Monday, February 6, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Remembering Kate the Wirehair

Yesterday our afternoon walk-about took in a place apparently ranked high among Kate's long list of favorites...Pure conjecture on our part based solely on how she would suddenly sit up and start talking as soon as the truck hit the gravel. She behaved similarly in all seasons but especially animated and talkative during the fall hunting season when she "knew" sage hens lived here and better yet were fair game. But I believe she relished our winter jaunts as well because then she "knew" the prospect of running into pronghorns (along with certain cows pronghorns got her talking also) and sage hens was almost a given.

This was her last point, a Hun at Wall Creek WMA on the Madison River last Labor Day weekend. Diabetic and blind Gale led her close on lead then turned her loose...obviously her nose still works as it did until the end...sleeping in the living room one day last week Gale came in carrying a bag of dog biscuits...Bam! she's awake on the bag like stink on you know what...Of all the dogs I'd say far and away she sported the best nose; bee-lining several hundred yards to nail a single bird; kicking brush so far ahead her point she just had to be lying...But NO...and on and on. Perhaps the best was the time I caught her belly deep in a little crick slowly sniffing her way upstream oblivious to my rant to "get the hell outta the crick and get on with it, for Christ's sake! we're huntin' birds not muskrats!" That's when I spied the duck's bill sticking up beside a drowned cattail. Undaunted she continued the investigation, plunged head under and came up with one very surprised hen mallard...Imagine. Ya little bitch...

Over the years, in season and out, she pointed many sage hens in a variety of locations. And while not much of a counter and a worse record keeper I'd put up the farm she pointed more here than all the rest combined. Just beyond the ridge the pronghorns are standing she pointed her first (age 7 mos) and one of her last (age 11 yrs); two memorable moments high on our thick list of Katie Highlights.

I can't prove it but by age 4 she had pointed literally hundreds birds--sage hens; Gambel's, scaled and Mearn's quail; ruffed, blue and spruce grouse, chukar and Hungarian partridge, California quail and pheasants across several states--Idaho, Montana, Arizona, North Dakota--and Alberta.

Of all the many bird dogs I've blown a whistle over none switched gears like Kate...ducks in the a.m., pheasants or you name it in the p.m. never missing a beat. Uncanny in her ability to figure out what we were looking for and then finding it.

Uncanny also how she seemed to know almost as soon as she left the truck whether or not birds were about; I know hard to believe but she was so seldom wrong that when she started bringing back bones (a faux pas  she began as a pup apparently to amuse herself in lieu of birds and one I never could fix); like boss this is clearly a waste of time...Well, like the old saying goes, trust the dog...time a pack it in and look elsewhere....On to the next spot...you guessed it... Kate hops out, puts nose to wind and...as I say...uncanny.

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