Sunday, November 28, 2010

Willmar and Benson MN Pheasant Hunt

November 27th 2010

This was my first group pheasant hunt of the season. Usually it is just myself and maybe one other hunter. Today we had between 4 and 6 hunters in the field at one time. Even though we had a group we didn’t do the traditional push and block type of hunting that most people associate with group hunts.

It was a nice day for hunting with just a couple of inches of snow and at 32 degrees it was comfortable for both hunters and dogs.

The first farm was just outside of Benson, MN.

We started working a fence line and Young Mark ( We had 3 Marks hunting ) dropped two roosters in quick order. Both of them looked well hit but we were unable to find one of them. We had 3 dogs looking for it and still couldn’t find it. After abandoning our search we hit a section of thicker cover and after pushing through it Mark L put one up out the thinner cover and dropped it in one shot.

We then tackled the cover on two sides of a drainage ditch and Young Mark and his Springer Diesel took two more rooster in his usual quick shot fashion. After the two birds we almost had a disaster as two of the dogs went off the ice and into the open water of the drainage ditch and the water was moving faster than expected and the dogs weren’t able to get back on top of the ice. After some spread eagle on the ice action by Tony O and Young Mark they were able to bring the dogs back to safety.

After working the field for a bit longer we decided not to pound it any longer and made the move to a new farm outside of Willmar, MN. The last time I hunted this property was the opening weekend of 2006 and I had just had a round of chemo where they had added a new drug to my regimen and I had trouble walking through all but the thinnest cover. It was much nicer today.

We started out following another drainage ditch hoping to pinch the birds. We didn’t see any along the main portion but we went along a smaller ditch that was frozen over we put up two rooster and I was able to pull some feathers off of one but it flew into some think cover that we don’t have access to. The next strategy was to work a couple of fence lines and the nearby cover. This strategy didn’t pan out. There was a small area of thick cover and willows that we hadn’t hit so we decided to employ a little push and block action. Tony O, his two GSPs, myself and Tina the setter set out across the cut corn field towards the thinner grass and the thick cover at the end of it. As soon as we hit the thin cover the dogs started to lock up. Tony had a rooster get up just behind him that he dropped with his second shot. I had one get up that I was able to connect on ( finally ) that then flew right into the trunk of a tree. A couple of hens got up then a Rooster went high and Young Mark who was post below the cover took him on a high overhead shot. After retelling the action for a bit we decided to drive to the other side of the farm and re-hunt a couple of spots. We walked in through the smaller drainage ditch that we had hit before but didn’t move any birds. We walked the edges some more and decided to call it a day and as we walked out on the small ditch ( the fourth time we hit this cover ) Young Mark flushed and dropped his 5th rooster of the day. His shooting made the rest of us look bad but made the group look good.

It was a great six hours of hunting and all the hunters and dogs we tired from all of the walking.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Wet But Productive Sunday

Sunday 10/24

Tina with her wet but worth it harvest.

It was looking like this weekend could be a total loss.  I had bailed on hunting on Saturday because it was supposed to rain all day ( it didn't ) and it was raining on me as I was approaching Hutchinson where I was going to hunt a farm just south of town.  I figured that if worse came to worse I'd take a nap at the field and then a two hour drive home.  As I pulled up to the farm the rain had become just a mist so I unloaded Tina and we started to hunt.

Wet was the operative work for this farm.  There were areas totally underwater that most years I have been able to walk across as they were dry.

Tina started to get birdy almost as soon as we started to work the area.  She went on point right as we reached and the first area with thinner cover.  Three hens got up when I approached and they went right for the heavy cattails.  We started to work towards the south side of the field where the corn was down.  We usually push this edge until we he hit the far edge where the cover is thinner.  More ofter than not we will put up birds off of the corner but today was the exception proving the rule.

We turned towards an area of thick willows but Tina kept wanting to move towards the grass cover so I followed her and put three more hens up from her point.  After working the area for a little while I heard a cackle and looked up to see a Rooster land about 100 yards away.  It tried to refresh but I think it was too tired to make a good flight of it so it remanded in the same area.  Tina and I made a beeline for it and got a fast point, flush, and shot.  I was happy to connect on this bird as we hadn't been seeing any other roosters so far.  After putting the bird in the game bag we made our way back to the grassy area.  I was planning on work a set of pine trees that bordered the corn field.  We didn't make it to the edge as Tina locked on point as we approached an area of cattails and a rooster tried to make it's escape through the air and was met with a load of #6 shot.

On our way out of the cover we saw three more roosters along with a number of hens wild flush.

It ended up being a good hunt especially when you consider I thought I might just end up napping and driving home.

Monday Post Script
Tina is limping heavily today which has me concerned as she was fine the rest of the afternoon yesterday and when I put her out before her bed time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nemadji State Forest Grouse

Thursday October 21st

Finishing Up After Dark

I was able to make it up to Nemadji State Forest after work in time to get a couple of hours of grouse hunting in.  I hadn’t hunted these trails in over 5 years but had good luck in years past and was anxious to give it a try.

My initial impression was not favorable as my little backwoods trails are now ATV trails.  Makes for easy walking but with how close this area is to two metro areas I know how much pressure these trails get and the grouse get pushed further back into the cover.  Tina and I walked for about 30 minutes on the ATV trail before we could get to a non-motorized trail.  10 minutes down the trail she went on point.  I missed the first bird but fortunately I connected on a second bird.  This trail died out a short distance later so we turned around and headed back to the main trail.  The trail went through some good looking cover but we weren’t seeing any birds.  We approached an area that bordered some lower wet sections and Tina was going on and off point so I moved in front of her to try to block off the bird.  She continued to work the area but we didn’t find anything.  As I walked back up to the trail a bird got up, two shots, another bird, two more shots, reload another and another bird..... eventually 7 or 8 birds got up and I took 6 or 7 shots and totally missed on them and two of the shots were nice straight away trap style shots.. I was ticked... Tina was wondering what happened as there were no birds on the ground for her to find.  We continued down the trail to where it came out on the main forest road in.

After a short break we started back towards our parking area.  When we got to the spot where I had missed all of the birds we bushwhacked around the area and Tina pointed one on the side of a small hill and this time I was able to complete the task at hand.  After continuing back on the trail without anymore action I knew we were getting to within 5 to 10 minutes of where we had parked and Tina started to get birdy.  I worked my way into the woods to help her out and she get relocating off to my left so I stopped to watch her and I could hear a bird moving to my right.  I could tell that Tina could hear it also as she was looking in the direction of the sound.  I took one step and the bird got up and came back down with one shot.  In about 3 hours of afterwork walking on highly traveled public land we were able to put three birds in the bag.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pheasant Opener MN 2010

October 16 and 17 MN Pheasant Opener

Each opener starts nervously for me. Will there be birds? Will the dogs adjust from one species to another? Will I be able to hit anything?

It was going to be a different opener than last year when I woke to snow on the ground, it was supposed to top out at over 50 degs this weekend.

We went to a farm west of Hutchinson, Mn. The corn was still up around the CRP so I wasn’t sure if the birds would be in the corn already or not. Tina and I worked the grass for 10 minutes before the first point of the season, it became the first rooster in the bag of the season. We kept working the grass and didn’t see any more birds. I was concerned about the lack of hens even getting pointed. We worked towards and areas with 5 or 6 trees along a small ridge. As we got closer to the trees Tina started to get birdy. Two birds came out the backside of the trees and I was able to connect on the second one with what looked to be a solid hit. As Tina went over to make the retrieve it took off and I was so startled I didn’t even get off a shot. I decided to walk over to where it went down and see if there were any feathers or other evidence of a hit. As I got closer I saw that my bird was actually dead and laying in the grass.

After cleaning the birds I took Marge and Fergie to a different farm just to let them run and do some pretend hunting. With Marge I hunted the edge of a small stream in the hopes of putting up a duck as we have in the past. This year the water was running too fast for any ducks to be hanging out so we just ended up getting in a good workout.

Tina Thought Sunday's Birds Seemed Extra Tasty

We returned to the same farm that we started with on Saturday. I was curious to see if we would see more birds and specifically any hens. Tina and I worked the areas that we saw birds yesterday but didn’t get any action. Next we worked the edge of the corn field hoping to find any birds that hadn’t made it into there yet. Tina found lots of scent but no birds. We cut across to one of the two sides that is bordered by a dirt road and Tina was doing a lot of soft points and relocating. As we got close to the end of the thicker cover the point became a nice solid one and on walking in a lone cackling rooster got up and came down with the shot.

We moved towards the drainage ditch and followed it out to where we parked the truck. Often times we will move birds out of this thicker cover but no birds this time. We worked our way back to the middle of the field and started to push thick to thin. Again Tina got more and more birdy as the cover got thinner. A couple of relocations later and we had a nice point and we finally found four hens that were grouped up together. We worked our way back to the truck along the corn and not too far from the truck we had a nice point. I had to pull the trigger quickly on this one so that he didn’t fall into the corn. It was a nice end to a day of good dog work.

The early days of any season can be a chance to get the dogs some work on younger less experienced birds that will help to build their confidence. It is also a chance to take a few easier birds that will be balanced out by tough conditions later in the season.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday October 10th 2010 - Emily Outing Area Grouse Hunting

Just in case you think I only write about my successful hunts.....  Me after getting shut out.

Sunday was looking to be a continuation of the warm days.  It is hard to complain about it being too nice to hunt after missing days the last few years because of rained out weekends.  This was the third day in a row for the heat for myself and Tina.  I decided to let Tina relax at Tony’s cabin.  We were going to hunt the Emily / Outing area today.  I had hunted this area quite a bit 10 years ago but shifted more of my hunting to Ely and Grand Rapids.  We had good success in the years past so I was hopeful of a good showing.  We hunted a number of areas that looked really birdy but only moved three birds for the day.  It was dry and warm and I don’t think we were on the top of our games so I count out this area.

Saturday October 9th Grand Rapids Area Grouse Hunt

Tony, Mark, and Quetico with our bounty.

Saturday was going to be another warm one and this time there would be three of us along with three dogs.  We met for breakfast and hit the woods around 8. The three of us started down the trail and moved a bird or two.  We came to a fork in the trail and I told the tow of them that I’d go into the cut and then work back towards them and try to push a few birds from the thick cover to the trail.  As Tina and I moved back towards the trail she went on point and I was able to harvest the bird and in the process won our $1 pool on the first bird harvested.  After hunting the area for a bit more we started to head back to the truck on the same trail that we headed in on.  Even though we had just worked the trail about an hour earlier we were able to move a few birds and took another one.  As we got about 50 yards from the trucks the dogs started to get birdy and we followed them into the thick cover.  At about 10 yards from the truck and just off the trail we got a nice flush and I was in a position to collect the bird.  The thermometers on the trucks were reading 70 degrees so we decided to take a lunch break.
After lunch we decided to try a different trail.  I left Tina in the truck to rest and recover a bit.  The trail had a lot of nice cover along the sides and we had a few wild flushes.  We were hunting with two GSP’s.  Stone who is 12 mostly stayed on the trail but would venture out into the cover when the scent got strong.  Quetico, who is about 9 months old and just complete is Natural Ability Test with a perfect score, was full of energy and leading the way.  About 2/3 of the way down the trail Tony was able to connect on a bird.   At the end of the trail is a clearing with about 5 island of clutter and trees from when they cleared out the area.  As we worked our way around the area Mark connected on a couple of fast flushers.  I told him earlier in the hunt that he wasn’t doing his share to stimulate the economy by being stingy with his shell usage.  He took the advice to heart and was now shooting and connecting.  After returning to the truck we decided to go back to our original spot and rework it for the evening shoot.  About 15 min into the hunt Tina went on a solid point, I walked in, the bird flushed, and I connect with one shot.  Mark commented “ that is the way it is supposed to work.”  It is nice when it does all come together.  I do like putting birds in the bag as much as the next guy but the real joy comes in watching it all come together for the dogs.  On the way out Tony and Mark were each able to bring in another bird.
It was well into the 70’s during the day and we moved over 30 birds.  Not bad for three people and up to three dogs moving through the woods on public land.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Grand Rapids MN Grouse Hunting - 10/8/2010

Tina and Her Three Birds

Friday was going to be a warm one, it was already 50 degrees by the time I started hunting at 8.  This is the third day that we have hunted this area this season and Tina has started to get a feel for the hotspots.  As we walked in I saw a van parked just a bit farther up the trail from where I parked so I was worried about someone hunting right in front of me. Once I got 10 min up the trail I saw a hunter walking out, he was without a dog so I felt a bit better about our chances. We started to get into birds almost right away. Unfortunately I wasn't able to connect on any of the birds.  This was going to be a theme for the morning. 

We hit all of the usual spots and even a few offshoots from the trail that we normally passed on and continued to see birds and I continued to miss my shots. By the time we walked out three and a half hours later we had moved over 25 birds but hadn't put any into the game bag. 

We took a long lunch and did some driving on some of the local roads to try to find a few more spots to hunt. At about 3:30 we headed back into the woods. It was over 70 degrees by now and I was a bit nervous about hunting Tina in this heat but the hunting area has a lot of mud holes and small ponds that she could keep herself cool. In fact it was one of these small ponds that Tina made the best retrieve that she has made for me. She made a nice point along an edge of small pine trees, I hit the bird and saw it drop but I could also hear it moving. I moved towards the sound as Tina was looking for the downed bird and I could hear the bird reflush across a small pond. Tina saw the bird take off and went after it through the pond and into the cover on the other side. I had given up hope that we would retrieve the bird but as I was about to give up I saw Tina bringing the bird back to me. She brought it back through the pond and right back to me.   I was so excited for her.  We were able to get two more birds that evening and called it a day well before it was too dark to hunt. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grouse Hunt - First Weekend Of October - Grand Rapids, MN

Marge and her Friday Grouse

Friday 10/1
I left for Grand Rapids and make it to my hunting spot  around 1 pm.  It was 55 degs with a nice breeze.  There was already a camper in one of the parking spots.  I had a feeling it would be a popular place.  I ended up talking with two different camping groups and they both had been camping in the same spots for over 10 years.  It isn’t like this is a secret spot...  Tina and I hit our usual spots and were able to take a bird.  Marge and I went out and were able to pick up another on a nice point along a swampy edge.  Fergie got to go for her usual short stroll but we didn’t put up any birds.  I took Tina back out for short session before dark and we picked up another grouse and a woodcock.  Saw decent number of birds but didn’t shoot quite as well as I would have liked.

Tina with 5 Grouse From Saturday

Saturday 10/2
We hit the woods at 8 am and there were already the camper plus another SUV parked.    The day started briskly at 35 degs and a nice breeze, a perfect day for dog work.  I started with Tina and we got into birds right away.  Actually too soon as I wasn’t ready for the action to start and missed an easy shot.  We worked our way to a lower area and got a nice point but a blown shot as I was trying to cross a blow down.  Shortly afterwards another point on the edge of some small pines and I was able to connect.  We worked our way to an old tree farm that had a new shooting lane cut by it.  It is tough walking through the area and I usually end up bumping birds out of the other end but this time a young dumb one cooperated and I was able to put another one in the bag.  As we left he tree farm we circled towards an area that had a lot of small cuts so it created a nice area of edge.  We had a wild flush that I wasn’t able to connect on but a second bird stayed around and provided an easier shot over a point that I was able to connect on.  I decided to start my way back to the truck to give Tina a break and to give Marge a chance at some birds.  The grouse gods tempted me with a nice point and an easy shot that I made.  I put Tina on a leash after that as I was hoping not to move anymore birds.  One of the camping groups must have thought I was odd to be walking my dog through the woods on a leash.  I even had to pass on a view easy opportunities as we walked out.  I was hoping that this strategy wouldn’t come to bite me in the butt.  It was 11 am and we should have been filled out.
I took out Marge and we made our way back into the woods.  The birds that had been all too plentiful were not so easily found.  I was also running a bell on Marge so I could keep track of her since she can’t hear me too well any longer.  We went down a trail that bordered a 15 year old clear cut.  I can remember when I could see all the way across the cut.  Now it is too thick to see 10 feet.  Marge had a soft point at the far edge of the area but I didn’t make the shot.  We worked another section of trail that has produced in the past but didn’t even get a soft point out of the area.  We made a turn in the trail back towards the starting point and Marge made a nice point right along the trail and I was able to complete the task and put the bird in the bag.  While walking out we didn’t see any more birds until the last 250 yds before the truck.  We were all done and packed up by 2 pm.  Back into town and dinner at “The Grand Buffet”.  
Sunday morning I woke up with a sore throat and decided to bag hunting as I had a friend that was flying in to go hunting the next weekend and I didn’t want to chance getting sick.
One of the reasons that I may have had a less high shooting percentage over this weekend is that I was switching among three different guns  12 ga semi, 16 ga O/U, and a 20 ga semi.  I like to try different guns just to see what they are like but I am sure it throws off my percentages a bit.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

MN Grouse 2010 opener pt 2

Sept 19 MN Grouse Opener - Ely MN

Sunday looked to be another day of nice hunting conditions.  It wasn’t quite as sunny as Saturday but still looked good.

I went straight to the newer spot to give it a shot right off the bat.  I lucked out and no one was parked on the way in yet.  Tina and I started out down the main trail.  Tina went on a nice point within a few minutes and the grouse presented me with an easy shot but I choked and blew it.  Not too far up the trail I has another chance.  This time the point was along the edge of a clear cut.  Three birds got up together and I connected on one that swung to my right.  It took me two shots to bring it down.  I focused on making sure where it went down so I didn’t get any shots off at the other birds.  On the rest of the way out on the trail we didn’t see any other birds but on the way back we were fortunate enough to get another point along some younger cover and I was able to connect through the leaves.

Back at the truck I put Marge on the ground and we set out to try a smaller trail in the area that we hadn’t hunted yet.  The trail wasn’t as well defined so I was hoping that not as many people had hit it yet.  About 15 minutes into the hunt Marge went on point towards a drop off and as I walked in two birds got up and one fell to the shot.  It took a while to find it as it had dropped into a low area that was still well covered by leaves.  Three more birds got up while we found the hit bird.  We continued along the trail and didn’t see any more birds but did push up a nice looking buck.

After a Dew and some Mini-Snickers it was time to get Fergie out and let her stretch her legs.  Being blind and 12 she often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to hunting time.  Another nice feature of this trail is that she will walk on the gravel portion and if she starts to go off course and hit the heavier cover on the side she will move back to the middle.  One of the nice thing about early hunts is that there are still birds around that haven’t been pressured yet and this time it worked well for Fergie.  About 10 minutes into her walk we went around a corner and she locked up and there was one about 5 yards off the trail.  The grouse gods smiled on us and I was able to reward her efforts with a bird.  After heading back to the truck we drove around the area scouting some some and found a spot that looked good but already had two trucks at it so we moved on.  After driving around for a bit more we swung by the new honey hole and there was a truck there so he decided to call it a weekend and head back into town for a late lunch before driving back to St. Paul.

Monday, October 4, 2010

2010 MN Grouse Opener

Sept 18 MN Grouse Opener - Ely MN
Normally I don’t hunt the opening of grouse hunting as the cover is too thick and usually it is too warm but this year it looked like it was going to be a nice cool weekend so I decided to give it a try and head north to Ely.

Saturday started out nice and cool and the leaves seemed to be down more than usual for mid-sept.  As I was pulling into my first spot a pickup was already pulling out.  They said they had seen a couple of batches of up to 6 grouse still bunched up.  Tina ( English Setter ) and I started down the trail to some lower areas that we’ve had good luck with in the past and sure enough it didn’t take Tina long to get birdy.  Within a short period she had two nice points but the birds did their usual flush behind the trees maneuvers and I wasn’t able to get off a shot.  After working the area for a good period of time we started to head back to the truck and not more than 50 yards from it did Tina lock up solid.  The bird flushed towards an open area and I was able to connect with it.  When I picked it up I was amazed at how small it was.  I put Tina in the truck and we started to drive to the next spot and along the side of the trail I saw another bird.  I threw  the truck into reverse and backed up far enough to get Marge out and give her a chance at it.  Marge made a nice point and I got lucky with another nice flush and we had two in the bag.

Marge and I continued into the back portion of this area and while walking down the trail  as we rounded a corner she locked on point and another easy shot and another young bird was in the game bag.  I was quickly becoming a fan of opening weekend.  We worked this area for another half an hour and had a missed shot and a wild flush.  It was time to move to area number two.

Area number two is just a couple of miles away but I had never hunted it before last year but I had good enough luck to make it worth revisiting.  It was a good choice.  We saw a number of birds and I missed a couple of easy shots but ended up connecting on the last two that it took to fill out our limit.  The last bird was a far out crossing shot which I was happy to successfully complete as I have been missing those shots at the gun range all summer long.

We were able to finish up our hunt by about 1 o’clock.  We then drove along looking for some new coverts.  We didn’t find any useable sites but will continue to look as you can never have too many good spots and the new one that we found last fall worked out well for us on this trip.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Nationwide Pheasant Hunting Forecasts 2 Sources

2010 Pheasant Forecast

By Larry Brown

bird imageThe pheasant outlook for the top states is good this year. For the long term, there was a general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) this summer for the first time in several years. Although pheasant hunters won’t get any benefit from newly enrolled CRP ground this year, they will by next year -- and it should help to reverse a general trend of habitat loss across the pheasant belt.

When it comes to pheasants these days, there's  South Dakota and there's everybody else. South Dakota is the only state where hunters harvest over a million roosters annually, and last year the total was over 1.6 million. That's more than twice as many as the next best state. This year's brood survey was up from last year's, just slightly. Significant increases were observed in the areas around Mobridge and Pierre, both of which benefitted from excellent habitat due to above-average moisture. The Chamberlain area, always at or near the top in the state, was down from last year but is still very good.

As this is being written, it appears that farmers may well be harvesting early this year (as opposed to last year's extremely late harvest) due to a relatively dry summer. That means early season hunters should find most of the grain already in the bins, and the birds' safe hiding places more limited than last season. The fact that hunters bagged fewer roosters last year should mean a few more old, long-tailed, long-spurred birds in this year’s bag.

pheasant hunters bagged 746,000 roosters last year, about a 10 percent increase from 2008. Spring crowing counts were similar to last year, although with slightly different distribution: up in the western half of the state, down in the eastern third. Although August survey data have not been compiled at this time, nesting conditions were positive nearly everywhere in the state. The exception was a few counties in north-central Kansas, which were hit by heavy rains in June. This year, western Kansas should be at least as good as last year if not better, with the northwest looking like the top area. Central Kansas will also be good.

Although it's not South Dakota, North Dakota remains one of the top pheasant states. Hunters bagged a total of 650,000 roosters last year. Crowing counts this spring were down just slightly from last year. On the positive side, nesting conditions were very good across most of the state. Summer counts have not yet been tabulated, but it appears that the southwest -- west of the Missouri River and south of I-94 -- will be very good this year. There will also be significant improvement in the southeast, although there are also pockets where heavy rain and hail will have hurt bird numbers. The south-central, central, and northwest regions should be about the same as last year.

Iowa, where pheasant hunters bagged over a million birds as recently as 2003, set another all-time low last year with a total bag of 271,000. If that’s not bad enough, August roadside survey counts this summer are down 25-30 percent. The only areas of the state with decent bird numbers are the northwest and north-central.

Nebraska does not yet have harvest data from 2009. However, the July Rural Mail Carrier Survey showed counts similar to last year. The best area of the state should be the southwest, where there is also good public access.

Pheasants Forever Forecasts

Overview: Pheasant numbers appear to be holding steady in the Dakotas, Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska, the heart of the Heartland's pheasant range. That means fun months ahead for pheasant hunters and their bird hunting companions.
Also holding steady are Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres. The recently completed general CRP signup will likely keep the program at or near 32 million acres nationwide, much of it vital ringneck habitat. And the federal "Open Fields" initiative is off the ground, which will help states launch or enhance public hunting access programs tied to wildlife habitat improvement. Your support of Pheasants Forever has been critical in the success of both programs.
In contrast to a respectable outlook across last year's top five pheasant producing states are the bleak prospects for the longtime pheasant stronghold of Iowa (read the Iowa entry for full details). Across the rest of the U.S. pheasant range, prospects are murkier, with a snowy winter and wet springs hurting pheasant production in many areas. Still, pockets of habitat and birds to be chased exist, and any day spent pheasant hunting is a day well spent.
Remember to always consult official state hunting regulations for rules and season dates, and please carry Pheasants Forever's code with you into the field this fall:
As a member of Pheasants Forever, I believe in conserving wildlife and protecting the environment. I promise to leave the outdoors a little better than I found it. I will hunt safely and treat hunting on public and private land as a privilege. I will always ask permission before hunting private land.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heat Exhaustion

Heat Exhaustion
By Jill Swan

Now that summer is upon us, things are heating up, which can cause our sporting dogs to overheat during training if precautions are not taken. Keeping your dog cool and watching for signs of heat exhaustion -- after all, they have a difficult time holding back and saying no -- are just as important as the lessons you’re teaching during your outdoor sessions. Heat exhaustion, simply put, is when the body gets overheated from working (exercising) in hot, humid temperatures. To gain better insight, we’ll rely on the expertise of veterinary associates Drs. Peter Lotsikas and Chris Zink of Veterinary Orthoperdic & Sports Medicine Group in Annapolis Junction, Maryland.

What are some of the signs?

Humans regulate their body temperature primarily through the skin, such as sweating. But "dogs do not sweat like humans, and the majority of their cooling ability comes from the respiratory system," says Drs. Peter Lotsikas and Chris Zink. "Dogs will initially start to pant and salivate when they become hot. The evaporation of the saliva from their tongue, mouth, and throat removes heat from the body."

What can I do to help prevent heat exhaustion?

Coat and coat care -- The thickness of your dog’s coat is also something to consider as dogs do use their skin for heat exchange. According to our docs, "A dog's fur traps air, just like birds, which acts as an insulator when it is cold as well as when it is hot outside. This allows dilated blood vessels to exchange heat with the 'trapped' cooler air in the fur. A dog’s ability to trap insulating air will differ based on breed type and coat characteristics. Short haired breeds do not have the ability to trap air within their coat, thus these breeds are more susceptible to overheating than are double coated breeds like retrievers. Keeping short haired dogs wet during training and heavy exercise is an effective way to keep them cool. As the water evaporates, heat is removed with it.

"For a double coated or long single coated breed, you are better off only wetting the groin and abdominal areas, where the skin is thin and poorly haired, to allow for heat excha nge. Wetting the back of these dogs actually traps water in the coat, and as this trapped water begins to vaporize it will increase the humidity around the skin, actually making the dog hotter." To better help the trapping of air, keep your dog’s coat well-groomed and clean.

Physical shape -- And of course, make certain that your dog is in good training condition. Dogs not used to heavy training or working on a regular basis outside will be effected more quickly. "A conditioned dog's temperature should regulate to normal (99.5-102.5) within twenty minutes of cooling.  Any temperature of above 105 persisting longer than thirty minutes following appropriate cooling requires the attention of a veterinary professional."

Water -- Make sure to offer your dog plenty of cool water intermittently during your training sessions, and make sure he drinks some. "Remember that dogs do not need to drink large amounts of water in hot weather as we do, because they do not become dehydrated from sweating. Many dogs do not drink substantial amounts on performance days and it is not a problem," says Drs. Peter Lotsikas and Chris Zink. The important thing is that the coolness of the liquid will cool down the core body temperature of the dog.

What can I do if my dog becomes overheated?  

Hopefully the situation never escalates to that level, but if you are seeing signs that your dog is overheated, then you need to immerse the dog in cool water. Don't use ice water because it constricts the blood vessels and can actually increase the dog's core body temperature. "If water is limited, then you are best to apply the water directly to the belly, armpits, and groin," advises Drs. Peter Lotsikas and Chris Zink. They also recommend rubbing alcohol: "It can be applied to their paw pads, external ear flaps, and abdomen, as it evaporates quickly and is an effective method of exchanging heat." Ender

Doctor Bios

Dr. Peter Lotsikas, DVM is an ACVS board-certified surgeon with the Veterinary Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Group (VOSM) in Annapolis Junction, Maryland. Dr. Lotsikas specializes in orthopedic injuries of the performance dog. His clinical focus is on minimally invasive surgery (arthroscopy) and joint preservation.

Dr. M. Christine Zink DVM, Ph.D, DACVP is a canine sports medicine trainer affiliated with VOSM. Her expertise is in evaluating canine locomotion and designing individualized retraining and conditioning programs for the canine athlete.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Minnesota Ruffed grouse counts down after 2009 peak

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were significantly lower than last year across most of their range, according to a report released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“It looks like 2009 was probably the peak in the 10-year population cycle,” said Mike Larson, DNR research scientist and grouse biologist. “Drumming counts this spring, however, were still closer to those at the high rather than low end of the cycle.”
Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. This year observers recorded 1.5 drums per stop statewide. Last year’s average was 2.0 drums per stop. Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.
Drumming counts decreased 31 percent compared to those during 2009 in the northeast survey region, the core and bulk of grouse range in Minnesota, to 1.6 drums per stop. Grouse counts decreased 29 percent in the southeast region, from 0.5 to 0.3 drums per stop, but the difference was not statistically significant. Counts of 1.8 drums per stop in the northwest and 1.0 drums per stop in the central hardwoods were similar to last year’s counts.
Minnesota frequently is the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer. On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in Minnesota each year, also making it the state’s most popular game bird. During the peak years of 1971 and 1989, hunters harvested more than 1 million ruffed grouse. Michigan and Wisconsin, which frequently field more hunters than Minnesota, round out the top three states in ruffed grouse harvest.
One reason for the Minnesota’s status as a top grouse producer is an abundance of aspen and other ruffed grouse habitat, much of it located on county, state and national forests, where public hunting is allowed. An estimated 11.5 million of the state’s 16.3 million acres of forest are grouse habitat.
For the past 60 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year,
DNR staff and cooperators from 15 organizations surveyed 125 routes across the state.
Sharp-tailed counts dOWN slightly
Sharp-tailed grouse counts in the northwest survey region decreased approximately 5 percent between 2009 and 2010, Larson said. Counts in the east-central region declined approximately 1 percent. Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds. This year’s statewide average of 10.7 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to counts during 2003 to 2007 and the long-term average since 1980. Last year’s average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the past 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.
Overall, sharptail populations appear to have declined over the long term as a result of habitat deterioration. In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keep trees from overtaking the open brush lands that sharp-tailed grouse need to thrive.
The DNR’s 2010 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, will be available soon online at

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pointing Dog Puppy Primer -- Which One is For You?

By Bob & Jody Iler

Choosing a puppy is one of life's very special pleasures. But deciding what pointing dog breed is right for you can be a challenge -- and may make the difference between an experience in frustration and a partnership of contentment. Some questions to ask yourself before you research pointing breeds are:

* What type of birds will you be hunting?
* Where will you hunt and what type of habitat /climate will you be hunting in?
* Do you want your dog to range out or work close?
* How old are you?
* What kind of physical condition are you in?
* How would you describe your personality? Are you easygoing and tolerant? Are you a perfectionist with a short supply of patience?
* Where will your dog live -- in the house with you or outside in a kennel?
* Do you have the patience to clean burrs from a long coat after each hunt?

After years of experience working with different pointing breeds and their owners, we've found that the ideal matches are ones where the owners chose breeds that best fit them. Answer the questions above and you’ll have a checklist to match with the characteristics of your ideal pointing dog....Ender

Thursday, April 8, 2010

First Wood Tick Of The Season

Found my first wood tick of the season. Odd thing is that I was in the backyard. No long grass or anything. Have to get the magic juice on the dogs.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Dog Dilemma

In early February my dog, Tina, started to act very whiney and was limping. A few days later her back left hip was swollen. A visit to the local vet and he thought it was a grass awn that had migrated down to her hip area. Instead of surgery we went for a round of antibiotics. They seemed to work and in a week she was back to normal.

Then about two weeks ago she started to limp but without any swelling. Her respiration was faster and she just never seemed comfortable. A trip to the Univ of MN Vet Hospital and a visit with Doc Anderson and it was pretty clear that something was definitely out of whack. He was pretty confident that it was inflammation caused by a foreign body. It would be a spendy and involved operation. Tina is going to turn eight this summer so I figured that if she did have a full recovery that she would have a few more really good seasons hunting or if she recovered just enough to be house dog that she deserved that also as she is a total sweetheart of a dog and has always put it on the line when we went hunting. It was a lot of money but in the end we decided that she deserved a shot at feeling good.

I dropped her off on Wednesday morning and they operated in the afternoon. They called in the evening to say that it went well and that they removed a fair amount of damaged tissue and were draining an area of infection. On Thursday they kept in the ICU as the anesthesia seemed to have affected her more than they thought. They also had an IV giving her more fluids as she was dehydrated. Another night in ICU and on Friday they moved her to the general care ward. We went to the U to pick her up on Friday evening and she had developed a cough so we had an X-ray done to see if it was pneumonia or not. The results looked like a slight case of pneumonia so we decided to let her stay one more night.

Saturday the U gave us a call and said she was all clear to come home. Yeah! She will be ticked off at us for two weeks while she wears her protective Ecollar and gets to stay in her travel kennel, it is a very large one though. She has had her first meal and meds and seems to be almost back to her cheery self.

The U is more expensive than the local vet but they have actual Radiologists and Anesthetists right there in case they are needed.

This round of care is more then I spent on a few cars back in the day but I plan on her being around longer than any of those cars made it.

The ruffed grouse grapevine has already put out the word on our return to the woods this fall after mostly chasing pheasants the last few years.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

English Setter For Sale 15 Mos Old Started

Zippy - whelped 2/20/2009

Houston x Northwoods Blue Babe

Zippy is a gorgeous, tri-color English setter male that weighs 50 pounds. He has an even-marked, almost black head with honey brown cheeks. He is easy going with a calm disposition and is quiet and clean in the kennel. Zippy has a ton of natural staunchness, is an instinctive backer and hunts at close-to-moderate range. Zippy moves easily with lofty head and tail carriage. He has been hunted on wild pheasants and ruffed grouse, has traveled and had birds shot over him. He has spent several months training with us. He knows whoa, here, kennel and is ecollar conditioned. He is as nice a hunting dog prospect as can be found and will make an excellent family companion as well.

More Info And Original Posting

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Puppy

My friend Tony O was picking up his new GSP puppy from Sharp Shooter's Kennel so I went along for the ride. The puppy was nice and friendly. He whined for the first 20-30 minutes of the ride home but that is to be expected.

I keep telling him he needs to switch to dogs with full tails but he never will listen...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Backing - The Finishing Touch on your Finished Dog

Backing - The Finishing Touch on your Finished Dog
by Bob & Jody Iler

Begin your training with the silhouette.

Drop Cap W

acking, or honoring, is the icing on the cake for the finished dog. The sight of one dog backing another in the field is right up there on the list of images that will take your breath away.

Backing happens when hunting two or more well-trained dogs together. When one of the dogs gets a bird scent and points, the backing dog—as he comes toward the dog that is pointing—stops immediately and points the other dog. When the second dog sees the first dog on point, he should stop and “honor” the other dog’s point, whether or not he himself has made scent.

Teaching your (almost) finished dog to back can be a fun exercise. Many dogs are natural backers, while some will have to be taught. But even a natural backer will need extra training to remain steady throughout the scenario of watching the flush, shot, and retrieve handled by another dog. This is a lot to ask of him. We are aiming to make the dog a “gentleman” hunter—instilling manners and reliability in all situations.

To begin, you’ll need birds, a field to work in, your blank gun, and a helper. Initially, we use a plywood pointing dog silhouette for this training. You can get the less-expensive “manual” kind (with a metal stake attached to it that you push into the ground), or you can purchase one that operates remotely. Remote bird launchers can also be used (eliminating the need for a helper in the early stages of training). Using either the manual or remote silhouette, stake or set it out in an area that is concealed – behind a pile of brush or stand of trees – from the main part of your training field. Plant a bird about 15 feet from the silhouette, which should be facing in the direction of the bird, just as a dog would normally be if pointing it.

Your helper should already be out in the field, also out of immediate sight. Work your dog into the field on a checkcord. As you come into view of the silhouette, watch your dog closely for the first moment that he sees the “other dog” on point. When he does, he’ll probably hesitate. Even if it’s only a split second,that’s the moment when you gently stop and whoa him. The helper should flush the planted bird as you keep your dog on a whoa, and as the bird flies, fire your blank gun. (Make sure your dog is well-developed to the gun before doing this training!)

Heel your dog away from this area and have the helper lay the silhouette on the ground out of sight. Never let your dog run over to or sniff the silhouette. Always keep him at a distance during these exercises. Take him out of the field for the day and let him think about this new phase of training. Repeat this exercise several times a week, varying the locations a bit, until he stops on his own when he sees the silhouette and remains calm and reliably steady while the bird is flushed and you shoot. You can also intersperse this training with regular training sessions where you don’t have the silhouette in the field. We don’t want to pattern-train him; we want to keep him on his toes.

Only work with another well-trained finished dog.

Next, you can move on to using a live dog for this exercise. Plant a bird in the field and have your helper work the first dog into the bird before you come into the field. Give the first dog time to go on point and then bring your dog into the area. If all goes well, your dog should back the other dog and remain steady through the flush and shot. The helper should keep the other dog steady during this time as well. Remember that your goal is a mannerly finished dog.

Don’t be surprised if your dog fails to back the live dog at first. Just because he’s honored the silhouette is no guarantee he’ll honor the live dog. Keep at the exercises until he backs at first sight of the other dog. Some dogs seem to have innate backing instinct and some will take longer to catch on, so be patient, persistent and firm. You’re also working to instill control quietly—as time goes on, you want your dog to back on sight without you using your voice or giving a signal.

When working on backing exercises, you’ll always want to work with another well-trained finished dog. All of us have hunted in situations where dogs have failed to back and have charged in to either steal another dog’s point or even flush the bird out from under the other dog. We don’t want these types of scenarios in college-level work. We use skilled dogs with superb manners as we develop our student. There should be no aggression or free-for-alls with the honoring exercises.

A great job of honoring by the dog on the far left.

Once your dog is backing consistently and remaining steady to shot, it’s time to introduce the final element: keeping him steady and honoring while the other dog makes the retrieve. Next time you take your dog to the field for the backing exercise, have your helper/handler shoot the flushed bird and then send his dog for the retrieve on command. Up until now, you’ve been working with flyaway birds. Your dog will be sorely tested to remain steady while the other dog heads out for a retrieve. But if you’ve laid your groundwork well on the “Steady to Wing and Shot” phase of training, this shouldn’t be too difficult. After the other dog has retrieved, you can release both dogs and let them have a little fun run to ease any tensions.

When your dog understands and performs the backing exercise well, you can change up the scenario and occasionally let your dog be the “first dog.” This way he’ll have the reward of a retrieve for all his hard work.

Developing a dog that can truly be called a finished dog takes a lot of time, patience, and effort but the rewards are unmatched. Whether you go on to compete in field events to show off his skills, or simply enjoy the pleasure of hunting with a well-trained, mannerly dog, you can be proud of your accomplishment!

Next month, we leave the canine college campus and return to preschool, where we’ll feature “A Pointing Dog Primer—which one is for you?”

Happy Spring! Ender

Pointing Dog Pointers features monthly training tips by Bob and Jody Iler, who own Green Valley Kennels in Dubuque, Iowa. Bob and Jody have trained pointing dogs for over 35 years and have written many articles for Pointing Dog Journal. You can look up their website at

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