The New Upland Safari Vehicle/Work Truck

•February 29, 2020 • Leave a Comment

What with taking on work once again in order to move toward a reverse western migration, a truck was required. The bonus is an Upland Bird mobile. Now that the cap and liner have arrived, its time to build a drawer system–which serves both functions.

Lil Red

Oklahoma Bobwhite Quail

•February 3, 2020 • Leave a Comment

More than likely the last hunt of the season for Max and I. Once again, we got an invite from our friend Ryan to come on out and hunt together. Max and I are both very fortunate. Ryan is a man that has hunted the prairie of the Oklahoma panhandle all of his life–he is, as a result, a wealth of information and happy to share.

Young Max is starting to ‘get it’ and this past weekend included some fair reason to believe that assertion. Max found four coveys and I was able to shoot a bird for him from each covey. He is retrieving well, although he didn’t want to give up the last bird. Not sure what that was about, but he had that Bobwhite headfirst halfway down his gullet. 🙂

He definitely needs steadying work, which will come along. The important characteristics of a good nose and prey drive are established to this proud owner. He is covering ground very well and is great about checking back.

The both of us ended very foot warn. The prairie requires some walking.

Good breeding is a wonderful thing!

A word for the gear and gun nutz. I am neither. LOL We were sporting the new shirt and pants from Pyke Gear. Very light and comfortable. The shotgun wielded by the author was a Rizinni Iside in 16 gauge. A lightweight and sweet handling smoothbore.

Pyke Gear

•January 7, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Just a quick word and endorsement for the this stuff. The pants are incredibly light and comfortable and the shirt as well. I put them through the paces yesterday purposely wading through blackberry patches, plum thickets and thick wooded areas. The pants performed better than expected.

The pockets on both items are perfectly placed and voluminous. The half-zipper on the shirt makes venting great and the snaps on the sleeves was a smart feature.

The Pyke Gear link is the logo off to the right, here. Pay them a visit.

A Young Bird Dog

•December 31, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Max is now 1.5 years and thus far I am very happy with him. Its always a real adventure starting a new pup and never really knowing what you are going to see. We got out the other day on the prairie that had a lot of plum thickets and woody/brushy edges and draws. I was very pleased at how he is running. Almost always out front working from side to side in long sweeps out to 150 yards. He is also showing the smarts it takes to work likely cover when it comes to any areas of protection for the birds. For a puppy, he is showing an excellent tendency to keep track of where I am and to do a fly by now and then–but not too often.

We did find one good sized covey of quail and although Max failed to show me a good point, it was windy. Still–every little bird experience is a learning experience and each instance adds to the learning. Every day afield provides the opportunity and indeed does impart something to both dog and man.

There are always the smiles.

I neglected to take a single picture…I learn slow.


Our First Wild Roosters

•December 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This was a bucket list item that has been handily checked off!

What a great time and so many thanks to Ryan and Jason for their kind and respective efforts in making it possible.

I could not be more pleased and proud of a young puppy and thankful for the opportunity provided by my friend Ryan.
What a giving host and his good friend Jason.
We hunted a private land and a wild pheasant experience Max and I enjoyed to the hilt.
What a day! A bucket list item slam dunked in spades. Wow!
Max was a joy to watch. I stand in awe of breeding and nature or a series of accidental happenstance. Max is a 17 month old Llewellin English Setter. I will attempt to describe the doings at some point when my heart stops skipping.

Heart has slowed down some….:-)

The first bird pointed solid and pinned between us was a 25 t0 30 yard right to left crossed head shot. Easy for the situation.
Cut corn on the right and grass left. I was on the seam and Max was working the edge. The wind was in my face. Max scented the bird and worked back toward me and pinned it. It had no where to go but left into the high grass cover. It went out and banked left. The Citori came up and just passing the neck ring went bang.
Max was happy to mark and retrieve it with a proud and full of himself smile.
It was glorious.
The second bird was a similar scenario, but a going away shot. The first drew feathers and a leg dropped, the second barrel dropped it but still not dead. I had yellow 7.5s and so as imagined.
Max got to the rooster first and Ellie second. I think in the moment and a puppy’s intimidation of the moment, Ellie clamped down.
Both birds were all young Max.

In both cases I was walking a cut corn edge as instructed with grass to the left. In both cases, Max had turned back toward me with wind in my face and pointed the birds between us. The roosters went out to my left–the first ended up being a going away right to left and dropped dead with the first shot. It was quick. The second was going away and slightly to the right. This was a slower affair and the rooster got a bit further. It took both SK1 and SK2 to the rear to bring it down. In both cases, Max loved the bird on the ground. The first he carried over to me looking very pleased with himself. What a picture that would have been.

A good day!

The Project

•September 10, 2019 • 4 Comments

The Project

They called it public housing and it was. It was also called the ‘Project’, which is short for Public Housing Project. I guess it was a project dreamed up by some bigwig politician guys who had some tax dollars to spend. Perhaps it was some of the aforementioned political types who needed to champion a project of some sort to help them stay elected. However it came about, it was cheaper to live there and it helped out a lot of folks who for different reasons needed it. There was a stigma attached to living there and even at a very young age, you tended to pick up on things like that. The way folks said ‘project’ in that funny way or including it in a sentence such as; “Oh, you live in the project, huh”.

Most of the kids realized this and that was all right because none of us had many friends outside of the project. The kids that I played with were all of the same young age that I was and we didn’t see much need to find friends elsewhere. We did venture outside of the project often for adventures and such things. There weren’t any big high fences or anything keeping us in. Just the words of parents saying, “don’t go too far”, or “stay away from the railroad tracks”. You know—things like that. Of course as you’ll see, some of us didn’t listen very well. After all, some of the really good stuff was ‘outside’ of the project and we had a lot of time on our hands in which to explore.

You may be wondering why I mentioned that we had a lot of time on our hands. Well, we did have a lot of time and for similar and sometimes the same reasons. Families that lived in the Project were financially strapped and that was either because the moms and dads were of a kind that had low paying jobs or had a hard time holding onto jobs.  But many were single parents struggling to keep their heads above water while working one and half to two jobs.

There were cases where a kid’s dad had died in the Korean War and his mom didn’t have family money and hadn’t yet latched onto another man willing to take on her and the kids. A lot of kids had parents that had been divorced and the only way that a one-parent income was enough to make ends meet, was to move to the Project. Especially if the parent holding the kids was a waitress or worked in the shoe factory or some such job. Lots of folks from the project were either waitresses or worked in the factory. There were other factories, but one of the biggest in town at that time was the shoe factory, so consequently lots of them worked there.

We were in the divorced group and my mother did work two jobs. Back in those days a lot of dads didn’t pay much child support and they often got away with it. I’m pretty sure that was the case with us a lot of the time. Anyway, my mother did hire a baby sitter for us. Her name was Caroline. She was an older lady and I remember her fondly. Caroline. I wonder sometimes what happened to her. There were four of us kids ranging from two to five at the beginning and on up to four to seven by the time mom managed to get us out of there. Caroline moved on for reasons that I don’t know before we moved out of the project, because I recall a second baby sitter named Linda. Even though we had a baby sitter while mom was off working, Caroline or Linda were kept pretty busy with the younger ones and that left me—the oldest of the four, pretty much free to my own devices. And sometimes the things my friends and I did, would have given most any adult fits. Looking back now and living in this day and age it is very hard to believe some of the things that we did– and I was there!

It all came down to a lack of supervision and a more relaxed view of life. Particularly as life had to do with kids being vulnerable to every dog gone risk that neurotic granny state social worker types can dream up these days. Kids living back then could take quite a lot and still keep on ticking. My friends and I are proof of that. When it was all said and done, the Project was a pretty good place to live during those years. There were lots of kids of the same age and just like anywhere else in a New Hampshire city, there were lots of things to get into and four seasons in which to get into them.

Muskrat Love

There was a brook running right through the middle of the Project. It came from who knows where but ended in the Merrimack River, which was less than half a mile from the project.

In those days, the Merrimack River was fairly polluted. Manchester had been for a hundred years a center of some significant industry and much of the result ended up right into the river. The Merrimack has been cleaned up in remarkable fashion since those days. Its been cleaned up to the point where Atlantic Salmon have been reintroduced as part of a national fisheries project and is a poster river example of what can be done to such abused water. Anyway, getting back to the story. I suppose the muskrats didn’t mind the dirty water too much, or maybe they did and that is the reason why a bunch of them made their way up the brook to the area of the Project. My friends and I were glad that they did because they made for some great fun and some of the scariest things that young boys can imagine.

Those muskrats made holes in the banks of the brook. It seems that they mostly liked to make holes in the parts of the bank where it was undercut by the erosion of storm water. Its sure seems like we had awful big rainstorms back then–much bigger than nowadays.

The muskrats lived in those holes some of the time and we figured that maybe they slept in there and made baby muskrats in there, too. We figured this because birds had little birds in the nests that we could see until they were big enough to fly away or fall on the ground and get eaten by a cat. If it was that way for the birds, then it must be for the muskrats and we figured the holes in the banks were like those bird nests. The best muskrat times were in a season when the small muskrats came out of those holes in the bank. At those times, the muskrat population in our brook increased dramatically and for a short time we had a bunch of fun.

The adult muskrats were big. I don’t know just how big. I figure maybe the fattest was twenty pounds or so, but to a small boy that was a dog sized rat with sharp teeth and all of the personality that every one knew went along with it. A big wet and mud slimy rat with evil looking eyes, sharp little claws and pointy teeth. That didn’t stop us from throwing stones at them and when more brave; poking them with the longest sticks that would get the job done. Truth be told—we were mostly real scared of those adult muskrats. The little ones that came out of the bank however were not quite so frightening. For a while at least until they grew or left our brook, us boys could practice our muskrat bravery at a closer distance and every once in a while, if memory serves, poke one with a finger as it swam by during those times that we harassed them into confusion.

The brook ran under the street before it went over by one of the project parking lots. There was a metal culvert there under the street and it was mighty dark in there. It was dark and real spooky with an echo making it all the more so. Most of the time all you had to do to get a good scare was to squirm your body down the bank edge and part way leaning over into the ‘cave’ and talk into it. It sounded real scary. Especially when you were all worked up over a dare to get inside. The main reason why it was so darn scary was because the big adult muskrats liked to go in there. Lots of dares and challenges were issued, but to my knowledge not a single boy, myself included, ever crawled into that ‘cave’. There were big muskrats with evil eyes, sharp claws, pointed teeth and bad personalities in there.

Sand Tunnels and Red Ants

Just southwest of the Project was an area of grassy rolling hills. It’s covered with parking lots and commercial buildings now with hardly a hint of what was once, to us boys, a huge area to explore. There were groves of mixed birch, poplar and ash along with sections of nearly impenetrable briars and brambles and grape vines left by a farmer many years before. It was nearly thirty years before my time as a child that the city had encroached on that particular farmland and left things to go to seed. When you came to the edge of the old farmland you hit the railroad tracks and just beyond the tracks flowed the Merrimack River. This made for over a quarter of a mile of old farmland between the road bordering the Project and the tracks and at least a mile long in the other direction. To the north was a major street and old brick mill buildings and to the south was a small but interesting woodland before you reached the big cemetery.

My friends and I discovered that the ground in this area was made up of sand banks under a foot or so of dirt. Somewhere along the line somebody got the idea of digging tunnels in the stuff. Before we were done, we had quite a complex of tunnels to play in. Every once in a while a small section would cave in some, but never anything too serious. I do remember one time when I had to back out of an area that collapsed while digging. There was some coughing and lots of sand in my hair, but that was to be expected. The real trouble occurred when we inadvertently dug our way into a very well populated red ant colony and before we realized it, we had red ants in behind all of our clothing, collars, ears and in our hair. The thing about red ants is that they bite and hurt and itch. We were miserable for days and pretty much gave up on our tunneling adventures afterwards. It didn’t matter because the first big rain caused massive cave INS anyway and all that was left was a series of large holes in the ground where our tunnel complex had been.

Pigeon Launchers

One of our favorite places to play was that woodland to the south of the over grown farmland. Like any other young boys we loved the woods and found all kinds of things to do there. Unlike being in the relatively open fields or playing in and around the brook or ball fields, the woods provided a natural barrier to a line of sight. If there was anything that you wanted to do unseen, the woods were a pretty good place to be, especially since those woods contained all the materials needed to make protective forts—as we called them. These would be built at various times in the form of a teepee, a lean-to or a tree house. Unfortunately none of our forts lasted very long. This wasn’t because we weren’t good engineers. We knew how to build a good fort. No, it wasn’t that—rather the older boys would eventually find our forts and tear them down. It was unfortunate and sometimes after a lot of time and work, pretty darned disheartening. Project kids were tough and we were at the bottom of the food chain.

I suppose the idea was born as a brother to the slingshot or perhaps by accident as one of us (probably Steven) was climbing a small tree. A three-inch diameter poplar or birch tree was chosen for its balance between flexibility and strength. The fun started with the heavier of us, which was Steven, climbing high enough into the tree to bend it over enough that the rest of us could grab hold of it and work our way toward Steven while lowering it further toward the ground. We ended up with the tree describing a tight arc with the top touching the ground. This was most definitely a spring ready to sprung. I was one of the smallest of the group and so was most often afforded the opportunity to go for a ride, thusly. While Steven and the rest of the boys were holding the tree down, the launchee would wrap arms and legs around the top of the tree and hold on for dear life. At the count of three, the tree holders would let go at once and away we go! The excitement of the ride was directly proportional to the number of boys it took to pull the tree down. Sometimes it was all one could do to hang on as the tree remembered its original posture.

Rainstorms and Curbside Rivers

As just about everyone knows, things are bigger when you are a kid. Of course you don’t realize that when you are small; it’s only when you’ve grown up and revisit a place or thing after many years, that you have the needed perspective. Some things really were bigger and one of them was the size and ferocity of rainstorms. They also came more frequently. I remain convinced of this.

The street we lived on was very nicely crowned and living in the Granite State, all of the curbs were constructed of beautifully cut and put together blocks of granite about eight inches high and deep and six feet long and placed tightly end to end. The street was crowned so that rainwater would gather on the side of the street containing storm drains. When it rained heavily, we would have a very strong river of water flowing down the street between storm drains and this made for a great place to test our boating skills. You might be surprised at what could pass for a boat. There was basic stuff like sticks, balls and plastic bowls. We used real toy boats and even ones that were made from Popsicle sticks glued together. One of the more sophisticated designs involved a block of wood with a mast of some sort and a sail of cloth or even cardboard attached. Some would manage the storm flow better than others, but all manner of craft got the chance. It doesn’t sound like much, but we had great fun while the water flowed.

Everything that went down the storm drains ended up in the brook with the muskrats and then if a boat wasn’t retrieved from the brook or hung up in some weeds or branches along the way—ended up in the Merrimack River. The muskrats liked to come out when the brook was high and it looked to us an awful lot like they were playing as they swam around in the current. It wasn’t unusual to see one of the boats swimming near a muskrat. It was an exiting thing to see your boat floating by a muskrat. I suppose the boat was an extension of oneself in a way and got to do what you would have liked to. Most of the boats that made it down the storm drains and into the brook were lost to us, because the brook was too dangerous for us at such times and the banks would be very slippery with mud and wet grass. Sometimes we could find the more valued boats hung up in weeds and such afterwards, though.

It was also good fun to just run around in a pair of shorts or a bathing suit in such storms splashing in puddles and throwing water at one another; stomping in the puddles and just generally out of control. This was one of the few times that the girls were included in our antics. One of the few times. The rainstorms were bigger back then and we children got a lot more mileage out of them than children do today. 

I am also sure of that.

Ye ‘Ol Strap Vest

•September 8, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I have used and maybe even abused this Filson Shelter Cloth Strap vest for 12 seasons, now. One of the best pieces of equipment I have enjoyed. Simple. This old vest has become like a good old friend with a lot of great memories attached.

I have really gotten fond of it. I use those two little pockets meant for a training device differently than intended.
I keep two shells in each one and while hunting, instead of reaching into the larger pocket–its so much easier to grab shells from the wee pockets. Having the inner and outer pockets is nice for dividing hulls from loads. The inner pocket usually gets a snack and a water bottle floats well in the game pouch –front and rear loading.
Yup—an old friend.

It appears that Filson has brought it back. I contacted them a few years ago about that. Perhaps others have.
But at the $225 tag—I will continue with this one for another 12 years.

It was nice to know that the vest is still being made in the USA—-much of their stuff isn’t any longer.


•August 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

It seems my good friend Ryan of Beaver Oklahoma has put up an interview in the form of a podcast and it is on iTunes and soon on his website.

I was honored for the chance to chat with him, although I felt ill-equipped to do so half as well as so many other folks that I know. At any rate, I hope you find something to benefit.

I sure had a great time with it.

A New Season Draws Near

•August 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I can see September just up ahead and some things start to stir within and subtle changes  without. Morning coffee and the pups out for the much needed bathroom call is not quite as bright as only a couple weeks ago. Its become obvious the days are shortening.

My mind has begun to think about what the coming season will bring and the memories that will get tucked away in safe spots. The excitement associated with a young setter’s chances to learn more while afield and the hopefulness that an old friend has the legs to hunt a little bit, also.

Max will be 17 months when the quail season starts here in Oklahoma and Tucker will turn 13 in early September. Considering these two, my heart is both jubilant for the young and experiencing a warm sadness for the older. Such is the way of loving dogs with more than just a passing connection to them.

The Prairie– so new to us all calls; as does a possible trip in October to the Northwoods for Grouse and Woodcock.

Electronic gear has been taken out and charged again, clothing has been checked a couple of times and the gear bag gone over to jog memories of what might be forgotten.

Shotguns have been wiped with an oiled rag and shouldered several times accompanied by covey rises and grouse flushed–in the mind’s eye.

Oh ya–and the much needed booties for the pup have been ordered a size larger–those sand burrs are vicious.

Soon hot steamy days and air conditioning will be traded for the cool crisp mornings of fall and a chair for a crate.

Are you thinking of the season ahead?

Connor–A Grouse Dog

•February 26, 2019 • 1 Comment

Before Maxwell, before Bromley, before Tucker, before Buddy that loveable rescue setter–there was Connor.

Connor was a block headed chocolate Lab with a lot of British in him. Connor was my first grouse dog, a wonderful friend and partner and Toni and I loved him dearly.

I shot my first Ruffed Grouse over Connor and its a day I will never forget. An October morning of bright leaves and sunlight along and old tote trail at the front end of ‘Goss Cover’. The cover I named after the family that owned the land that gave access to the area and in honor of the patriach that gave me permission to pass.

There were two grouse having breakfast on some tender greens off to the right and Connor set them to flight. One of them went off at a 90 degree angle to the right into trees and safety. The other more or less straight ahead along the edge. He fell to the forest floor at the bark of the gun. An easy mark for Connor and he picked up that Ruff with his ever soft mouth and brought it to me with a smile. I will not forget the soft warmth and heft of that bird. We must have stood there together for several minutes admiring the result of our partnership. Connor taught me the excitement and rush of a Ruffed Grouse flushing.

Connor has been gone for some 15 years now. He was taken early at 5 years young by a hit and run driver. A very sad and late night for Toni and I, but I don’t have the heart to recount that tale this morning.

Connor and I discovered the singular enjoyment of the uplands together. I knew no other bird hunters at the time, deciding to pursue this activity on my own. I’m struggling for a word other than ‘sport’, because hunting upland birds with a four legged friend is something more than simply ‘sport’. Still struggling. Perhaps another day will suggest a better word.

I was out on my workbench a few minutes ago, adjusting a gunstock soaking in acetone and happened to look through the contents of a jar setting there.

I found this old tag that belonged to Connor.

I have few pictures of Connor. He was of a time before we carried smart phones everywhere and those pictures I did have of him in the field were lost when a hard drive failed some years ago.

I did often carry a camera while working. Connor was also a job site dog and was always there making sure he didn’t miss anything.

You are still missed, Connor. You were a good boy.


A Season

•February 24, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Thinking back on the upland bird season from here in the extreme northeast corner of Oklahoma, I must say considering all things, a good one.

Beautiful country and the start to a few friendships, an old man of a setter and a young pup full of vim and vigor coupled with a positive attitude—make for a good mix.

We searched for bird holding cover in two states coming up short in any close by areas. By close by, I mean within 2 hours. It seems that the states may be a bit ‘too’ optimistic regarding bird opportunities in places. Habitat, weather and the realities of change do not make way for optimism. Facts are stubborn things and do not give way to hope or anticipations.

Having said this—there is reward to the searching and of course, watching the dogs excitement when the tires hit the gravel roads.

My heart also begins to race at the sound of thrown gravel and the rumble felt through the seat and wheel.

Its part of the adventure and never to be considered a waste of time spent.

Like all of us that pursue such things, back home in New Hampshire, I spent many years, tire tread and boot leather searching for likely bird cover and the honey holes such cover may reveal.

We are starting all over again in this strange and so different land.

“Older now and still running against the wind”.

We give many thanks to those friendly and unselfish souls who have offered suggestions and more.

Thank you.

Next season is just around the corner of a hot summer to come. May all of you and your four-legged friends have a fine and healthy time between the seasons.

A book or two to read, memories freshened with pictures and conversations of the last and the next.

Back to the Panhandle

•February 14, 2019 • 2 Comments

So a bit of a recap after musing. The kind of musing that goes on during a solo drive home after a hunt.

The vastness and after walking over several lows and highs where they all look much alike, it is a bit intimidating.

The dogs tend to keep going–mostly. Max stretches out pretty good and is always hunting. This makes me smile–a lot.

It smells fresh and particularly nice in the early morning with a mist rising up out of the river valley.

The sand burrs were not bad at all but I booted the young fella anyway.

The prairie is large and a north woods hunter needs to re-evaluate distances and water toting.

Good boots are required.

An eye or sense of rodent holes can make a difference.

I think that Mother’s pack vest bought years ago and is nearly unused–will get some use next season. It will hold more water and a layer shed.

The tightly woven cap that holds water works twice. Once for the dog and again when redonned.

There is wind on the prairie…terrain causes shifts.

Quail on the prairie: its very cool that the covey once pointed and flown, provides additional multiple opportunities for a pup and the guy watching the pup and smiling.

Quail can run….a lot.

Quail will find a hole after being feathered or leg broke.

When they fly over a rise, there is no telling if they broke left right or kept straight.

A mist in the morning makes a difference–for about 2 hours.

Dogs love the feel of running in a big open space–like the prairie.

Lesser prairie chickens sound much like a ruffed grouse when taking off.

No need to be askeered of sand burrs…pups likes booties.

Both pup and the fella following and smiling are glad to get back to the vehicle.

The prairie is a lonely place.

WCC Brown Slayer

•February 7, 2019 • 2 Comments

Several years ago, fishing with friends Mike Kroll and Mike McDonald up on West Canada Creek Upstate after a rain…the water was fast and deep.
I located a deep scoop hole at the head of a run where I suspect browns might be holding. I reached into my pack and dug out a nice meaty looking weighted pattern that seemed would do the job of reaching those trout holding in a place of refuge. Sure enough casting 20 feet above in order to allow some time for the fly to drop deep enough yielded the desired outcome.
This would be that brown from that day in 2013.



This is my version of the memory I have of that fly.
My intention is to soon offer it to some small mouth bass that live in a nearby creek.

A Funky Safety/This Bird Has Flown

•February 2, 2019 • Leave a Comment

It was mid morning of a late October day. The sun was just warming the damp forest floor. The leaves were just wet enough to be quiet and a first season Setter was on the lane to becoming a bird dog. Coming around the corner of a mostly grown in tote road, the man saw the Setter still and near rigid. His nose visibly active and his gaze fixed.
As he cautiously approached, his thoughts of a pup deserving his bird had him nerved up. The bird must be close. Yes behind that clump of spruce. Two more steps. Maybe it will choose to fly ahead down the old lane.
In the middle of that thought its wings slammed the ground and rose from the black growth and into the sun streaming into the lane. An easy going away shot. The man could see the grouse fall in his mind’s eye as the 20 gauge 101 came up smoothly from port of arms to mount.
In one practiced series his thumb and finger worked in concert.

Both dog and man watched the grouse fly on to safety.

Blogs–That have Suffered

•January 28, 2019 • Leave a Comment

As I have looked at several great blog sites that I have followed over the years, I find that most of them have fallen out of use. Most haven’t seen a new article or story posted for years. It seems that some once busy forums have suffered as well.

I blame the evil of social media and its various seductions.

These–such as Facebook and Twitter are ruining otherwise good minds.

I was so corrupted for a time, but no more.

Stand with me against this onslaught upon all that is good. Resist this mental disease gone viral–before it is too late.

Resistance is not futile!

A journal and memories afield

•January 21, 2019 • 1 Comment

Perhaps its because I am getting older. Not old mind you, but of an age where I can feel my own mortality as a reality and no longer the nearly indestructible man I  have been since crawling under the catwalk of the Queen City Bridge picking pigeons while in the second grade.

Perhaps because the new vantage point makes me wonder how many more dogs I have time to love. Maybe this is why I’ve been thinking about the four legged friends of the past and has me of late, looking back at some journal entries of times afield and the evidences in them of how amazing these dogs are…to us.

I will leave Vincent the Magnificent the kayaking, rock climbing, bank dog, Golden Retriever and Connor the chocolate lab and my first grouse dog, for another time. I did not have the foresight to keep any journals of those days—although many memories still shine clear and bright.

I did keep a daily journal intermittently of some adventures my first setter Tucker and I have had together and it is those I have been looking back to. Tucker has aged as I have. He will be 13 come September. If the old saw is true—that a year to us is 7 years to a dog, he is now 84 plus years old. That beats my age of 63 by a good bit. If I am doing as well as he is at 84, I will have done very well indeed. He will still hunt all day, if I were to let him. Oh, his rear wheels would give out under him a few times in uneven terrain and he would be a very sore and lame pup for a couple days, but his heart will not have faltered nor his desire to hunt.

Tucker is a Llewellin English Setter. Tri-colored out of Little River Kennel in Alton, NH. He is a bird dog and my friend and partner.

In his early puppy training, he was a quick learner. That yard work stuff where an owner first gets to interact with his dog in a way that makes for both frustration, impatience and pride. Tucker learned to walk at heal and whoa on spaced out 3’x3’ plastic squares—he learned both at the same time walking at heel and then when reaching and standing on a square, he learned that whoa meant stop and stay put. The squares seemed to help communicate the stay here part. It didn’t take long.

He learned a disdain for pen raised quail because he could catch them when they flushed after the point. That was more my fault than his. Stronger flying pheasant and chucker cured him, but it was wild birds that brought out the bird dog in him. Just as it should be.

One of my earliest entries involved a young puppy before his first hunting season finding a grouse that wasn’t a grouse. It was a dusting grouse spot recently vacated by a grouse. Nevertheless, it was a moment for celebration.

Another– while out with a trainer helping us both to understand the setter dog game, Tucker happened to find himself on the opposite side of a small pond. Garret suggested that I call him to me. I did and Tucker swam a beeline across that pond directly to me. Garret opined that Tucker was a prodigy. I smiled a lot. Tucker forgot the trick sometime over the next few years.

A wonderfully strange and comical event took place the following year in Tucker’s first full season. He chased a woodcock around a small tree clump several times before that woodcock flew. I was fortunate enough to shoot him. He may have been dizzy. True story. He chased the bird around and around like a train on a circular track.

That was the first and the last time that he ever chased a woodcock. Tucker loved woodcock and discovered that it was much more fun to point them and enjoy a snoot full for as long as possible—at times that would be long indeed.

One day in ‘Mossy Cover’, before the adoption of tracking devices, we relied strictly on a bell to know the whereabouts of a pup in thick cover. Mossy Cover is a low area filled with vernal pools, fallen trees, ferns and alders. A cover that holds some grouse and local woodcock as well as being a happy hunting ground for flight birds. A wonderful and almost magical place that Tucker and I enjoyed. Tucker was in his second season and beginning to get the idea of things birdy. His bell stopped ringing this morning and because it was such thick cover, I had lost knowing just where he was. I called and called and searched until finally my eye caught sight of his tail through the alders and ferns. That sickle tail of his has enough white in the feathers to make the seeing a bit easier. It had been a good ten minutes of looking and there he was locked up on a woodcock. He had never been more than 40 yards from me and could hear me calling him all the time. I walked in and his eyes sort of rolled over to briefly communicate his semi-sorrow at ignoring me at the same time saying—look Dad. Look there. Though I was a bit worked up over the searching, I moved in to kick the bird up and connected for my partner. It fell into a wet area of moss and fern and Tucker found it, picked it up and shortly dropped it again. Such was his way with woodcock. He would hunt dead, pick it up and if feeling charitable, would carry it a few steps and never much more toward me before dropping it.

Tucker’s first grouse was later in that same year on a mid-November afternoon. It was one of those damp, cold gray days over at ‘Apple Barn Cover’. The ground under foot was tangled briars that require careful walking. I had raised my eyes about the time Tucker’s bell quieted to find him pointing with head and tail high. Even then, this more often than not meant the quarry was not a woodcock. He was fixed on a point about 30 yards ahead to an old apple tree fairly covered in grape vines. I didn’t quite get to Tucker before that grouse rocketed out to the right and low. We still have that tail fan. The thing about grouse falls and Tucker is a reluctance to immediately give them up—such a treasure they are to him. He has not changed since that day.

Its funny how a man’s memory works and which memories burn the deepest. One sunny October morning, with or without the aid of the journal– a morning that seems forever etched on my mind. It was a gorgeous morning with dry crunchy leaves underfoot walking into the cover. Named later for the morning. We had had an hours worth of flushing grouse in nearly impossible to walk cover and were both a bit tired, thirsty and hungry. We decided to stop just this side of a stone wall in a tiny clearing to sit on a broad gently arced rock that rises just a bit above surrounding grass. Sun was streaming through an opening above and Tucker and I sat together there and enjoyed a drink and a shared sandwich. He was content to set and soak it all up—it seemed, just as I was. Leaning on my shoulder, I can still feel his warmth and gratitude. Lunch Rock Cover. We have returned there many times since.

One afternoon of a late October day while walking along a trail that connects two portions of a favorite area, Tucker got birdy and pointed toward a stone wall to our right. A moment later he moved about 10 yards down and crossed over the stone wall and locked up solid pointing right at me. There he had pinned a grouse against the stone wall between us. To his chagrin, I missed that grouse when it flushed and actually that wasn’t the first time that same bird eluded us in such a fashion—never Tucker’s fault. He knew his business.

There are many more days shared afield alone and with friends and other dogs. We have many stories to tell of our time together. We are not quite done yet. Two dogs have passed during his twelve and a half years and we have a new pup, now.

Tucker has slowed some and so have I…

Cold Weather Layers

•January 2, 2019 • Leave a Comment

When relatively stationary in cold weather many options are available to keep one warm. Pretty much any fabrics that provide dead air space for insulation that slows down the air exchange from the body heated air to the outside does the trick–along with something to break the wind for the same reason.

During high activity, another factor comes into play which requires a more careful choice of garments. Sweat.

In warm weather the moisture produced by your body has a cooling affect through the action referred to as ‘evaporative cooling’. We wear loose clothing in hot weather because this allows air-flow that aids in taking the moisture away from the skin. The physical sensation that results is cooling as the moisture carries the body heat away.

In cold weather we don’t want to be wet. We want to mitigate that cooling affect. An effective method is to wear a ‘close fitting’ garment that acts kind of like a second skin system that takes the moisture away from the skin and passes it outward and at the same time trapping at least some of the heat against our skin, but keeping our skin relatively dry and warm.

Technical base-layer clothing does just this. These materials are hydro-phobic (meaning they don’t like water and won’t absorb it)–rather the heat of our body pushes the moisture we produce through the fabric to the outside. The fabric, because it doesn’t capture the moisture stays relatively dry and acts as an insulative layer at the same time as it creates a micro-environment against the skin that is friendly.

The second layer, which is typically heavier continues this process while providing additonal insulation.

Note: its important to balance layers and ventilation with the level of activity, outside temperature and sweat production. Everybody is different so it stands that some experimentation is needed to find the best balance for each individual.

I prefer a very thin base layer that fits snugly during very high activity or when high activity is sporadic during an outing.

As mentioned earlier, ventilation is an important piece as well as slowing down appropriately during an outing–these two things help to regulate the ‘system’ so to speak and prevent your layering system from being overwhelmed. Common sense, right?

For years I have used the following products successfully, but there are many others.

Patagonia ‘Capilene’ light and mid-weight, Easter Mountain Sports ‘Techwick’ Lt. and MW and Marmot of the same as base layers and Patagonia R1 and R2 pieces as a second layer. The ‘R’ series of Patagonia garments has a waffled pattern on the interior which does an excellent job of trapping air while picking up moisture. Wool works as a second layer, but is heavier and will hold a great deal more moisture than synthetics.

I like softshell garments because they are less restrictive and do a fair job of repelling wet weather and breaking the wind. Again, wool is good, but will hold more moisture and is much heavier and less packable should you need to shed a layer.

This new softshell from Gamehyde is an Upland Hunting specific design I look forward to trying in Kansas soon.

Stay warm my friends.

Shotguns, NICS and a Bug

•December 29, 2018 • 4 Comments

I thought that I would relate this bit of gun buying adventure, thinking that some folks might find it interesting and maybe helpful.

I have been told that the experience of being delayed by NICS during a purchase is on the increase, what with some realities in our world being what they are.

It started back some years ago out of the blue— I would guess near 6 years ago even. I had never experienced a NICS delay before and it took me by surprise.

Naturally, I wondered why and set about attempting to discover the answer. Ya see, I’m one of the ‘good guys’, in that I have no record of any kind. Heck—I haven’t had a speeding ticket since around about 1976 and that was in New Jersey! Everyone knows about New Jersey, so I don’t see how that can be counted against me. The FBI ought to have their collective hands full apprehending those drivers who don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘MERGE’, without being all concerned about a speeding ticket in 1976 by a young man driving a 1969 Volkswagon Bug— even if that Bug had a bus motor powering it.

In case you are wondering. Yes, I did treat that New Jersey State Trooper with the utmost respect; as I am a staunch believer in law and order and the need for authority. I do recognize the fear inspired by a Bug with a bus engine roaring down the Turnpike at 70 miles per hour and so concede the point of his need to ticket me.

Keeping these things in mind, I called the NICS division of the FBI and after three attempts of speaking to three different public servants, was at last given a small bit of insight into the reasons for the delay.

It seems that a flag is thrown– in most cases when there is a similarity in a data point with another individual of some question with a probable record consisting of offenses more heinous than a young man racing down the Turnpike in a 1969 Volkswagon Bug with a bus engine for a drive train. Any additional information more specific than that, I was told, can not be made available to me or anyone else for that matter. Such matter having to do with a ‘privacy act’ of some stripe.

I learned to deal with the delays over the next several years because, after all, any FFL I had dealt with would always release the gun after the 3 days allowed by the law and although an inconvenience, not to bad.

I did attempt to revisit the issue with the FBI folks at some point, but what with the increase in the implementation and use of automated telephony systems and the resulting difficulty in speaking to a live human, I got no further. It occurred to me that a simple notation on the record stating something like “this guy is NOT that guy” would clears things up and free up the public human and financial resources spent on the guy with the speeding record from 1976—to be better spent on child molesters and middle eastern terrorists. Apparently, these things aren’t considerations and each purchase requires a background search in the same manner without exception.

This brings us up to recent events and near to closing out this accounting.

It seems that Cabelas has a policy in place where they will not release a gun on a delay status at all unless and until NICS sends a notice to release. Nobody else does this, but it is allowed by the law. The FFL can wait up to 30 days before releasing the gun if they have not been contacted by NICS with either a release or a denial. If NICS has not contacted them within 30 days either way, the whole process starts again; according to the law, the NICS processing transaction # is void after 30 days and another background check needs to be initiated.

Ok—I filed for a UPIN number, which when included in the paperwork filled out at the point of sale, is meant to help prevent delays. I subsequently discovered that the FBI (at the time of this writing) is working on UPIN applications from August of 2015. I don’t suppose they will ever catch up, given the increase in sales and the larger percentage of ‘flags’ being thrown.

Learning this, I began another telephone assault to see if anything else could be done— considering my being one of the good guys with the only record being a speeding ticket from 1976 on the Jersey Turnpike in a 1969 Bug with a bus engine at 70 miles per hour.

After hours of voice mail vortex and a couple battery charges of my iPhone, I finally got a human to talk with.

This very helpful woman spent some time explaining to me the issues of privacy and how these public servants’ hands are tied in regards to any information given. She pointed me to a specific internet URL where I could fill out an online application. This application along with an official fingerprint card is to be sent to a specific address and upon reception of said application and fingerprint card, a copy of the record would be mailed to me within 7 days— whereupon I could call a specific number and challenge whatever is on the report. Such challenge would involve my giving the public servant permission to annotate the record once proving that I am the individual in question based on specific information on the record that only I could know. Presumably.

It remains unclear whether these actions will help at all.

I am waiting for the mail lady.

By the way. The sheriff at the county seat was happy to fingerprint me and even print an extra copy.

Nice folks down there.

Thoughts On the Prairie

•December 4, 2018 • 2 Comments

‘Brought from the prairie’ to be placed here–I suppose is a more appropriate way to make a title.
I’m relating here to the Oklahoma panhandle type prairie that is along the Kansas border prairie.
It is vast and from a certain situated prominence, the views afford a remarkable vista and variety of things to pleasure the eyes and give rise to expressions of awe as the soul takes in the cornucopia of both stark and subtle bands of hues stretching 360 degrees to the horizon and upward to the heavens. It seems remarkable to this neophyte that human eyes can facilitate so huge an expanse without sending dizzy signals to the brain; such magnificence and such subtlety in variety without overwhelming and shorting out the facilitating organs by the entirety of the experience.

Its huge.

As the light changes, the bands of ambers, grays, greens and tans seem to move like waves fairly dancing around the shadows. Shadows brought into ever changing being by the rise and falling topography. One can imagine a thing alive is being observed. A huge living breathing organism.

Many critters live there and I am not knowledgable enough to list but a few. Prairie dogs and their own towns, rats, snakes–the ever present cousins to our own bird dogs and deer abound there–both white tail and mule deer. And always the raptors. This is their home and I wonder to what level some can appreciate how the walls of their home is papered–a mural such that no man can have in his domicile.

A walk on the prairie is not measured in hundreds of yards, but in miles. Its too far from this spot to that. A man that walks the prairie had better have good solid boots and strong legs with a sturdy heart to beat. The dogs that hunt the prairie are not average dogs as the ground covered is great and the next covey may be over there and as mentioned “there” is always a fair distance. How these dogs can run as they do with heads and noses in the air and not fall into or at least break a leg in one of the many critter holes is quite a thing.

Parking the truck on a hill is a prudent idea and dog and man will always get to climb that hill back to the truck, just about the time the legs say enough. Is that the truck? That wee speck over yonder? Still–there will be rest and maybe more food and water there…a place to sit and recount the walk. A small home of sorts in a large place.

There are quail in the prairie. Those wee tasty avians that are in part what brings us there.

It is profoundly beautiful and may just transport you for a time away from the mundane.

Unfortunately, photos taken by the author don’t do it justice.

Max Does the Panhandle

•December 3, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Stay tuned for more on Maxwell’s first big adventure getting after quail in the Oklahoma panhandle.
We need to rest up some.

Alright Max– sit pretty for the picture.
Thank you.

Generally, you can click on a pic for a full sized rendering.

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