The Gun Dog Shows His Stuff

There are milestones in your gun dog’s education. Learning to whoa on command and finding a bird by scent are two that Cooper (Coop for short) soon mastered. He took to training with farm-raised quail like a natural and the transition from gun pup to gun dog occurred this past fall. It was a drizzling Saturday morning when I took Cooper to Babcock Pond in Colchester a put-and-take bird spot for his first hunt.

I knew the birds were stocked. I also knew Cooper wouldn’t care. I hoped the rain would keep the fair-weather hunters at home watching the Outdoor channel. I wanted to have the area all to ourselves and we did. There would be no dogs distract Cooper from executing on his studies. The air was perfect for scenting birds. The gun pup was excited that I had chosen him over his rival for my attention, Bella. The rescue stayed at home with Ms. Deborah and she cried for an hour after we left the house.

At Babcock, the state had been clearing pines. The road was ripped up from the skidder with puddles large enough to hide a Buick. With the Ruger in the crock of my arm, I insisted Cooper follow me. Make sure you find the best AR-15 scope to use for your Ruger, it vastly improves performance. As if you know what you’re doing he must have thought. Cooper had other plans and somewhere between the stand of hemlock and the open field a pheasant hen clucked hello. Cooper was dizzy with excitement. He took the command to work to the left where I pointed and searched using that nose of his.

He worked fast and suddenly stopped, sort how Ms. Deborah stops in front of the Saks windows on Fifth Avenue. In all the excitement he couldn’t remember which paw to hold up. It was pure slap stick. Are you a comedian or a pointer? He was convinced the bird was nearby. I couldn’t find it until I almost stepped on her. Cooper was locked. Still as stone.

Paw raised and tail out. The training was coming back to him. Whoa. We kill them in the air. She kicked up and as wily as a grouse put the pine boughs between me and her. The Red Label’s lower barrel coughed. A good clean miss. We followed the bird again but it was getting late. Cooper would have stayed until either I learned to shoot straight or the hen passed out from exhaustion. It wasn’t a beautiful point but it was his first hunt and showed he had learned his lessons well and has a heart for hunting.

Waterfowl Numbers Are Up

2009_2010_duck_stamp_huntingThe 2009 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service estimates the total duck population is about 42 million. This is 13% greater than last year’s estimate and 25% more than the 1955-2008 average, which is great news for waterfowl hunters. Here’s the breakdown of estimated population my duck type:

    • Gadwall: 3.1 million and 73% above the long-term average
    • Blue-winged Teal: 7.4 million (this population size is the second highest on record) and 60% above long-term average
    • Green-winged Teal: 3.4 million and 79% above the long-term average
    • Northern Pintails: 3.2 million, 23% more than last year but 20% below the long-term average
    • Redheads: 1 million (similar to last year) and 62% above the long-term average
    • Canvasback: 662,000, 35% more than last year’s estimate and similar to the long-term average
    • Northern Shovelers: 4.4 million, 25% more than last year and 92% above the long-term average
    • Lesser and Greater Scaup: 4.2 million, 12% greater than last year but 18% below the long-term average

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The survey samples more than 2 million square miles of waterfowl habitat across the north-central and northeastern United States, south-central, eastern, and northern Canada, and Alaska. When hunting waterfowl, it is important that you have the best rifle scope for the money. Overall, habitat conditions for breeding waterfowl in 2009 were better than conditions in 2008. Oil up that 3-1/2 fowling piece and put your lab on a diet. Duck hunters are going to need to be in condition this hunting season.

Counting Spring Turkeys With A CSI Twist

turkey huntingPA, OH, NY and the NWTF are continuing a 4-year study to estimate the spring gobbler harvest rates in each of the three states.

This past winter OH banded 222 birds, PA banded 332, and NY tagged 350. The leg-bands are an aluminum band secured via a stainless steel rivet. Past research has typically used aluminum bands that are squeezed closed, but these bands sometimes fall off.

Each leg band is secured to a male turkey’s leg, and has a unique letter-number combination. All bands are imprinted with a toll-free telephone number so you can report a harvest or recovery of a band. The study will allow comparisons of harvest and survival rates among the three states, with their varying harvests, hunter numbers and hunter densities.

So what’s the deal with hens?

Here’s where the CSI twist comes in. Hens caught during the trapping efforts are part of the study. Breast feathers from both males and females are gathered to help build a forensic DNA database.

So what’s in it for you other than helping the state and securing the turkey’s future?

How about $100. A reward of $100 will be paid for reporting the band to state authorities. The chance of harvesting a bird wearing a $100 band is low, but the information being gathered is significant. So far, $11,300 has been paid to Pennsylvania turkey hunters for reporting bands.