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The last three fall bird hunts have tended to be  . . . poor.

That’s not really the right word to describe those hunts, but it’s a start.

The issue has been injuries to my good buddy and hunting dog, Neva.

One year, she had a run-in with a porcupine within the first hour of the pheasant hunt in Alberta. It was a full-on face plant of quills and required a trip to the vet, in Medicine Hat, over an hour’s drive away. Never did shoot a pheasant that year . . .

Another year she cut her paw on glass, we presume, on our first ruffed grouse hunt of the season. There was no reason for glass to be there in the bush, but it was close to a forest access road, and way too many people throw their garbage – like beer bottles! – out the window when driving around. Regardless, it was a deep cut, needed stitches, and put Neva out of commission for a good month. By the time she had recovered, there was snow on the ground, which seems to result, at least around here, in the virtual disappearance of the grouse. I don’t know what happens, but once there is snow on the ground, you can go for miles and hardly ever find a bird. So that year was also a washout.

Last year we were on our property, hunting grouse for the 2nd or 3rd time, when Neva flushed a grouse, ran over an old garbage pile, and cut a paw again. Needed stitches, out of commission . . . . .

The fellow who last lived on our property – back in early post-war years, I think – was for the most part a bootlegger. We’ve removed pick-up loads of cans, bottles and iron over the years. There were literally huge piles of cans and bottles all over the place. I know there’s still a couple out there, but I can’t recall exactly where. If I find them, I’ll clean them up too. At least the places and trails where we usually hunt and go for walks with the dogs have been cleaned up. I still worry about shards, though.

So far this year Neva has avoided getting injured. And we had a great time!

We didn’t kill a lot of birds, but we flushed many. I even shot a few woodcock and saw and missed several others. Most woodcock I have ever seen in the Kenora area. A banner year!

Neva was 5 this year. Given her history of hurts, it’s easy to see she hasn’t had a lot of bird hunt time.

ruffed grouse-164

I thought we’d see a lot of grouse on our property as we had seen a number of coveys during summer. However, that wasn’t the case – sometimes we’d be out for an hour and not see a single grouse. I suspect the foxes and coyotes cleaned them up as well as the 10 skunks (10!) Lil live-trapped in the yard.

I haven’t hunted with her for a few days – the deer rut is on and smelly bucks are distracting to a dog that loves to hunt. I have to admit I’ve never seen dogs that like to hunt as much as these Wachtelhundes.

Unfortunately, there’s snow on the ground and I haven’t seen a grouse for days, not even during a full day of deer hunting where birds had been plentiful in early October.

Fortunately, there’s not a lot of snow – yet.

Oh well, it was a great fall, full of flushes and even some shooting. If the weather holds, we might even get to do a bit more of both.

And next year, maybe Neva and I can do some duck hunting.

Neva-13

Neva-2

Neva, our recent addition to our pack of Wachtelhunde’s, is growing rapidly. Close to twice as big as in the photo. She’s a smart dog, but does get into a lot of trouble.

My friend Gerhard (he likes to be called Gary) Gehrman and his wife Irma dropped by the other day to see Neva and show us their new little female Wachtel. She’s a month or so younger than Neva, so she is somewhat smaller. But Gary already has her calmed down. I tend to have troubles keeping my dogs from being ‘overly exuberant’ around people, at least until they’ve gotten a little older.

Training is going OK, but it’s not without its challenges. Because of wolves (they are still numerous, and hungry – a few  people in the area have recently reported their pets have been taken by wolves and others have had close encounters – we have been keeping Neva on some sort of leash whenever she is out of the house. When she’s on the long leash, it’s hard to keep her from getting tangled up in the trees and brush, but it’s not a problem doing fetching and searching and finding and whatnot, because we do that in the field. The problem is that at some point I have to start letting her run without any leash, and trust she won’t run off (and get lost, or eaten by wolves). As puppies, Heidi, Brill and Dory all ran off at some point, usually chasing game. Eventually they did come back, with the exception of Dory, who was picked up twice by other people, once, several kilometers from home. It was on her last run when she broke her leg, although that was the result of a genetic defect we were initially unaware of. It’s a long story, but the fact is Dory has never been able to be a hunter because she’s ‘physically challenged’. And Brill has been too old and crippled up to hunt for four years. Neva’s the BIG HOPE.

Gary is letting his little Wachtel run with Edsel, his older dog, when he rides his quad. He does worry about the wolves as well, and he did say she was taking off after game (grouse, mainly). I don’t have the confidence in my training – while Gary is trained as a professional  dog trainer. Just have to keep at it, I guess.

Seeing as it’s just about the middle of July, Lil and I have less than 2 months of training to go before the opening of the local duck hunt on Sept.10. When I took Brill out on her first hunt on the opener, about 15 years ago, she retrieved my limit of ducks, which I think was 8. That will be hard to match.