As many of you know, I am now writing regularly for Pointing Dog Journal, so I have somewhat of a vested interest in what I’m about to say. In the current issue there is an article by Ronnie Smith and Susanna Love titled “The Rookie Season.” This may be one of the most succinct pieces I’ve read on how to get a bird dog started properly. It used to be that many people didn’t even start training their puppies until after the pups first birthday. That first year was considered playtime and puppies were pretty much allowed to run free. they sure as heck weren’t expected to point any birds. But genetics and training methods have improved over the years and it is not unusual for winter puppies to be handling well and pointing birds their first fall. I know our current crop of derbies here all had pointed birds shot over them last fall, and 45 days into this year’s grouse season they are all handling grouse on a regular basis. None of them are broke but they are all staunch and allow us to get to them and flush the birds sometimes at pretty great distances. So, if you get PDJ make sure you read the article. If you don’t get PDJ, this one article might be worth the price of a subscription — especially if you are thinking about get a young dog in the near future.
Wednesday was a work day and Tuesday I had to go to Manchester for a meeting so I hadn’t been out since Monday. Today Tony and the Great Carnoski picked me up and we headed out to the woods. We had to skip a couple places because of deer hunters but there’s plenty of room around here where we can safely run a dog without interfering with someone’s deer hunt. We heard some shots well above us on a ridge, and who knows, we might have even had an assist. LJ was first out of the truck in a place we hadn’t hunted this fall. The cover looked good but we didn’t put up any birds. Bee was next out of the box at the Dead Tree Cover and she had a couple of finds and we moved three grouse. The Little Thudster drew the Shine Cover and ran really well. He was rewarded with a stellar grouse find shortly before we got back to the trucks. The grouse had moved away from him and I almost stepped on it before it flushed at my feet. The bird startled me and I missed what should have been an easy shot.
Frankie was next up at the Rambler Cover and we had a grouse get up wild just after we left the truck. He then had a nice limb find where there were four grouse spread out around him. I saw him on point and tried to direct Carnoski into position but the first bird flushed before he got into position. He missed the second bird and we only heard the 3rd and 4th birds go. We then headed back towards home and decided to throw LJ down one more time in a pie-shaped cut behind a gravel pit. we had never hunted this cover but had walked up into it in September and had been meaning to give it a try. When we left the truck we walked down the road a little ways and LJ dove into the cover across the road and stopped about 65 yards in. A grouse flushed before we got to him. We then headed him into the cover and he stopped again. This time there were two grouse and I killed another tree (I’m going to start hauling out the wood I harvest and see if I can’t make a soup out of it or something). When LJ went on Tony walked up a third grouse in the bunch. On the way back to the truck LJ had another find on a bird that managed to put some big pole timber between it and me before I got a good shot off.
By the end of LJ’s run we had moved 14 grouse and was home in time to make a run to Walmart to get groceries. Frankie, LJ, and Little Thuddy are all under two and after playing in the minor leagues as puppies last year are all having exceptional rookie seasons. But since I no longer do dog-of-the-day you can be assured that I won’t name a rookie of the year.