Gypsy Gets Her Grouse
Since I'm a self-professed prairie guy, I tend to shy away from the forests and places where my sight is severely limited. However, I'm living in a really cool state that deserves some further exploration into the critters that also call this place home. The mutt and I headed into a local game refuge last weekend looking for the elusive spruce grouse. The locals will laugh but it's a species that has evaded me the very few times I've went out walking for them.
We spent about a mile walking through the red cranberries past giant cottonwoods and devils club. We saw bear scat, moose beds, and the skeleton of a cow moose that died this year. There wasn't a bird to be found but we were having fun. Gypsy got birdy so I got as ready as I could in the cover with a 28" barrel. Nothing, searching, nothing, more dog watching, nothing. She isn't letting up so I knew something had been there recently. That's when I remembered reading on this forum about the instinctual evasion techniques of the wary spruce grouse. Look up! I moved into a lane that afforded a view of the nearest spruce since we had been there 5 minutes and the dog was still going 100 mph and hadn't abandoned the scent. Sure enough, 20 feet above us was the sillhouette of a dark barred chicken. I should have thrown something at it to make it flush but it was my first spruce grouse and I wanted to reward the dog so she got the "dead bird! hunt it up!" command as I sent a wad of steel #3s (was also hoping to end up in some wetland habitats) at it. She brought it about 2 feet from "hand" which has been an issue with her this fall so far. Any recommendations on making her bring birds all the way back? She retrieves toys to hand all day and night.
We called it quits as I was high as a kite and she had been rewarded for her determination in convincing me a bird was close. If it weren't for that dog, I would never had known that bird was in the same county (Borough). Good times had by all in the field and the in-laws were surprised by my hunting prowess as they expected me to come back with an empty vest.
Get out there if you can, there is some neat country to explore and special animals awaiting our closer inspection. I've added another tail fan to my collection which may be my greatest tribute to the fine gamebirds in this State as you all know full taxidermy is a bit spendy. I'm taking donations though! It's my first forest species of grouse and I'm tickled as could be. Best of luck to others out there in pursuit this season.
Congratulations to hunter and dog!
And if you don't do a full trained retrieve, or force fetch program, you might try teaching the "Hold" command. Very briefly, place your hand (a glove is nice) in the dog's mouth and hold the lower jaw and say "Hold." After a while, when the dog is fighting the hand, use a bumper and repeat. Place that bumper into the dogs mouth and issue a "Hold" command while holding your hand up against her lower jaw and helping her to know you want her to actually hold the bumper. If she holds it, tell her how beautiful she is and how "Gooood" she is. After she gets good at holding the bumper, start tapping on either side of that bumper and see if she'll continue to hold, or she'll drop it. If she drops it, replace it and give the command again. Eventually she'll get the idea and hold that bumper as you walk away and she follows at heel. She'll only drop it when told "Give," or "Leave It," or some command of your choice.
I'm really tired after a very long day, so that's the short story. If she takes to this "Hold" deal, than issue the command to her as she is nearing you with the bird in her mouth. It might just work for you two and it's easy to train. You can do this inside the house while you sip on a beer for God's sake. You might also start out with a small bumper, a soft bumper, and maybe something like a paint roller brush.
Let us know how this works, and maybe someone else that isn't so tired this evening will chime in with better ideas.
Best of luck to both of you! And congratulations once again.
Gypsy Gets Her Grouse