Dog attacks, hamsters and peacocks

I’m not sure how to respond to this, published in the Washington Post last week. It’s a horrible story about an “emotional support” pit bull that attacked a 5-year-old girl in an airport.

And then it gets weird in a way I did not see coming at the beginning of the story. I’m not sure what to say about it, so I’m just going to leave this here. From the Post story …

The support-animal shenanigans — and tragedies — have not been limited to dog bites. One service dog, a golden retriever named Eleanor Rigby, gave birth to puppies at a terminal in Tampa in June, though people didn’t complain very much about that. In sad news, an emotional-support hamster named Pebbles was flushed down the toilet by its owner in February 2018 after Spirit Airlines informed the student she could not take the pet with her on the flight from Baltimore. Another man got angry at United Airlines for denying Dexter, his Instagram-famous emotional-support peacock, a seat on the plane from Newark, even though he had purchased a ticket for the bird.

 

 

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Liars

A chile relleno is a Big Jim pepper stuffed with asadero cheese, battered and fried. Full stop.

Sometimes, in places that are not New Mexico, a waiter will put a plate in front of you. You will look down and see what appears to be an omelet, wrapped around an anaheim or pasilla or poblano pepper with a little cheese thrown on top.

You may ask, “What is this?”

If the response is, “A chile relleno,” then you have encountered a liar and you have great cause for sadness.

 

 

 

 

Don’t even think it

I shouldn’t have said it out loud. Even thinking it was a strike against bird-dog karma.

But I did. I thought it, then I uttered it aloud.

In my part of the world, killing a limit of wild, pointed roosters can be done, but it’s tough. This isn’t Kansas or the Dakotas or even Montana. But, I had a week off to hunt birds. The last week of my local pheasant season. “I wonder if I could kill a limit of wild, pointed roosters every day for a week.” And like putting the hex on a no hitter, I ruined it. I called down the wrath of the bird-dog gods and they deemed me unworthy.

I started the veteran on Monday. We hit a small private land parcel that I bribe my way onto once a year with the best salsa I can make. I let her out, she went 200 yards and pointed. I walked in and killed my first bird of the day before 9 a.m.

That’s when I started to think about it. That it took until 3 p.m. before I found another bird should have clued me in to where I was headed, but I didn’t make the connection. After two bumped birds, the young setter made a solid point and I walked in and knocked down my second rooster. Late in the day, the veteran pointed a bird and I claimed three birds for the day.

That is when I said it. Talking to the dogs on the tailgate, reveling in a big day spent with my setters, I mentioned you know what.

Tuesday, I was in high spirits. This was prime time. I was hitting the best public-land spots I had on the map. I brought coffee and granola bars to keep me in calories and caffeine. It went poorly from the start. The veteran pointed a bird that flushed low and offered no shot as it sailed downhill for private lands.

Then, back at the truck, the veteran went on point in the ditch as I shrugged off my vest and cased my gun. I watched a pair of roosters and a hen flush across the road, flying towards the highway where they were nearly hit by a passing truck.

Miles went by. Miles and miles of no birds. Then finally – the veteran starting to get footsore – a point. Jog for the beeper. There she is. A ruckus. A flush. A bird up. A shot and we were back in the game. He was down and I looked for the dog. She was pointing again, only moved a dozen feet. I saw a tail sticking up from a dead bird on my right so I moved to the point. Another flush, another rooster. Another shot. Two birds in the bag.

I considered the games remaining on the schedule. Three days left in the week and plenty of daylight left for the young dog to get it done. “I’m going to need my starter,” I had the audacity to think. We headed for the truck and moved locations. I called the rookie’s number and I felt the light get thinner as the day aged. She went big and I started to hedge. “Maybe they don’t all need to be pointed,” I mused, before reminding myself that the 8-month old pup needed me shooting unpointed birds like I need another hobby. She bumped two hens, then a rooster. I restrained myself.

And then she got birdy, shortening her swings. I made a bee line for her and arrived just as she pointed. The bird must have been running and it was out there when it flushed, 30 yards at the jump maybe. But she pointed and all was going to plan. I swung and shot and watched it fall from the sky like destiny. And hit the ground running. And vanish.

The little dog and I searched. And searched and searched. An hour later we stumbled back to the truck in the dark, minus the rooster.

I shouldn’t have said it out loud. I shouldn’t even have thought it. But I’m going hunting tomorrow. I’m taking plenty of coffee and granola bars, and I’ll probably start the veteran.

Zero bird dogs

If you ask my vet, my kids or my wife, they will tell you I have three bird dogs. That’s three eating, shitting machines ready to chase birds, bark at the neighborhood deer and rack up vet bills at a moment’s notice.

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Unfortunately this isn’t Sesame Street and the counting isn’t quite as straightforward as I wish it was. There is a different number of bird dogs that I have as the forest grouse opener approaches in six days.

That number is zero. Zero bird dogs.

I have an old dog – 13. Deaf. Mostly blind. Gives no shits about anything. Retired.

I have a young dog – 5 months. Energy like the sun itself. Obedient as a house cat. More likely to point bumble bees than birds.

I have a dog in her prime – 7. Steady. Trustworthy. Laid up from surgery. Probably not hunting next week.

The vet removed a benign cyst from her shoulder a couple of weeks back. We’ve cut it out before, only to have it return. She’ll be fine and probably ready in a couple of weeks, but the wound is healing slowly.

Come Thursday, maybe I’ll give the veteran a spin. The pup will blow off some steam. If she heals quickly, I might even give my starter a short run. But I won’t have three dogs.

It reinforces something Tom told me last fall; the line between one bird dog and no bird dog is thin.

Dispatch from B.C. bear country

Special to MOF –  Mike Thompson 

British Columbia – I was bear hunting in British Columbia with Primitive Outfitters.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw the grouse cubs flutter up into the trees. An angry sow grouse came charging out of the bush flapping her wings and hissing with rage.

Keeping my wits about me I dropped to the ground to show I wasn’t a threat. She circled me until the grouse cubs had enough time to get away and then she retreated back into the bush without a trace. It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to grab the can of Grouse Spray I had with me.

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Mike Thompson is a hunter, angler, professional artist and a MOF kindred spirit.  You can follow him on Instagram,  @upland_ish.

How did I get here?

MOF has a loyal fanbase (thanks to all 11 of you) but we also have plenty of one-time visitors, many of who were captured here (By accident) and here (Wrong URL.)

Unfortunately for us, it’s getting harder to see what search terms people used to find MOF. Google is encrypting searches, so we can’t see what search phrase brought the vast majority of people here. I get why Google wants to encrypt search terms, privacy and all that, but it does make my annual delve into the WordPress stats to see who landed at MOF much less interesting.
What follows are actual search terms and phrases that brought people to MOF in 2017 via the magic of search algorithms.
“Tent near forest” – If you are asking for advice on where to put you tent, then yes, you should put your tent near the forest. If you are asking about a specific tent near the forest that seems permanent… Don’t go in there. There is nothing but banjos and misery in that tent.
“Chukar scat” – They will do that, and quick too.
“Hazards from feathers” – Try searching the phrase “hypochondriac” or maybe “paranoia.”
“Upland dirtbag” – Really? There are like a million upland hunting blogs, and the folks searching for “upland dirtbag” come to us.
“Skint back” – Obscure hillbilly lingo? You probably found exactly what you were looking for here.
“Gallon liquor brown jug with bird dog” – I do not recommend this. Even if you have a hard-drinking dog like a Labrador, at most they are going to drink half-a-gallon. That leaves you with the other half and that is a sure-fire way to get alcohol poisoning.
“Giffy butte” – People seem to be really confused by this one, so let me break it down for you. Giffy Butte is not a real place. Seriously. Think about it. Stop trying to find it. They are laughing at you, and so are we.
“Clamato life” – Best family board game ever invented. Don’t even think of trying to steal it, we already filed a patent.
“Crack labs” – Do you mean narcotics search dogs like the cops have? Or do you mean labs on crack? Because we don’t want any part of either.
“When a crocodile cannot consume its victim at once it drags the carcass into the burrow” – David Attenborough and Siri seem to be getting along just fine.
“My pointing dog needs to slow down” – Would you say he’s “skint back”?
“Dogs that look like horses” – They’re called Shetland ponies, they won’t point and most of them won’t retrieve. I believe they are welcome at Motel 6 though. 
“Stinking brown stuff” – That’s called shit. Don’t pick it up. 
“In wayne county mo. can you just throw your trash in the ditch by your house just because its your property isn’t that nasty” – This is more of a statement, but yes, we agree.
“Long-beaked land birds” – I don’t know what this means but I’m seriously considering changing “Mouthful of Feathers” to “Long-beaked land birds.” It just rolls off the tongue.
Even if you found us by accident, we hope you stay a while.

Seeds

At some point in the heart of a 12 or 24 hour drive, the coffee just won’t cut it anymore. It’ll be somewhere east of Elk Mountain. The adreneline that kept you sharp over the top will fade once you’re rolling downhill and the snow clears and the road turns dry and black again. It might be south of Page, when the moon goes dark and all the stars come out and there is nothing but the Milky Way and the dashed yellow center line and darkness.
You’ll reach for the seeds. The bag is half empty, not because you needed them earlier, just because they are delicious. But now, in the belly of the night with your bird-hunting buddy catnapping and the promise of birds at dawn, you shove a handful of spicy sunflower seeds in your mouth and put on a podcast.
There is something magical about seeds, particularly when coupled with coffee, that will help you navigate a long drive.
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But these are things you already know. You also know that we rarely endorse things that are not beer, dogs or Mexican restaraunts. In fact, we even created a category for durable goods, that up to this point has only been used once. “These products are things we’ve used in the field, in real time, in real cases, for years. Not just a weekend. In the field, for years. This is the shit that works. That we like. That we’ve had for a long time.”
With all that in mind, I’ll lay it on the line.
There are three kinds of sunflowers seeds in current production that stand head and shoulders above the rest.
3. Spitz, chili lime: These are sweet, but not overly so, with just enough spice to keep it interesting, but not so much that your lips are non-functional after only a couple of pounds.
2. David’s, cracked pepper: These do not start out hot, but near the bottom of a pound bag, you’ll have to stop for chapstick if you didn’t plan ahead. These are the go to seed for late-night driving.
1. Lays, original, extra long: These seeds are like Dr. Pepper, Schlitz beer, nacho flavored Doritos, and the Beatles. They are timeless. I prefer the small bags for easy consumption.

On blogging

Blogging is a strange thing. I made a career of shooting photos and writing, first as a reporter and editor and later in the more technical and mundane aspects of the written word. But a blog, particularly one about something so obscure as bird dogs and shotguns and galliformes, strikes even me as strange some days.
Occasionally, word will get out to non-bird hunting acquaintances that I co-write a blog. “Oh,” they say. “You write a blog… about bird hunting? Currently?” Almost always, there is a long pause, followed by an unspoken, “How quaint.”
I can see it in their smirk and even I know how ridiculous it is to write a blog about birds and dogs and guns and rambling.
These are things that can’t be explained to non-initiates.
A dog, using it’s nose and brain and our shared relationship to work such magic as bird-to-hand cannot be described with something so simple as the written word. A bird, capable of flight, who chooses to walk until it is absolutely required that it fly, cannot be explained to someone reading text in the artificial glow of a computer screen. But here we are.
In addition, the subject matter is obscure. Only 6 percent of the U.S. population hunts. Less than half of those hunt small game, and that includes rabbits and squirrels. If you  sift out the rodent killers, then separate out the folks who like dogs, double guns, beer in cans and long walks in the desert; you have the MOF audience. By my math, that’s around 11 people. Statistically, writing a blog about upland hunting is like writing a blog about blogging. In 2017.
Strange as it may seem, not only do people read MOF, some of them take it seriously. Sometimes people even go so far as to be offended by something they have read on MOF. (see; Giffy Butte, Posers, Mexican Beer, Waste Loss and Legs, Target Clientele, On Monuments and Fish … actually, just see all of it.)
So, if you’re perusing MOF and read something that gets your hackles up, feel free to drop us an angry line. Or, just imagine that you’re reading a blog about blogging, and that people don’t really do that anymore.
If you are one of the kindred spirits who send us emails and exchanges ideas and passes the word on conservation issues, thank you. Thank you for the inside jokes and invitations to hunt birds that stretch across vast swaths of the country, based on little more than an appreciation for a few lines of prose or the look of a dog on point.
If you are here, and not by accident, thanks for reading.

GM

 

Chukar and the jungle

The mystique around chukar hunting may be somewhat overplayed. “The birds are hard to shoot, impossible to get to, challenging for pointing dogs, you have to carry a kevlar gun and wear a helmet at all times… et cetera, et cetera.”
It’s true that a helmet is a good idea; but in the grand scheme of upland hunting, I’m not even sure chukar is the pinnacle of difficulty.
Certainly we (I mean chukar hunters in general, but I am in no way excluding MOF) have embellished the perceived difficulty. Not that I feel guilty about it, the last thing I need is more people clawing their way to the top of my chukar hills.
Last fall, I checked an item off my bucket list and hunted ruffed grouse in Minnesota. We hunted with a group of folks from the Little Moran Lodge and Orvis. I was concerned about how my dog would perform in the company of world-class setters, particularly in tight and unfamiliar cover. Strangely, I wasn’t that concerned about how I would perform. I mean, it’s flat right? And the birds are ruffies. I didn’t have a moment’s pause.
As it turned out, my little setter did great, pointing the very first woodcock she ever came into contact with and she had little trouble with the cover. She was steady. I, on the other hand, shot poorly and spent much of the trip missing birds, falling on my butt, tripping, slipping, and getting slapped in the face with numerous types of tree branches. I expended as much effort covering four Minnesota miles a day as I do covering a dozen Idaho miles.
The real trip was sitting around over beers in the evening and talking birds. Those who hadn’t been west asked about chukar terrain and habits and how hard they are to hunt. If they had been posers, I would have laid it on thick. But after my first day in Minnesota, I hadn’t seen fanny pack or propeller hat one. Plus, I was beaten near to a pulp and everyone else seemed perky and scratch free.
The Orvis guys, Charley, Tom, Reid, Steve and Andrew, were tough as nails and damn good shots. Apparently, they also spend long days afield with gun dogs (mostly setters, but springers and labradors too) for the chance at one or two birds. The only difference is they do it in Vermont, where the cover must be so thick you could misplace a tugboat.
Tom and Reid got nearly every bird they had a chance at and I’m pretty Steve and Andrew killed more birds on the first day than I did the whole trip. The first day, I saw Charley kill four birds on about six shots in cover too thick to swing a pocket watch. And I could tell that it wasn’t unusual because of how calm he remained. Mid-day, I saw him shoot a left-to-right crossing grouse with the first barrel and then his young dog made a great retrieve. Bird in hand, he merely cracked a smile. Had that happened to me, I would have reloaded and fired two celebratory shots into the air, then done an end-zone dance before lifting the setter over my head à la Lion King.
And it wasn’t just them. Bob St. Pierre, the marketing director for Pheasants Forever, shot a grouse so quickly and through such a small hole in the canopy, I’m not even sure if he actually mounted the shotgun or if he shot it quick-draw style. At the time, I was belly crawling, so admittedly my view was poor.
Little Moran’s Travis Grossman ran some of the nicest setters I’ve been around, hardly broke a sweat and never once made light of my abysmal shooting. Even when I missed a bird that flew directly over my head with both barrels. Plus, he told a good joke and produced an ice-cold beer as the sun set, right when my ego needed it most.
So when the subject of chukar came up. I couldn’t lie.
I said, “They’re not that hard. It’s open country. No trees to get in the way of your barrels or leaves to block your pattern. It’s easy walking without logs, bogs, vines, ticks, limbs, thickets or holes. Frankly you guys would probably kill them all. In fact, now that I really think about it, you probably wouldn’t even like it.”

GM