feathers and gunsmoke

Discussion in 'Northwest Hunting' started by thereddog, Feb 4, 2012.

  1. thereddog

    State of Jefferson
    Active Member

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    nearly the end of january and the roads cleared up enough for us to get out to our canyon
    kaden backed the truck up and we loaded our gear


    the sky was blue and cold and clear
    the river white capped and wild


    the red dog wanted to stand with his head pressed against the window until we got past where the round up is held in the fall
    afraid he’d miss something if he put his head down to rest for even a moment

    at 16 years old
    ginger slept on the piles of sleeping bags and blankets
    conserving her strength

    made it up and over the blue mtns and stopped at the river near to let the dogs stretch their legs and drink up

    they sniffed at deer tracks and looked at the reflections in the icy water

    we loaded up and made our way across the northern flanks of the mtns where chief joseph once lived

    we drove past riffles and pools where i waded with my father
    we flipped hoppers there in the late afternoons in the fall
    toward dusk we’d switch over to something grey.. a #16 adams usually worked

    all the tall ridges where the hounds led me after grouse are still there
    and my legs are still recovering


    the little store where anya and i got supplies
    is history now

    we made our way to the place where the road turns to gravel
    and the cattle run where they want

    the cowboys whistle to their working dogs in a language i guess only cowboys and working dogs can really understand

    people drive by and everybody waves
    it is a nice notion

    the recognition and a simple gesture
    an acknowledgement of existence

    i like that

    we drove on til just about dark and found a side road to let the dogs get out again and blow out the carbon before the wolves came down after the deer on the hillsides

    got to our spot and fired up the camp stove
    made the hounds dinner and had some stew

    we lucked out and found our favorite radio show on the shortwave sw1 and unrolled the sleeping bags
    no snow up on the peaks and no coyote sign in the road like last year

    maybe someone came out and got a bunch of them i wondered.
    we drifted off to sleep me and the dogs
    all snoring together

    in the morning we realized that there had been a fire since last winter
    all of the cover was gone (i couldn’t see that driving in in the dark)

    even the cacti were burned

    no place for anything to hide

    we made some grub on the camp stove because everything had frozen up solid
    the only water that was not frozen was the gallon i had in the truck


    the red dog seemed happy that i’d heat up their breakfast some
    “you didn’t think i was going to make you start off your day with cold food did you?” i asked asked red.


    he and ginger waited patiently

    “besides,” i said, “if i don’t do this right, you will never look like the dog on the dogfood can”


    we kept looking for someplace where there was cover and cheatgrass that was not all burned up and found a few spots


    it is tough to hunt a spot like this
    i decided to stop hunting spots where i needed more than 50 feet of rope to access when i turned 40

    it was frustrating passing coves and swales that used to be prime bird spots
    only to find them burned clean

    the red dog asked “what happened to our spots?”
    i said “i am not sure boy, maybe a camp fire got loose or a car muffler sparked up some dry grass”

    ginger finally woke up for a moment and interjected, “it’ll grow back boys, you better head south and hit the holy grounds” she lowered her head and slept again almost instantly.

    “well boy,” i said “lets get out and take a walk and then we’ll head on to the holy grounds”

    he nodded and we got out for a walk

    this is big beautiful country
    plenty of room for a guy and a couple dogs to take a walk


    the red dog ripped and roared up and down the hillsides and looked like he somehow belonged there
    his fiery color and attitude seemed to be a good match for a place like we were in


    even old ginger got out and looked around some “what you looking at ging?” i said

    she looked in a daze and sleepily said “wow, this is just as i remember it”


    “it has been a long time yeah” i said
    she nodded

    soon we loaded up and headed about 3 hours south and decided to hole up in a motor inn
    it was $54 and the dogs are allowed in the room

    the dogs are not allowed on the bed at home
    but this was not our home


    i could tell it was considerably colder when i went out to let the dogs make water and by morning a hot cup of coffee was good



    what wasn’t covered in iced over crusted snow was covered in longspine cactus

    a tough place for a dog to hunt

    the red dog was all fired up so we got out and gave it a go


    if you have ever hunted snow that has melted and refrozen each day and night for over a week, you know that it crusts over and becomes about like sandpaper for a dog to walk on


    makes for a beautiful scene though


    the red dog and i covered some good looking spots in the lee of the wind and with bare ground and soon he was in gear

    we had birds up and over
    birds on rt to left crosses

    birds riding the wind and arcing low and fast down gullies

    birds hit and falling
    feathers and gunsmoke
    aching legs and screaming lungs
    sweat stinging my eyes
    i fumbled for more shells with my mittens on

    the red dog working on autopilot

    ears ringing

    we had more coveys up higher on the edges and they were educated

    the bird season is over 3 months long out here
    and any birds that survive to the last days have earned their place on the edges

    birds flushed wild over a hundred yards out
    they had been shot at before

    they new it was bad news to see a man with a gun
    and a red dog on fire at their front door

    so they split

    the sun was working on the ravine and the creek started to flow some
    the red dog drank until i thought he’d bust


    i ate snow and that kept me hydrated

    the red dog preferred to roll and slide in it
    he tried to burrow into it with his nose


    we walked close to the edge high up on the rim of it all
    i looked down at the red dog and laughed and tried to catch my breath

    “kaden sit” i said

    he sat

    i continued
    “you know, a dozen years back, i hiked all the way from the river and up over the hill you’re sitting on”

    he wagged

    “i hunted up over the draw and down the back and killed my 8 birds with my old hound dogs , ginger was there, you can ask her.
    then we hiked all the way back down to the river and camped out in the back of the truck when it was 7* outside.”

    he sat there and looked at me with a big dog smile


    “well, we’d better get going then, because we have a lot of ground still to cover and i know that there are some birds out there for us” he said

    “ok boy, follow your nose and i’ll do my best to keep up and shoot them down.” i nodded.

    he was working all of the spots that good dogs do

    the soft golden grass thick where the ground stays wet in the late spring
    the rocks and coves
    the seams between hills that nobody but a dog and a bird hunter ever notice

    he managed a half pack of mice in the mean time



    this one was just stuffed and overflowing with new grass shoots


    the red dog stopped and pawed at the ground and looked up with a funny look
    “what is it boy?” i asked

    “i think it is a part of a deer” he said

    “well it is kaden, it is a 4 point antler from a mule deer” i laughed


    “can we get one of them?” he asked
    soon we were kicking up more birds
    lots of them were so far away that i wondered if they even saw us, or if they were just moving on their own

    the red dog lit up and quartered back into the wind and was nose down and trotting
    his tail wagged so that i wondered if he’d split right out of his own skin

    the birds erupted from the hillside in nearly every direction
    there must have been nearly 50 of them in a gigantic covey

    i shot and managed to part a few feathers
    the red dog ran to get them


    “hey these aren’t chukar” said the red dog

    “nope, they are hungarian partridge” i said


    “you sure fetched them up kaden, good boy” i said

    “well, you knocked them down just like you promised” he answered

    we were exhausted after hunting and happy to get a few birds and a few days of adventure


    On the way back I asked the hounds if they wanted to come back next year and all I got in response was snoring
    Greenbug, mjbskwim, jbett98 and 3 others like this.
  2. Gaius


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    GREAT story and BEAUTIFUL dogs. Love ol Red. :)

    Edit: Is he all Golden Retriever?
  3. Burt Gummer

    Burt Gummer
    Completely Out of Ammo Bronze Supporter

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    Awesome dogs! Thanks for sharing.
  4. samuelm16

    Well-Known Member

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    awesome story i wish i could train my golden to hunt
  5. thereddog

    State of Jefferson
    Active Member

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    he is all golden... I know he looks like he has an Irish setter's fur, but his parents were akc papered goldens, and so is he..(Albeit he's very much on the red end of the spectrum, and I think the AKC docks them for not being standard (too white or too red, but I can live with that.)
  6. Greenbug

    Well-Known Member

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    I really enjoyed your story, thank you so much for sharing with us. You should submit this for publication in your favorite hunting magazine, very well written and very entertaining. Makes me wish I was out there, and I don't even hunt birds!

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