Sunday, September 28, 2008

hot hot hot

Oh boy! We've had a couple of days up at TMT in the past week or so. And holy heck, I can skip hot humid weather. Way back when, Joe Spoo wrote a post about protecting your dogs in the heat -- especially when the temperature and humidity combined add up to more than 150.

Today, even though it's late September, even though the air temp was right around 70degsF, the humidity was 90+%. We had gone up there today with my friends Scott and Bob -- and Bob's lovely Llewellin Belle. I think we sweated off a few dozen pounds between us. But the heat meant that the dogs got a little addled and tired easily, the birds didn't want to fly, and we got very warm. Did I mention that there was little to no air moving?

The fact that each of the dogs made some good finds in dense cover and heavy air was pretty satisfying. We had a mixture of chukar and pheasant put out for us -- and Momo did well on the first batch of chukar despite the fact that they all wanted to run and so had to be worked two or three times each. We then put Bob's Belle down -- who after running around for 15mins decided that she was going to douse herself in the nearest deepest mud puddle to cool off. She then made two stylish finds on a couple of pheasants before going back to the trucks for a rest. The picture is of her first find in some pretty dense sorghum. That rooster was in there and eager to stay hidden.

We then put Jozsi down -- and running chukar and heat and a crazy-ass 16mos-old demon makes a volatile combination. I will say this for my Evil Boy Genius: he ranges far but is always aware of where you are; and he will stop-to-flush, but will also take out a chukar on the ground if it runs away from him more than twice. I want him to be great -- I just need to remember that he doesn't need to be and shouldn't be expected to be a Master Hunter caliber dog (yet). I'll be able to hunt him in more open ground and not-on-chukar once the bird season officially opens -- and he will be fabuloso, I'm sure.

Then Momo went down on the ground again -- and made a couple of great finds on two roosters. Sadly, the gunning team were unable to drop one of them -- and the other made like Haile Gebrselassie. Throughout the afternoon, though, I had been practicing my eco-friendly approach to bird-hunting and feel as though I have now crossed a major threshhold . To date, when hunting I prefer to shoot with paper hulled shotgun shells using fiber wads to minimize the amount of plastic I send into the countryside. I have now refined my Svengali technique to the extent that when birds don't fly, I just catch them by hand. It saves on ammunition costs and has little or no environmental impact. After taking three chukars using My New Fighting Technique, I stepped it up a notch and successfully hand-grabbed this monster. Sadly for him, he was put into one of my launchers and used as a training bird to keep working on getting Momo steady-to-fall.

We're almost there getting Momo steady-to-fall, but the thing that has impressed me so far is his drive to retrieve -- and especially on ditch-chickens. I realise that the average weight of an adult rooster is a little over 2.5lbs -- but this monster was at least 4lbs. (Watch out, Brizstow, these birds are mongo huge!) The point that impresses me is that I am asking a 45lb dog to retrieve a bird that may weigh 10% of his body weight through dense cover in hot, humid conditions. Can we ask or expect much more? I don't know -- but my big beautiful boy continues to impress me.

We're off to CT next weekend for the CVVC Hunt Test at Flaherty. Wish us luck!


In other news -- and I quote Dan's e-mail to me directly -- "So is that RichRod's gameplan.... lull the other team for a half by pretending to suck, then catch them off guard by not sucking? Inspired!" All I know is that the secret operative, and UW graduate, known only as Coffee Boy is rolling in agony.


Dennis the Vizsla said...

Well done! I remember weather like that from when we lived in New York and it's hard enough for humans to move, let alone dogs!

Delilah and Rocket said...

Now that you can catch birds on your own are you sure it's you training the dogs or the other way around? :-O

Kim said...

Nice work boys! Catching a pheasant by hand is a new one. I think we have caught many other types of game birds, but never them...

We'll see you this weekend!

Anonymous said...

And hunters wonder why non-hunters have such difficulty with the "sport." Launchers. Credibility for hunting gets lost in practices like this. It's too bad, because you end up losing support from average people like me who have, in the past, been very accepting of subsistence hunting. But by now, I've seen so many things that could be construed as cruel, including this, it's really hard for many of us to keep accepting the rationalizations hunters throw at us -- when we also have a bit of a heart and some semblance of compassion for other living beings who are being used this way. I wish it were different. It's not. But I see that photo of you holding the rooster and wonder how it is, in those moments, that a human being chooses cruelty over mercy. That's a decision I wish none of us would make. It's such a shame a beautiful living bird would be used in this way.

Andrew Campbell said...

To my anonymous poster: I put up your comment because I believe that we should all be accountable in this life. I also believe that there are very few absolutely clear black/white, good/evil distinctions.

If you read a little more closely, you'd have seen the word 'training' applied to the particular rooster in question. And, by extrapolation, so is any and every bird we take/harvest/kill on a preserve. This certainly isn't 'sport' as you describe it -- although even from a launcher, training oneself and one's dog to handle while also training yourself to make a clean shot means that there is still a good chance that the bird might get away. This one didn't -- and it died cleanly. And arguably no more terribly than having its head taken off by an owl or being driven into the ground and eaten by a hawk.

We train so that when we hunt, we find and kill birds as cleanly as possible. And we marvel at how beautiful they are -- and we eat them. And in that regard, training birds are no different from hunted birds.

If you take the time to read any of the other posts on this blog, especially the most recent one from December 26th, I think you'll appreciate that.


Anonymous said...

Andrew -- Thanks for posting my comment, I know you didn't have to let it through the moderation queue. It says a lot about you that you did.

I get what you are saying, and I've always tried to keep an open mind, in spite of my strong feelings about animals used in sport. My wife and I have just had a really tough year of some dramatic and bad experiences involving hunters and animals (including one poaching incident) -- so you could say I've reached a point of pure frustration.

I do love dogs which is how I started reading your blog. My wife volunteers with a rescue for abused dogs and I'm always happy to see people loving and respecting our four-legged buddies so much. Truthfully, I didn't realize all of what went into training them in this way. That was definitely an education for me.

Andrew Campbell said...

And to Anonymous: thanks for coming back. I'll volunteer a little more to help also put things in context. I think we let four either chukar or pheasants go that particular day... all of which ran. And running birds are hell on trying to get a poiting dog steady. And while I am sure they eventually became hawk fodder, there was even less to be gained from sprinting through the woods after them. This bird flushed once and then went to ground and refused to move. Having made a choice not to pursue the others (and therefore limit the amount of training we could therefore accomplish), I made the choice to have the dog find the bird in the launcher and then eject it into the air for the shot. There's really no pride to be taken from it, other than the dog stood liked it was supposed to and brought that bird back to hand.

In hindsight, if the weather is this warm and humid again, we won't go train like this. The birds don't want to fly and are as quickly exhausted as we are. And so you're left reverting to launchers -- which serve a purpose but are, at least in my set of training tools, a last resort.

The paradox, as I see and feel it, is that not to train (whether with a shotgun, a rifle, a dog) and then to hunt game is morally irresponsible. And sadly, nothing makes a bird-dog like birds. In trying to share almost everything about how we train and hunt, it's also hopefully to share the moral choices we make, too.

Thanks for yours and your wife's efforts in helping rehabilitate dogs that haven't enjoyed lives like mine.

best wishes