I took the plunge this morning and brought Stella for her first hunt when I took Hera out to the farm for some grouse and woodcock hunting. Stella is six months old and quartering through the cover on her daily run. Yesterday afternoon I replaced her puppy collar with an adult dog collar and put her cowbell on for the first time. She took to her new collar and cowbell without incident. The weekend before, I fired several shots with a starter’s pistol while out on her daily run. She took no notice of the shots from the starter’s pistol. I concluded that she is not gun shy but still wanted to see if she would react to the sound of the 20 gauge shotgun when I took her into the field. I brought Hera and Stella out to the farm near Spencerville–the farm where three of my hunting buddies and myself hunt deer during the rifle season–this morning. We arrived at about 9:30 am, a little later than I anticipated. I try to get into the field by 8:00 am, but I found my bed so comfortable this morning that I was slow getting up to go hunting. Continue reading
I had a good day making ready for the upcoming upland game bird and whitetail deer seasons. My day started with me meeting my friend and hunting buddy Mike at the farm near Spencerville, where I hunt upland game birds and deer. The objectives today were to relocate my deer stand, check conditions at the farm for grouse and woodcock season, and to look for a sign that deer are moving in the area around the deer stands set up on the farm. I arrived at the farm at about 8:40 am. Mike arrived just after 9:00 am. Mike brought his chainsaw and the tools he needed to free my deer stand from the tree it is mounted on so that we could move the stand to its new location. Mike and I found a spot last season we thought offered a better view of the ridge in the wooded area I watch for deer. We marked the tree the previous season to which we intended to move my deer stand. We loaded Mike’s chainsaw and tools into the back of my Jeep and set out to check out the trail that leads to my deer stand. Continue reading
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
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
In training my dogs I am loathe to use force. This is one of the reasons I hunt with Brittanies. When I researched the various breeds of gun dog I could choose from I found the Brittany best suited for the upland gunning I do here in Eastern Ontario and for my personality: I am a gentle man and a gentleman. I talked to Brittany breeders and read up on the breed and learned that Brittanies are renowned for their eagerness to please their masters and are easy to train. I also learned also they need a soft hand in training; that and there is never an excuse to beat or mistreat a dog. Hera is my fourth Brittany and by far the toughest of the four. As with the three Brittanies who came before her (Christie, Maggie and Juno) I always make certain Hera enjoys her time afield and that every outing ends on a positive note. This does not mean I never have to correct her, but in doing so I use force only as a last resort. True to the breed, Hera is eager to please her master and is happiest when she is in my good graces. When it comes to meting out discipline, usually scolding her in my sergeant-major voice is sufficient. She responds with contrition and I am careful to forgive her and assure her she is still my girl. Continue reading
To date, I shot one coyote in all my days afield. It was on the opening of the white-tailed deer season, the season before last. I had a buck tag and saw a nice doe come and go while I sat in my stand at the farm near Spencerville where my hunting buddies and I hunt deer. A while after I saw the doe, a coyote wandered into view in front of me. I killed it cleanly with my Browning X-bolt Medallion rifle (left-hand) 30-06 with a 150 gr. bullet. The carcass was left for scavengers and my buddy Jason Quinn, a seasoned hunter and trapper, assured me I did the right thing. Still, I had mixed feelings afterward. I am told coyotes in Eastern Ontario are pests, a threat to livestock and pets. I understood this concern, or so I thought, but decided after killing my first coyote varmint hunting was not for me. What concerned me was the thought this is too close to killing for the sake of killing rather than hunting. I preferred leaving the shooting of coyotes to other hunters, that is, until a recent incident that involved me, my dog Hera and a pack of coyotes. Continue reading
It is the end of October and the 2016 woodcock season is winding down. The forecast was for light rain, but virtually no wind this morning when I set out with Hera for the Marlborough Forest. We got away a little later than usual as I slept in a bit. We arrived at Cowan’s Corner close to 9:00 am. I hoped there might still be a few birds in the cover, left over from the great shoot we had the previous Monday afternoon. It snowed on Thursday and there were remnants of this on the ground as we approached the forest. It was overcast, but not raining when I set out with Hera at Cowan’s Corner for what turned out not her best day in the field. She locked up on point very quickly only to jump the gun and bump the bird before I could walk up her point. I bumped a second bird in short order, it flushed unseen. Hera was back in form when she pointed the third bird we found at Cowan’s Corner. It was in thick cover so I was well pleased when I flushed it over her point and got it with my second barrel. Hera made a good retrieve and we moved on.