Here’s to the ups and downs of the season.
The first day of a long weekend with a punctured paw. Cracked nails. Worn down pads.
Skunk sprays before work.
Washing of dogs at boat launches.
Shortened hunts to find that the area has been already been thoroughly hit.
Dogs left in the truck 1,000 miles from home so they can rest up whilst on the road.
Tripping and falling through slash of a young timber cut. Wet boots and sopping feet from cattail slews and creek crossing.
All for the the excitement of the dog, watching their development and pitfalls, the rush of a flushing bird, and if you’re anything like me a whole lot of pellets finding there way into nothing but the cold hard ground.
Bum Bum Bum Bumdum dumdumdumdum
My alarm was going off. It was 5:30am, time to get up and make the drive to our first hunt of the year. I had scouted a bunch during my free time at work. It was time to see if I made the right choices.
We got dressed, grabbed the gun, laced up the boots and jumped in the car. We headed West from Minot. I needed coffee, the crap in the hotel room is just that, crap. I stopped in the big truck stop down the road, grabbed a cup of joe to help warm the soul. There’s something about the aromatics of coffee that just hit right.
We drove about an hour, pulled off the main road, and headed 3 miles down a gravel road. The moon was huge this morning. The air was still. I parked the car, checked my GPS, we were here. A public piece of land, ND State trust I believe. I got out of the car, got my things together. Went through a mental checklist make sure I had everything I needed in my vest. Lainey is getting excited, wanting to crawl out of her skin a get outside. She knows what time it is. I sit back in the car, waiting a bit longer for the sun to rise. It’s a golden beautiful morning. My mind is racing with anticipation.
I sip my coffee a bit more. I think it’s time. A truck rolls by – instinctively I look to see if they have kennels or dogs. No sign. Must just be farmers or someone headed to work. There’s lights in the distance, looks like an oil well or something similar. To my side there’s some private land with a nearly dried up pond with some ducks in it. I get out, let the dog out, and we start looking for a good place to go over or under the three stranded barbwire fence.
I lift up the wire and lead Lainey under it. I realize this is the first time we’ve ever had to do this. I take my vest off, set it, and my gun on the other side of the fence on the ground carefully. I slide underneath and we take off.
This is beautiful ground. These a dried up pond here with thick cattails around it. There’s bushes and rolling hills. Sparse areas with trees as well. I think this will be a great spot. We roam around for some time, taking in the new to us terrain. Finishing up hitting the various edge habitats we can find on the first piece of ground we start heading to the next fence to cross. I check the GPS, yup it’s still hunt-able and part of the same tract.
Crossing over the next fence we stop and I realize a group of 8 deer on the horizon with the sun just peaking through them. Highlighting them about 300 yards in the distance. I’ve never seen anything quite so beautiful while upland hunting. We keep on hitting our various waypoints.
Lainey seems to be covering the ground and ranging accordingly. I’m pleased. I have high expectations for the week ahead.
No birds thus far. Must not be here. We stop again, the deer still in the same place.
We start back to the car. Nearing the first big hill on the Northwest side by the first dry pond a grouse flushes up 50-100 yards in front of us. This is it. If there’s one, maybe there’s more!
Heading in that direction we approach. I’m expecting Lainey to get wind of the bird and freeze in her tracks. I so badly want her to have some feathers in her mouth after this long trip to get here. We crest the hill together and the bird flushes 25 yards ahead of me. I take 2 pop shots at the grouse BANG…BANG.
Welp missed those. We continued down the hill and towards the pond. Maybe something is in these cattails.
We get back to the car. Load up and get ready to check another spot. I’m frantically looking at OnX for another waypoint to check. There’s a bunch around, so I figure I’ll start driving to one in hopes of finding something that looks nice.
Not more than 2 miles down the road there’s a PLOTS piece of land, a small farm with some horses behind the fence by the road. It looks like it’s all hayed land. We crest over the hill and I see 3 grouse next to the road. I bring the car to a stop thinking maybe we can get the dog to point them being some obviously close. At least I know there’s birds here!
We hop out of the car and I send Lainey in their direction. They immediately flush and head to the tall grass. I see where they land. Lainey chases off into the distance after one of them. She ducks under the horse fence.
“Oh shit, I don’t need her getting hurt by a horse” I call for her to return. She comes running back shortly. The horses following her to the corner of the fence. The horses are beautiful. The dog acting like a hopped up kid on mountain dew. SHHHH i hold her close and pet her stomach to calm her down.
There’s no calming her. She runs back down the fence row to where the birds were. Now on the wrong side of the fence. I call her and she eventually comes. I want her to head through the grass to find where these things went!
We head in that direction. A bird gets up wild and flies away. The other 2 not to be seen again. How do they do that? We continue to hunt this cover hitting areas which look to be birdy. Nothing comes of it. We stop at the far end of the property to take some water. Lainey stops and starts sneezing and rolling in the tall green grass. She keeps sneezing. And sneezing.
What in the world is wrong? She’s got some strange grass/grain in her nose. I pull it off. She’s fine now. We meandered back to the car not seeing another bird.
“Well that started off exciting” I’m hungry at this point. The sun is out and it’s warming up. Lainey seems a bit tired. So we head to the nearby town to try and find sometime to eat. I stop at this small diner in Stanley “Joyce’s Cafe.” I sit down and admire the people here. It’s such a small town, everyone knows one another. People are stopping from table to table on their way out, saying hi, talking about landscaping, driveways, and general banter. There’s some football helmets in the corner. Must be local teams I thought. My order comes – the breakfast burrito. MMMM that looks good the nearby table says to me. I agree and start to tear into the food. 2 was too much for me. But of course I clean my plate like every good midwesterner would.
Time for the next spot. I hop in the car, Lainey now waking from her slumber. We take off to a place I had a lead on. Arriving at the spot, I have very high expectations. There’s a great variety of cover, rolling hills, ponds, grasses. It’s textbook it seems. Across the road a big bull cow stares at me. There’s cattleguards keeping it from crossing the drive and keeping it within the fenced area. We set off into the new cover. Not more than 5 minutes in a couple of deer get up and run off to the north. We didn’t encounter anything more than those deer which got up again later in the hunt.
We stop after this hunt and sit to cool off. It’s pushing 75 outside so Lainey is hot. I pull out my folding chair as a few trucks drive by. 1 guy looked familiar, in an f150 – a host of a podcast non-the-less. The other guy stops a half mild down the road. We take off in a bit and drive past him getting ready to head out to hunt. He’s got a dogbox with 3 dogs ready to roll. We chat for a bit before heading out.
I see an alfalfa field and it’s not posted. I figure why not. We take off down the drainage area. Lots of grasshoppers. That’s a good sign. Further down 4 grouse get up way ahead of us! Lainey gets to the spot excited about the birds, making circles expecting to find another. We make a loop back up another drainage, expecting to find more. Unfortunately we do not.
We get back to the car, I figure that’s been enough for 1 dog, so we drive about scouting some areas far to the north. We drove by the Lostwood Wildlife Refuge. There’s a huge tower for people to spot stuff from. Tempted to go look, I did not as I didn’t feel like leaving the dog in the car for an extended time.
We headed back to the hotel to chill, rest, recuperate, excited for what the next day holds.
Dinner included a stop at JL Beers for a burger and beer. It was good and I’d recommend anyone check it out.
Part 3 coming.
This year started out with a bang. We went out to North Dakota for the first time in hopes of finding lots of bird contacts to help steady a young dog. While we had some success, there was of course plenty of frustration (more to come on ND part 2 during sharp-tail opener).
We found plenty of birds. A pleasant surprise after coming in blind with lots of research. Having come home early however, it was just a small taste. With the passing of father time came the opening day in Michigan. Finally, I’d be able to come home from work, take the dog out for an hour or two and see what she was made of.
Opening day of Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock season was a warm one. I left work early to try and extend our first outing. Arriving home, I packed up the car, grabbed the dog, and we set out to one of our favorite covers. A cover that had a small bit of the right aged aspen, lots of bushy, shrubby “upland scrub”, evergreens, swamp, and cedars. It really is the perfect mix of covers for these birds. On average last year I’d see 1-2 grouse, if not more, and a dozen woodcock.
We got to the spot. 1 truck in the usual parking lot so I extended to the far end of the cover, figuring at least we would spread out. Slightly unwilling to change my plan. Anyhow we got out and started our hunt. Nothing was seen in our first bit of the walk besides a man with his vizla (General Patton). We stopped and talked for a few minutes. Turns out Jake was the president of RGS for our chapter. We talked a bit about hunting, our dogs, and he mentioned the upcoming chapter banquet. I told him I actually just bought my ticket on the drive home so I’d see him there. He mentioned him and his dog just hunted the edge of the cover and didn’t touch the middle.
With that in mind we set off towards the middle of the cover. Didn’t see much for the first 10-15 minutes. Then later a few woodcock. Lainey wasn’t steady, a bit too excited it seemed. She was working too far away so couldn’t confirm or deny if she was doing her job well. It seemed she was just chasing birds. I didn’t end up connecting on anything that afternoon.
Excited, frustrated, annoyed. All feelings coming through my head during the hunt. It was hot, the dog was hot, so we wrapped it up and went home.
This isn’t to say I felt defeated, but having taken the advise of many people to not shoot bumped birds, it doesn’t seem to be working too great. We flushed a probably 10 different birds, or maybe 5 with 5 more being the same bird, her not holding steady on a single one, let alone really pointing at all. The dog wasn’t listening to me all that well. She was ranging further than I cared. Chalk it up to a dog out of practice, but she seemed to better at 6 months of age than she is doing at 18. I was told not to force her to range closer, and generally she does a good job adjusting to cover types for range.
A day has now passed. Lainey isn’t acting like she’s feeling too great. She doesn’t want to play fetch, instead of excitedly running to me and insisting I throw he ball, she lays silent inside her igloo. She returns the ball walking very slowly. She feels warm. She didn’t eat. We take her temperature. It’s bordering 104.
The next day my wife says she hasn’t improved all day, so she takes her to the vet. The vet runs bloodwork, comes back negative. Can’t find anything particularly wrong with her. So he prescribes a round of Antiobiotics – Augmentin, or some other mix of Amoxicillin and something else. He gives her a anti-inflammatory shot, and also a prescription of Rimandyl (i believe it was). She seemed to be feeling better a few hours later.
The dog improves, and I give her a week before we start back to hunting.
We go back hunting, I’m making an effort to hunt new covers so we head to a new spot. The cover looks great, but I saw plenty of footprints and dog prints, so it looks like I’m not the first to be here this day. We come across a couple woodcock 10 minutes into our search. She’s busting birds again…
Finally, I call her back to me, she comes. I water her. Then when we are ready to get going again, she stops not more than 10 feet from where we were. She points! Thank god, maybe she isn’t a dud is what runs through my head whilst reading my gun. I walk forward and the dog lurches forward, and the bird goes up. A woodcock. I take aim with my wife’s grandfathers 20ga 870 wingmaster.
1st shot – BOOM – miss.
I rack another round. BOOM – I’m aiming at leaves at this point. Probably didn’t get that one, oh well. My ears ring, everything seems muted for a few minutes. Lainey is excited. I’m excited myself. Lets see if we can find it again and give it another go.
Lainey bounds into the woods in that direction. She yipps and is stopped in the woods. She found it. I must’ve just winged it and Lainey finished the woodcock off. She sits proudly next to the bird. Ready to start looking for another. She doesn’t bring the bird back to me. Go figure, at least she shows me where it’s at.
I’m accepting of this mediocrity of dog work I suppose. She finds them, sometimes points them (I hope this improves with my patience holding firm.) She at least shows me where the birds are dead (similarly to in ND). But for a dog that loves retrieving balls, you’d think she would love retrieving the birds as well. I guess it’s time to tighten the leash and start force fetching her, I built the training table already so it’s just a matter of figuring out how I want to go about the process.
This is the epitome of Upland Slummin. Things are good, not great, sometimes you feel shitty about not doing best by the dog in getting her trained. A busy lifestyle, a lack of desire to sit and train the dog, has stopped me from making these things happen. Putting this all into words makes me feel motivated to make this happen, but how long will this motivation last? I keep going hunting more and more, I get flashes of greatness and then plenty of time I feel frustration in my pointing dog just flushing and bumping birds (If you can call it that).
I do feel like she is still immature, a slow to develop dog. So I’m trying to take things slowly. She is happy to walk at a heal, she (for the most part) has great recall. But dang it I would love to see her lock up on more birds than she does. I think she’s relying more on her eyes than her nose, which worries me. But then when thinking back to seeing her track things I’ve watched her follow a jackrabbits sent 50-75 yards perfectly to a T.
I suppose some direction, mentorship, and maybe some homing pigeons might help solve these problems with consistent training. All things I’m lacking. I’ll certainly put in the effort to make the best dog I can, and make the most memories and her (and my) life as exciting and memorable as possible.
The time finally came. It was the Thursday before the North Dakota opening day for Sharptail. I had the room booked. I had made most my plans for the upcoming 10 days. It’s going to be a blast!
Thursday afternoon – the day began to unwind – my last patient of the day was done very early. “I think I’m going to take off and get an early start tonight and stay with my Sister in-law.” I left work early that day and headed home to get my things together and load up the dog. Of course a couple items I wanted to have in my first-aid kit didn’t arrive on time. Thanks Amazon! What’s the point of Prime when nothing ever comes in 2 days let alone the time quoted. Oh well!
I got my stuff packed. Checked my list twice. Called my wife and she quadruple checked the list to make sure the dog was taken care of. She started to cry as she didn’t want Lainey to leave as our original plan was to leave early the next morning. We took off and stopped at the Hospital to say goodbye to the ol lady and headed north.
Stopped quick in Seney for a quick pee break. Met another couple headed to the Marquette area with their newborn for a diaper change stop.
We arrived in Marquette around 8:30. My sister in-law was waiting to go get dinner for me so we let the dogs quick play before running to one of our favorite late night digs in Marquette Stucko’s.
The next morning we walked the dogs, I grabbed my required 3rd Street Bagel and coffee and then headed West on our big trip. The weather started to get pretty dark once we reached Wakefield/Ironwood area. We grabbed some diesel and kept going.
We reached Superior WI/Duluth area and needed to stretch the legs. We stopped at Barker’s Island Park to play with the ball and check out the harbor area. A Volleyball team from Nebraska Wesleyan was headed to LSSU in the Sault for a tournament and also stopped there. They said the obligatory hello to Lainey and threw the ball for her a few times.
We kept going West, briefly stopping for some food from the Subway in Fosston. Here they were preparing food for the Friday Night football game across the street. Lainey played some ball again to stretch the legs. Further on we passed through Grand Forks quickly getting a peak of some two dozen drones they had parked on the tarmac at the Air Force base near the Northrop Grumman building. Stopping a little ways beyond Grand Forks at the Larimore rest area. Passing through Michigan ND, we laughed at the name for ironies sake. Getting to Devils Lake I needed some fuel for the car and a pick me up for the final bit of the drive.
We arrived at our Motel 6 around 10pm. Unloaded the vehicle and crashed in the bed, hoping for great weather and an early morning.
Solitude – Per Merriam-Webster
- “1 : the quality or state of being alone or remote from society “
- “2 : a lonely place (such as a desert)”
So as I’ve been preparing for next weeks departure I’ve been thinking this whole time I would at least have one person joining me on this adventure. Checking in last night with my friend I came to find out he has a wedding to attend and therefore won’t be able to join. This has provided me with conflicting feelings.
First and foremost, a feeling of relief.
- Relief from the fact that I won’t feel pressured to have the best performing dog (Hint: I won’t she’s average at best and this trip will be used to help her progress).
- Relief from having to had put in all the time and preparation into having the best spots (Hint: I won’t as it’s my first time doing this).
- Relief from making sure I have enough gear for all of us.
- Relief from feeling the need to entertain and ensure someone else is comfortable and not frustrated with how things are going.
These are unfounded fears I get, I don’t like entertaining or hosting, and it puts me into a very uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. Mind you, this is my best friend I’m afraid of all this with. The least intimidating person in my life outside my wife.
A feeling of freedom
I will feel less hindered by trying to entertain/perform whilst going it alone on this trip. Me and my big girl Lainey. I’ll be able to go it at my pace, or hers, whomever needs the most time to stay cool and perform. I’ll feel free to explore more places (I’ve already decided I’m going to go 2 days in Montana as well to try and bag/experience sage grouse country).
- Side note – Eastern Montana’s hotel choices (slim pickins at this point)
I’ll feel free to take a day to visit/explore Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Knocking another one off the list. Probably during a day I got to hunt just miles from it as well.
A feeling of Solitude
Experiencing all these new places, environments, sites, smells, and sounds by myself with my dog. Yes I have company. Yes I’ll share the memories with my bird dog @LaineyTheLargeMunsterlander. But as we all know, those memories are often sweetened by the company of a good friend, partner, or companion. Despite all the good things that will come of this trip, the relief of pressure, and the freedom I can confidently say I wish I was going to be doing it with someone else. Have someone else to decide where we go the next day, what we will be eating, when to turn back and try a new place. Someone else to be able to take a photograph of, to talk to, share the experience with.
It will be bittersweet in many ways I’m sure, and I won’t trade the experience for anything. My wife thinks I am crazy for going alone.
- “Wait he can’t go?”
- “No, not for September, maybe October, but that hasn’t been confirmed”
- “Well invite your dad”
- ” I did”
- “He can’t go either”
- “No, he’s busy with work, needed more heads up”
- “So you’re going alone?”
- “Wait, you’re gone for how long?”
- “Little over a week”
- “I thought it was a long weekend”
- “Oh, I’m going to miss Lainey… and you”
So here I am, preparing for an exciting time in my life. I can barely wait. It consumes most my thoughts throughout the day. I have most of what I need ready to roll.
My Vet was telling me I should get the snakebite vaccine – but sources out West (@birddogdoc) https://uplandways.com/ have stated that it’s a good idea theoretically, however efficacy is not there. So I called and let them know we would not be going forward with that one (pretty sure it’s expensive as well).
The last thing I’d like to get is a zoom lens for my camera (Fuji XT3). I doubt this will happen beforehand, but it sure would be nice as we sold our 90mm lens and the 35mm won’t always be great for trying to catch action shots that might be further away.
With the upcoming season ahead I’ve been doing a few chores, and with that comes together headaches and excitement.
This has been interesting as I haven’t really done any real E-scouting before. I knew of some good local areas that fit the general habitat where I’d like to go, for what I like to hunt. Generally that just meant finding an area that was clear cut and now full of thick nasty aspens and blackberry/raspberry bushes.
This year I have some out of state trips planned so I did some more scouting than I had in the past as I want to make every moment the best I can when out of state. I listened to a few podcasts, joined a free webinar as well put on my OnX and Tyler Webster.
Using OnX – like everyone else does now a days it seems. I started to 1st narrow down where I can hunt. In particular I was able to see if something was Electronically posted in ND, which is nice. However reaching out to some locals I was told that maybe 50% aren’t electronic and just physically posted. So some leg work will still be required when I get there. I also marked areas where there’s public land. With this comes some headaches as I have a lot of pins placed in the areas I’m looking now. So then it comes down to choosing a couple of tiers of pins and ranking them high to low. I haven’t done this yet, but it’s going to get done in the next week or so on my slow time at work. I’ll use a combination of looking at terrain and coverage, as well as the nearby availability of water and types of crops to choose Tier 1 vs Tier 2 spots. I’ll probably change the color of Tier 1’s to Green so it’s easy to distinguish.
I’ll scout differently for my pheasant/mixed bag hunt in October, but I need to keep a few things off my plate for now.
I also bought the Scout-N-Hunt app. This will apply a bit more for ruffed grouse, but I will take a look when I finally get some free time to evaluate it for the ND hunts as well.
Planning. Something growing up I was never great at, has somehow become something I’m pretty good at now a days. While I’m not exactly a type A personality, I’m pretty close. So having a good idea as to the who, what, when, where, and how of it all is pretty important to me. I think my wife rubbed off on me for this.
I’ve already got more than enough time reserved at a hotel for both my visits, and it’s refundable in case I change my mind. In terms of choosing this it basically came down to – what’s cheap, what has a hot tub, and does it allow dogs? I’m also going to put in a rest day where we (or maybe just I if my friend doesn’t make it out) go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. As I’m sure Lainey could use some rest through our travels. Haven’t looked to see if she’s allowed in the park, nor do I even know what’s there. So there ya go, still more to plan.
I know I need to get some organization down yet. I want to have some nice containers for all my gear, as right now I have some basic emergency kit in a tool bag. My dog emergency gear in a tool bag. Some more dog emergency meds in a diving goggle case. And carboard boxes holding shells. I found a few containers on Amazon that I like the look of for storage.
MTM ACR5-72 – this one looks great for holding shells and maybe smaller gear like dog meds/bandages https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00T4XL2MO/ref=ox_sc_act_title_10?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1
MTM ACR8-72 – this one looks like it will be great for the larger and bulkier gear https://www.amazon.com/MTM-ACR8-72-Crate-Utility-Large/dp/B00T4XL4HM/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2GMRQXW57GDQC&keywords=mtm+acr8-72&qid=1661779738&sprefix=mtm+acr8%2Caps%2C242&sr=8-2
Then of course I know there’s some medical supplies I’d like to have. My grandpa gave me a bunch of his old dog medical supplies, but they are from the 80’s and 90’s. I went and sorted through a bunch of it. Tossed a lot out, but kept a lot. Either way a ton of it is very expired so I need to get some quick clot, Benadryl, and a few other things to make me feel a bit more prepared.
Some of the areas I’ll be hunting will be WMA’s/WPA’s and require non-tox ammo. So I went down that rabbit hole. I signed my email up for notifications when they will be back in stock. Whilst in Peru on vacation, I finally received an email from Boss saying the 2 3/4″ 20g #7’s were back in stock so I ordered a case. It took all of 3 days to arrive at my door before I was even back from traveling. They even came with a cool bag. So I guess I’m just another on the bandwagon of Boss shells. Tried as I might to find something different, it just didn’t happen. Quite frankly they were the most affordable as well, so who’s to complain?
I also need to put together a good bird cleaning kit to put in my car. I don’t have any poultry shears, so those are on the to-buy list.
Other odds and ends I’d like to get. Some Lysol wipes, and wet wipes for the car/truck. T post step to make that easier. Probably get some nitrile gloves for cleaning too so I don’t need to wash my hands so often. Water and Food storage for the dog.
Well, there’s still a lot I have to do. Decide if I take my car or truck? The big rig needs a new caliper installed as I ordered 2 when I had one seize. Really, I would like to replace all the pads and rotors as well just to feel even better about that all. If I take my car I think it needs new engine mounts. Oh the joys of owning shitbox vehicles.
Organizing and making a list. I’d like to put all the gear together in a nice tidy way and have an orderly list I can cross off when I put it all in the vehicle.
My wife needs me to finish a chicken coop. It’s been a fun project but I’m ready to be done with that. I’ll share photos of this when I finish, documenting start to finish the steps.
I already have 2 vests for me and whomever decides to join me, if they do. I need to put all my blaze orange together to make sure I have hot weather to cold weather covered for wearing during the hunt. Plenty of water bottles for each vest, so water shouldn’t ever be a limiting factor.
Collar – Lainey doesn’t every seem to range too far, so debating whether or not I should get a GPS collar. Of course I’d love one, but for $500-1200 depending on the model I don’t know. I think I’ll wait for the first trip to decide.
Snowy Oaks Elaine – “Lainey”
So much of why I enjoy upland hunting comes from the dogs. I’m sure that’s a shared feeling among many of us. Dogs, unlike many other things, bring immense joy into our lives.
The Tale of Lainey started in 2018. My then girlfriend at the time and I had finally moved in together. I was in the home stretch of my graduate studies, she was working, and we had decided we were going to get a dog. This dog however was not going to be a hunting dog as it was not the right time, or place. It was during this time I had stumbled upon Craig Koshyk’s book “Pointing Dogs Volume 1.” I read that book front to back on more than one occasion. I had never met anyone who had the experiences and expertise on so many differing breeds. Someone who could write without bias (or very little at least). Someone who had researched so many different breeds and the history behind them.
This is all to say, I read that damn book a lot, and even though I knew we weren’t getting a pointing dog to live in our apartment in our busy schedules I had a pretty good idea on what I wanted coming out of school. It had lead me to a few breeds and breed clubs which I began researching. Ultimately I decided upon Large Munsterlanders or Großer Münsterländer if we wanted to delve deep.
Before that saga all began, my girlfriend at the time decided we were getting a Welsh Pembroke Corgi. The fluffy butts and short legs couldn’t keep her away. I can remember the very day she sent me a text stating “i’m going to go look at a dog.” That’s the only text, and the only cell reception she had I got before she called in tears driving home. Tears of overwhelming unknowing unknowns. Tears of being unsure if it was the right decision. She got home with this little tiny nugget in a tote since we didn’t have any of the things needed for a dog at the time. I can remember waiting in my uniform for her to get home near the mailboxes of the apartment building. Her 2003 Tan – Grandma spec Impala pulling up. Blue packing tote without a lid in the back seat. And a little tiny Corgi smiling up at me. We were in love right away. That’s the beginnings of our Corgi Maizie. The polar opposite of a dog in which I wanted.
Fast forward 3 more years. I’ve graduated school, we’ve gotten engaged and married, bought a plot of land, bought a house, and we’ve been living with my in-laws for the past year and a half. The lady had finally given me permission to get a dog since we would be moving out soon. I had landed between choosing 2 different breeds – Epanual Picard/Picardy Spaniel or Large Munsterlander. I was looking for something that was versatile, would handle the cold well, and fit the behaviors I was looking for. Something easy hopefully. I basically tossed a coin, going for the Large Munsterlander after much deliberation, more or less for the color at this point.
Here is when I began reaching out to breeders with upcoming litters. I joined the LMAA. Talked with a few breeders. It sounded like it was going to be a year until I could get one. Finally after talking with the Shreve’s, they mentioned how they give preferences to people who are out of state and could be in line for a Female this year. I was ecstatic. Not only would I get the dog I was hoping for this year, but it was from a breeder who has been involved highly in the LMAA as well as one of the first and longest running in the United States. The parents Dam – Snowy Oaks Xushi (NAVHDA NAT 112 (I), HD-Free (excellent), Elbows Normal) and Sire – Breezy Point’s Quail Hunter (NAVHDA NAT 110 (I), UT 172 (III), HD-Free (good)).
April 5th Elaine was born. Named after my favorite show Seinfeld – I love the name from the show, and it worked with the litter lettering/order so it stuck. I believe I was told she’d be pretty average in size. 50-60 lbs, and a normal height. But boy were we wrong. She’s now full grown, a stout 70lbs, and about 4 inches taller than the upper range for males usually are. So she’s our “big girl” and our “Lanky Lainey.”
Anyhow puppyhood was fun, her personality is so much different than our Corgi. They really are a ying and yang. Lainey is a very relaxed dog most the time, until a ball is out, or we go hunting. A couch potato at home, and very affectionate. Maizie while lazy most the time is a very alert high strung attitude, and a very independent dog.
Our first year out hunting I was going to follow a plan. Wild Birds. That was the M.O.
Of course I was afraid she was going to be gun shy. And I for sure was nervous I was going to screw something up. So the plan was, go to an area I know with Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock. Get her on the birds. Only shoot to kill if she had goodish dog work. Shoot to condition her anytime she flushed or bumped a bird nearby.
A little luck
Well it all seemed to work. Birds got her excited. She began pointing and holding point until flush. Gunshots got her even more jazzed up. The occasional chipmunk got her distracted, but for a 6 month old dog the results were surprising. I don’t want to be the next Ronnie Smith. I read the book, I’ve read other books. Had plenty of people tell me what to do. Tell me go to a preserve. Etc. Etc. I stuck to the plan, it played out, and I’m sure there’s plenty of luck in that. We had plenty of woodcock our first season, a great bird for young dogs, sitting pretty tight, and two Grouse. It wasn’t a lot, but I’m not going to ask much of a young dog.
What’s to come?
This next year I’m hoping will be an evolutionary year for Lainey.
I took her two weeks ago to a game farm with some planted Chukar to see where she’s at. She first B-lined it for the trees – as that’s where we tend to find our normal prey, but then she came back and hunted the field I asked her to. The first Chukar she bumped after getting too close to it after getting the scent – it flew away towards the tree row. I helped her flush it out from there and she proceeded to run it down and catch it out of the air some 30 yards later. Not what I was hoping for…
Anyhow the next 4 birds went a little better. Pointing them whilst dam near on top of them. 3 of the next 4 got up and I shot them. 1 of them she caught. To say the least they weren’t the hardest flying birds like the wild ones of last year. I knew there was a reason we avoided game farms.
I hope this year to get her on a lot more birds to help develop her abilities. She’s been pretty bad about bumping birds, getting too close. Relying a bit too much of eyesight and not scent. I’ve got two trips booked out in North Dakota. First in September for Sharptails and Huns, and second in October for Pheasant as well. Maybe we will do more than those two out of state trips, however there’s lots of ground to cover in Michigan compared to the 5 places we frequented last year.
Here’s to the next year and this upcoming upland season
So, at times I find myself looking at other blogs that chronicle people’s adventures of times in the upland. Times spent with dogs, beautiful photos taken, Training, shooting, gear; and they’ve all been thing’s i’ve found myself enjoying. There’s plenty of downtime at work when I’ve felt I could be doing something to better myself, and I think this is where I’ve landed. I certainly don’t possess the grammar and prose’ of some writers. I tend to type out exactly how I would talk.
I guess this is all to say this isn’t your grand dad’s blog. Just a place to land my thoughts and feelings. Share my experiences. Post photos and thoughts I’ve had on my often solitude times spent out in the woods.
Slummin? Why choose that word? Well it sorta seemed catchy but, there’s plenty of times I’ve spent hunting (more so deer than upland), that I felt pretty shitty afterwards. You know the feeling having spent the last 8 hours in the cold wet rainy 32* weather where you didn’t see a single thing move in a deer blind. Or maybe the dry ice cold November morning you’ve hoping to get a deer out of a tree, but the only thing you caught was numbness in your toes, because you’re an amateur and chose to wear sweaty rubber boots when choosing out your gear. I’ve been there. I’m not particularly good at a lot of things, but I do enjoy learning, I do enjoy the experiences, and I tend to look back at those things and see them as type 2 fun. But they can certainly feel like I’m slumming it at times.
There are of course plenty of times which aren’t slummin it such as below, when my 6 month old Large Munsterlander and I bagged our first Ruffy last year. A very proud dad moment, for sure.