Monday, December 9, 2013

At least they're not wearing sweaters.

Carson and Emmie 2013
Carson is growing far too fast-22.5# at his vet visit last week. As demonstrated by this lovely suburban/gentry Christmas photo, he's learning to "hup". (and doing a pretty good job)

We've begun place-board training which is new to me, and I want to share more but I had a mandolin incident recently:

and typing is somewhat difficult at the moment.

Let's just say that it's not worth it to try to get that last bit of cabbage perfectly sliced. When the guard bottoms out it's over; you should just let that little bit o-cabbage go even if it goes against your very Scots-Irish upbringing.

Fortunately it was set to "thin slice" and was not a waffle cut.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I don't get sick...

I don't get sick...unless I've scheduled time off and been watching weather patterns for weeks in anticipation of a few quality days in the woods. 

Then, I can pretty much guarantee I'll be bedridden.

always happens

it happened again

Saturday, November 2, 2013

when bigger isn't better

It's not a true 'group' at only 3 shots (ignoring the called flyer on the left). It's only that many because this was just supposed to be a load work-up.  I'm thinking I'll stick with it. Can't get better than a .263 least I probably can't.

69 grains 4831sc
180 grain Accubond
WLRM primer
V/E: 2851/3250 (est)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

2013 Cocker Nationals

A hearty congrats to Briar and Ray!


Awarded to the dog that has acccumulated the most points in Open All-Age Stakes during the 2012-2013 performance year using the weighted average method of calculation which takes into account the number of competitors in each trial in which a dog competes as well as the points earned for each placement, excluding national placements.

FC Piasa Creeks Briar Patch “Briar”

Owner/Handler:Ray Takmajian

There’s a good account of the event on the MichiganSportsman discussion forum: Spaniel Corner II. There was word that Paul French flying over to document the proceedings for a video production, but apparently that was not in the cards.  Instead a local film crew captured the event and he will be editing it together. Nevertheless, this is something I’ll be adding to my library of esoterica.

Really wish I could have made it, and fully intend to be at the 2014 in PA; just not as a participant…yet. (FWIW Briar is Carson’s half brother)

2013 Cocker Nationals

Monday, October 28, 2013

Something for the freezer

There's are no way to avoid the responsibilities of being a father and husband, at least not in my mind. I'm not talking about painting the house, changing diapers, etc...I'm talking about the fact that if I walk out to the garage and lift the lid I will see straight down to the bottom of our freezer.

The packets of 'training birds' outnumber the "food". That's never good math.

There are still a few packs of venison, but only roasts and maybe a couple packs of ground. Not the cuts that I get all tingly over. Tenderloin? That's been gone for a few months now.  (Nealy always via my famous "Buchanan's Spicy Dry Rub", super hot cast iron pan sear in garlic and olive oil, followed by low-slow in the oven That being said, I am looking forward to try this recipe: Venison with juniper and blackberry-honey sauce)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Deed has been done. Introducing FBECS "Carson"

The deed was done on Saturday.  The newest addition to the stable is a FBECS with the call name Carson.  The introduction to the family was un-eventful, as expected.
There was much jumping and general ballyhoo:
And then a requisite nap:
He has a lot of heart and has made it clear from the outset that he isn't going to be a pushover, despite his age and size. He has been sleeing through, for two nights now, and hasn't had any accidents while in the kennel.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The responsible thing

A recent poll on UplandJournal, if taken out of context, would read like a dialogue between Hannibal Lecter and Jason Voorhees:
maybe I am not as good at it as you. Ten seconds seems like an awfully long time to be squeezing the life out of something, which I find an unpleasant task to begin with.
I carry a nail in my vest pocket and stick it in the back of their head and scramble their brains. 
Death grip.  Squeeze the armpits until it expires.  
Of course this deals with birds that have been wounded, but not killed. Make no mistake, the real sentiment of the thread was overwhelmingly one of compassion. There are few who care about the welfare of animals than the true outdoorsmen.  With that, comes the responsibility to minimize suffering as much as possible. I repeat, it's a responsibility. It's just that we don't ever take the time to actually talk about it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

victim of a govt shutdown

In this age of divisive childishness no one is willing to admit that they might be wrong, or that "the other" might have a point, or consider something which might be inconvenient to their world-view.

It's disgusting. I consider it a sign of cowardice to be unwilling to admit when you are (or might be) wrong and therefore approach life with a sense of humility; but that is the situation we find ourselves in.  Is anyone noting that the US Congress has not passed a budget in over 3 years? 3 years of this crap is enough and neither side is being honest with their constituency. (there I go being political) I won't appeal to a fallacy of middle ground because, well honestly, sometimes there isn't one; but it's quite clear that we have a failure to communicate.

As the chips start falling there are, for lack of a better term, innocents who will be left out because of this latest debacle (from US Forest Service):
  • ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The public workshop scheduled for Oct. 5 as part of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest management plan revision process has been cancelled. The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina cancelled the meeting due to a lapse in federal government funding. 
    In the event that the federal government resumes operation prior to Oct. 5, the meeting will still be cancelled. More information on future public engagement opportunities will be provided as soon as possible.
    The Oct. 5 meeting was scheduled to be held at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville.

Monday, September 9, 2013

would you like some cheese with that whine?

Three weeks ago there were doves on the lease. There were doves in my backyard. There were doves on the power lines.

…Saturday the season opened and there were NO doves.



Monday, August 26, 2013

weekend scouting and training

First, a brief vid from a training session with Emmie this weekend. (During the flight, this is prime woodcock cover). The objectives of this training session:

  1. remain within range

  2. work ALL available cover

  3. stop to whistle

Friday, August 23, 2013

Different perspectives

A paragraph from a book stood out for me the other night and I’ve wanted to share it.

One of the quite frequent critiques of a pointing-dog man is that the spaniel seems “out of control”, that there is no time to get ready for the shot, etc…In fact, one of the first professional trainers I ever worked with, when asked what they thought about spaniels in field trials, hunt tests remarked that ‘the dogs just seem to run around! I don’t see how you can even judge what they’re doing!’

I beg to differ:

One of the delights of working a properly trained spaniel is that, just before you send him into cover, you can keep him sitting for a few seconds and you make sure that you are ready; you can keep him sitting and feel the tension of his gaze, the tension of his whole being in those eyes fixed on you unshiftingly and longing for the sign that will unleash the quivering tautness of his frame into the rapture if the hunt. There is, I suppose, something of the pleasure of power in this, but there is also something of beauty in the stillness of it all and in its frozen strength. It is like those Greek sculptures that somehow manage to capture latent energy in motionless stone. Laurence Catlow, That Strange Alchemy: Pheasants, Trout and a Middle-Aged Man

Different perspectives

Thursday, August 22, 2013

It's in the air

It’s almost that time of year.  The best kind of weather is just around the corner…

I don’t know anyone else who thinks this is so, but to me the best weather-day is one where the temperature DROPS as the day goes on, a cold front sweeps down across the plains and the jet stream takes an unusual dip.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

You try so hard to love them

I'm trying, I really am; but I am having trouble finding the love for this bad-boy:

(stock photo)Ruger Red Label Upland 12GA
I've always like the RRL.  It's a clean design-no faux engraving, made in USA, mechanical triggers, etc...And the one I have is certainly a beautiful gun, even those not normally enamored with such things say so-mostly I think because it has better wood that the one pictured above.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The search continues...(and it's amazing what I can rationalize to myself)

Neither of the two available britts were ones that would work for our situation, and besides-when I started taking my family through the decision tree I was using to pick a breed I made the mistake of watching some video of spaniels work.  I was using a compare/contrast method to further educate the family-in the spaniel corner, we had Buccleuch Pepper:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Next chapters?

Quick note:

Someone asked me yesterday if I was depressed and more specifically if I had cried lately...this was not long after I told them I had put down one of my dogs a few weeks ago.

I think they were genuinely concerned. I don't discount their interest, but for the record:
If I am ever able to put down one of my dogs without getting depressed (and yes-crying) I sincerely want to be put down myself.

Truth be told-I know I having a good day when I have Johnny Nash in my head, and it's been a while since he's made a cameo; maybe this will help:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Case for a case

The case for using a "case" is pretty easy to make

Use a case for transport. 

NOTE-There are locales that require a case for transport of any firearms, and in some instances they require those cases be locked.  Please do not confuse any of this post with legal advice. That being said, DO NOT bring a firearm through NJ without checking ALL laws.  (there should be an app for a trip itinerary, and see what the different legal issues you might have in your travels)

DO NOT use a case for long term storage.

Sad image from Fox Collectors site.

Monday, July 15, 2013

the 80% rule

It's far too early to think about getting another pup.  I feel guilty for even thinking about it, but I can't deny that having another dog here (as well as a very supportive family and friends) has really made this crappy situation and transition easier.

Emmie has taken some time to adjust, but I think she is somewhat coming into her own as an only dog.  There have been enough deep thoughts about her behavior, and subsequent questions emailed back and forth with a trainer/kennel owner I trust, that I think we are doing the right things to help her establish her new place in the 'pack'.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

One morning

Prescott had a good day today but he's not long for this world.  For some reason it's prompted me to recall the first time I lost a dog: 

It was morning; although one that started so much earlier than usual the boy couldn’t guess the time; both darker and colder than it was whenever he awoke at his real home. It was never difficult to get up when he was here, which was fitting as it was also never easy to sleep. This wasn’t his room, his bed, or at that time even a ‘bed’ at all.  At least he had sheets now; but the sheets were washed with some soap that smelled decidedly different than anything he smelled at home. Sheets that were washed with a working man’s jeans, t-shirts and socks, then hung on a line to dry. They were neither soft nor smelled of anything pleasant like flowers or a mountain meadow. When he got up that morning, just like two weeks ago, these same sheets would be taken off the couch, roughly folded and put on a their shelf in the hall closet, ready for his next overnight stay in a couple of weeks. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


We've stopped tests and have brought prescott home to be comfortable.

Mojo requested

The call I just received was not good, and not one I wanted.  

Step one-we are going to do chest films of the big guy to see if his cancer has metastasized. If that is the case, it's just a palliative care situation.  

History lesson:

It may be a surprise to learn that the big guy is a survivor.  I've always said he has the heart of a lion but was cursed by his genetics and his cancer is just further proof of that.

Nearly three years ago I took him to the vet b/c his behavior had changed.  It sounds odd, but he was being much more compliant, needy, and obedient.  Some owners probably would have thought he was just maturing-it would have made sense given his age; and I was hoping that was the case as it was ABOUT TIME! He's a smart pup and, I think because of that, could be somewhat of a knucklehead at times.

The vet gave me a 'sure, we can do a bunch of tests, spend a bunch of money, but we'll probably find out that he's just getting older'. Unfortunately I let this be my guiding light, probably because it was what I wanted to hear. However, a few months later his symptoms hadn't improved, and a few had been added; among them was an increased thirst.  I could barely keep his waterbowl filled.

I took him to another clinic- the Vet School where I was working at the time. I always tried to avoid going to the vet school first; not b/c they aren't HIGHLY skilled- because they are- rather it's that they want to spend money on lots of tests before they have a conclusive diagnosis and once having a diagnosis they have lots of expensive treatment options.  I've never received the country doctor advice that involved simple household cures, but I always hope to.

The call I got that afternoon was along the lines of " have a very sick boy here".

Short story-large mass on his liver, compromised liver function, the prognosis is not good.

We elected to have surgery to remove the tumor.  It was not the most advised solution, but I have great confidence in the surgeon on hand, and figured my boy was worthy of at least being given a fighting chance.

That was Thanksgiving 2010.

He lost a lobe of his liver but he's generally done very well since.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

strange dream

I don't put too much stock in dream interpretation, but I'll do my best to honestly recount last nights dream...

In the dream I was looking through two litters of brit pups, all around 6 weeks old. The pup was being offered as a free gift, and since several had been sold I wouldn't get first pick.  I was smart enough in my dream to ask to see the sires and dam.  (Yes, sireS. Dream weirdness-one dam but two sires. Could happen? Technically...'s a dream and I'll just let it roll.)

I saw several pups that were interesting and had potential, but those of interest were from sire #1 who was off-site so I couldn't see.  The available pups (more dream weirdness-all the pups were mixed up and running loose- lots of fun to have 16 pups running loose, but how they knew which pups were from which sire is beyond me, and why they showed me pups that I couldn't have...)

Sire #2 was their personal dog, and on site, so they were able to bring him from the kennel.

This sire, for all intents and purposes, had the conformation of a british bulldog!! The owners, friends of mine, swore up and down that it was in fact a Brittany and even had it's papers (replete with titles-even thought this particular dog had never been in the field), but the dog had pigeon toed front feet, bad nasal respiration, high clipped ears, and short hair.  The coloration was correct at least.

I wound up not taking one of the pups.

My take-away from the dream?

Ask to SEE the sire and dam.  I don't know enough to read a pedigree and understand why and what all the outcrosses were meant to instill in the line.  Pedigrees can be fantastic, but still not produce the dog I want.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Psychology of previous investment

Illustrative of going down to the rabbit hole of blogs and gun-dogs:

Recent video post on DogsandDoubles:

I assumed I was watching a UK production because they seem to have a lock on the documentation of all things spaniel (much like we in the US do all things 'pointer').  I'm used to seeing dogs and handlers I will never meet but who provide my quasi-correspondance course in working rough shooting dogs. I should have known I was wrong just from the range of the dog-far more leggy than what I'm used to seeing in Paul French videos.

The range is what I expect and generally see from my Emmie.  However, their pattern is far superior, not to mention being steady.  I appreciate the control and I know that I am the main reason I don't see it. Having a steady dog with a tight pattern is a good thing, and they should rightfully be proud. It takes considerable work both to create and to maintain.

Not only do I know the folks (and the dog) but met and trained with them at a Paul McGaugh spaniel clinic in 2012.  In fact one of our conversations turned out to be one of the most valuable at the entire clinic and I have mulled over it ever since and have come to this conclusion:

My primary issues with training my dogs: psychology of previous investment (I am going to repurpose it from its original definition).

A trip to the training field (20 min drive).
Birds, usually a 50 min drive each way.
Price of birds (quail = $3.50 w/min of 12,  Pheasant = $15, chukar = $10 ).
Prep the training field for the particular training session.
Time away from my family to train.
The sum; time and money (time being the more valuable) is not inconsequential.

Set up field for a steadying drill.
Hup dog.
Cast dog.
--------------at this point the psychology of previous investment comes in and I freely admit to my failings as a dog trainer.

Let's say, from the get-go, the dog doesn't do a good pattern-she lines straight out, thereby missing parts of the field.
I SHOULD hup her and put her butt right back in heel.
Regain control.
Re-establish goals.
If necessary I SHOULD discontinue that particular training goal and go into remedial training before returning to the field.

One of the reasons I have a spaniel rather than a pointing breed; my access to training fields is somewhat limited and I can do a lot of work in my typical suburban yard.  So when I'm in the field and find that what I had been working on in the yard isn't quite sticking, the tendency is to push through rather than step back; introducing a vicious cycle.

What to do?

For starters, I'm going to build a pigeon loft....

Friday, June 14, 2013

Keep driving

There's something about just planning a hunting trip that satisfies; sometimes it's even better than actually taking the trip. 

Being visited by my far too frequent friend, insomnia, I've been (re)reading my fine literature collection; mapping out a trip for us this year.  Do we go to MI and the forests of the U.P.?  Do we try the paper co lands on ME?  I'd love to do one of the lodges-Libby Camps but that's a bit above my pay grade, right? 

One unique group of literary treasures I've acquired are older copies of Wing & Shot and Grouse Point Almanac; "gifts" to the gun club from an elderly gentleman who was soon planning to shuffle off this mortal coil(or more likely had succumb to haranguing often ladled on both piles of old magazines and the men who hoard them). Either way, I have them now and they are really a fun glimpse into the not too distant past.  

An older gentleman came to one of our scout meetings many years ago with several issues of Boys Life from the 50's. The boys uniforms were different, but recognizable. The scouting activities had stayed the same. I have no idea what they put in Boys Life these days, or if it even exists. I hope I'd still recognize it, but I don't hold out much hope. 

Planning a trip. What to take, where to stay, and for how long? 

"Where to stay" opens up a bit by looking through these magazines, in a way that current publications don't.  There is a permanence in the written word; even and especially in the advertisements. I can envision the conversation around the dinner table at a lodge in a guides home. The family figures they can afford to run an add for a year or so, but not much longer.  The margins on hunting camps being so thin. They take a chance.  Maybe they invite an author up to hunt for free if they'll just write about the experience.  

Not many of these places continued to advertise or advertise after those few issues, but many are still out there.  I've looked for them online. 

I probably won't find hollows of George Bird Evans, and if I did there would probably be a condo on it and no grouse. But I can look at these old adds and articles and glean something that might lead me to a wild flush and an authentic hunting camp.  

Wherever it winds up being I'll probably drive and I'll start the trip with this:


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When is it too hot to train?

When is it too hot to train?  Probably when it's too hot to fish:

Too hot to fish

On the first hot day of the year it's important to remember that real news still percolates to the top.

The temp when I got home? 93.  Humidity 80%.

It's too hot.

Time to start getting up early to do training because my dog doesn't have the sense to self-regulate her activity level. Heat can kill a  I nearly lost her in her first year b/c I had no idea that she would simply run herself till she dropped.  Scary time.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Paying down the it relates to gundog training

I provide wild game and work very hard to do that, but it's a simple fact that chicken is cheap and only a 5 min drive. Hunting is a choice I make about my time, and by definition a "choice" means there is something that doesn't get chosen.  Those things that don't get chosen create a deficit that needs to be paid down to a reasonable level in some way before the next hunting season.

ad infinitum.

When the season is in full swing I guarantee that the leaves will fall at EXACTLY the time I would like to get into the woods-these will get raked by the boy down the street who I willingly pay. I would do so even if I didn't hunt-I hate raking leaves that much. But there are things that I really want to do myself and the 'off-season' is when I get that chance.


When we moved in our kitchen was in desperate need of attention. Unfortunately I can't find a picture facing the opposite direction, but this is pretty representative of the state of things (except I think this picture shows we've painted the baseboards)

Not just outdated-downright disturbingly unhealthy: 
-Tile that was poorly laid; causing it to break and completely missing in spots.
-The counter that is a solid-surface homage to the beauty of beige. Easy to clean with the exception of the cracks which fought our best efforts. How does one crack 1" solid surface counter?  I suspect the original installer cracked them when installing and just left it. There are enough other 'repairs' on the house to make me suspect as much.
-The cabinets had more of an oil surface than an oil-finish.

It's a work in progress, and is still not complete, but we've mad great strides.

First was replace the floor (complete with a proper underlayment. FYI-no, you cannot just lay tile directly on top of linoleum and expect it to last you idiot that I wish I could get my hands on)

Also paint cabinets. Glass faced doors still in the works.

Now lighter and airier: 
Trip to IKEA. Procure butcher block counter stock. Note at the loading dock that it doesn't fit in car so strap to roof.  Did best impression of Jed Clampet meets Fred Sanford while driving down the highway with 500# of oak strapped to roof. (Wish I had a picture of that)

Refinish butcher block (Waterlox-a tung oil)

New sink

Subway tile back-splash


Free up counter space by creating space for mircowave below counter; rewire for outlet

Currently further along than this; grouting is done, and under-counter completed section trimmed and completed.  I Still need to do back-splash on the opposite wall and add some trim.

While the dog has been on training hiatus/rehab it's been a good time to pay down the debt and I think I'm making progress.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Shooting over a FTCH cocker

This cocker would probably be characterized as a boot polisher on this side of the pond-especially in cover this open; but this is the real deal, and there's no denying the level of quality being displayed here. 
Have you ever dreamed of shooting over a Field Trial spaniel ? Well during this film you will get a first person point of view as we join Andrew Robinson of Whaupley Gundogs ( as he puts FTCH. Meadowsedge Shooting Star "Dizzy" through her paces. Filmed high up on the North Yorkshire Dales in the UK you will be able to enjoy and appreciate the drive, pace and style of this Champion cocker Spaniel. Subscribe to our channel for more great working gundog videos.
Filmed with a Go Pro Hero 3 camera @ 1080 - 60fps. Edited by Nick Ridley Photography

Thursday, May 23, 2013


It wasn't an aimless meandering. No, not exactly aimless.

I don't have a Parker-Hale type jag but am convinced cleaning rituals will be exponentially enhanced by merely owning one. (I honestly don't know why but they are as rare as 2" 12GA shells)

An innocent enough goal for lunch trip: procure jag. 

Just like the grocery store who puts the milk in the furthest point from the door-the cleaning equipment was similarly. Would/could I be blamed for taking a moment to see what had come in? Maybe that new Browning O/U since it doesn't look like there will be a test model delivered to my door. 


Nothing as reasonable as that.   

Benelli Ultralight 28GA

4.9 #

Seriously: 4.9#

Nothing followed me home (nothing but the bitter-sweet memory of the graceful,  gossamer like wand-o-death that pointed exactly where I looked because someone had even inserted the shims to adjust stock for cast-on). 

I was mostly cured of being a 'weight weenie' years ago when a friend, a professional cyclist, told me the easiest way to loose weight off my bike was to cut it from the blubber I was hauling around. (Not excusing rotational weight, where it is EASY to feel a real difference! Making one upgrade to a bike? Put it in the wheelset).

If that wasn't enough there was the conversation overheard in a bike shop:

Patron enters and asks 'is there is anything that I can put on my bike that will make me faster?'

The answer from the shop after she left - "yeah, miles". 

So it's not just about the weight-although that certainly is a plus; no denying it. 

And there is a very good list of the reasons I DON'T need one: starting with-I hunt behind a spaniel.  

That's it. That's enough. There doesn't need to be any other reason. 

Shots behind spaniels aren't exactly pokes, but I'm not the one doing the flushing so when a bird gets up it's already a 16 to 27-yard trap shot. I need to throw 1 to 1 1/8 oz to maintain a pattern. 

My list of one reason should be enough to shutter the ides and I would have no need to ponder the matter further if I hadn't seen the bricks B&P are stuffing in their 28GA shells:

Yes, Virginia. That's 1 1/16oz....

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dog And Human Genomes Evolved Together

Dog And Human Genomes Evolved Together

Evolution shaped genes in humans and dogs that correspond to diet, behavior, and disease, according to a new study.

 The study authors suggest that dogs were domesticated 32,000 years ago; that's much earlier than current estimates, which place domestication at around 15,000 to 16,000 years ago.

Monday, May 6, 2013

How it should work (pt 2)

I am not breed-blind.

I love dogs.  I love working with dogs. I love seeing a dog do what it was inherently bred to do.

I am not species blind either. I've known from childhood that I enjoy horses just as much; but I also know what it takes to maintain one and so never had one of my own. 

I have entertained the thought that eventually my daughter (much like every young girl I've ever known) will want a horse. While we'll cross that bridge when we come to it,  when I do allow myself to think about it I imagine riding cross-country equestrian with my daughter beside me; and that being one of the ultimate experiences for us to share together. I don't know that she'll be a Georgia Pelligrini, and the odds are that she won't-so I don't want to force my vision onto her.

Damn autonomy of 21st century social norms in western society!

Nevertheless-back to the point: I am not breed blind.  In fact I am probably going to have to open my sights up a great deal when I look for my next addition to the kennel.  I carry enough titanium in my ankle to build at least a good part of a tour-de-france bike; subsequently I have come to be judicious about the amount of walking I do without the aid of NSAIDs.  If there is one thing you have to do with springers, it's walk.  One benefit of the farther ranging pointing breeds-they do a lot of the walking for you.

I found this vid on Dogs and Doubles:

This is a Berg Brothers dog.

I know about the Berg brothers and consider them a top choice for my next dog, particularly if I decide to go with a setter. One that would suit me would not run quite as rangy as the pointer shown above because the tracts I have access too are not nearly as wide open and I don't have a horse to follow them on (see above).  In the foot-hunting world 60-100 acres is more reasonable; and 15-20 more likely for some of the smaller tracts. Even the 600 acres I lease isn't really enough space for a pointer who might range as far as 1/2 mile before making a turn.

Dogs are usually shot during deer season around here. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

How should it work?

Spaniels can be fast. There is a reason it matters- seeing the alphabetic trace in their lineage: AFC, FC, NFC, etc...

Most don't have the first inkling how a spaniel is supposed to work in the field, but a well-bred, well trained, field-bred springer or cocker is a thing to behold.  I'll be the first to say it's not for everyone.

To wit, a conversation at our last hunt test:
'those field bred spingers are just! I don't think I'd enjoy hunting behind one of them'.
Which is probably one of the more true statements I heard that day! That person happened to be running their bench-bred dog in the test, and honestly they were doing just fine. It was evident that they had spent time with the dog, and the dog went on to pass that leg of the test.   For them, there was a preference for calm, but methodical searching patterns; not 'plodding' but no one was ever going to break a sweat keeping up.  Hunting behind a pocket-rocket really would just be an exercise in frustration.

A geneticist friend liked to say:
Nature is the loaded gun but nurture pulls the trigger.
After the breeding there's nothing to be done about the genetics. The difference-maker is nurture: the experiences and stimuli the pup receives-especially when they're "not" being trained.  

The speed and agility of this spaniel is quite comparable to how Emmie runs. I wish I could honestly say that the level of control I exhibit was comparable to this handler but it's not. It's good and getting better, but it's nowhere near this level. 

So- given a dog that runs this powerfully it's all the more important to channel that energy; to focus it through nurture. If the dog is a loaded gun then drive, desire and heart; these are projectiles.  Where will these be directed? (because they will manifest themselves in one way or another)  Will they be on target, off target wildly and dangerously?  The dog bred with a heart seeking the horizon is going to find it.  My role is to provide enough situations, enough stimuli that the energy is harnessed without leading to anguish on either's part.

It's a fun ride.

At this point I can't imaging hunting behind something that doesn't run like their very soul depended on it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Missed opportunities

There was an inkling of a plan this past weekend; make a trip up to the Mid-Atlantic Spaniel trials. The trip would have been long ( ~10 hrs each way), but the reality is that it's not easy to get from here to ANY spaniel field trials without traveling at least 8 hours each way. I wasn't interested in going to compete. Emmie is just now coming off the injured-reserve list and isn't steady to wing-and-shot anyway, which is a real Rubicon for field trials.  Steady-to-wing-and-shot only comes in as a metric for Hunt Test at the Master level. 

I was really just hoping to drive 10 hours, stay in a crappy motel room and watch some quality spaniels in action; hopefully I'd learn by osmosis and generally pick the brains of those who would stand still long enough for me to sidle up.

As it happened, I didn't go.

I also didn't go to the 'inkling of a plan' #2: the Southern SXS; held on this same weekend.

While this was in NC and would have only been a ~7 hour trip each way, the likely-hood of wanton drooling and physical pangs over my particular financial situation was much higher. (why they have this thing right after tax time, and right when my $ is due for our hunting lease is beyond me!)  Booth after booth of guns.  Properly aged, well mellowed guns that I could actually pick up and handle?  Booth after booth of accessories: leather, waxed cotton, brass fittings, tweed....not that I'm all worked up about that kind of thing.

No I wasn't going to do that to myself.  I will have to appreciate the beauty and smell of burnt cordite, but it will happen in my mind, not at the range.

Of the two-I think I would have chosen to go to PA, and had I done so I might have had an interesting time.  Before I got Emmie I was in deliberations over getting a cocker, a "super-cocker" to be more precise. I honestly can't say why we wound up not getting the cocker, but we didn't.  In the end I think I was concerned (probably overly so) that this would be more dog than I was able to handle.  I really can't tell you for sure, only that when I told the breeder our decision I figured I'd never hear or see anything about them again.

Well, the spaniel world is small. Turns out that the 4th place at this field trial was one of the pups I was looking at, and her progeny was #1 ("super-cocker" indeed):
Darcy and Ruthie-belonging to Walter Leytham
When I found out about the win I contacted the seller and congratulated him. It's been five years, but I wouldn't have held it against him if he told me to piss-off for wasting his time back then.  Part of his reply today:
I am sure glad I kept her.  She was the runt, but from the time she opened her eyes, she couldn't keep them off of me.  It was like I was her whole world. I decided she was mine.
I don't know what would have happened if I had gone ahead with my purchase, but I don't think I have wasted my time, and I hope in hindsight, he doesn't think I wasted his. 


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On Passing

As I look out my office window I see the comings and goings of people who never seem to age.  They are perpetually locked in the glow and vitality of their youth. I don't generally witness their lives once they've left our institution so I don't see them grow old or weak or sick. I always see them at their peak. They are always facing forward with the sun in their face.  The world is open to them. The future is open to them.

Looking out my window is a reminder that things continue, even if we do not. Even if our friends do not. Even if everyone and everything we know and cherish does not.

I think it is a fear in that realization 'we' will not continue that can lead people to despair; so evident  in our modern, hedonistic times.  I find that sad.  Historically this realization was probably the catalyst for most of humanities profound thoughts.  The knowledge that we will not continue, but that 'life' will; that we have some responsibility to that future through out actions in the present.

I have just received news of the passing of a friend.

I knew it was coming. Some kinds of cancer seem just beyond the current, although sometimes miraculous, powers of modern medicine. What's remarkable, and what I want to share, is that at this moment I am neither sad, nor angry with the disease that took him. I thought I would be, and have honestly been so since the last time I saw how much the disease and subsequent 'treatments' had affected him. When I saw that I simply wanted to cry.

No, and maybe it's because I know the finality of passing; instead I am remembering the manner in which he faced his situation.  He was a medical professional and knew the likely prognosis the moment he heard the diagnosis.  I really don't know what went through his mind at that precise moment, but what I witnessed him doing for the following weeks and months is worth attesting to.  He spent his time recording lectures and developing course materials for the times when he knew he would be incapacitated by chemotherapy. He was not thinking of himself but rather how he could do the most for others, all the while believing he would pull out of this; recover.

He didn't recover. He did, and will, persevere.

In 2007 when Randy Pausch gave his now famous "Last Lecture" it made waves in our small department. Based on the fact that over 15 million people have watched the youtube video, I'm certain he had a profound impact outside our small department.

In case you haven't watched it:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


A distinct benefit of working where I do is the friendships I can develop with people from all over the world.  One of my closer friends happens to be of the Germanic persuasion, and is more of a firearms enthusiast than any Americans I know personally.  He has introduced me to many traditions and customs of the Europeans, that many in this country would find difficult to embrace.  

Friends-especially male friends exist in a constant dialogue of barbs, jokes and general competition.  Anyone not participating, or taking too much offense, is immediately suspect.  There's never a coup-de-grace between friends. The jabs aren't meant to be mortal blows.  So long as you understand some thing are taboo in different cultures, and you are quick to learn what those things are-you have free reign in all the things that aren't!

Being of the Germanic persuasion opens my friend up to all kinds of friendly barbs and jabs regarding "efficiency".  I mean-who has time to consider the 'proper' method of coiling a long dog lead? 

Well some people do and now you can too:

As I've said, barbs aren't any fun if someone gets their panties in a wad and my friend is good about this. When I shared this video he was more than pleased.  Finally I was interested in doing things by the 'correct method' and so provided me with yet another option-albiet in a .pdf that I would have to German.... but since I'm an illiterate, culturally hegemonic American (jab our direction)-fortunately there were pictures.

So the barbs are not one sided. Of particular annoyance is the constant refrain that "you Americans never clean your guns".  This is often after a refrain about the HOURS spent cleaning after a trip to the range. My general counter to that is "the perfect is the enemy of the good".

To that end I offer this demonstration from the NSSF; one of the best and most thorough cleaning demonstrations I've seen. Thanks to Steve Rinella for pointing this out in his FB post.

BTW.  The absolute worst, and unfortunately my friend knows this, is when I'm referred to as "you Yankees".  I still haven't found a comeback to that which won't end with me no longer referring to him as "my friend". That's just part of the nature of friendship. I'm sure I say some things that rub him just as raw, but he's too German to ever let me know.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

__it happens.

It happens. 
Athletes get injured.  It's what happens when you push the limits.

Everything has it's limits.

The after-effects of pushing past the limits can be beautiful in the long run. Can anyone imagine Yosemite if the glaciers hadn't worked their magic? Ansel Adams?


An incredibly abstract example - occurring in a literally geologic timeframe and what we revere are the after effects; the remnants and remains.  

Witnessing and participating in such transformational experiences, on a more personal scale, is not so pleasant.  Imagine the first time you watched the images of Joe Theisman having his leg broken-is it as indelibly etched in your mind as mine? That too was the result of forces in the natural world coliding with one another.   The strength of bone vs the force of inertia. 

If I close my eyes I can still see the effects of gravity demonstrating the frailty of my own skeleton. My foot slipped off the skateboard and the bones gave way. It was an accident, but it lingers and makes me who I am, even today. Not all scars are visible.

To wit: an injured pup confined to 2-3 weeks of cage rest:

I didn't see the injury happen. All I know is that when we came back from a walk in the woods she came up lame. I put her on rest for a week and she seemed to get over it. But two weeks later I found that she seemed to have difficulty when doing any turning. Linear movement was good, but a sharp change in direction would have her 'tripoding' again. It was time to get some insight, and since I don't have an x-ray machine in my garage (and I suck at reading films anyway); off to the clinic we went.

Diagnosis: Likely torn cruciate ligament.
Prognosis: Good
treatment: Kennel rest for 2 weeks. If no improvement- MRI ($$$) and consider surgery ($$$$$). 

Fortunately Emmie was introduced to the kennel at a very early age: 
And I actually think that she does better in a lot of ways when she spends time in the kennel. She is so tightly focused on work that I think kennel time gives her a chance to 'turn off'. It's her safe space. This is a concept I had read about but that I honestly had a hard time understanding before Emmie. My other dogs have been primarily bred to be companion animals and I had primarily expected them to be with me at all times, I ASSUMED they wanted to be with me at all times-wouldn't being in a kennel be cruel? No, when used properly.
I've come around and fully support the use of a kennel...but a significantly important aspect to effective use of kennels is that pup gets out and get exercises.  But when ALL out-of-kennel experiences must occur via a slip lead, the kennel's appeal can wear off.  
We're on day 4.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Irish Setter Wingshooter Boots, a review

Bought on sale from Orvis, the Irish Setter Wingshoter boot:

Irish Setter Wingshooter boots
from the website:
A simple and classic wingshooter's upland boot for the hunter that believes in the tried and true. Ultradry™ waterproof membrane keeps feet dry. Lightweight midsole for support and Irish Setter's Prairie Black outsole sheds clay and dirt. Goodyear welt construction. 6" height from the inner sole to top of boot collar. In brown. Leather. Imported. 

I already had a slightly different version of this boot; one with the 'white' sole rather than black.  I found it on a clearance rack in Bass Pro Shop for less than $50.  How could I go wrong?  I soon learned that I wanted something different than the white sole for my main hunting boots when I realized they were , even 20' up in a deer stand, the most visible thing about me. They were almost fluorescent and I was certain that every animal in the valley was immediately alerted by the blinding light!

But the were comfortable from day one and remain so almost three years later. Comfortable and still waterproof.

When I saw these on sale I splurged-even on sale they weren't the obvious value the previous pair represented.  But aside from that, when there's something you like you should consider buying two. Because if you don't surely they will be discontinued or at least changed when your first wears out and you go to find it's replacement.

When they arrived I was surprised. They were decidedly different than the last pair. The leather is richer but more supple than the pair they replace. The boots had a nearly 'wet' surface reminiscent of a baseball glove in my memory from 1978-freshly coated in neatsfoot oil; ready to be broken in. 

As hoped, they were as comfortable as the previous pair from the start, and although they didn't require a true break-in, I wouldn't have taken them for an afternoon bird hunt fresh from the box.

Given a good week of wear...they became my go-to.


the obvious is that they aren't made in America. Woe...the geo-politics of manufacturing....

Whenever possible I try to find a home-grown product; even when it costs a bit more. The quality in these boots, however, is better than what I'm used to from far either eastern import or domestic production. 

All in all-maybe I should get another pair before they change or discontinue them!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013



I think my daughter is about to enter the stage where every interaction will be met with a "why?",  and maybe dealing with that will cure me, but at this point I still often ask it myself- "why?".

Why do I do the things I choose to do...In the current social and political climate, living with what can be described as 'first world problems' it's easy to feel (and be) scrutinized for some behaviors.

Why do I hunt?

Why do I hunt in at this most unique period in history when chicken and ground beef are both easily available and affordable?  My dad gave me this bit of an aphorism-
"for the first time in history most people are waking up and deciding what they are going to eat, rather than how they are going to get something to eat."

Not discounting the hunger and privation that exists, I think this is a true statement, at least of the day-to-day life in the west in the early parts of the this century.

It's not solely money, for if weighed out on a dollar-per-pound basis, game meat probably far surpasses the best Kobe beef; so much so that I refuse to do the math for myself! However, it would be disingenuous to say money does not factor in at some level. I concentrate on large game for my family's diet because it provides the best return for time and money invested. However, this may be regional in effect, as we have a very large deer population in the GA and someone in ME would probably go hungry waiting for a deer. 

That it's incredibly tasty is beside the point.

Money/time is neither the only nor primary factor but it is one nevertheless. I primarily hunt for health benefits: mental, physical and spiritual. And if I didn't get any/enough venison for the family I would choose to spend money for grass-fed beef or chevre rather than industrial farmed animal agriculture.

Economies(money/time) are always inherently in the picture when thinking about hunting. When compared to big game hunting, small game hunting is an incredibly elite activity.  Whereas historically all hunting was demarcated and limited to a specific class,  nevertheless a peasant would expect to trap rabbits/hares-not stags; despite the return for investment.  It's hard for me to imagine, but it was not that many generations back when my forebears would be LEGALLY either maimed or killed for doing something I take for granted. 

(to be continued...)

Friday, March 29, 2013


I've never cross posted someone's blog post, but this is a really interesting read.  I have the greatest respect for Jefferson but I am distraught to read his views on dogs:
I participate in all your hostility to dogs, and would readily join in any plan of exterminating the whole race. I consider them as the most afflicting for all the follies for which men tax themselves. But as total extermination cannot be hoped for let it be partial . . . . should we not add a provision for making the owner of a dog liable for all the mischief done by him, and requiring that every dog shall wear a collar with the name of the person inscribed who shall be security for his honest demeanor?

UPLAND EQUATIONS: A PRESIDENTIAL PURSUIT, PART THREE: THOMAS JEFFERS...: AUTHOR'S NOTE:  Here is the third and final installment of my article on bird-hunting presidents.  The first two installments on Geo...

Thursday, March 28, 2013


There are very few books about springers or other flushing gundogs.  Pointers are supposed to allow you the time to wax poetic about their regal nature as you anticipate for the oncoming flush of the 'king' of gamebirds.  This has lead to a great literary and art tradition...featuring pointers. I'm surprised there isn't more literature about labs because there are the seemingly necessary lulls in the blinds waiting for flocks or singles to come in. Maybe upland hunting just so solitary a pursuit that it leads to an internal monologue that translates well to print.

I admit to loving the stuff as much as the next guy in tweed and peruse antique stores in hopes of finding a forgotten AB Frost print such as this:

Hunting behind a flushing breed, especially one 'on the edge', requires you to focus on too many things at once to develop an internal monologue any more complex than the one your dog is probably having. Despite popular convention, multitasking is a myth.

That's why I get so engaged with running spaniels in the UK and the videos that comes from there:

Invariably these are not solo hunts/shoots, so there is not really any way to do this on my scale.  There is obviously the camera operator in addition to the dog operator.  Nevertheless they are an interesting look at running trained spaniels.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Solo training is not always the best, but sometimes it's the only option.

I'm mostly a solitary creature. But even if I weren't, finding others to train with has not been easy.  Nearly everyone I know in the area who has a hunting dog has a pointing breed-and while I would like to train with them I haven't been able to make it happen yet.

I met a trainer at the last spaniel hunt test who offered to work with us but I haven't been able to get the time or $ together to do so. (Taxes coming due soon)

This leaves me right back where I was-any training that is going to happen is going to happen because I do it alone.

As noted, there is a hole in Emmie's performance that I think stems, in large part, from doing training by myself and having so many retrieves originate with me-rather than the field. Options?  I need to get the dog to start looking to the field for retrieves, not to me.  Dove season is a ways off so something artificial has to happen.

I can't shell out $400+ for a remote launcher. It's just not an option right now.  I have played with trebuchet/catapults in my early geeky Dungeons and Dragons days. I even helped with a sculpture professor who was building a trebuchet meant to sling molten iron into the North Sea on the coast of Scotland at the turn of the millennium.  So-why not build a trebuchet for slinging a bumper/bird?

I've entertained the idea, and while I really WANTED to build one I've decided I have a better solution...a .22 blank bumper launcher-similar to this:
bumper launcher
Using the dummy launcher is great for teaching steadyness and for throwing LONG distance retrieves. I have a rounded bumper that I use to create a scent trail for the dog to follow.

The question remained-how do I shoot this launcher and have the dog looking in the right direction?  Again, part of the problem is that they continue to look to ME for something to retrieve-not in the field.  So the remote "marked retrieve" originating from somewhere OTHER THAN me is important.

It's interesting how my ingenuity often looks like redneck engineering at first:

Ingredients list:
  • 1 dummy launcher
  • 1 wood clamp
  • 1 archery release
  • 1 roll of survey line (pink is optional!)
Trigger detail:
Note that the trigger length string can be adjusted with small knots to take up the length very slightly and I found my launcher didn't launch reliably unless the trigger string was taught.

Now-do a good impression of a WWII commando and run a length of trigger line a distance away and prepare your dog(s) for the remotely launched retrieve:
This is a 'posed' shot. I only ran one at a time on these remote marks.

In the end I was able to get the reaction I wanted and I think the training goals were reached. I need to go back and reinforce later this week.