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Getting her back in the groove

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  • Getting her back in the groove

    Ellie finally stepped up to the plate for geese today ... and in a big way. She water retrieved one honker last year and that's it. Fine for uplands and ducks but big geese were just a bit too much. The first three geese this year were on the slough and she sorta brought them to me but required that I get in the water with her or head out in a canoe. French Brittany Puppy swims to the honkers but they're way too much for that little gal to handle. Today I jumped two geese on one of the sloughs in the same chain as day one, knocked one down and the other was either crippled or wouldn't leave its mate. I shot it on the water and killed it. Puppy was already after the larger one that was headed for the tulies. I had to run up the bank and shoot it again before she got to it. Meanwhile Ellie is actually swimming out after the first one that's also still sort of alive (hit in the head). I was surprised to see her grab it and head back. Okay, this is working! Then the thing squirmed a bit and she let go. "Pick it up, pick it up!" But she's still swimming back to me. "Bring me the bird" (the usual command when practising with frozen teal in the yard). Still coming. "Bring me the bird ... if you want a TREAT!" Ah, then the light went on! Ellie whipped around, grabbed the honker by the butt, and brought it to shore. Puppy is pushing the other dead honker to opposite side of the slough. She gets it up against the cattails and that's the best she can manage. I call her back and we head around to back of the slough. The Jimmy is parked along the way and I drop off the first honker and give Ellie her treat from a bag of potato chips on the front seat. "Good girl. You got your BIRD so here's your TREAT." Hmmm. The light goes on for me as well. I stuff what's left of the bag of chips in my right coat pocket and fill the left one with stones picked from the road. When we get to the other side Puppy finds a channel through the tulies and disappears around the corner. She's gone to stay with the downed bird till a retriever shows up, common behaviour when we're pheasant hunting. I threw a rock in the middle of the slough and Eliie went out for it. Not finding anything, she turned back. I expected she would see Puppy and go to her but she returned to me. Then Puppy came in. Okay, I know that dead goose is around there somewhere. I walked to the other end of the tulie patch and lobbed a good sized sploosh-and-ripple rock just over the tops of the cattails into the slough. "Go get it, Ellie!" and off she went. She disappeared out of sight. Then nothing. Then I can hear her snuffling. Ah, she must have found it! "Bring me the BIRD and I'll give you a TREAT." Then I remove the chip bag and rattle it loudly. That should work! And it did. I could just catch sight of her wake as she headed for the channel on the other end ... a better landing zone. I ran to it just as she beached with a VERY large honker. I went to her but made her bring it to hand before I dug into the chip bag. Then heaped tons of praise on both dogs.

    We made the long walk to the slough in the forest where I shot a triple my first day out. Nothing was there but I was bushed so I laid down in the willows and grass for a nap. Dozed off in the warm sunlight for about an hour. When finally getting back to my feet, I noticed a honker standing on the bank about a hundred yards away. Quickly ducked down and when I peeked again it was gone. Hmmm. Must be a cripple. It was underneath a large spruce tree at the near end of an ancient beaver dam. Took the dogs back into the tangled jungle and we worked our way around to the spruce tree. An old game trail passes under the tree to the top of the dam. Just as I cleared the spruce umbrella I heard Ellie jump in the water. The honker was making a run for it. I quickly got open and shot him dead before Ellie could catch up. At this point a scary episode with a wounded honker could ruin her for further water retrieves. She made a perfect retrieve and didn't let go of that VERY large honker once. She tried but couldn't get up the steep slippery mud bank with it. No problem. Even Pearl the Wonder Dog had trouble with that slick clay. I reached down and pulled them both up.

    I suspect the two geese on the first slough were the two I knocked out of a flock yesterday while field hunting a stubble field on the other side of the highway. Both geese got back up again and flew off. They disappeared fairly quickly but we couldn't find them in the field. I'm pretty sure the first one Ellie retrieved today had been shot in the rudder. Had both its wings but couldn't seem to get up in the air. The third honker I suspect was crippled the day I got the triple. I swear Ellie brought one in to shore while I was trying to kill the cripple Puppy was after. There was a dead goose in the middle I assumed was the one Ellie was retrieving and let go of it when I went to help Puppy. But I'm sure I saw Ellie with a bird almost to shore and the dead one was back out in the middle. Perhaps this one made a getaway in the brush while we were dealing with the other downed geese. As far as I know no one else hunts that slough. No one else is that stupid! What a jungle in there!

    So Ellie is catching on. I think field retrieves will come along before too long. She's such a soft mouthed dog. Just not inclined to manhandle the birds ... but big honkers require it.
    Last edited by Ontario Honker Hunter; 10-04-2019, 08:22 PM.

  • #2
    I watch Dr. Pol on the National Geographic a lot. He is in Central Michigan and has over 19,000 patients. His practice has between 3 and 4 vets treating all sorts big and small and farm animals. He has a constant stream of sporting dogs come in with all sorts of injuries. Last episode the hunter carried in a Jack Russel hurt while on a bear hunt. 75 year old vet with lots of old time remedies.

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