Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Brown Bear Of Bellote

A condensed short story from Frank C Hibbon's Book "Hunting American Bears

Rod Vance, Cass Goodner and I had been hunting bears the past two days. We had ridden hard the past two days, it is true the country behind the San Ysidro was rough in the extreme. The cliffs and canyons of that part of the mountains dissected and crisscrossed by fault lines that produced a disordered maze of ledges and protruding rocks. Douglas fir and pine protruded from the rough rocks along with pinyon and juniper.

Into the rugged breaks and canyons of the San Ysidro the bear came in usually in the fall by the dozens. Of course it often seemed to us that these hardy animals  by nature sought the roughest and rockiest terrain they could find. Cass had said on more than one occasion "it all looks level to a bear. On the lower reaches of Semilla Canyon this red rock gorge has some percolating water coming to the surface. Around these spots flourished groves of oak trees with graceful hanging clusters of delicious acorns. Long ago the Spanish rode their horses beneath these same oak trees and called the spot the Bellote or place of acorns.

The bears of Jemez country well knew of the Bellotte and it's acorns and this is the stuff black bears used to lay on the winter fat when the time of hibernation was close at hand. On former occasions the bellote groves had been a sure place to circle for a bear track. We had ridden perhaps a half mile and entered the first of the oak trees. With a sudden flapping of wings a hundred band tailed pigeons swept out of the trees, they had been gorging themselves on the acorns.

The three of us had grown silent after a half an hour riding, I swung low again to scrape my sombrero and shoulders beneath a low hanging limb weighted by last winter's snow, someone behind me said good god it's the dogs. I suddenly became aware that our hounds had gone crazy. Every dog we had was barking at the top of their lungs. It seemed like the pack was baying us which was preposterous for a well trained pack of hounds such as these. Even our horses were ill at ease in this strange melee.

All of a sudden as they had begun the dogs were still. Every single hound stood near the head of my horse with ears elevated to the alert and nose pointing into the wind.The we heard it too, it was a crash in the oaks off to one side of the trail, the swish of a heavy body off young trees. The dogs all looked toward the sound and broke out anew, they were off like Beagles with a rabbit in sight. We knew it was no rabbit that made those crashing sounds.

We spurred our mounts and hacked through the oaks in a reckless gallop and crashed on following the noise and confusion ahead. The dogs were growling and baying and some of their voices sounded muffled as though they barked with their mouths full of meat. My horse saw it first, as we cleared the last oaks this docile animal shied skittishly and I was thrown and dropped to the very edge of the wash. My mouth and hands full of gravel as I got up to look for my horse. Instead all I saw was the head and forequarters of a gigantic bear My horse with my rifle in the saddle boot had galloped off down the wash.

At first all I could see was the bear's head and neck since his lower portions were obscured by the advancing and retreating hounds in front of him. Then all at once the beleaguered animal rose on his hind legs to fight off the dogs from that height. I was on my knees trying to remove my chaps and stared into the open mouthed towering bear beyond, it was a giant bear.

Standing spraddle legged on his hind legs the furious animal plied his paws from both sides. The curved claws stuck out beyond his toes and looked as long as tines on a pitchfork. Time and time again the bear fell forward as some dog came close trying to gather an audacious hound between those frightful jaws. The light footed hounds would bounce warily out of his reach, he ground his teeth together and saliva flew in bloody strings from his mouth as he slung his head side to side to meet any onslaught.

Cass was yelling over the turmoil "save the dogs" although I could not see how at the moment what we could do about it. Rod Vance came in from the side with his rifle in hand. I saw him raise the weapon once then lower it reluctantly as the dogs surged about their antagonist in a melee of moving tails and teeth. The bear in the middle of that hound pack suddenly bellowed like a bull and charged the dogs and ourselves as well. It was plain to see the bear was far to heavy to climb a tree even if there was a sizable one at hand. So ponderous was this huge animal that he could not even run for it to find refuge in the cliffs and ledges so close to us. None of us could keep our eyes from the flashing teeth and swinging claws, it was a battle to the death that we were witnessing and the only question was how many deaths there would be.

Cass was screaming above the turmoil "quick shoot close in" To add emphasis he grabbed Vance's arm and jerked him toward the bear. Then I saw it! It was Poncho the Airedale, This remarkable dog was supposed to be a house pet but he had been on so many hunts with Cass that he undoubtedly considered himself to be the mainstay of the bear pack. Pancho was a peculiar duality he could be as gentle as a newborn kitten or a raging demon of flashing white teeth and hideous growls. It was Poncho with his Airedale temper that precipitated the end. The Airedale somehow worked his way behind the bear and in one sudden leap jumped clear onto the bear's back and seized the animal by the side of his face. In the swirl and surge of the fighting Pancho was an added lump of furiously clawing fur and feet on the very top of the bear's head. The astounded bear ducked as though a bee had stung him unexpectedly in an unprotected place. He raised both paws to his face and brushed furiously at the dog on his head. it would have been funny had we not known that Pancho's death was only inches away.

For a second the audacious dog clung to one bear ear chewing that unprotected organ unmercifully and clawing the bear's face. Then one huge paw swung from behind. The hooked claws in unison caught behind Pancho's shoulders and swept him forward as inevitably as doom itself. For an awful second the bear held the Airedale between his paws like a squirrel about to crack a nut, then the huge head bent forward and those frightful jaws opened like the white rimmed mouth of hell. There was a sickening crunching of fiber and flesh and Pancho dropped limply and fell at the bear's feet.

At the same instant a deafening blast of noise blotted out all other sounds. Rod Vance was among the dogs with a smoking rifle in his hand. Quickly he levered another shell and fired point blank into the bear's neck. A streak of fur flew out behind as the bullet carried through. The bear looked up surprised at this interruption. His little bear eyes seemed to focus for the first time at the forms of men. The eyes seemed suddenly darker as e stood there with his paws hanging useless in mid air. They then misted over like a hazy cloud drifting before the sun. The great body stood a moment more among the dogs reluctant to give way. Then without a soundthe huge animal slumped forward and sagged into a heap of formless fur on the ground.

Everyone seemed stunned by the abruptness of the end. Only Cass leaped forward to seize one of the gigantic paws and roll the carcass away from the Airedale. Pancho lay as lifeless as the bear and we carried him gently out and laid him on the oak leaves. Cass put his hand behind the foreleg of this fearless Airedale and we held our breath. Cass nodded slowly, Pancho's heart was still beating. In a few moments the jaws of the Airedale trembled a little and his red tongue out over his bruised lips. his eyes flickered open and he seemed to recognize friends, he licked our hands as we held him.

Today Pancho has a patch of light colored skin on the side of his head where the teeth of the big bear had torn the flesh away from his skull. This Airedale is one of those few pioneer spirits to be scalped and yet live to tell about it.









Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Breeding! Choosing Your Expert!


As one becomes seriously involved in hunting dogs it does not take long before the subject of breeding comes up. Breeding is one of those deep subjects with enough information and opinions to fill volumes and even libraries. One thing is for sure nobody has the market cornered on how to breed, there are many views and methods and many have their merits but some I think are just plain hogwash.

Whatever the methods that are used there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that no matter what the hunting dog breed one is involved with, breeding correctly is the key to successful performing hunting dogs in the field, the big question is finding and using the right key.

Big Game Pack On Bear
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I am constantly asked to give advice about breeding and how I go about the breeding of my own hunting dogs and advice on how to go about obtaining a good prospect. As mentioned above I have come to believe that there is no one single method to success. When I first got involved in breeding my own dogs I read everything about genetics that I could get my hands on. I quickly found out that the volume of information about genetics is huge and for me to be perfectly honest, "overwhelming". In my early days of breeding dogs I tried to apply all of this new found genetic knowledge but had so so success producing dogs that were below average to average performers.

Lucky for me I grew up in a hunting dog culture of mostly houndsmen that hunted Rabbits and Hare, along with Coon and Fox. My Dad, many of my uncles along with their cronies were all hunting dog men and when they got together the talk was about dogs and invariably about breeding.

I learned a long time ago to take advantage of the knowledge "experienced successful" breeders have and would try and glean anything I could from them. As one old timer said, "don't take advice from want to be breeders who have been pretty much unsuccessful breeders themselves. If their methods were worth using they would have been proven by their successes. 

Most if not all of the old time successful  did not learn a whole lot about breeding from books, everything they learned was trial and error and time proven breeding methods that have been passed around and down by dog breeders for centuries. These methods for the most part are just some one line sayings but powerful in their content and when used in conjunction with each other have proven themselves time and time again by producing great lines of hunting dogs in all breeds. Seemingly little details are vital and as they add up they can make big things happen. 

So below are all the little bits of information I saved and stored away from "successful breeders" and a few that I came up with myself that I believe will help anyone who is serious about breeding for performance and in this case performance as a "hunting dog." I try to heap as many of these thoughts into any mating I make and for the most part my hunting dogs turn out to be pretty decent. They are in no particular order.

1. Know your breeding goal and recognize what you are seeing, save to the hard drive (your Brain). When breeding for the hunt that is what must come before all else. When one has the right kind of hunt entrenched in their line they then have a much better situation in dealing with stuff in the looks department, coat, size and conformation. When getting started with breeding stock do your homework and start with the very best known examples of your chosen breed that you can obtain because the best breeder in the world can not make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!

2. Keen observation, all the great hunting dogs I have had the pleasure of watching in the field share common denominators.
Essential traits. temperament, healthy constitution and body that can hold up to the rigors for stamina, drive, gaminess, nose, toughness-grit, ability and brains to use it all. Fish Creek & Branko bred Beagles, Hardtime, Junior, Boyd's Little Joe bred English Coon Hounds and Grouse Ridge English Setters are lines I have had the pleasure of owning and hunting and have nothing but the greatest respect for the breeders that produced them. A hunting dog obtained from these lines is going to have a very high rate of success of turning out to be a good hunting dog.

3. An animal's genetic makeup will determine it's hunting potential. How much of that potential good or bad that is actually achieved depends on the environment to which the dog is exposed. The definition of environment pertaining to this subject is how the dog is taken care of and fed, it's training and handling, and exposure to the game that is to be hunted.

4. Do not let what you have no control over interfere with what you can do.

5. The most important equation when breeding dogs for hunting is producing dogs that actually put game in the bag consistently.

6. Selection of your breeding stock is an art that will come as experience is gained, you will find the good ones all possess common traits and with that experience you will know it when you see it.

7. Success is many times better when if possible breeding to the stud that produced the champ than breeding to the champ himself.

8. Do not mate together non complementary types, the ability to recognize type at a glance is a breeder's greatest gift. The definition of non complementary types as ones that have the same faults and lack the same virtues. Do not mate together two dogs with the same bad fault, you are asking for trouble if you do.

9. Do not forget it is the whole dog that counts, if you forget one virtue while searching for another you will pay for it. But remember no hunting dog is absolutely perfect so do not be afraid of breeding to a dog with obvious faults as long as they are not too bad and has compensating virtues. A lack of virtues is the greatest fault of all.

10. Over the long term I think of myself as a strong pedigree builder, I see a pedigree as a multi stranded steel cable. Each dog in a pedigree represents a strand and I want each strand to be strong. I try my best to make sure every dog in my pedigrees is a good one. The more good strong strands added to the cable the better your line will be with consistent percentage of good performers. Keep adding those good strands.

11. "Breed workers to Workers", this old time saying goes hand and hand with what is written above along with this one, "you will reap what you sow". Breeding to an unproven weak dog will just bring your line down.

12. Breed for balance, too much of any one good trait many times tends to upset the applecart.

13. Don't make indiscriminate outcrosses, a "judicious outcross" can be of great of great value and improve your line, an injudicious outcross can produce an aggregation of any imaginable fault in the breed!

14. Do not allow personal feeling influence your choice of a stud dog, The right dog for your bitch is the right dog whoever owns it.

15. Evaluate your dogs honestly, do not credit your own dogs with virtues that they do not possess, self deceit is a sure stepping stone to failure.

16. I have over the years become a believer in the so called line breeding method when it comes to performance. But! you do not line breed just for the sake of line breeding. Line breeding to complementary dogs can and do bring great rewards, breeding to unsuitable types will lead to immediate disaster.

17. Even when you think everything possible has been done to produce that litter of perfect pups as famed hound breeder John Wick puts it, "Every pup is like a lottery ticket, except that you have to feed it for a year before you can scratch it to see what you got. Sometimes the mating pays and sometimes it does not."

18. I once heard that it is what you learn when after thinking you know it all that counts, knowledge about breeding is never ending so do not get too full of yourself and keep your ears open.

So in the end it will be your dogs doing the talking as to what kind of performance breeder you are. As the old coon hunter's saying goes "When the tailgate drops the bullshit stops" Performance in the field will be the ultimate judge of a breeder, the word gets out about the good lines that produce game consistently and the same goes for those whom are producing sorry ones that do not.

Al Kranbuhl

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hunting Airedales In Action 2

 A few more additional photos of "VERSATILE" hunting Airedales from the Traditional Working Airedale message board. Being successfully used for hunting pretty much all of North American game.

http://traditionalairedale.proboards.com/

Bobby Harper's Hog hunting pack W/young Airedale "Donnie" with a boar in a water hole.


Tigger retrieving a Pheasant



Audwin MagGee's Scout Hogging


Ruby recovers a nice Buck



Rock Creek Pack with Hog



Scott Cain & Airedale = Successful Hog Hunt




Wayne Hill's Katie with treed Bear


Richard McCorkle & Grizz with nice Hog


Rick Underwood's Max with a nice water retrieve


Rock Creek Airedales with nice Hog


Todd Kennedy's Cur & Airedale "Scout"


Kent Cowell's lion pack With Airedale "Hammer"


Another Deer recovery by Richard McCorkle's "Grizz"


Jack Harris's MaGee & Pearl


Rick Underwood's "Max" W/Coon he tracked and Treed on his own.


A Nice Mixed Bag



Bobby Harper and his Airedale "Donnie" High On The Hogs



Lion Hunt Short Video Clip, click on box below, the video is still there.

Post by Airedale From NY on 23 hours ago




Post by Airedale From NY on 9 hours ago

Sports Afield

Post by Airedale From NY on 6 minutes ago




Al Kranbuhl's young female Harleigh




Monday, May 20, 2013

Reflections On A Rainy Day

Below is another little piece from the Traditional Working Airedale forum written by Pete Bassani about his Redline Airedale "Joe Boy". Pete is the writer of the Traditional Working Airedale "Full Cry" magazine column and a dyed in the wool hunting dog man having a lifetime of experience with Coonhounds, Curs, little Terriers and in recent years with Airedales. This is a good write up because it is a representation that explains and shows a bit of insight on how a hunting Airedale for the most part operates in the field on various game animals.

Enjoy
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Raining here this morning ...supposed to rain all day, so my hunting buddy Gordy Eastwood and I cancelled our groundhog hunt. Ol' Joe Boy would have been along as  a draw dog today.I was out back talking to and petting Joe Boy yesterday afternoon and couldn't believe how much white is mixed with the red in his muzzle now. Makes one realize he is getting older even though I consider the white in his muzzle a little premature as he is just 7 years old. That said...in genuine Airedale fashion, he still loves to play like a pup whenever the opportunity is there. I got Joe Boy almost as a throw in deal while at Al Kranbuhl's buying a pup. I must admit I pestered Al to let me get Joe Boy too who was a little over a year old at the time....and he gave in....something I owe him for bigtime.

Getting older myself...he probably hasn't been hunted as hard as many of the dogs in my past. Still....he has been a good one, and has done some things, the memories of which will never be forgotten. He has been on two fox over the years. One I released and gave a good head start, the second one was bolted by my JRTs. Exactly how he did it I don't know....but he managed to track (by air scent with head up), eventually catching up to and catching the fox in both cases. The story of the fox we bolted and he ran down is on the board somewhere. Then there was the day we had him out with the little terriers and they had a coon cornered in a huge debris pile. While they were baying the coon Joe Boy was baying into the pile 20 to 25 feet away. I remember saying I wished he would shut up. We were working our way with a bar and shovel down to the terriers when all of a sudden I heard that Airedale roar right under my feet and a coon squalling bloody murder as Joe Boy was squeezing the life out of him. He traveled in the vicinity of 25 feet thru that pile, just like the den terriers do to get to that coon. We dug down and broke through to Joe Boy with his jaws around the neck of a very dead approx. 20 lb. boar coon. I couldn't have been more proud of him.

He has been on many coon hunts, and although he isn't a real tree dog, he goes along on every chase and is always at the tree. Of course, he loves to kill coons and specializes in it. In fact, every time I shoot a coon out of a tree it always lands a foot or two in front of Joe Boy and he is immediately on it. Can't say as I know how he always manages to be where the coon is going to hit the ground...just know that is the way is happens every time.

Although not a real tree dog I also always figured it was good to have him along at night for coyote protection for my cur dog Frostie. It was just something I said....but then one night we did have coyotes come in on Frostie who was tonguing on a coon track....Those SOBs got the surprise of their lives when the silent Joe Boy cut loose with his roar in amongst them and ended up chasing them over the hill...before hightailing it back to get in on the kill at the tree where Frostie has since treed the coon. I am sure it would not have been a pleasant experience for the 30 lb. Frostie, if Joe Boy had not been there when those coyotes arrived on the scene. 

He has flushed Turkeys, pheasants, and woodcock, and jumped rabbits as well. He has spent many a night in the woods on coon hunts and there was only one time that he wasn't at the tree when we got there. It was so out of character for Frostie to be treed and him not be with her, that I was really worried that something may have happened to him. While standing near the tree wee heard a muffled whining about ten feet away in some briars. Went over there to see Joe Boy backing out of a groundhog hole he had enlarged with a big old buck Possum in his teeth. LOL. I guess he was at the tree then got a whiff of possum scent coming out of the nearby hole.

When used as a drawdog he has always excelled. He has pulled and killed countless goundhogs...ans plenty of possums, and some coons too. He can dig with the best of them and more than a few times has dug and worked his own way in to the groundhogs...where he immediately eliminated them. Those groundhogs that chose to bolt always found out in short order what a big mistake they had made....because Joe Boy would catch them quick....and that would be that!!

I have many, many more good memories of Joe Boy hunts. I will never forget the night I saw something super bright white coming running straight toward me along the edge of a cornfield. Needless to say I was saying what the heck is this? As it got closer it turned out to be Joe Boy with one of those white plastic hanging plant baskets around his neck with the pot part "almost" in perfect position to look like he was wearing a helmet. Got many a laugh over that scene.

I was happy just to have a good, loyal, hunting dog and companion. Then it turned out that he was a good producer as well...and has many pups out there that are doing the job from small fry, right on up to treeing lion and bear. Yes...he has been a good one.

 He worships the ground I walk on, as I'm sure you all have experienced with your own Airedales. How can you not love a dog that so obviously loves you? The white in his muzzle reminds me that he is getting older. Hate to see them start getting old. Old Joe Boy will have a home here until the day he dies....he has certainly earned that. I can only hope that he takes after his daddy, Al's Texas Sandhill Pete, who lived to the ripe old age of 16. If I sounded like I was bragging on him....I didn't mean to....as I said at the beginning....just reflecting on a good dog on a lousy rainy day.

Pete


Joe Boy
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Friday, April 12, 2013

Airedale Hunting Style

This is from the Traditional Working Airedale board recently authored By Henry Johnson, a good article to put up here on the blog and share.

Al Kranbuhl
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In my experience the Airedale hunts like a combination sighthound/bird dog/terrier/catch dog.  Their first love is a sight chase.  They will occasionally yip a time or two during the chase.  They run to catch and catch to kill.  If you are around sighthound people doing lure chasing, see if they will let your Airedale run.  If they do, he will likely be a strong competitor and put on a show.  Better hope the lure keeps moving.  If the Airedale catches up with it he's likely to rip it up pretty bad.

Second best way an Airedale likes to hunt is on airborne scent.  Like a wide-ranging bird dog.  Big circles out to a quarter mile or more on wild hogs, coon, bear, lion, looking for hot airborne scent he can follow to the source.  Will normally come back in to check on you every 15 or 20 minutes if he doesn't strike something.  "If they're not back in 20 minutes, best tighten up your boots and go looking for them because they'll be treed" said Max Searls, a British Columbia bear/lion hunting guide.  If they catch quarry on the ground you are likely to hear a roar from them.  "What was that?  Do we have any lions around here?" a new-to-Airedales Texas hunter said upon hearing an Airedale strike on wild hogs for the first time.

Because of his love of airborne scent the Airedale makes a good shooting dog on Upland Game.  Hunted as a flushing dog, the biggest problem I had with them was keeping them working within gun range.  They think if you can see the bird you ought to be able to hit it.  But by whoaing them down and growling at them you can eventually get them to hunt to the gun and stay within range.  I never tried to get them to point but about one in twenty will point naturally and you can get them to do it if you keep whoaing them down when you see them start to make game.

Can the Airedale follow a track on the ground, does he have enough nose?  Yes, he can follow a track on the ground, if he wants to.  If it's hot enough to interest him.  Coming down from the Otterhound, who was down from the Bloodhound, the Airedale has plenty of nose.  But the terrier blood in him wants action.  He can likely smell a cold trail but is not interested in it.  He thinks, "Ok, I know that critter has been here but that trail is old and cold and he may be in the next county by now.  Let's swing out wide and circle for hot airborne scent."

When hunted with hounds the Airedale may pay little attention to them if they are cold trailing.  But he will go to them if they pick up the tempo and he knows they are on hot scent.  He is likely to run the track faster than the hounds when he does get in the race and he will run silently and hope to catch the quarry on the ground while it still thinks the hounds are far away.

An example of the Airedale's scenting ability.  David Short and I were working terriers in a rugged region of Middle Tennessee.  Limestone country.  Karst topography with many small sinkholes and occasional bigger ones up to 30 feet across.  A region that had been devastated by an ice storm a year or two earlier.  No agriculture there, just a tangled mess of down timber and rock ledges and a few tall trees still standing.  Very  hot and dry that day.  Poor scenting conditions for the dogs.  Four or five small terriers scrambling through the down timber and going into the sinkholes and finding nothing.  My Airedale following along with the terriers, ready to take part if they found something.  Then I noticed the Airedale leave the terriers and walk slowly away for two hundred feet or so and stop at the base of a single standing tree and look up.  No indication of following any track on the ground and no indication of any such track by the terriers, who also have good noses but are strongly ground oriented.  I moved slowly to follow the Airedale and began searching the tree from the base toward the top.  Looked to be a dead tree.  No vegetation.  Maybe 75 or 80 feet tall. Just bare trunk and bare limbs.  Saw nothing at first but the dog would not leave the tree.  Kept looking and finally saw a coon on a limb a few feet from the top of the tree and right against the trunk.  Still as a lump, no movement, no eyes showing.  Left that coon up that tree and leashed up my Airedale and took him back to follow the terriers, who never knew anything about the coon.  Am sure there was no track on the ground that brought the Airedale to the tree.  Just airborne scent I am sure.

As draw and catch dogs with the terriers the Airedales quickly learned their part in the "terrier task force."  We never allowed more than one terrier working to ground at a time.  The Airedale would look for bolts and frequently run down and catch a groundhog who was trying to get out the back door.  And they saved a lot of wear and tear on terriers when sent in to draw the quarry at the end of a dig.  And sometimes when we were talking instead of watching the terriers we would lose track of one and not know if it had gone to ground somewhere.  But the Airedale would always know where the terriers were and would lead us to the site if one had gone to ground.  A very versatile and useful dog, the Airedale, in my experience.  And always a great companion in field, forest, or at home.  /hsj, fults cove, tennessee.

Henry and one of his favorite Airedales "Rowdy"

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Duke


Actor John Wayne as a youngster had a big Airedale dog and they were inseparable. They wandered the streets of Glendale California together so much that the firemen gave them a nickname. Wayne was called "Big Duke," and the Airedale was called "Little Duke." That was how he got the name. Years later, after becoming an accomplished actor, John Wayne related the story.

"There's been a lot of stories about how I got to be called 'Duke.' One was that I played the part of a duke in a school play, which I never did. Sometimes they even said I was descended from royalty! It was all a lot of rubbish. Hell, the truth is that I was named after an Airedale dog!"


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Thursday, March 28, 2013

TJ's Big Adventure


 This is a piece I did a few years ago for "Terrier Man" Pete Bassani to help him kick off his own new "Big Adventure" of taking on the writing of his Traditional Working Airedale column in "Full Cry Magazine"

A hunt some years ago with my young at the time male Airedale
"California Tee Jay Mack"
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Al Kranbuhl
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                         TJ's Big Adventure

     I have been pretty busy the past few months and have not had a lot of time for writing. Most of my older dogs have passed on and I am left with a bunch of half trained youngsters. So this past fall has been one of the busiest years ever, too many dogs and not enough time. I've been working the dogs mostly on squirrels, coon, and some grouse and there comes a time when you have to put some game in their mouths. I started looking at some new areas as close to home as possible where I could do some hunting and put something down for the dogs. I decided to check out a state co-op that can only be hunted by permit. I usually stay away from such places to avoid crowds, but I wanted to at least check it out as I knew there were pheasants there. So I signed up and got my permit and maps and took my young male Airedale, TJ with me  to scout this area and see if it was worth messing with.

     TJ is a 70 pound male that is one of my yard dogs, and far from any kind of finished dog, I have messed with him some on squirrels, coon, and some retrieving work. I would say TJ's biggest turn on is birds. He is crazy about them. This turned out to be one of my best days hunting with a dog ever and I call it
"TJ's Big Adventure".

     I opened the gate to this area and pulled down the dirt road and went about half a mile. We came to a parking area and mine was the only vehicle there. I let T J out to stretch while I signed the 'sign in' board. I got my gear out of the truck and my .20 gauge double along with the maps and sat down at a picnic table to plot some strategy.

     I was not sitting there but for a couple of minutes when I heard TJ bark once and I saw him tearing through the woods. I grabbed my gun and went over to see him run a gray squirrel up an oak. As I approached the tree I saw the squirrel timber over to a big evergreen and disappear into the top. I wanted to put the squirrel down to reward TJ and bring home, as he was treeing pretty good, but I could not find the squirrel to get a shot. I was not too happy about missing an opportunity right off the bat, but I petted TJ up well and decided to move out on a trail that cut through a huge swamp and see what we could find.

     I had not walked too far when I could see TJ was again working scent. I got up close to him and all of a sudden two woodcock flushed. I shot twice and never touched a feather. I reloaded quickly and walked into T J and he flushed another woodcock and I shot and missed again. To say I was not happy was an understatement. I do not claim to be an expert shot, but I was not this pathetic either. TJ was doing his part but I am zero for four on game in the first half hour of hunting.

     So on we go. I was in an area of old growth trees that one doesn't see much around here as we come up to a ridge. I saw TJ getting gamey and as I got close up to him I heard a grouse flush but I had no shot. About the time I am thinking what else could go wrong, another  grouse flushed straight up and landed on a branch looking down on TJ. Not being proud, I immediately dumped him, as they say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and we were finally on the scorecard.

     About a mile up the trail I heard TJ bark and I could see that he was working around a big pile of brush, looking to get in it. I got over there  and looked around and saw nothing, so I climbed up on the pile and jumped up and down a couple of times and out shoots a cottontail rabbit which I bagged. Now I am feeling a little better, as things are now starting to go our way.

     On we go heading for an old railroad bed that cuts through a huge swamp. I hear TJ bark and whine a couple of times working scent along the edge of the swamp. He was having a hard time moving it out so I figured it must be some kind of feed track. I just followed behind him and let him work and after a bit I moved out some. I had no clue what he was doing but I was ready. He started checking trees for scent and I started looking around myself. The one big oak that he was especially interested in I looked over well and there sat a good sized layup coon. He kept getting up on the tree and whining so he knew the coon was there but lacked the confidence to tree hard. I encouraged him and he started to bark treed well. Now this was the situation I wanted for TJ. My problem was I had the shotgun and didn't want to ruin the hide so I took careful aim at the head and touched one off. It looked like I shot low and just splattered the coon with bark, but out he came. He was full of fight but was no match for TJ as things were settled in short order. I was real happy with his job on this coon and it looked like we were now on a roll.

     We found this railroad bed and started through the swamp to an open area where the pheasants were supposed to be. I got my map out and took a trail towards some open fields. We then went about a half a mile and came up over a small knoll and there stood two cock pheasants on the trail about 30 yards away. I could have probably gotten both with one shot, but I put TJ on them. One flushed and went to my left and I shot. I could see him go into the woods with T J in hot pursuit a long way and I assumed I missed clean. The other bird ducked into a field of goldenrod to the right. I called TJ back to me and was just about to see if we could flush the other bird when a couple of other hunters appeared and said they saw the whole thing and were positive I had hit the other bird good and said they saw it go down I should be able to find it. So I took a good look at my map and saw that where the pheasant had gone was a several hundred acre patch of woods, and was surrounded by a trail, oval in nature and kind of looked on the map like a giant NASCAR race track. I got TJ in there where I thought the pheasant  flew and he started quartering back and forth. I could see that TJ had scent and was working it so I started following him, staying as close to him as possible. After several hundred yards, I started to think we were not on a pheasant, but definitely on something.

     Finally, we came out on the other side of the woods to the trail surrounding these woods and there was that huge swamp full of water facing us, I began mumbling about those two guys being full of it about me dinging that pheasant. I was just about to call TJ in as he was heading towards the swamp when up flushes the pheasant and he lands in a tree looking down at TJ  just like the grouse had done earlier. Needless to say the way I had been shooting, I flattened him right where he sat. I must say that TJ put on quite an exhibition of tracking on this pheasant.

     I forgot to say this was getting to be a fairly hot day. It was now 3 PM and we had been going since 8AM and I was beat. I found a resting place and sat down to eat one of those power bars. While sitting there I got out my new varmint call. It is produced by a local outfit called a Black Creek and it is a three in one call: squirrel, rabbit squeal, and coyote howler.

I tooted on the squealer a few times and was just sitting there when I saw TJ coming to attention. Looking in the direction he was staring I see a red fox coming in on the run. We were busted immediately but I got off two quick shots with three inch number fours. TJ got on the trail and went only about 50 or 60 yards and he found the fox.

   Well by this time my old bones had enough for the day and it was a long way back to the truck so we started out. I can't remember when my feet hurt more but I also can't remember  having a better day afield. A pleasant Fall day with your Airedale, in the woods that contains a good population of game animals, man life don't get much better than that.

 I'm not trying to kid anyone, TJ was still pretty green and could stand a lot of improvement in order to be a number one hunting dog, more experience and some polish. That being said for the actual amount of hunting he has had, he sure made me proud. The thing I was most interested in seeing was that real natural ability and drive geared toward hunting multiple types of game animals. If I would have done my part, we would have bagged seven different species of game this day which in my opinion is a pretty good feat in any hunter's book! In traditional Airedale fashion, he showed he is a versatile meat dog and game for anything that walks, crawls or flies, I am sure the breed founders would have been happy with him.....a pretty good hunting Airedale.

TJ and our catch


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