I first started this blog in 2010 on another site and the frequency of my posts has been on a long downward spiral. When I started the blog it was the best way to communicate with people interested in the dogs, their training and hunting, our field trialing, and my observations on life among the grouse and woodcock covers here. Now, it seems it is easiest just to throw a few pictures up on FaceBook and and add a couple lines of text and call it good. But I rarely make a long post on FaceBook and since it’s 82 degrees already (10:45 am, Saturday, 5/28) here and all the dogs got worked early to avoid the heat, and the dogs for our summer training progratm have started to arrive, I thought it was time for some musings here.
First and probably most important, after a slow start we are having a perfect spring with lots of warm weather for nesting birds. I’m sure the woodcock have long since hatched and the grouse should be hatching now and into the next two weeks. The greatest mortality factor for young grouse is cold wet weather. Some wet or some cold is not too bad but some of both and hypothermia stats killing chicks. The 15 day forecast has some rain, mostly showers, but mild temperatures with highs in the 70s and lows in the upper 40s or better. There have been years when the highs have been in the forties for days on end with cold rain for extended periods of time. When that happens the broods get decimated and we’ll see small broods with just a few or less chicks. When the weather is perfect broods can be double digit in size — those are the fun years for summer training and then hunting in the fall. There were good number of adult birds around earlier this spring, but we won’t really know how the hatch goes until we get back in the woods around July 1 but so far it’s looking good. The apples are currently in full bloom and considering there is no frost in the forecast we could be headed for another bumper year for the mast crop around here — that includes all the berries starting with wild strawberries which often cover old logging landiungs and old fields then raspberries followed by blackberries. Then as we get into fall in addition to the apples there will be beechnuts and acorns — all of it food for grouse.
As new dogs arrive for the summer program many of them have a big adjustment to make from their lives as family pets to living in a kennel and coming out mostly for work sessions. Some whine and howl for a few nights, others have trouble adjusting to doing their business in the kennel. One summer I had a dog here that never would and had to be let out first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. It may have been a con to just get a little extra yard time, if it was, it worked. The other adjustment is for the dogs to learn that when they come out of their kennels it’s time to pay attention and do some work. This always takes more time for some than others but eventually they come to understand that rewards like pointing birds and running in the fields around the house come only after they have focused on the tasks at hand.
My own dogs are the same way. They just have the benefit of having been with me longer. And I’ve pretty much got their attention. Also the dogs that have been here before always seem to remember exactly where we left off at the end of last summer.
Molly (Elhew Unsinkable), the puppy that did the most winning last winter in Kentucky, is home for a break right now and I’m working Elhew Snakecharmer (Charlie) in her place. One of the things I have most admired about the Elhew dogs I have had and bred over the years is their intelligence. I think it is one of the most important traits in a bird dog. Charlie is already showing that kind of superior intelligence as he figures out what I want him to do with very few repetitions and then does it happily. Conformationally, although he still needs to grow into his tail a bit, he’s all I want to see. With luck he will hopefully make a strong contribution to the Elhew dogs of the future as he brings his sire’s (Elhew Snakefoot) blood back into the line. If Mel (Elhew kennels) breeds Charlie X Molly in the future I hope I’m first on the list for those puppies.
My own young dogs are making progress as well. Jonathan really put together a nice race in his last puppy performance of the spring. Last winter Molly kept beating him with her more forward and kindly races as well as having a lot of eye appeal in the open fields of Kentucky. Jonathan is going to be a good size dog and seems to finally be gaining control of all the parts and applying his energy to a snappier race. He was also more forward in his application where he had been a little scattered last winter. On point he looks pretty good and should be competitive in the fall wild bird derby stakes.
The two puppies, Wild Apple Guinevere and Wild Apple Jillian, I bought in Kentucky last winter are also looking good/
As the training season progresses, I’ll try to post here more regularly for those of you not following me on FaceBook.