Wednesday, September 29, 2010

GUN DOGS, THE BITE AND VINTAGE STUFF

Summer is officially over and it took a blow from a hurricane to get rid of that hot,humid weather we had at the end of August. Now I like warm weather as well as the next person but that was just downright brutal,especially if you had to work in it. I often think of the fish and game when we get extremes of weather and how uncomfortable they must be. The salmon,in particular, had a very rough few weeks this year. I know my dogs were also uncomfortable during the hot weather we had and they even had the river to cool off in! Caution and common sense must be used whenever working gun dogs in hot or cold conditions when afield or you risk serious ailment or injury to your pup.If it is really warm out,try to forgo any training sessions or hunts until a more temperate day or at least limit the time the dog is working and make sure he has lots of fresh water to keep him hydrated. If you are working a retriever in cold weather,a vest will help keep him comfortable when he is making those long retrieves at day break in the marsh. Most gun dogs are bred for the task and have the physical attributes needed to work in the outdoors but gunners want their dogs to be comfortable and enjoying the hunt as part of the team. There is a special bond that develops between gunners and their dogs and any sportsman who has ever owned a good gun dog knows what I'm talking about.I have been privileged to own several good gun dogs of different breeds and I have shot over some other good ones owned by friends and hunting partners.My first gun dog,believe it or not,was the family German shepherd that we got when I was just a toddler. I started out with a BB gun and then progressed up to a nice pellet gun that I used to hunt squirrels mainly and my dog Flash was always by my side when I went to hunt our sixty-five acre woodlot. That dog loved to hunt squirrels and she never lost one that I can remember. She taught me at that young age to trust a dogs nose and hunting ability because she always led me to those smart old squirrels that tried to escape by going from tree top to tree top.Many times I would be going one way  and she would go off in another direction and would soon be barking up a tree and sure enough,there would be Mr. Squirrel. I hunted with that German shepherd until I turned thirteen and then I started to leave her home because I was now hunting partridge and rabbits and that wasn't Flashes' game.Since that time I have owned black labs,yellow labs,Irish setters,English setters and German shorthaired pointers and I enjoyed them all.Some were much better pets than gun dogs,such as the Irish setter I owned. His name was Red and he was a stunning dog to look at but he was uncontrollable in the field.I did my best with him but in the end I gave him to my mother-in -law as a gift. She was happy to have him and I was glad to have room for a new dog in my kennel. One of the finest gun dogs I ever owned was a handsome English setter that I named Harry. Harry was a real blue blood in the field dog world.His grand sire was Fld.Ch. Jettrain,one of the winningest setters on the field trial circuit during the seventies and he had the potential to be a champion in his own right but I buggered that up and I've always felt guilty about it ever since.You see,I got Harry by default as my original pup died shortly after I purchased her and the breeder had told me if anything happened to the pup within a reasonable time,he would replace her with another.When my new pup died,I went back to the breeder and he had two pups left.One was a big quiet pup that didn't seem to have much energy and the other was a beautiful male that looked and acted like he had all the right stuff.The breeder tried to steer me towards the big slow pup because he knew I wasn't really into the field trial game and he thought that pup would make a better gun dog. I told him I thought that pup was a dud and I would rather have the other one that showed more spirit.He told me he was going to keep him to train for the circuit because he thought he had potential but if I insisted he would give me his favorite one if I agreed to train him and enter him in competition,which I agreed to. I did do a lot of work with Harry but I made one fatal error with him that never got resolved and that was letting him run on his own at my parents place when I was visiting.That was how Harry learned to hunt on his own. Not good.From then on I had a real hard time keeping him in range and before you knew it,he would be in the next county with me whistling and whooping my lungs out to get him back. I continued to work with him and he did point birds and was very stylish when pointing but he would break point. When he was still at an age when he could run as a puppy in the trials,the North American Woodcock Championship was held in Pennfield  and as I had promised,I entered Harry in our first field trial.I really had my doubts about him making it around the course without getting lost but to my amazement,he actually made it around and did so in style.I was going to leave after our brace had run because I just didn't think he had done that good but his breeder had asked me to stay until the judging was over,so I did. I couldn't believe my ears when the judges awarded Harry and I third place in the Open Puppy at that prestigious trial! The breeders face was a mix a joy and pain because in all the years he had been breeding and trialing he had never placed a dog! Harry did me proud that day and from then on I let him have his head and I didn't have the heart to fully break him. Harry died running at full tilt at the age of twelve under the wheels of a vehicle. Harry was the only dog I ever seen who could run down a rabbit and catch it.That was another fault he developed that made him all but useless as a field trial dog.This is a photo of Harry with some sharptails in Rose Prairie near Fort St. John,BC.
Here is another photo of me and my brother Tim after a three hour shoot in the Beaton River valley in B.C. This valley was the most game rich place I have ever hunted.
Another great hunting dog I owned was a German short-haired pointer named Joma.She was a female and was the most head strong dog I have ever owned but also one of the best gun dogs I have ever shot over. She was an excellent retriever and did a super job on woodcock and grouse. I sent her to Sioux City,Iowa to have her bred to Fld. Ch. Brown L's Jet, a field trial champion from a great lineage and she had a beautiful litter of six pups.My original plan was to keep a nice male pup and sell the rest to cover the cost of breeding.That plan didn't work out too well because I found that not many gunners were familiar with the breed here in N.B. at that time and I ended up giving away all of the pups but two at the farmers market in Fredericton! Some people got some super dogs at a super price! I kept the pick of the litter to give to my beloved grandmother Boyd,as she loved GSP's and this dog had champion written all over him. She kept Bruno until she had to move into the old folks home where she wasn't allowed pets. I didn't have any room in the kennel at the time,so I gave the dog to a local houndsman who was familiar with the breed and took good care of his dogs. He later told me he and his partner shot a dozen grouse the first time he hunted over him and he said Bruno was the best gun dog he had ever seen. I would have to agree.He was a magnificent animal to watch working a cover and he was rock solid on point. I had started all the pups with Joma and they followed Mamma's lead perfectly. Bruno met his fate one day from a bullet from a neighbours gun after he got loose and went to check out the guy's ducks.A sickening end to a dog that was probably more valuable than the creep who killed him.The houndsman was outraged and the guy was lucky to keep his hair and if the owner had known for sure who did it,I'm sure we would have read about the aftermath of this fiasco in the local papers. Unfortunately,I don't have any good photos of these dogs,but I do have a picture of one of the best retrievers I have ever hunted over.
Cain belonged to one of my duck hunting partners and was the biggest ,strongest,hardest-working gun dog I have ever had the pleasure of hunting over. Rodney L.,my hunting partner,had asked me to help him train the dog and I told him there was no shortcut to success when training gun dogs.I told him the main thing was the trainer had to be smarter than the dog.That may seem like a cute remark to some but it's really a true statement.If you loose your temper or get frustrated with the dog and react with emotion,the dog will defeat you.I explained to Rod the basics and told him to be consistent in his training regime.He asked me what the most important commands were and I told him to work hard on "come "and "stay" and the dogs natural ability would take care of the rest. Rodney did a great job training Cain,considering it was his first dog and he had no experience at the game.We hunted over Cain for about five seasons before he was struck by a car and was laid to rest.In those five years Rod and I killed around four hundred and fifty ducks and dozens of geese over Cain and I made Rodney a plaque to remember and record Cain's accomplishments in the field.This is another photo of Cain at the duck camp we set up each year on the McGill Meadow.
The last good dog I hunted over was Jamie's dog, Whiskey.He was a Golden retriever out of good stock and I would have to say Whiskey was one of the best all round dogs I have had the pleasure to know. He was just coming into his own when he was killed,yet again,under the wheels of a vehicle. Whiskey was one of those dogs who was a wonderful pet and hunting dog.This is not something that always occurs when owning a gun dog.Sometimes they are great gun dogs but are poor pets and vice versa.Whiskey was one of those dogs that had it all and even writing this I get sentimental about him.This year Jamie is still feeling very sick when he thinks about Whiskey because he now realizes just how special that ol' Whiskey was as a gun dog and pet.
So readers,if you take nothing else away from this bit of blog,make sure you have control of your gun dog at ALL times.I have owned and bred dozens of gun dogs during my life and I can recall only one dying of natural causes and that was my GSP,Joma.

    We had some great pickerel fishing this year at the end of summer but it has pretty much come to an end.Right now,the striper bite is starting to heat up and Corey S. and his fishing partner Eddy S. landed two nice ones last week weighing in at 19lbs. and 15 lbs. Corey says there are a lot of stripers in the Gagetown area but there are so many eels migrating out to sea throughout the system that it is making hooking up rather difficult.Corey says after the eels clear out, the fishing should improve until the water temperature drops to the 40 degree mark,then the bite pretty much dies out.

     The fall run of salmon has started in earnest on the MSW Miramichi and if the water conditions stay good,the fishing should be great,as there are a lot of fish in the system and more fresh fish entering the river daily.The lower Cains River is starting to turn on with some nice hook-bills being taken in the river from the Sabbies River down to the mouth. With the recent rain we have had,I expect to see some fish arrive in the upper stretches within the next two weeks.The Cains River is a beautiful salmon river to fish in the fall and if you have never fished it,you should make it a point to do so.

     I have a couple of very nice vintage items to show my readers this month,the first being a beautiful coat rack that Kenny made for me a few years back.Ken made the plaque out of a nice piece of pine and he spent many hours burning in a scene of very detailed songbirds.What really caught my attention with this piece was the wood grain in the pine that looks like the head and beak of a duck.If you look closely,you can see it in the background behind the songbirds.
Ken added some brass hardware and a couple of split pine branches that he peeled and used for hangers.He has made a few of these hangers,with some being used in a local restaurant.These hangers require a lot of painstaking work on Kenny's part and he says he never gets paid for the hours of work he puts into the finished product but he gets a great deal of satisfaction from knowing he has produced a nice work of art that will retain its value into the future. 
    The next items in the following photo shows a couple of decorative "carnival" pillow covers I picked up in the Chipman area.These covers were sold at the local fair and at the gift shop in Chipman during the Sixties as souvenirs. They used to be quite common one time but are now getting hard to find and I'm lucky to have picked up these ones in my travels.
I'm a little late publishing this latest blog because we are really busy at this time of the year but I will try to get back on schedule with my next installment. If any sportsmen out there would like a trip to New Brunswicks' Big Woods,just give me a call or drop me an E-mail and we will make plans for your trip of a life-time. Happy Trails to you--until we meet again!

GOODBYE SUMMER......HELLO FALL!

  Temperatures have finally started to moderate here at home on Salmon River and for most folks that's a good thing. This summer was...