Sunday, December 28, 2008

Back from my Christmas trip

Visited friends over the holidays. Had a good visit, but caught some kinda low-grade bug and have been under the weather for a couple days. There's nothing like your own place and your own bed when you're feelin' po'ly.

Went to Fort Laramie on Friday. Interesting place, but jehosaphat that parade ground is a cold, cold place. The temp was only about 25° but a constant frigid NW wind at about 25-30 MPH made the place almost unbearable. 

Saw the John "Portugee" Phillips monument. Immediately following the Fetterman "massacre" Phillips (a civilian scout) volunteered to ride to Ft. Laramie for help since Fort Phil Kearney didn't have enough troops to even hold the wall in the event of a major Indian attack which was expected at any moment. He made the 235 mile ride in two days, on 24, 25 December 1866, in a blizzard and sub-zero temperatures. Not surprisingly, his horse (a fast Kentucky thoroughbred belonging to the post commander) died soon after he arrived. Standing there on that wind-swept and icy cold parade ground I had a small inkling of what man and horse suffered. They made men back then! 

The horse's name was "Dandy." It deserves to be remembered.

Go here for a really good account...

So I'm back on the home ranch and all seems to be well. Except for me.

Hope everyone had the best Christmas ever! Thanks to all for the good wishes.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Being Sorely Tempted

Added on 12/22... A portion of the 'Gang of Twelve' that have been hanging out on the place. That's the 10-point in front with the mom of triplets against my target backer. The 8-point is off to the right and out of the frame. He appears to be slightly bigger than the 10-point. No sign of the 6-point when this was take...

Well, not really so 'sorely,' since I have pretty much made up my mind.

But the Great Spirit is giving me a bad time of it. I can't figure out if I am being tested on my resolve, or being offered a largesse that it would be blasphemy not to accept. I choose to think it's the former.

That ten-point has been back, several times. And today, out back, I saw him again. Distance, 40 yards. 

Then a couple of fat does came across the front yard and when I looked to the right, there was a nice six-point. Distance, 8 yards. 

A little later I went to the back window and scoped the field behind me. Another buck. This time an eight-point, working his way in behind the house and shop. Distance, 25 yards.

When I went out to go to the shop the eight-point was at the edge of the fence that encloses the house and shop, looking straight at me. Distance, 10 yards.

About fifteen minutes later he was prancing across the front, a few yards from the front porch, along with four doe and three pie-faced fawns. I went out onto the porch and spoke to them. He stared at me and then pronked off across the meadow to the east, evidently not appreciating my dulcet tones.

I choose to think I am merely being tempted. It is cold, not going above 10° today. I put corn out for them, not to lure them in but to help them to survive and thrive. My three freezers are full, and despite having two more deer on my tag I have been provided for quite well.

Tomorrow I will put out some more corn for them.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Visitors. Again.

From earlier today, but Blogger was being 'difficult' and wouldn't take my post...

Not even dusk yet and it's -3° and plunging fast. Supposed to be -15 to -20 tonight with wind chills in the -40 area.

Two mulies, a buck and a doe, came onto the place around midday and have been here all afternoon. They are grazing on the high grass around the old mule-barn next to my nearest target butt. The buck is a ten-point. He stood at 25-yards and munched away for almost an hour. I cracked the front door, and the storm door, just enough to stick a rifle barrel out and he never moved. Completely unaware that I was there. I still have two deer on my muzzleloader permit, but just didn't have the heart to shoot him— and from my porch of all places. Might be a different story if I were hungry, but I'm not and they appear to be.

Sorry for the poor pic quality. It was taken through window glass and screen. Best I could do without running them off.

Friday, December 12, 2008

An Amazing Moon

On my way out to the shop to get some dog-broth from the freezer for my pups' supper I was confronted by the most dramatic moon I think I have ever seen. Bright, brilliant, huge, and with all features crisp and clear to the naked eye. Absolutely stunning. I suppose the clear, cold air was acting as a magnifying lens.

Due to exposure differentials between the landscape and the moon's brightness I had to do some regularizing in PhotoShop. But even that bit of mild manipulation does not begin to do the real thing justice.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Good Day

Emma and I hunted pheasant today, with a rancher friend. We hunted two different areas of varying terrain and cover. The first place had thick shelter belts and long, dense meadows along the river. Great country. We saw many birds and vast herds of deer. Unfortunately the birds were not holding. They would rise ahead of us at ranges of 100 to 200 yards in huge coveys and then scatter into the breaks. It was driving Emma crazy. The birds were just not playing her game today.

Next we went to our friend's home place and into some of the best bird country I have hunted in years. And today, Emma and I had one of those sometime-experiences that every bird hunter relives over and over. In thick weed-cover, two early-breaker cocks rose ahead of us about thirty to thirty-five yards out. Emma bounced up and down to watch their flight as they angled away from us, crossing our path, on their separate paths. I was in position and my partner was not. Swing-BANG, swing-BANG, and both birds went down. Good kills both as neither one ever heard the gun. Emma was beside herself with joy. I hunt with an over-under and a double with a double in tough  pheasant country is an "event." Like they say, "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometime!"

It was a good day for us and we will sleep well tonight.

(Just as an aside, on that mini-butte to the left of the frame, Crazy Horse once watched white-eye troop movements.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sunset Meringues

Cherry, orange, and lemon. Delicious layered sunset skies the last few days. 

Comments from me would be superfluous. 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wimping Out

Twice now, tonight and last night, a big doe and assorted progeny have been up close to the house and seem unperturbed by noises, lights, or my presence. Tonight, just before dusk, the Shorthair told me there were interlopers and when I went out to check there she was: a doe with three big fawns. I have a muzzleloader permit for two more deer, but couldn't bring myself to haul out the frontstuffer. It's cold here, and there is shelter on my place, to which they are welcome.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hunting Behind Dogs

For me, there isn't much in life that can match the pleasure of hunting behind a really good dog in pheasant country. Put that together with a fine double, good company, and dogs that work well together and you have described my vision of an earthly nirvana.

Most of the time on this last trip there were three of us hunting with five dogs, but for one day there were four of us with seven dogs, five Labs, a vizsla, and my German Shorthair. Every bird hunter will tell you that his dog is the finest of them all, a nonpareil. In my case it happens to be true. Ahem. (Well, this is, after all, my blog.)

It wasn't always true. For the first four years of her life, Emma was the Dog from Hell and a mediocre field worker. But then something happened. One day she just decided to shine, and has ever since.

One aspect of a good Shorthair that I really appreciate is its ability to glide across a field in a beautiful, long-legged, level-backed, "Lippizaner lope." (top picture) Emma works back and forth in front of me, about thirty yards out, casting the field from one side to the other, her head down but not nose-to-ground. She checks for my position every few seconds and will change course on a silent hand signal. A short whistle and she flips around and starts back to me unless I point to where I want her to go. Her points are steady and rock-solid. She will hold a bird as long as it takes for me to get there. What a pleasure she is. Her only flaw is that she is only a so-so retriever. She prefers to take me to the bird and let me do that, unless the bird has gone into heavy cover. Perhaps she is union.

The other dogs worked well, but in the characteristic style of their breeds. The Labs were happy galumphers, charging around in their rocking-horse gait with their heads up, tongues lolling, smiles abounding. The vizsla moved at top speed, head up like a show dog, her thin legs flashing like tawny rods through the weeds. One thing I can say for the Labs: they were excellent retrievers, even trying to take birds out of my hands and take them to their hunter!

Emma had the benefit of growing up with Róisín Dubh (roe-SHEEN doov, "dark Rosaleen") as her mentor. (lower picture) Róisín was my first Shorthair and she was my "Baby Girl" until the day she died at a blessedly advanced age. I thought Róisín was the best of them all: a great heart, a sweet disposition, a tireless and passionate hunter, and a beautiful mover. To the best of my knowledge she never missed a pheasant in a field that we worked together, and she often found birds that earlier dogs had overlooked. She would also bring me other hunters' cripples, which was not her most endearing trait as far as I was concerned.

Watching a good dog at work is sheer joy for someone who appreciates that sort of thing. I don't need a gun to enjoy a day afield with Emma, but she insists on it. She also insists that I don't miss more than a bird or two in a day of hunting. If I come into a bad patch of shooting she will cast a withering eye of disdain on me and go about her business, muttering about the "help." Her life is made complete by a good run of casting, a solid point, a noisy flush, and a stone-dead bird or birds falling in front of her. She is, like so many Shorthairs, a connoisseur. Lucky for me on this trip I was into a spell of good shooting and failed to earn any demerits from her on that score. Such has not always been the case.

We're back now, after gathering four days of excellent memories and putting some lovely birds in the freezers. She wanted to go again this morning and I had to explain to her that she would have to wait a few days for Dad to recover a bit. Later, we can go into the wilderness area for sharptails, or over to a neighbor's wetland for pheasant, but right now I need some rest. She was kind enough to pretend to understand, and decided to catch up on her own sleep and refamiliarize herself with a deer leg from last week.

But how do I explain to her that according to PETA I am abusing her, making her hunt her fellow creatures and do all those nasty things that are foreign to her real nature? O, how?