Duncan in December: A Llewellin Setter on winter time Ruffed Grouse

Duncan December pointI’ve been sleep deprived for two months now….. two llewellin litters— 7 weeks old and 4 weeks old, training 37 dogs a week besides finding time for my own pack. Pixel and Widget are on maternity leave until end of January or so, Rogue has been tooling along hunting while I work with my students nearly every day. But Paint River’s superstar— Duncan has been singing the blues for the past 10 days….. no grouse hunting for him…. papa has been too busy and tired to make the trip.

I wake up this morning, rush through feeding the gang, poop scooping the yard, caring for the pigeons, do a little shoveling from our 2-3 inch snowstorm yesterday, feed myself, clean on the whelping boxes, the kennel for the pups and get The Cameras in the kitchen for an hour or two before I have to leave for work at 8:00am to start training dogs for the day. Just in case anyone wonders why they never get me on the phone before 8am when I say I’m up at 4-5am almost everyday (I love it and wouldn’t trade it for the world!)…….

Zoom!! Bye honey!! I’m out the door and 5 minutes late….. what else is new?! Off I go to train four dogs for the day. I say to myself while driving, “It’s Wednesday! Awesome!” See Wednesday is one of the three potential days of the week, this time of year that I have the opportunity to go hunting with the dogs. I usually finish training around 1:00pm, which gives me a few options in terms of hunting locations. So I am now driving home from work and I’m thinking of all I have to do….. go to my aunt’s feed store to get more dog food, ship a pigeon I sold at the P.O. by 5pm. run to town to replace my iphone that I smashed yesterday, schedule in new dogs, paperwork, pay bills, get the little pups some more free time to romp, clean the house (yikes!!) and get the dogs out to work…. particularly Duncan.

I pull in the driveway at 12:30pm. I get the dogs all settled and satisfied and then my procrastination kicks into high gear….. not because I’m lazy but because I don’t know what to do given everything I have to do….. I wander in circles for about 10 minutes and then Duncan jumps up on me and nails me just right to make me a tenor. OK! We are going hunting!! I grab my gun, hunt gear bag, vest and tell Duncan to jump in the truck and just like that we are heading to the farm for an afternoon grouse hunt in December. As I drive up the highway the snow is getting a bit deeper on the sides of the road, a result of yesterday’s snowstorm. As we pull up to the chain at the farm drive way I step out into snow that’s 5-6 inches deep. I say to myself… hmm the grouse may be around to play today.

I drive my new 2013 F-150 (YAY!!) up the mountain logging trail to about 1800 foot elevation, pull into a small field. Get suited up, gear up Duncan and away we go!— Dunker is all jacked up, been waiting for this for nearly two weeks. He’s bounding thru the snow, zooming in and running back to me with a smile ear to ear. He’s working like an all-star— because he is my all-star!!! About 15 minutes into our hunt he’s working about 30-40 yards in front of me in some fairly thick cover. He’s cruising then suddenly comes to a crawl and stops about 5 feet later. Slam!!— Got that ruff in the snow up a hill about 20 feet away. So I (foolishly and proudly) whip out my busted iphone to take a photo and in true Kyle-style the darn bird bursts out of the snow covered alders and whips around down the hill out of site. But ya know what?!— I’d drive 1000 miles and hunt for 15 minutes to see my dog do that!! Tired, over worked, no free time…..  it’s all worth it just to have the moment. Those of you who have been there know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s nothing that defines beauty in life better than that for a Llew-lover.

So we continue our hunt and Duncan had several areas where he got real birdy but no birds. I saw some grouse sign which was nice to see. So we now head over to the land of grouse food on the property…. There’s a giant male grouse that lives there and he’s very much married to this prime spot. I know this because I’ve hunted him about 7x so far this season and he’s been there every time and I’ve missed him 2x. I made this ruffed grouse a promise that if I missed him 3x that I would not shoot at him anymore this season just hunt him with the dogs for work. It’s good for my resident grouse to get worked on dogs a bit…. keeps them on their toes and their survival skills up!!! At least I tell myself that…. makes sense to me!! These grouse that I hunt a lot certainly are not going to be an easy target for any ole predators that’s for sure!! So we get into this area and Duncan starts creeping before I know he has sent because the location is very well known to him….. he gets up on this stone wall under an apple tree surrounded by hawthorns and as he cranks into a beautiful point a ruff busts out of the stone walls about 10 feet down from him and zips across the field I just smile with my unloaded gun as I stare at my dog— My Mr. Reliable.

We continue our hunt and work our way back to the truck. 30 minutes later we start our journey home, with both us boys much more satisfied than we started out our day. So here we sit typing this post with a fed happy llew sleeping on my feet, his 5 sons (The Cameras) sleeping around him and what I call the end to a wonderful day.

The photo above is Duncan pointing the first of two grouse he found today.