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  • October 30, 2012

    Bird Dog Hunting Tip: Use Dog Boots If Water Levels Are Too Low

    By Chad Love

    Waterfowl season in my neck of the woods opened up this past weekend, and like hunters in many other parts of the country, persistent drought and scarce water is forcing me to hunt areas I normally wouldn't hunt. It's also forcing my dog to run across areas she'd normally be swimming over. And that's precisely how my first hunt of the 2012 season ended before it started, with a drought-induced injury to my dog.

    Drought-induced injury? Yep. My private water is mostly gone, and the public water I hunt is about half the size it normally is. And when your public water is half the size it normally is, that means your dog is running across exposed lake bottom instead of swimming above it. And that's how your dog picks up a rusty hook in one of her pads, ending your hunt before it's over.

    So here is today's "Thus speaketh the voice of painful experience" tip: If your duck water is lower than normal this year, be careful, and watch where you and your dog walk. You might even consider booting your dog if you're hunting public areas are that low. I don't much care for dog boots.

  • October 24, 2012

    Beware of Traps on Your Next Hunt

    By Chad Love

    Upland hunting seasons are now in full swing in many states, which means many hunters and dogs are out covering a lot of ground that may contain traps. And traps are bad news for dogs. It happens every season, and it happened again last week in Wisconsin when a grouse hunter's golden got caught in a wolf trap.

    From this story in the Duluth News-Tribune
    Fred Strand and his 1½-year-old golden retriever, Hank, were walking a trail near Brule last week when Hank stopped to check out a scent. “He was 20 or 30 feet ahead of me, sniffing the ground,” said Strand, of Iron River. “Immediately after that, he started yelping and barking like he was in great distress. I quickly figured out what the issue was.” Hank had been caught in a wolf trap, said Strand, who is a Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist at Brule. The trap was a leg-hold trap with offset jaws, meaning that there was a gap between the jaws after it was sprung. Strand knew just what to do. He released the jaws enough that Hank could pull his foot loose.

  • October 22, 2012

    Vintage Video Provides Glimpse into SD Pheasant Hunting Circa 1950s

    By Chad Love

    I was perusing Facebook the other day (I do that at least once every ten days, whether I need to or not because I have, like, at least 21 friends) when I noticed a post and video link from Pheasants Forever Marketing VP Bob St. Pierre.

    The video was apparently produced by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks department some time in the late fifties or early sixties, and this thing cranks the retro dial all the way to eleven. Seriously, if I were to call up Central Casting and say "give me a vintage 1950s hunting video" this is what they'd come up with. It has it all: that ubiquitous early 20th-Century monotone newsreel narration (Why doesn't anyone talk like that these days?) the corny dialogue, nimrod hunting caps, buzzcuts, black plastic-framed glasses, and you even see the phrase "stag party" used in an un-ironic way. It's awesome.

  • October 16, 2012

    700 Dogs to Compete in Master National Hunt Test in Alabama This Thursday

    By Chad Love

    If you live in the Alabama area and you've never attended a retriever hunt test, here's your chance to see some of the best hunting retrievers in the nation.

    From this press release on the Outdoor Wire:

    The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area (FWFTA) in Hale County will host the Master National Retriever Club's 2012 Master National Hunt Test October 18-28, 2012. The Black Warrior Retriever Club (BWRC) of Alabama is the host club for the prestigious event.

    The annual retriever hunt test event showcases the best hunting retrievers in North America, and more than 700 dogs are scheduled to be tested during the week...The field testing for the retrievers begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, October 20, and culminates with the closing ceremonies on Sunday, October 28. The public is invited to watch the hunt tests to observe how retrievers respond to their handler's commands. Six different tests on both land and water will take place during the Master National, which is attracting retrievers, owners and handlers from all over the nation and Canada.

  • October 15, 2012

    Hunting Dog Gear: The Garmin Alpha GPS/E-Collar System, Part II

    By Chad Love

    I've been able to use the Garmin Tri-Tronics Alpha for a few weeks now, both in the field (albeit in a somewhat limited fashion) and running the dogs at home, and while I'm not familiar enough with the unit to give a definitive review of all its capabilities, I can offer a few thoughts on what I think of it so far. I can say that I have become comfortable enough with using it that I have packed away the Astro and will be using the Alpha by itself once quail and pheasant seasons open up here in Oklahoma and Kansas, and for a bumbling, anti-change technophobe such as myself, the fact that I've (sort of) caught on quickly to the Alpha's basic functions reflects fairly well on its Joe-average usability.

    If you want a thorough breakdown on all the Alpha's capabilities, I recommend Steve Snell's overview of the Alpha over on Steve, who has more bird dogs than most pro trainers, was one of Garmin's beta testers for the Alpha and knows it inside and out. These are simply the initial thoughts of a first-time user with basic (some would say non-existent) technical acumen.

  • October 9, 2012

    Dog Gear Review: The Garmin Alpha GPS/E-Collar System, Part I

    By Chad Love

    As many of you are aware, Garmin recently introduced its new and highly-anticipated combination GPS/e-collar system dubbed the "Alpha."

    I finally got the chance to see and use the Alpha on a recent Montana bird hunt, and in the next few blog posts I'll be giving my initial impressions of the unit. But first, a little background. Garmin effectively invented the GPS tracking collar industry with its introduction of the Astro 220 a few years back. It became a smashing success, and has evolved through several iterations to the current Astro 320 and DC-40 collar system.

    The Astro, however, is not an e-collar, so dogs do have to wear separate collars for the Astro and the e-collar, which also means you have to carry both a separate e-collar transmitter and GPS handheld. It's not as cumbersome as it sounds, and with a little practice it becomes second nature, but the appeal of a combo GPS/e-collar system with one transmitter and one collar is obvious.

  • October 4, 2012

    Reader Story: Terminally Ill Bird Dog Still Hot on the Retrieve

    By Chad Love

    One of the coolest things about being a writer with a blogging gig like this is interaction with readers. Coming from a background in print journalism, where interaction with readers means—at best—a letter to the editor, (and at worst, an angry visitor to the newsroom) the immediacy and two-way nature of blogging means not only instant feedback from readers, but an accelerated appreciation of readers from me. In short, I feel like I sort of get to know them. Which can be cool.

    Such is the case with regular, if not always-in-agreement-with-me reader, "Ontario Honker." His comments are always interesting, entertaining and above all, honest and well thought out, even when they aren't in agreement what I'm writing. I appreciate that. So when my editor sent me a link to this brief story and picture on the Field & Stream Trophy Room well hell, I just had to share...

    Pearl was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at U of Minn vet clinic in April 2012, and given only a few months at most to live. She is doing great and 100% since middle of the night two days after diagnosis. She made a great retrieve on this banded goose that fell 1/3 mile away in dense brush on 20/9/12.

  • October 2, 2012

    Lessons Learned from a Porcupine Encounter

    By Chad Love

    This is a picture of a lone porcupine quill. Just one of, literally, thousands of identical quills your average porcupine carries around on his backside every day of his life. But what's remarkable about this single quill is where it came from and what it represents. But first, a little background.

    I just returned from a road trip, during which I hunted in both Nebraska and Montana. And at every stop along the way, the dogs and I encountered porkies. In Nebraska, it was on a stylish, photogenic point that I was sure would result in a sandhills prairie chicken. Instead, I got a great point on a Cornhusker porcupine. Luckily, Jenny didn't break as I was trying to flush my non-existent chicken, and when I realized it was a porcupine hidden in the grass, we were able to pull the dogs off it.