Friday, October 21, 2011
Montana Dog Report: The Kids Are Alright
We won't soon forget Sage's nice 250-yard casts and authoritative points -- all from a middle-aged setter that ought to be a lot more hampered by a chronic ankle inflammation than he is. Vegas -- my seven-year-old shorthair that I'd about given up on -- decided to do her best all-age impression and point a covey of Huns at 200 yards, remaining rock-solid when they flushed just out of gun range.
But as far as I'm concerned, the trip belonged to the youngsters. Our first day in Montana, I picked up LuLu, my 18-month old Phantom Kennels pointer. You may remember that I dropped her off with trainer Nolan Huffman back in early June. Since that time, she was under Nolan's expert tutelage all summer and early fall at his Lewistown kennel.
For her first hunt, we ran her on some native prairie bordered by wheat stubble that had produced for us in previous years. While she didn't make game, she handled beautifully and ran with style and aggressiveness.
Apparently too aggressively. That evening, as we were putting dogs on the chain gang, LuLu came out of the trailer unable to put any weight on her rear left leg. Shit. We brought her into the cabin and discovered a 3/4 inch-long (and nearly as deep) gash in the fleshy part of her leg near her achilles tendon, most likely from a barbed wire fence. It was a scant quarter inch from possibly severing the tendon -- easily ending her hunting season and perhaps her career. As it was, she was done for at least a day or so of recuperation.
The other youngster on our journey was Finn, Wes' nine-month-old Berg Brothers setter. I raved about this rascal months ago, and after hunting with him in Montana, I have no reason to change my opinion. He runs confidently, points with a high tail, and seems to enjoy every aspect of the game. There were a couple bird bumps and a heavy-jawed chomp or two, but that's not meant as a criticism. I had to continually remind myself that this dog was seeing his first birds and indeed the first autumn of his life. He's going to be a winner.
When it finally came time to put LuLu on the ground again, she was ready, and so was I. We had decided to hunt abandoned homestead (or "hunstead" as Ben O. Williams and fanboy Jon calls them) surrounded by grass and wheat. Tasty stuff.
With little wind and nearly 65 degrees, conditions weren't ideal. LuLu charged onward anyhow, happy to be on the ground again. I admired her muscular frame and cracking tail gliding effortlessly through the golden grass ahead of me.
Then all hell broke loose. Before she could wheel to a stop, a partridge took flight a few feet from her. And another. And then a dozen. All told, some 75 Hungarian partridge, sounding like a massive creaking, squeaking jet engine erupted from the farmstead. I simply stood there, in stunned disbelief.
Thankfully, I had enough wits about me to track their flight, and five separate coveys put down within a few hundred yards of where we were standing.
We spent the rest of the afternoon chasing those birds, getting points on all five coveys -- many from LuLu -- as well as a nice retrieve or two from her. I think she's going to be a special dog.