Here is my first meeting with Stella at Ruffwood Brittanys.
Stella, after a morning run with Hera.
I brought home Stella, my eight week old Brittany pup on Saturday, June 29, 2019. The journey down to Cayuga, Ontario and back proved gruelling, but in the end, it was worth it. I drove down to my sister’s house in the countryside near Port Colborne and stayed the night. Driving through Toronto is always an ordeal. My appointment at Ruffwood Brittany Spaniels was at 10:00 AM, and despite issues with my GPS, I arrived at 10:00 AM on the nose. I met with the proprietors of the kennel, Mike and Donna Wilshire, and after Donna showed me my pup, we completed the paperwork to finalize the sale. With the formalities out of the way, I discussed with Donna and Mike, my plans to train Stella as a gun dog. Mike and Donna offered parting advice on how to properly care for Stella while she is a growing pup. Yes, caring for and training a puppy to be a gun dog is a tall order. Continue reading →
My morning run with Hera was interrupted when we had a second run-in with a priggish twat and her unruly husky. The winter before last Hera and I first ran up against this annoying woman and her husky. She keeps her dog leashed and it barks and pulls on the leash whenever it sees another dog. The first time I stood in the field across from a friend’s house with Hera while I waited on my friend and her dog to join us for a morning run. As the woman and her dog passed by on the road in front of my friend’s house the dog barked and pulled on the leash. Hera stood calmly by my side, taking no notice. The woman asked if I was not going to move on with my dog. I told her no that I was waiting for a friend. The woman complained her dog pulling on the leash aggravated a back injury she suffered. I told her I was sorry to hear that. She demanded that I leash Hera. I said to her to “just go.”
This morning Hera and I enjoyed a nice, long run as the weather is warm and sunny today. We walked with my friend Andrée and her poodle Oliver during the first part of the run. As Hera and I made a second pass in the meadow in front of Andrée’s house, I saw the woman and her husky in the distance. I did not know it was her at first–there is more than one husky owner in the area. Still, Hera and I chose a course I hoped would keep us from running into the woman and her dog. Unfortunately, we met up with her and the dog down by the river. The dog barked and pulled on the leash as before and the woman asked, more demanded, that I call my dog. She muttered about her sore back again then demanded that I leash Hera. I said to her calmly, “you look after your dog, and I’ll look after mine.” The woman took her dog in one direction and Hera, and I continued on our way.
I wonder where people like this woman get such an exaggerated sense of entitlement. I had run-ins with difficult people over the years when I am out with my dogs. Hera is my fourth Brittany, and I have a fifth Brittany (a new pup) coming in July. I learned over the years that it is better to keep calm while you stand your ground in dealing with people like the woman who confronted us this morning. Although I am better prepared for such confrontations these days, such encounters are still unpleasant and unwelcome. I hope Hera and I do not have a third meeting with this woman and her unruly dog.
Hera cooling off in a beaver pond on a warm September morning.
I made my first kill of the 2018 woodcock season late this morning. I was hunting in the Marlborough Forest at the patch of cover I call Schäfer’s Wood. I shot a woodcock over Hera’s point. I downed the bird with the second barrel of my Franchi Instinct SL in 20 gauge. We are two weeks into the 2018 Fall hunting seasons, and the weather is much improved. Still, conditions in my preferred hunting grounds are the driest I ever saw in all my years of hunting. I hope we get significant rainfall before mid-October. It took a lot of walking this morning, but Hera and I got into birds. I enjoy watching Hera working the covers we hunt for birds; watching her work the covers leaves me wondering at times if I trained her as a hunting dog or if it is she who taught me as a hunting dog owner. Continue reading →
It is so easy to get caught up in the moment and forget about the whereabouts of your hunting buddies when a game bird flushes and offers you a shot. I am strict about hunter etiquette and safety in the field, and my perfect record on hunter safety is a testament to my adherence to hunter etiquette and safety. The fact that carelessness is an issue in hunting came to mind on a weekend grouse and woodcock hunt with Hera, my six-year-old Brittany. My hunting buddy Nick and his ten-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, Cocotte, accompanied Hera and me on our weekend grouse and woodcock hunt. We got into birds: four woodcock and several grouse, but succeeded in spectacularly missing when we got shots away at flushing birds. Continue reading →
Mike and Maggie Mae on opening day of grouse season 2018.
“Good luck in all weathers,” Shirley E. Woods Jr. wrote to me when he signed my copy of his memoir “Gunning for Upland Birds and Wildfowl.” I met him at his home in Rockliffe Park where he lived in the 1970s. His memoir is an account of his experiences hunting upland game birds and waterfowl in the Ottawa Valley and Quebec. Weather indeed is a significant factor in hunting. Weather conditions determine whether it is safe or worth to go hunting. Yes, the weather is but one of the factors that play into the vagaries of fortune in hunting, but I learned over the years what a significant role weather plays in successful hunting. Weather conditions over the summer of 2018 made for a rocky start to my upland season this year. Continue reading →
Imagine my dismay this morning when I saw the weather forecast this morning after I got up to take Hera out after grouse and woodcock. Rain and high winds with even higher gusts and unseasonably warm temperatures were forecast for this Sunday morning. This is not good weather upland gunning. I arranged to go hunting with Mike and his eighteen month German Shorthaired Pointer Maggie this morning. I half expected Mike to text and cancel, but he was there waiting at our meeting place, the Old Co-op in North Gower, at 7:40 AM when I drove up. It rained heavily as I put Hera in the car and loaded my gear, but by the time I met up with Mike the rain stopped. The high and gusting winds continued unabated and I knew this would be an issue. High winds make grouse skittish and also make it difficult to keep track of your dog. The sound of the gusting wind drowns out the sound of the cowbell on the dog’s collar. I anticipated this hunt would be more of an armed run than anything else you never know what fortune brings.
William McClure was a friend and mentor to me starting when I first spoke to him in 1987 until his death in 2013. Bill was a Brittany enthusiast and former breeder of the breed. He helped me find the breeder from whom I purchased my first dog, Christie, and shared his experience in training Brittanies for hunting with me when I trained Brittanies of my own. As this hunting season progresses and I take to the field with Hera, my fourth Brittany, I hear Bill’s voice, his warning against taking my dogs to hunting preserves to shoot pen raised chukar and pheasant. Bill warned me that pen raised birds are often not strong fliers and easy for the dog to catch. This, he warned, gives them the idea that they can catch wild birds too which is the last thing you want. I chose not to heed his warning at the time as I knew that hunters commonly visit hunting preserves with their dogs without issue. I took my first three Brittanies, Christie, Maggie and Juno to hunting preserves and never had a problem. In fact the photo at the head of this blog features me with my beloved Juno at the end of her first hunt on a preserve. Still, I wonder now if I should have heeded his warning, given that Hera is breaking point on woodcock, bumping the birds rather than waiting for me to walk up the point. Continue reading →