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On the Way to Rend Lake

If my drive to Rend Lake was any indication, this week should be quite eventful. Because there is no interstate that goes to southwest Indiana, from Bloomington, I usually drive south on highway 37; west on highway 50; south on highway 41; west on interstate 64; south on interstate 57 (the red route on the map to the right). As I was in Lagootee on highway 50 I heard about the first tornado; in Olney!

Olney was the place we all used to go hunting (tornado #1 on map to left). Olney was due west on highway 50…. in Illinois. As I drove through Washington (still on 50), a tornado was spotted in Vincennes….only 18 miles away (tornado #2). I called Chris to check the internet to let me know were it was heading. She could not tell me any more than the radio. So, I decided to drive due south on highway 57 (blue route) instead of continuing on 50 to 41 (in Vincennes). As I drove south

through Pike county, there was a tornado north in Davies county (in Washington!). As I drove south through the next county, there was a tornado in Pike county. Feeling a little paranoid by now?

I had never hit any rain….had blue skies. But the radio announced another wave of similar storms coming from Illinois. Talked to Chris a little more…..and decided to stop at the rest stop on the Indiana/Illinois border and prepare Dart for an emergency evacuation (ie. put the (first aid) muzzle on and hook the leash to her crate). The sky was still blue. But as soon as I took off, it got so dark....so quick. I took the first exit I saw….just to look for a place to wait. The exit had two motels and two gas stations. The Super 8 looked the sturdiest. I asked the woman at the desk if I could not wait in her lobby….watch her weather channel….and bring my dog in. She welcomed me. So Dart and I sat in the lobby of a super 8 somewhere across the Indiana/Illinois line (green circle)….and watched 15 tornado warnings all around us during the hour we waited.

Soon it was all over….the sun came back out and we took off again. It’s just windy now……blowing in a good strong cold front.

Seems that Hannas and I are the only ones here. We’ll have a nice hunt. They have Eli (10 yrs) and Riva (5 yrs)……and then there’s Dart……jp


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FIRST DAY

It was 35 degrees with a 35 mph wind. Took us 30 minutes of walking to warm-up. We started on site number 18. We shared the site with one pointer and three guys from Illinois. We started with Eli and Dart. The pointer took the tree line on the road. We intended to take the two islands of trees by the parking lot.....but, I guess I forgot to tell Dart. She took off like a field trial dog (I didn’t even start her with a whistle!) She had our limit (6 birds) in 5 min…..however, we were no where near her. She rounded the island to the left and put up two before we took two steps….chased both of them. Then two more…there was no stopping her. She finally settled down and took a tree line behind Eli. He pointed….she backed him as she ran by. That bird took off before any of us could get there. This is all within the first 7 minutes!

Dart on point. Me? I'm searching for her bird.

After about an hour, she slowed down. Last year she hunted so well…staying near and pointing solid…..and getting her birds shot for her….we were a great team. All she had this morning was a chase fest. Next we went toward the pond were Dart went on point. It was hard for the dogs to find the source of the scent because of the wind. All the dogs had too many non-productive points….but a lot of bird scent tracks to follow. On the other hand, she did find enough to chase.

By the pond, Eli finally went on another solid point. The bird went up. Holly shot and Dart was almost under the bird as it hit the ground. Poor Eli was waiting to be sent to fetch it. Dart brought the bird back to me….I thought about giving her a treat for that…but it would appear too much like training and because she was not behaving like training, she did not get the treat. The bird was reward in itself.

After about an hour, Holly took Eli and Larry back to the car while Dart and I stayed out. I took Dart down the field next to site number 17 .....all the way east to the back…then back up the tree line in the middle of site 18 toward the pond. I chose to walk the tree line on the side that Dart was hunting….the north side. She got a bird up, but it flew on the other side of the tree line. We missed another one that would have reinforced our “team-work”. We soon met up with Holly and Riva and just decided to take a nice “hike” in the fields. We covered the front field on 18…then the next field over….and the next. No finds. We got back to the car around 11:00 am and decided to eat lunch.

After lunch we went to site 25 to hunt the back end of site 3. On the way out on 25…..on the far side of that island of trees & thickets, Dart went on point. The bird was in the real thick sticky rose bushes. She did not want to go in….actually it kept her from breaking. Riva backed Dart. Eli came in…took a look…and decided to go back around the back side of the thicket. He flushed the bird toward Dart…it went straight up. Holly and I took too long to get our safetys off…the bird had flown quite a ways away, but Holly took the first and second shot…..got it on the second shot…it fell all the way on the other side of this island of trees. Eli and Dart took off. Eli finally found it. It was a fantastic piece of bird work. It showed Eli’s maturity and experience. I loved it.

Eli and Larry went back to the car and Holly, Riva, Dart and I took off for the back of 3. Riva did not want to leave Holly’s side. Not sure why. We got to the tree line on 3 and Holly went on the North side with both dogs and I took the south side. Dart went on a solid point. I could see two cock’s head sticking out of the cover. One took off and Dart was in hot pursuit. The other stayed a few seconds longer….but as it flew, I shot…..and got the bird…problem was, Dart was a field away chasing the first one. Riva got the retrieve. We missed another opportunity to reinforce the team work idea.

After about three hours of hunting Dart settled down and hunted like she did last year…problem was, we had no birds. There’s always tomorrow. Dart’s sleeping quietly now….in the room.

Kottmeiers and Sarah and her group should arrive tonight. John Ingram is here with some of his Ohio buddies.

 


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DAY TWO

Ace & Eli hunting together.

20 degrees….slight breeze….only a ripple on the lake….instead of the 6-9” white caps of yesterday…….balmy compared to yesterday.

Sarah Barr with her group (four couples; two from as far as Denver; two from Indiana), and Ed & Cathy Kottmeier (St Louis) rolled in late last night. Kottmeiers brought Ace, Trip and Rider. Sarah's group has eight dogs.

Kottmeiers, Hannas and I took 23. Sarah and her group was on site 18. Hannas wanted to start with Eli and Ed with Ace. I sat back and took pictures of the break-a-way. I walked out with them for a short distance then went back for Dart. Since they broke away down the path, they had

missed all the cover by the parking lot & road. So, Dart and I took those spots. I put her harness on her so that she might think we were “training.” She wanted to break away fast, but I stopped her and hunted the cover. We didn’t find anything. Apparently, Ace had come back earlier and cleaned most of it out (like Dart had done yesterday). We hunted the tree line on the left, but only about 30 yards…then took the cover on the right by the road…and made our way to the islands of cover in the middle of the site. Dart was hunting well…she was quite more serious than yesterday. She went on a nice solid point. I came up behind….the bird flushed…she took off….I said “no”…but took the shot….got the bird….she grabbed it and brought it right back. I reached for my treats….she jumped up and exchanged the bird for treats.

We walked on to find Eli on point and Larry calling for help. The bird was in the woods and he was going to have no shot. Eli was not on a good solid point. It was hard for me to figure out if it was a point. Ed “whoa’d” Ace. So, I just said, “Dart” and she stopped to back too. Eli left his point. Ace took off, and Dart wanted to go too, but I took her harness and reinforced the back. The bird took off and no one got a shot…and both Eli and Ace were in pursuit. Dart was still on the honor. So, I put my gun down….found my treats….clapped my hands….and she came to me to get her treats. Just like Randy trained her……

We walked another hour with Ed and Rider (brother to the dog who just won the derby at Nationals). Rider flushed a cock….no shot. We saw another hen running in the woods. We took the dogs into the woods, but found no bird. As we walked the milo in the middle of the field Dart found the same running hen on the tree line. I did not see it. Ed flushed it as he came up behind her. She took off with the bird…no shot. That was about all the bird work we had before lunch.

After lunch we went to site 19 to go back by the lake were the birds fly to in the afternoon. Larry and Holly took Eli and Riva down 19. Ed wanted to go on 18. I knew birds would not be there, but went with him anyway. He soon took-off back to the car to change dogs and I swung around to 19…..then all the way to the back of 19…and on down by the lake. Dart was hunting very nicely….quite responsive. We took several of the out crops of land. We found two cock birds, but each of them flushed in the trees and flew over the lake. I had no shot on either of them….had someone been with me, I know we could have got both of them.

So, Dart hunted two hours in the am and 1.5 in the pm. She’s sleeping well again…and quite hungry…….

DAY THREE

36 degree with a slight ripple on the lake. Scott & Linda (Lexington) came in last night with Taz and Wyllie. Denny & Don (Columbus OH) also come in with Zack andTank.

I was scheduled to hunt on site 3 with Kottmeiers (3 dogs), Hannas (2 dogs), Scott (2 dogs) and Keetons (2 dogs) ….but I decided to go first to site18 to take some pictures of Sarah’s group (9 people and 8 dogs). They invited me to stay and hunt …they were only going to put down 4 dogs in two separate groups. The odds looked better for Dart with them. I took some pictures as they went out…stayed with them for about 30 minutes.....then doubled back to pick-up Dart. They

Sarah's Group

Back: Rod, Annie, Joy, Mel, Arin, Catherine, Brian
Front: Parvin & Sarah

Cosmos & Remos breaking away.

had never taken a shot or saw a bird during my photo shoot as well as the trip back to the car etc….I believed: because they took the tree line by the road and the path between the two islands of trees, they found no birds. So, I took Dart into those two islands…..but we didn't find birds there either.

Soon Dart and I joined up with Sarah, Parvin, Joy, Brian & Catherine with Bonesy and Belle. We must have walked another half hour without a bird. They decided to take the first north/south tree line…even though the other half of the group had taken it. When we got there, I suggested the two people not carrying guns might want to walk in the trees. No one volunteered. So, I took Dart into the trees. Parvin and Sarah were on the west side and Brian on the east. As Dart and I walked the middle, we had one

cock fly out to the west. Parvin got it. Dart went on point on the east side. I flushed it and Brian shot it. We had at least three more before we hit the end of the tree line. We had a total of six birds before lunch.

After lunch I told them I could take Parvin & Brian to a place where we could find birds. It was the road by site 19 to the lake. The whole group followed. So we had only two dogs out and two puppies….with 10 people. I split them up pretty fast when we hit the lake because most wanted to walk on the road instead of the heavy cover. We found two birds with no shots on this walk…as we went down the road….crossed over into the back side of 21….on to the back side of 22….and on back to 19.

Dart had some good bird work with some good corrections. Dart backed Bonesy very well…..but when the bird flushed, Dart took off. She beat Bonesy to the bird. I ran out and took the bird away from her….tossed it for Bones to retrieve….and placed her back in her backing position. I asked Brian to toss the bird out for Bonesy to retrieve again while Dart held her back…..he did .....and she held her back. It was a very nice training opportunity….and Brian was eager to help…especially because I let his dog get the bird she deserved.

Seems I made a good choice to hunt with Sarah's group. Seems it was Zack's turn to clear the field on his first day. That group did not have too many birds.

I’m at 100%....three shells and three birds!!!!!!!


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DAY FOUR

41 degrees....hot for the week. We began our morning on site 18 with Hannas (2 dogs), Kottmeiers (3 dogs), Keetons (2 dogs), and Garthees (2 dogs). Scott Garthee went down the tree line on the road with Linda and their two dogs; Keetons went through the middle of the field with Tank; Hannas and Ed took Eli between the two islands of trees. I took my camera. After about 30 minutes Ed and I doubled back to the car to pick up Dart and Trip. My plans were to only work Dart 30-45 min because we were to hunt the afternoon with Scott & Linda. We took the two dogs into the cover by the parking lot....no birds. We went to the east tree line on the first field. Ed and I went north to south and Denny & Don went south to north. We found at least 4 to 5 birds....I had one and Ed got another....the rest flew away too far away to get a shot. Larry and Holly came back with no birds. Denny & Don may have had one shot at a bird. Scott came back at noon with no birds...not even one to shoot at. We decided they were not putting as many birds down as last year. (Later they confirmed that during the morning orientation talk on Sunday)

Scott and I at the lake.

In the afternoon, I met up with Linda and Scott on site 19. Linda's camera battery was drained so I let her use my new camera. Most of these pictures were taken by Linda.

In the pursuit of a bird, we took the road by site 19 and all the inlets between 19 to 23...for two hours. Wylie and Dart were hunting. Taz was too tired to hunt; he took a nice walk with us. Taz is 10 years old and deaf...he tries to stay very close to Linda and Scott. The cover was thick and isolated in several spots. We found four birds during that time....most with no clear shot because of the cover. We disrupted the blue heron nest on the furthest site of the inlets...both parents made it a point to let us know we should leave (see picture below). One of Dart's points was near the nest. We never saw that point because we could not find her in the cover. We just saw the cock bird fly. I'm going to get a GPS chip for her colar so I can find her.

 

The blue heron telling us to "get lost".

The irony of this afternoon hunt: we spent two hours trudging through the thick cover to find one bird by the main road as we walked back to the car.

The humor of this afternoon hunt was Scott. He had not shot a bird all day...which is not his usual performance. He ususally has his and Linda' limit nearing lunch time. It's now lunch time and not one bird. There was one opportunity for Scott to shoot...he took it and did not hit the bird well. The dogs ran on the bird, but it ran over a mound. On the top of the mound, Scott and Dart and Wyllie were looking frantically for

Giving Dart a treat after a retrieve.

it. Dart pointed his feet...from behind him. As Scott stepped back, the bird flushed straight up into his face. It took off. Dart followed and brought it back.

It was a long day. We made it back to the check-out station at 3:45....they were waiting on us. I got to clean birds at the bird cleaning station with most of the "guys". Too much testosterone there. I don't need to do that again.


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DAY FIVE

Dart was down for 3.5 hours yesterday...and was so stiff and sore today. Most of the cover she ran through yesterday was hard on her. I was not sure if I would let her hunt. It is a short day anyway. I'll leave for home around lunch. I only put her down for 45 min total. Didn't find much in that time. I had two opportunities to shoot the same bird......but failed. So, I went home early.

Brian.

The hat? Brian got the hat. This is a record for a first time hunter to get the hat. The event: First the background: Brian mostly hunted Kansas etc.....and was a first time hunter in the midwest especially at a controlled hunt like this. Sarah reports his first bird at Rend Lake: It was a beautiful set of points....and backing dogs..... The bird stayed long enough to flush. Brian flushed. Pulled up his gun....and watched the hen fly away. Everyone around him was yelling "shoot the bird". He looked confused. He said it was a hen. In Kansas you cannot shoot hens. In Illinois you can. So, Brian got the hat. Had he listened at our morning orientation, he would have known.

See you all next year!!!!


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