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.

Dog Booties–Serious Business

•November 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment

So what with sand spurs in some areas where quail can be found while avoiding pack rats and porkies…porkies, I hate ’em–just hate ’em.

Anyway, we have been spending some time concerned, in particular, with a pup’s tender feet and it seemed prudent over the last several days to get Max acclimated to the notion and sensation of wearing boots. Its an odd thing if you think about it, as our four legged friends aren’t normally shod in the natural.

We have store bought Lewis Boots, which are the Chippewa boots of the dog world, we have made boots out of a motorcycle inner tube, which work just fine by the way and then we have these 1000 denier jobbers that were suggested by a gentleman familiar with our sand spurs, whose experience says they work very well. So I ordered some from way away in Alaska where they are made. I had no expectation that they would arrive in time for this week’s adventure, but low and behold, they showed up just in time.
We had a bit of fun last evening.
Blaze orange to boot!

Then and Now

•November 28, 2018 • 2 Comments

It has been three months since bringing Maxwell home with us. Time sure does pass quickly in puppy land. Five months and a bit. And every bit has been a pleasure.
Max is a setter and has ‘settertude’.
Its a wonderful thing and gratifying to witness the natural bred in instincts to hunt, point and even quarter out front naturally. This weekend coming up, we are journeying to a place that is very likely and almost for sure to find some wild quail for Max to enjoy. I hope to be able to report back with pictures and an account of that adventure.

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