We saw lots of birds last Friday, but they were really jumpy, and – whatever the reason – the dogs couldn’t or didn’t hold them. I sprayed plenty of lead over the landscape (something I pretend doesn’t bother me, but it does, although obviously not enough to cause me to do anything about it, yet). But nothing fell except the shells. A change from the previous several outings. No worries, though. I really don’t mind getting skunked, aside from letting down the dogs.
I do mind, though, getting back to the truck and seeing my dogs with gaping wounds on their bodies. Actually, I only noticed Angus’s “hole” in his side (we found Peat’s hole later that night). I’m not sure what caused these wounds, but it’s Angus’s second 20+ stitch job in the last month. The first was stray barbed wire laying on the ground along fencing, which is more common than I’d expect. The second, last week, was either barbed wire again or some pretty stout bitterbrush branches that had been broken and turned into spears, probably by cattle. I’ve run into skewers on bitterbrush plants, and have a scar on my thigh from it puncturing my Cordura nylon upland pants.
Almost all the terrain we hunt is “multi-use” public land, which means we share it with cattle grazing operations. Except for a few remote areas in Hells Canyon, cows have trod most of the chukar terrain I’ve hunted anywhere. Rarely have I simultaneously shared bird habitat with cows, which might just be coincidental but it’s just worked out that way. I keep the dogs away from them, and don’t shoot too near them. And I’m not blaming cows or grazing for my dogs’ injuries; I understand the dynamic here. And I’ve never worked fence so I’m not faulting anyone for leaving barbed wire on the ground (although I have a friend who has lots of unkind words about this, since his dog has been to the vet many times from lacerations caused by stray wire). Anyway, we’re out of the chukar game for a couple weeks until the dogs heal and Angus gets his stitches out.
I’m sure others have experienced run-ins with wire and brush injuries, so I’m curious to hear if any readers have special monitoring strategies to keep their dogs out of harm’s way. For me, at this point in the season (now that it’s colder), both dogs will be wearing nylon vests protecting their chests and flanks. I just got Peat his own; a $40 vest is a lot cheaper than 20 stitches (we’re up to almost $500 this season on stitches for Angus). Hopefully the vests will prevent another incident this season. But when it’s hot, in the early season, vests aren’t an option, so I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on “protection” during the early part of the season.
I guess I should feel lucky I don’t use dogs to hunt bears or mountain lions: while the vet was working on Angus he told us about some of the hounds he sees that have tangled with bears. One dog has a couple steel plates in its arm from a bear biting clean through it. My only worry about that level of injury is with some of the bigger traps out there (which we’ve been seeing more of in Hells Canyon the last couple of years).