At 7 months we hunted chukar together, for real. Not in the back yard, but in the Snake River country. He retrieved 2, one of which I shot over him as he pointed and held for me. He ran the country hard, worked into the wind, pointed many birds, flushing most of them, and loved it! I worried at the time it was a wasted day, the fog was horrible, cutting visibility to 25 yards at times, and he ranged big, pushing birds and hunting for himself. I knew he was young, but the work we'd done together, and the progress he'd made convinced me it was time to experience the real deal. I didn't expect to shoot anything over him, but his range was bigger than I'd anticipated and he wasn't holding on live birds like he did on the wings at home.
After a few hours of frustration I doubted my decision to bring him was the right one, but then I flushed some birds that were above me, Jesse was below, not even near them, so I swung, shot, and killed an adult bird. Jesse made a 60 yard track and a short retrieve; suddenly life had purpose and he gained a small understanding WHY he existed and WHY we were there that day. As we climbed out of that small drainage and onto the rim that capped the next ridge THE POINT happened. It was awesome! Suddenly he was crouched low, tail erect, his muscles tense, his nose extended, pointing and focusing his whole being on the sage brush in front of him. He let me walk to his side, the bird flushed, low and fast, cutting down, trying to escape the sting of lead, as Jesse held, strong and firm, the kill was quick and clean. On my command Jesse finished what he started, tracking the dead bird to its final resting place and ultimately making another short retrieve.
At 9 months we journeyed to Pilcher Creek Reservoir and he participated in the NAVHDA Natural Ability Test scoring a 107 out of 112 and earning a prize ONE. His only fault was on the water retrieve......he was a little skittish about the cold water, but entered and retrieve the dummy as required, but it cost him a perfect score. The highlight of the test was his 500 yard track and retrieve on a live pheasant (they had removed the flight feathers) at almost full speed. I gave him the pheasant to carry, after I disposed of it, and he carried it proudly for all to see; you'll see that same pride today in the videos I shot of his grouse retrieves.
La Grande School District started early this year. For as long as I can remember we started after Labor Day, but with budget cuts nothing is as it used to be. So I hunted this morning with my dad; the kids were in school. They have tomorrow off so we stayed away from the "honey hole" until the kids can hunt tomorrow.
We drove some roads we have seen lots of grouse on in the past. Jesse was in the back in a kennel and we didn't let him out until the grouse were dead. He hasn't hunted grouse at all, and the ones I've put him on he has flushed, so I wanted dead birds and retrieves, not points; those will come later.
The first grouse flushed off the road and landed in a tree. It was a young ruffed grouse and after positioning myself for a legal shot, I toasted it. Jesse was coming apart at the shot, really wanting to get out. He took off the wrong way, initially, since he didn't see what was happening. Once I got him lined out, he hit scent and the game was over. The video just shows the retrieve.
Dad was sure he was down there eating it, and honestly, when he said it I worried a little myself. The good news is, he didn't eat it............I do think he pointed it when he first found it and that is what took him so long to get it, and he loved the experience..........he's a very birdy dog.
The big blue grouse was in a small covey. They moved off the mountain road quickly, through the trees. Once I got on them I had to make a tricky shot, through fairly thick cover, to hit the one when it flew (thank goodness I was shooting the long barreled Wing Master). Dad let Jesse out after the shot and he immediately hunted up another grouse I hadn't seen. I was paying attention to one in a tree and so like a dummy I wasn't watching the dog. I heard the flush, but couldn't tell if Jesse bumped it (flushed it), or if he even pointed, so I let it fly. I was trying to get him to the last spot I saw my dead grouse when it fell while I keeping an eye on the tree I was sure held a grouse (it ended up being the wrong tree). Jesse found the dead grouse about the time the treed bird decided it needed to make its escape, I sent it on its way with a load of 6's behind it. I quickly put the gun away, grabbed the camera and filmed Jesse prancing with it for me, dad and the camera. The rest of the day was a beautifully bumpy ride through a rare and very unique Western Hemlock grove here in eastern Oregon and huge huckleberry patches. We stopped and visited my original dog's grave (Maggie's) on the way through but didn't see another grouse.