, Rich.

melange

Ingredient #1: Kudos to Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles. I actually stayed up past my bedtime to see if they would pull off an upset to equal Arkansas's recent win over #1 ranked LSU. They didn't, but they sure as heck made the Pats work for every point.

Randy Moss was shut down, Tom Brady was harried by an endless series of blitzes, the Pats running game looked imminently fallible. By contrast, AJ Feeley looked more like the starting QB than the back-up and Brian Westbrook took every yard he could possibly get. And, at least in my opinion, the guy who really showed up out of relative obscurity to help win the game wasn't Asante Samuel (with his 2 interceptions), but Jabar Gaffney.

Ingredient #2: I heard the first few bars of the State of Maine's official Christmas song on the radio. It makes sense that the Pine Tree State would stake a claim to an official Tannenbaum ode -- but I had no idea it had such a history. Or an authorized CD.

Ingredient #3: It's deer season in NY. The boys and I are limiting our time in the woods between now and December 10th to minimize the possibility of an accident. Hopefully we'll get to chase some pheasant at a friend's club in ten days or so.

In the meantime here's a phone photo of Vizslas at speed here in the Bronx. It's a nice blend of 'wild' and 'urban tough'... maybe that's a gangsta log... we're especially fond of the graffiti on downed trees around here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

bits and bobs

1) Jozsi continues to grow. He must be about 85% the size of his brother, Momo, but is about a gajillion feet longer. Whenever it gets to the end of the day, trying to get him off his chair and out to the bathroom nearly always takes picking him up. At which point, he extends himself to his fullest... which seems to be about 19ft.

We sent in his AKC papers today. We've decided to stick with the simple -- but wanted to honor both his mother's owners by including both their kennel names. His Junior Majesty will henceforth be known as Widdershins Upwind Jozsi. Here's a picture of all three of the boys relaxing in front of the Patriots vs. the Bills. Momo is a diver: his butt can just barely be seen under my right shoulder.

2) I have no idea which depth of my ever-fogging brain I pulled this out of, but somehow the name Nogbad the Bad kept coming in my mind. Maybe it was something to do with officially 'christening' His Junior Majesty. Dredging further, I extracted the children's series Noggin the Nog. As you can see, Noggin's trip to the moon inspired the cult-classic The Clangers.

3) Lloyd Carr has officially retired. He was a good coach, but seemed to lack that edge that makes a good coach genuinely great. Somehow I had missed this headline in September from The Onion about U.Michigan being dropped to NCAA Division III. That should make some of the interdivisional play in the MIAA conference a little easier -- although since their National Championship glory days of 1994, Albion College (just down the road) also seems to have been struggling.

4) Annie-bagsh has a great post on her blog about getting back to eastern Mongolia and visiting the monastery in Choibalsan for the Shiini Nam celebration. It's almost three years to the day since we were in Choibalsan. There are rumors of a Super Walmart opening up -- but those may just be vicious rumors spread by her brother.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

grouse fans + fans grousing

1) Grouse fans:
Based on my examination of the tail-fan and feathers of the grouse we took in Maine, I think it's most likely a male. Michael Furtman's recent book, Ruffed Grouse: Woodland Drummer, has what seems to be the best summary of the research on grouse sexing. He also has some incredible photographs that are well worth the asking price of the book.

As he relays, regional variations in grouse size affect how long the tail feathers are and, therefore, in the absence of sample data from your particular area, mere measurement of an individual bird's tail-feathers isn't a very reliable indicator of sex. By the same token, just looking at the butt feathers or the banding on the tail feathers isn't entirely reliable either. In Furtman's opinion, a combination of the latter two factors should give a high degree of certainty.

Because our grouse had an unbroken dark band across the base of its tail and a single white spot on the butt feathers immediately above the tail, I'm figuring this was a male, grey-phase grouse.

2) Fans grousing:
Michigan plays Ohio State in college football in a little under an hour. Both teams are coming off a loss the previous week -- UM to the Badgers of Wisconsin, OSU to Badger-slayers Illinois. ESPN thinks this might be Lloyd Carr's last game against Jim Tressel... I think more than a few of us UM alums wish it might have been sooner.

In any case, UM is playing for bragging rights and OSU to have even a possibility of staying in a national title race. But this is arguably the greatest sports rivalry of all time, certainly in college sports.

We'll see if Dan at shotonsite is right -- that OSU is overrated because of its weak schedule -- or whether my thoughts about UM's slow starts in games will be its undoing against the machine known as jim Tressel.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

a grouse equation

I prepared Momo's first grouse this morning, saving the wings for training and the tail-fan to commemorate His Senior Majesty's achievement, and of course the breast meat (which I will most likely eat at Thanksgiving). I will do my best to sex the bird once I get home this evening and can take a little time to examine the tail-fan.

Ruffed grouse being opportunistic feeders, they adapt what they eat as seasons, cover, and appetite change. While many authors point to the frequent overlap between alder trees (which provide moisture- and nutrient-rich buds) and grouse populations, their research over time and place invariably notes the diversity of grouse food. Being a curious type, I was interested to examine the crop contents of the bird we had taken. The crop is the sac-like container in the espohagus prior to the digestive tract -- and at least for the Spruce Grouse can hold up to 10% of the bird's body weight for digestion at night (while predators are also asleep). Grouse, like many other gallinaceous birds, will also consume a significant amount of gravel to help in breaking down and digesting plant cellulose. We didn't find any in the crop of this bird -- but did find clover and small fern leaves that, perhaps not surprisingly because they hadn't entered the digestive tract, still smelled wonderfully fresh (despite being frozen and defrosted).

(Here's a nice outline from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for a Wildlife Management Activity Guide for teachers to use in their biology classes and then share their data with the NPS. And here's a nice reference article from 1928 of what grouse were eating up around Syracuse, NY.)

My friend, Dudley, has a nice simple equation for finding grouse: gravel, water, greenery, and cedar = grouse. The greenery largely offer food, while the cedar could most likely be subsituted for other evergreens because it provides good roosting cover above ground predators and visual coverage from raptors flying above.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

big game season...

I forgot to mention that Jozsi's half-birthday was yesterday. He is therefore six-months old and a whopping 41lbs. And in a pleasant personality development, he's become quite snuggly. Until a couple of weeks ago he was stridently independent, although clearly devoted to us. Now... he's a big softy-pants. But still quite vicious and manly, of course.

However the highlight of this post is really to flag that The Redgirls have a fabulous post on their site about the Opening Day of their game season. I am very impressed at their prowess on H. vulgaris... although it looks like they had the wee beasties on flat ground and therefore at a significant disadvantage.

Not sure if they were pen-reared or genuinely wild haggis, but it's great to see the girls using their genetic abilities to the full.

It inspired me to see whether our two monsters had any latent skill on the wee beasties. As you can tell, Momo couldn't quite his snout around it, but Jozsi being the wee tanker was all over the two specimens we had kept for just this purpose.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

the way life ought to be

We miss Maine. New York has been better than I thought it would be, but after our roadtrip this past weekend we got the hankerings to go back. Whether we can act on those hankerings is another thing altogether.

So we drove up through western MA and met up with Rich and Ella, and Mike, Cedar and Kyler, up in Bernardston, MA for an afternoon of dog training. It was mostly successful. I don't know that the dogs learned anything new, but they did have fun. Here's a nice pic of Cedar pointing a chukar... what may not be obvious is that Cedar is a relatively big (63lb), darker Vizsla from lines out in Iowa. He's a beautiful boy and, at five years old, a big sweetheart. His sister, Kyler, is a half-sister to Jozsi. She is a petite firecracker (43lbs) who was taking no guff from either of our two boys... although she seemed to be flirting with Momo half the time.

We spent the night with Mike and Kim -- and Rich came over for dinner, as well. It was a five Vizsla house for several hours! They all had a great time together -- and our two certainly slept like babies. On Sunday morning, we scooted over to Hedgerow Hunt Club for the 2nd Annual VCCNE Pheasant Hunt -- mostly to meet other members and support the club's activities. As has been mentioned before, the folks at VCCNE have been very friendly and supportive towards us and we appreciate being part of that group.

My impression was that the 'hunt' was mostly for club members who'd maybe done a few hunt tests, were thinking about starting hunting, or simply wanted to give their dog some exposure to other birds besides bird-field quail. Essentially, each dog and handler got led out into one of two areas and then had either an hour or two pheasant and a chukar... whichever came first. And the hunt areas had a nice mixture of taller grasses and smaller pines for the birds to hunker down in. I took Momo and despite some evasive avian manouveurs, we were out for a swift 33mins! Stephanie's husband, Mannie, had gone out with us to show us the field -- and got to witness Momo's point on the chukar (and my successful pirouetting shot). When we wandered back in he said 'You couldn't get anything else to pop up?' I guess they couldn't hear my two other shots. I told them I just didn't want everyone eating all the donuts.

Anyways, thanks to Stephanie Gutierrez for putting together another nice event. It was a shame we had to bug out quickly so we could get to Rangeley before nightfall.

This pic was taken with my phone and shows us coming around Height of Land on Route 17N, looking down onto Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Beautiful. And a surprisingly good picture. (I'm not going to post the picture of the large moose we came upon driving the same way back this afternoon. While this one is nice and clear, the moose picture looks more like a Bigfoot or Nessie picture from 1970.)

It's always nice to see Dudley and Susan -- and Lida, their GSP. They are also looking after their son's Golden, Baxter, while he is in London for a year. Needless to say after several hours of cavorting, all four of them slept well.

Momo and I had come on a mission though. I haven't seen more than two grouse in a single day in lower New York State, and those were clearly yearlings who didn't deserve to get shot at in the final weeks of last year's season. However, Maine is rumored to have more than two grouse. The first two spots Dudley and I tried seemed to underline the mythical nature of the ruffed grouse. A single wild flush. After lunch, though, we tried a third spot on the west side of Mooselookmeguntic and found a nice pocket of them -- although all single birds.

The box-score for the two hours we were out in the afternoon was: 4 wild flushes, 5 productive points, 1 Hail Mary shot for psychological purposes, and no birds. In much the same way that there seems to be an exponential step from planted, bird-field birds to stocked birds in wildlife areas, there is a mammoth step to actual wild birds. Momo and I have experienced it with woodcock. But thinking that a pointing dog will give you anything other than a second's warning on a ruffed grouse or that it will fly in any kind of direction to give you a straight shot is hubris. Now I know why folks will refer to them as the King of the Forest. In most cases, all we got was a flash of grey and the occasional glimpse of a tail-fan before it turned a corner and left you ga ga. For his first real exposure to grouse, Momo did really well. Here he is looking pensive.

We did have a lovely dinner here. I'll admit surprise that there is a restaurant serving good quality, Southwestern food in Rangeley -- but it was tasty, relatively inexpensive, and they had Dogfish Head 60Minute IPA on draft! If you're in the area, check them out. I think it's a relatively new business and they deserve to stick around.

Momo and I went back this morning to see if we could find anything. As opposed to the afternoon before, the weather was now cool, misting rain, and blustery. We'd had four flushes as we decided to head back, but nipped down a skidder trail that Dudley and I had avoided the day before. Momo got a point into some dense, mostly evergreens -- and I sent him in. He stopped again and a bird flushed up through the tall 30' trees. It sat on a branch. And so being a sportsmanly type and I sent Momo in again and whooped loudly. The bird lifted off and I took him down cleanly. It might not have been the most challenging of shots, but seeing Momo's excitement at the bird on the ground after hours of chasing shadows was worth it. The box-score for today was therefore: 2 wild flushes, 3 productive points, and 1 grouse in hand.

Here's a self-timer shot off the back of my truck. Sorry it's a little dark. But you get a sense of the weather and the bird. If it was just a yearling it must have been from the early hatch -- and we'll find out what it was eating when we clean it. In the meantime, Momo is now a grouse-dog. Bravo, Momo!

Incidentally, if the weather is around or below freezing and and/or the cover is really rough, Momo does wear a special chest protector vest. Maybe a 3/4 sleeve vest doesn't look too virile to some folks, but even in our limited experience, the sleeves really save their armpits and upper legs from all the sharp nasties that lives in the woods.

Friday, November 9, 2007

road-trip

We are about to head out on a wee road-trip ultimately ending up in western Maine to visit our old friends from Maine, Susan and Dudley. The last time I was up there I was on the way to Widdershins to pick up His Junior Majesty -- so this will be the first time they get to meet the Boy Genius. I feel sorry for them... actually I feel sorry for their German Shorthair, Lida.

But first of all, we're going to meet up with Ella, Cedar, and Kyler tomorrow afternoon up at our favorite game farm in western MA. (Rich and Mike will be there, too, but as ever, it's all about Team Vizsla.) We're going to do a bunch of drills to get the dogs dialed in again. For example, encountering so many birds in the bird-fields at his hunt tests, Momo is no longer steady-to-shot because he was so eager to get the next bird. And having a couple of extra hands to steady dogs and flush birds will help make it explicit to the dogs what's expected of them.

Then, after spending the night at Forest King Vizslas, we're going to meet up with other folks from the VCCNE at their pheasant hunt at Hedgerow Hunt Club just down the road in Royalston. And then we zip up north to end up on Mooselookmeguntic Lake. And then the chaos begins.

Properly speaking, Sunday is Veterans Day -- the origins of which in the United States can be found here. As we know it in Britain, the origins of Rememberance Day can be found here while the particular efforts of PoppyScotland can be found here. Please take a moment this weekend to remember someone's service.

video

Hopefully we can also get the boys on some ruffed grouse on Monday and Tuesday. Stay tuned for details. In the meantime, here's a fun 15secs of video from our up to Newburgh 10days ago -- the highlights of which can be found here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

in honor of dogs and birds...

So we checked out a new location in Sterling Forest this morning and, I'm guessing, must have found a pocket of relatively freshly released pheasant. As you can see, it was a nice frosty morning and while I will use a different exposure setting in my camera next time, you can get a nice idea of the contrast between frosty grasses and the oranges, greens, and reds of the fall trees in the background. We were initially working around a swampy area with tall cat-tails and Momo managed to flush a rooster... which then sat in a tree. I'd like to think I'm more sporting and so, while this particular bird was not protected by law, it was flaunting the limits of my ethical hunting code. Ditch-chickens 4 Team Vizsla 2.

Momo then got into a bunch of brambles and out pops a pheasant which seemed underpowered and/or caught. It barely got a head of steam up and had its flight plan amended. (When I was cleaning the bird later, I found maybe two-dozen small (#8?) shot across its back that had obviously limited its flight power. So, don't presume because it's a pen-raised bird that you can use woodcock-sized shot and expect to cleanly kill it.) Ditch-chickens 4 Team Vizsla 3.

As I was getting this one out of the brambles, another flushed about three feet away and headed off towards what turned out to be a nice pond. We couldn't really mark it down because of the undergrowth, but headed in the general direction.

About three-quarters of the way round the pond, Jozsi locks up like the Evil Boy Genius he can be and I see a rooster trying to make like a pancake in the leaves. I flush him and he flies directly into the sun. I shoot and hit him, but know I've hit him low down on his body. He manages to flap a few more times, clears the trees and glides off. I apologize to the Monster and we head off again to find a bird I know is probably not going very far. (And to be fair, as it turned out when I cleaned him, I had hit him more squarely than I thought, but the goal as ever should be a clean and instant kill.)

Jozsi locks up again about 400yds further up. And then Momo comes in. I have no idea what will happen because we've never really worked on backing or honoring drills. And I don't know if Momo saw that Jozsi had a real point going or if he smelled the bird, too, but he locked up behind the Boy Genius. Seeing poetry in static motion, I had to call 'whoa' on them to try and get this picture. You can't see the bird, but seeing those two locked up, intent on game, was worth every second for me. Pictorially speaking, though, this is one of those times that having russet-gold dogs doesn't work so well.

The bird was nested down behind a downed tree bole and, once I've worked around, is now pinned on all four sides. So I called Momo to go in and flush it. And perhaps, just perhaps, because he really is honoring his brother's point, he stays still. The Little One, however, takes matters into his own hands (or mouth), flies the roughly 10ft and pins the bird by the neck, leaving me to go in and dispatch it by hand. Ditch-chickens 4 Team Vizsla 4.

His Junior Majesty is looking like a heck of a bird-dog. While he has pointed pheasant before, this was his first complete performance. And so, in his honor and that of the beautiful rooster that christened him (and inspired by the folks at HHD), here's a haiku for them both:

hunkered down in leaves
then a flash of emerald
-- Jozsi's first pheasant.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

new venue... new boots...

Here's an ugly sight. These are my old hunting boots on the left and the same model brand-new on the right. They're Red Wing Irish Setter boots -- and the pair on the left are 2yrs old. They held up pretty well through a very, very wet Maine winter -- but have just been getting scuffed, slashed and sliced to bits in the undergrowth we've been beating through over the last six weeks.

So we're going to inaugurate the new boots with our first trip to Sterling Forest. Both the State and Orange County Sportsmen's Federation release pheasant in there, too, and we'll see if they're using the same locations they have in the past. And hopefully we'll see if I'm able to make a decent shot.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

nice day out in the woods

We had a nice day out today up at Stewart. It looked like Bob was going to bring a friend -- and my friend, William, asked if he could come along and get his first exposure to some fine New York hunting -- so Bob and I made our own ways up there and figured we'd just flip-flop parking posts as we skipped from field to field.

We finally got there after a few technical hitches, mostly to do with why William's hunting license was green and mine was yellow, the Davis Sporting Goods store changing its fall hours, and a guy in the sporting goods section at the New Windsor Walmart sleeping in due to the time-change. But we met Bob and a bloody Belle. She'd managed to cut herself somewhere around her head, and being a beautiful white English setter, her neck and face were now pink. Happily nothing serious, but a little freaky. Bob ended up taking her home because she kept opening up the cut, so it was a shame not to be able to hang out with them.

The short version of the story was that, in fitting with it being the last day of the woodcock season, Momo got four flushes on timberdoodles. I took one shot on one of the dodging little mudbats and got a clean hit on a tree. William got a shot off on a bird Momo had made a statuesque point on -- and succeeded in merely trimming some foliage as well. This picture is by Nancy Whitehead and is readily for sale. I should e-mail her to find out how she got this pic... with what kind of lens... or flash... or however. The one thing this beautifully clear picture can't capture is that caramel-colored blur a timberdoodle makes as it takes evasive action.

In honor of Momo's point (which I wish I had taken a picture of), here's the picture that used to grace the 'Dogs' frontpage at Widdershins. He was this handsome -- and it was his most spectacular point on woodcock to date.

Both boys got really birdy and agitated in a couple of different spots -- which sure looked like they were trying to keep tabs on a running pheasant. And in fact, the one pheasant that did flush for us flushed about 20ft behind Momo's point and just off William's left shoulder. We watched it go and tried unsuccessfully to mark it down.

Jozsi did manage to point a rabbit in a thicket, and then a quail... which was in so deep that as we tried to get to it and flush it it managed to somehow scurry off someplace never to be found again.

I think William got an accurate sense of why hunting in the northeast can be both a) frustrating and b) pretty hard work.

PS: On an odd sidenote, I did find this unusual blog: Hunting Haiku Daily. I liked Jim Tantillo's mudbat poem from January 19th, 2006, and so now need to check out the rest.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

would have done better with a broom...

Today's aphorisms for successful bird-chasing are well known, but must be repeated often.

a) Trust the dog (even if he's 5mos old)

b) Don't think about your shot (especially if it's 'easy')

My work schedule got juggled at the last minute and so, instead of celebrating the Sterling Forest season opening-day tomorrow, we headed up to Newburgh and did our usual field-cruising routine. We got there early and while I was (rightly) skeptical that there would be any birds in such an oft-sought field, we were able to get a parking space at one of the bigger, more open fields. As a first stop, it's a great field just to get both boys out together and able to run and stretch their legs -- which makes the subsequent rotation of dogs a lot easier.

But as this nice pic of Jozsi's butt shows, there was frost on the ground. Wohoooo. It's so nice to feel as though fall might actually be coming, as opposed to leaves just changing colors to keep up with fashion.

We then got into one of our favorite fields and Momo put an awesome point on a quail -- which I never saw till it flushed and lit out over the trees. I fired a shot. I am no Doug Flutie -- and, while married in a Catholic ceremony, didn't deserve to issue that particular Hail Mary (or subsequent others). We never found the bird again.

At the next field, Momo seemed unduly distracted by his brother's indignant barking from being left in the truck -- and so I called him off and we headed out. Nothing. Except a father-son team hunting birds with a German Shorthair and a pair of semi-automatic howitzers. They were nice, but as they said, "It got a little like WW3 out there." We walk back to the truck, I unload my gun, and Momo still seems distracted by a bush close by. And out flushes a big cock pheasant. Ditch-chickens 3 Team Vizsla (sadly hampered by their father) 1.

And so I bring out His Junior Majesty. To this point, his method always seemed to, and I stress seemed to, verge on the demolition-derby style of fieldwork. But after he wouldn't come on call and I subsequently found him locked up hard on point on a hen pheasant in a dense thicket, I can no longer demean him in this way.

He is a boy-genius. And I am a sieve.

Our final field produced this picture. All of sudden Momo contorts into position, I wander up a bit to see if I can figure out where it is, look back, and realise there's a hen on the ground. Seeing the look in Momo's eyes and the fact that the bird hasn't flinched, I take the picture. It's the only decent shot I get at the bird. I will claim flesh-eating brambles as a legitimate excuse, but the fact is that I am not a sieve, I am a vacuum.

I was only redeemed (temporarily) by Momo getting all squirrely again on the way back to the truck -- and as I approached him, a nice rooster fought its way out of the brambles. Sadly, for him, it was a short flight. Ditch-chickens 3 Team Vizsla 2.

So we got back to the truck, gave Jozsi a good sniff on the rooster, and he and I set out for the final time. We found our way into a relatively clear field. And he freezes again. And there's another hen sitting on the edge of a patch of tall grass, quite visible once you knew where to look. Jozsi was not quite so in the mood to lock-up and after an initially fabulous point charges the bird. I missed the rapidly-rising, but still straightaway shot... twice. I am not a vacuum, I am a black hole. But sadly, I am not a black hole, today I just sucked.

Some birds were clearly destined to be found, but made wilder by botched shotgunning on my part. So, in short, trust your dogs... they were born with noses with 220million scent receptors... and go practice with your shotgun... it's not an appendage, just a prosthesis.

Monday, October 29, 2007

big broom...

It's over. Till the next time. Charles Pierce at Slate has a nice column on the Red Sox win in the World Series, including some speculations on whether next year's Red Sox will look more different than next year's Yankees.

With A-Rod deciding to opt out of his contract with the Bombers next year, BUT with Sox 3rd baseman Mike Lowell being named World Series MVP, it will be interesting to see who is willing to spend the money for Alex Rodriguez. Nevertheless, as Pierce astutely points out: "If the Red Sox shuffle him out of town — and worse, if they shuffle him out of town in favor of trying to [sic] bring in the Antichrist from the New York Yankees — the good feeling of the 2007 championship is going to dissipate very quickly." Here's hoping this possibility won't be another J.D. Drew or Eric Gagne-style piece of speculative bungling by Theo Epstein.

In other news: the opening day for bird-chasing in Sterling Forest is Thursday.

In more news: looks like we'll be spending Veteran's Day weekend headed up to western Maine to visit our friends, Dudley and Susan, and introduce them to His Junior Majesty -- and where hopefully Dudley and I can chase some grouse for a couple of days.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

bonus round...

Right now, the Patriots are beating up on the Redskins something fierce. (There has to be some kind of politically incorrect pun in there to be found.) But the reason for posting an extra post this evening was inspired by visiting Dan at shotonsite.com and seeing his reference to this post by Pat Burns at Terrierman.

Sadly, the bird-dog crowd seems rife with duffers with bum shoulders, lame dogs, poor bird conditions, and a litany of excuses for why they can't quite make it out the door to go chase birds these days -- but who are somehow capable of recalling the miracle grouse seasons of the early 1940s and who were, at that time, in possession of mythically-powered, long-dead bird-dogs and a shooting ability to rival Lord Ripon.

Needless to say these were some of the same duffers who told me that hunt tests, whether AKC or NAVHDA, field trial or hunt test, were populated with poseurs with genetically-botched show dogs that don't deserve to be called bird-dogs. Their comments reminded me of a great passage in Phil Drabble's
It's a Dog's Life about some of the folks who get attracted to bird-dogs:

This Rolls-Royce-and-runny-nose brigade, who think their money buys respect, turn up in their flash cars with a labrador retriever in the back to tell the world that they are not just common rough shooters who need a spaniel to find their game.

And while I have seen some evidence of this, my experience at hunt tests has been of folk who were largely motivated simply to give their dogs a fun time in the woods -- even if their dogs were incapable of finding a box of KFC chicken wings in a paper bag. But then again, maybe it's just a Vizsla thing.

The Unholy Rouleur has made a few related observations about 'pathletes' -- the clowns who will race you on a bike-path, claim moral victory without ever declaring actual competition, and who will never pin a race-number on their jerseys.

And so, while I cross my fingers and hope for a Red Sox sweep of the Rockies, I will also raise a bottle to you, my favorite iconoclasts.

where have we been...

Seasonal item #1: Well, it is October and the Red Sox are playing like prospective champs. I will admit to being just a play-offs baseball fan (i.e I really only watch when the play-offs are in session), but following the Red Sox is more of a religious fanship.

Howard Bryant has an interesting article on ESPN.com about why the Red Sox of the last five years aren't the same Sox that our grandfathers worshipped. He maybe takes the Sox vs. Yankees as merely the different sides of the same, very expensive coin analogy a little far by suggesting that the psychology of Red Sox fans has either changed or should somehow change. But interesting it is, nonetheless.

And to the guy who booed my Red Sox hat while we were waiting for brunch with friends on the Upper West Side: there are two teams still playing baseball right now and neither is the New York Yankees. Both those teams still have a manager, too. And a third baseman. And a catcher. And most of their pitchers. But I wonder if the Yankees would like still Eric Gagne? Anyways, I digress. To that guy: why the hell are you booing a stranger when you're carrying carry-on luggage?

Seasonal item #2: While Dan at shotonsite might disagree with me (again), U.Michigan wins against Minnesota but not in a fashion that makes me think that the November 17th game against Ohio State will go the same way. If Michigan keeps needing a whole quarter, let alone a half, to get itself settled and start scoring, Ohio State will have racked up enough points to put in the B-team for the second half.

Seasonal item #3: Can your Vizsla do this? I hope not. Jozsi somehow managed to find my two-week-old phone and adjust the screen settings considerably.

Seasonal item #4: We did manage to hunt up a very nice hen pheasant up at Newburgh this past Thursday. I was a little surprised when we found it -- and the amusing part of it was showing Jozsi the pheasant after we had picked it up. There was definitely a double-take in his scheming little brain as he realised that this was definitely a whole lot bigger than a quail. But he buckled down, figuring that if he could destroy a cell-phone, he could get a pheasant in his mouth. Ditch-chickens 2 Team Vizsla 1.

One of the ways I like to pay tribute to the birds we kill is to pluck a few feathers and put them in my gun case. It's an interesting paradox: we honor the beautiful birds we kill by hunting them. And keeping a few feathers gives me a constant reminder of how beautiful what we're chasing is and the need to, nevertheless, hunt them with respect.

National Geographic Magazine this month has a nice article on hunters as conservationists. Again, it's a similar paradox to John James Audobon's attempts to amass information to ensure the preservation of species, that in order to save them, he still had to kill them.