If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then I'm sincerely flattering (or "ripping off" if you're a plainspoken sort) Joe Cermele's most recent Honest Angler blog post. In it Joe asks what were his readers' most memorable catches of 2011. (Mine? I've recently taken up the fly rod in a serious but comically flailing way, and the big sow largemouth I somehow managed to catch this spring on a six-weight, while not my biggest catch of the year, was definitely my most memorable.)
It's a great question, which is why I'm going to borrow it whole cloth and ask MBF readers what their most memorable 2011 gundog moment was. It could be a first retrieve of a new pup, the last retrieve of a gray-muzzled senior, a particularly intense point, a quiet moment of affection between you and your dog, pretty much anything that was worthy enough to stay with you long after the moment itself.
Remember when I told you the drought earlier this year had dried up virtually all the dog training and duck hunting water in my part of the world and that things were definitely not looking good for waterfowl season? I wasn't kidding.
Yep, you guessed it: it's time for another Man's Best Friend Caption Contest. You know the drill: best caption to the picture above take the prize, which in this case happens to be pretty sweet, and appropriate to the picture. One lucky wit will get two boxes of Remington 12 gauge Nitro Steel duck loads, which the guy in the picture (no, it's not me, really) looks like he could use a few of.
The snow came roaring in to my little corner of the world earlier this week, and with it the birds, pushing ahead of the blizzard raging behind them. Hunkered down in the cattails, we watched them flying high and fast. They were gone with neither a glance nor quack toward my meager spread and ever-pitiful calling. A typical evening hunt for me.
So we just sat there, the dog and I, in the lee of an old beaver lodge, content to watch the undulating spectacle of migration play out across the evening sky. We had the lake, and seemingly the world, all to ourselves. And, as I often do in the presence of such ancient and wondrous magic, I quickly fell into deep contemplation of all life's mysteries. A natural thing to do, I suppose, in these last penultimate days of the year, poised between looking back at what was and looking forward to what will be.
Yesterday morning my old chessie and I hunkered down among the cattails, eyes lifted to a perfectly brilliant, deep azure sky almost completely devoid of waterfowl. Almost.
Just after first light a pair of gadwall pitched into the decoys and went on the strap. And that was it. No wind, no chill, no clouds, no ducks. Warm sunshine on my skin, flies buzzing around my head. It's as warm a late-season duck hunt as I can remember.
This morning we're in a winter storm warning, temperatures are dropping like a rock and by Wednesday we're supposed to have single-digit windchills, six inches of snow, and, hopefully, a big push of new ducks into the area. Go figure. We'll also have something that I --and many other more southerly duck hunters (and their dogs)--haven't had to deal with thus far this year: ice.
Recently I blogged about trying to turn my duck dog into a flusher. That experiment is ongoing but thanks to the absolute dearth of quail in my area, I haven't yet been able to get my old, set-in-her-ways duck dog into any birds. But my efforts have left me wondering how many of you choose to hunt upland birds with flushers.
Now I don’t mean pheasants, which a great many people (perhaps even a majority) hunt with flushers, with great success. No surprise there. What I mean are the more traditional pointy-dog birds like quail and grouse--particularly quail.
When it comes to divulging useful information about the ducks and geese they hunt, waterfowlers are easily the shiftiest, most obtuse and completely untrustworthy pack of liars in the outdoors. I know I am, and I'm pretty sure you are, too.
Asking a duck hunter, especially a public water duck hunter, to share info about the ducks he's been seeing is tantamount to asking him to share Polaroids of his wife. It just 'aint gonna happen. Oh, they'll tell you what you want to hear. They'll give you all sorts of detailed information, virtually all of it of the "lies, damn lies and statistics" variety.
Gun dog owners are, almost without exception, fiercely loyal to their chosen breeds. Last year the guys at Pheasants Forever tapped into that loyalty to raise money for conservation with a contest to find the most popular gundogs.
Dubbed "Bird Dogs For Habitat," the campaign raised $48,000 that went directly into conservation programs. My beloved chessies didn't win last year (that honor went to the vizsla, which raised $5,877) but I (and everyone else) will get a chance at redemption because the Bird Dogs For Habitat campaign is back.
What's your favorite bird dog breed? Pheasants Forever's second annual "Bird Dogs for Habitat" campaign challenges upland hunters to cast a vote and make a donation on behalf of their favorite dog. All tax-deductible donations support Pheasants Forever's wildlife habitat conservation mission - and the places where bird dogs love to hunt.