Places to hunt, firearms to use, problems encountered

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Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Sun Aug 28, 2022 6:36 am

I like to post this at the beginning of each hunting season. It shows the dangers than can befall ourselves and our dogs. There are several good lessens in the story if you seek them, valuable if you follow them. This happened several years ago.


It was a special day known only to October. Blue skies, bright leaves, crisp nights, and a touch of burnt powder. The glory lasts but a few days and birds in the bag lose much of their importance. To us, not the dogs. The woodcock weren’t in yet, but we were finding an occasional grouse, the numbers up from last year, but nothing to get excited about.

I served lunch for the girls on a beautiful overlook guarding a clear cut valley. We snacked on beef sticks and cheese bits then were off to another cover, a remote, difficult to access piece that always held birds. It felt like it had been raining all year and I was certain that the Lord had broken his word to Noah when he promised to never flood the earth again. Every low road was a quagmire and this one was no different. The cut was huge with a creek down the center and mature pine, maple and oak forest surrounding it. It was two o’clock when we parked the truck, stopped short of the cover by a road turned to a muck hole and walked the last half mile. The cut was as beautiful as I remembered, a place I’ve never found another hunter. Even I could smell grouse!

We worked toward the south end, never flushed a bird and turned around. It was about a mile back to the truck, thirty minutes to a black top road, then three hours home, so I didn’t want to stay too long. The blue sky disappeared and huge snow flakes began their lazy, Earthward dance, the first of the year! It really made for a perfect ending to a perfect day. Suddenly Lani was on point about 40 yards to the east. Nearly as soon as she pointed, I heard the explosion of wings. She swung out to the road, then back into the cover. Lani was experienced, nearly 15, with cataracts and going deaf, but a bird finding machine. When Burley and I left the bedroom in the black of the morning, Lani remained fast asleep. I got dressed, my conscience eating away at me and at the last minute, woke her up and invited her.

Suddenly she was gone. I looked at the Garmin Alpha. The readings were growing at an alarming rate: 167, 200, 300 yards. I whistled, beeped with the transmitter and yelled but the readings continued their advance: 400, 500, 700, 900 then the dreaded alert: “Lost contact with Lani”.

Her directional hearing was gone so I knew instantly what had happened; she was running the wrong way, lost. I walked a half mile down the road, blowing the whistle and calling with no response. I decided to head for the truck, then drive to the end of the road. If the truck could make it through the mud, we’d be a mile closer to where contact was lost. I threw the youngster, Burley in her kennel, locked the faithful old truck into four wheel drive, and started clawing my way sideways down the road. We made it and a half mile through the clear cut, the Alpha regained contact and indicated Lani was on point 967 yards out. It had been an hour since I lost her. I drove to the end of the road, watching the Alpha, and closed the distance to 291 yards; Lani still on point. A heavy heart told me what “Lani on point” meant; either the wolves had killed her or a heart attack had. She was laying dead in the cut. The dogs are trained to come to three blasts of the whistle, three honks of the horn, or three beeps on the collar. I tried all three but resolutely the Alpha declared: “Lani on point. 291 yards”.

I have never abandoned a dog dead or alive, and I refused to now. It entered my mind briefly to leave her there, run home, pick up my son, and return the next day so he could carry the body out. I knew I couldn’t do it. I’m North of 74 and have had 14 operations for cancer and varied injuries. I was now, just six months out of a major back surgery. My right leg is hindered by a damaged Sciatic nerve, causing me some difficulty walking. I parked the truck, marked it’s location with the Alpha, then slipped into the Wing Works vest, and holstered my .45 wolf repellant. Since I hunt alone, my wife and son had presented me with a ResQLink emergency responder beacon for my birthday and made me promise to always carry it. I made sure it was zipped in it’s pocket, grabbed my walking stick and headed for Lani.

I was about 80 yards into the cut when it dropped downhill. I could see water at the bottom, cursed and knew I’d be hummock humping from there to the dog’s body. I navigated a couple of hummocks and all dry spots ended. The rains had the creek over its bank’s and the whole bottom was flooded with 30” of icy water. The Alpha read “200 yards to Lani”. I slogged on toward the dog, stumbling over the submerged, slippery logs; slowed further by the tall grass that gripped my weakened right leg. Another check and the Alpha read “150 yards to Lani.” I didn’t think I could make it but if there was a chance she was alive, I wasn’t leaving her. Even if it meant two bodies rotting in the swamp. Inching on, I moved the beacon to my shell pocket. If I had a heart attack I could possibly punch the button, allowing the rescuers to find my body and get my wife some quick insurance money. I took a bearing and slogged off. “110 yards to Lani.” I was losing strength and losing sensation in my right leg, the cold water taking its toll more rapidly now. I was getting scared but turning back was not a consideration; I knew the dog would never lose faith in me and I would not abandon her. “70 yards to Lani”. Still no dog. I yelled and whistled; no response. “Thirty yards to Lani”. Where the heck was she? “10 yards to Lani.” I still couldn’t see her or her orange vest in the flooded, dense, second growth. “Seven yards to Lani.” She had to be right here but I still couldn’t see her. Another step and there was a flash of orange and movement. There she was, alive! She was totally immobile, laying in 30” of water, her stomach over a log, too weak to move, all hope ripped from her by the frigid water and isolation of the swamp.

I gazed into her eyes and saw complete resignation, not one glimmer of hope or defiance remaining in those ancient, cataract, clouded, eyes. She had now been in the water for about two hours. There was no way to get her on to anything dry; there was nothing dry there. She weighed 68 pounds and I knew carrying her would be impossible. My right leg was losing more sensation by the minute. I was cold, starting to shake, and weakening. I grabbed her by the vest, slid her over the log, took a bearing on the truck and we started out. It was one miserable foot at a time. I’d take a step, make sure I was secure, grab an Aspen whip for balance and support, then slide Lani along with me, her rear end totally immobile. “200 yards to the truck.” Foot, by foot, we clawed our way out, the protective vest saving her stomach from the logs jagged stubs that threatened to rip her stomach open. I was wearing only an orange Bean’s shirt and Carhartt bibs and was getting colder and weaker by the minute. I was soaked to the bone in sweat, shaking, the drifting snow and wind exacting their relentless toll.

As my strength faded, so did any belief that we might make it to the old truck, an impossible 150 yards ahead, alive. I was finished. I now had to lift my nearly useless right leg over each log by hand, all strength and feeling drained from it. Determination fought hopelessness. There was a tall pine where I parked the truck and I could see it. Reaching dry land, the possibility grew that we might actually make it. We collapsed to rest on the dry land, Lani, unable to stand. We lay there a minute and both of us began uncontrollable shivering, hypothermia trying to close its lethal deal. Using my walking stick I forced myself to my feet, pulled Lani to her feet, and we wobbled toward the truck. I had no support for my right ankle and checking my foot, found my boot had come unlaced. Had it come off in the swamp, we’d have probably never made it out. Laces tied, we stumbled the last few yards to the truck. It was now 5:53. Lani had spent nearly four hours in the freezing water, I a little over two.

As soon as I got to that beautiful old truck I gave thanks to our Savior that my Book of Life had not been ended on that soggy page. I spun the knob of the heater to high and closed the vents so the Noggle blasted heat to the back of the truck where the dogs were kenneled. The dogs were each given a large piece of beef stick and we headed out. Sensation slowly returned to my numb, right foot and the violent shivering slowly ebbed. Now we only had to make it through the mud, snow and rain without burying the truck in the continuous mud hole guarding the road. We made it through, and another 30 minutes on graded gravel roads found us secure on the black top road. The tires hummed their song. I called my wife, said we’d be home about 9:30, first stopping at McDonald’s in Crivitz to buy the dogs each two cheeseburgers for the ride home. I still didn’t have complete feeling in my right leg and hit the gas instead or the brake, coming within 18” of putting the truck through the McDonald’s wall. I have little memory of the drive home, apparently in mild shock, but we made it.

Here are some hard learned lessons for all dog owners.
Throw away your antiquated bells and beepers; a GPS collar can save a dog’s life. It just may save your life someday as well if you learn to use it.
Know your dogs limitations. I never should have hunted her in that big country knowing she had impaired directional hearing. Conscience, affection, guilt and loyalty for the dog overrode common sense.
Use an orange vest. The dog may not look pretty, but it affords increased visibility and protection in heavy cover.
Retire them before you kill them. The same could be said for us.

Some will think it was idiotic and irrational for a person to risk their own life for the life of a dog. Never, for the rest of my guilt ridden life, would I ever have forgiven myself, had I let that old dog die in that swamp alone, deserted and terrified. Believing the person that had been the center of her universe through her long lifetime had abandoned her and betrayed her trust. For an animal that is willing to give us everything they have, each and every day, at home or in the field, the least we can do for them, is give them everything we have to give. What ever it takes.

I suffered a mild heart attack, diagnosed a year later. Unfortunately, it developed Lani had suffered a stroke in the swamp, the reason she couldn’t walk. She lost control of her bodily functions and had to cross the Rainbow Bridge two weeks later. I know the birds will hold tighter and the water be warmer in Heaven Old Girl.


The kennel door stands open tonite.....
Her dishes were washed then stacked with pain
The shredded old toys lay unused in their box
New replacements were spurned with disdain.

The kennel door stands open tonite....
Rasping breaths no longer fill the nites
My sleep will come more haltingly now
Something just doesn’t seem quite right.

The kennel door stands open tonite....
Her congested heart plagues her no longer
The haze on her eyes and fading old mind
The weakening hips, can no longer slow her.

The kennel door stands open tonite....
It housed a dog no cover ever daunted
No water to cold, no cattails to dense
She'd seek birds wherever we wanted.

The kennel door stands open tonite....
The furniture is covered in a little less hair
I have more room on the couch but still
I sure miss the old girl lyin’ there.

The kennel door stands open tonite....
An empty collar hangs lonely on it's dowel
Her tattered vest swings in our pick up truck
Her many pictures grace a favorite wall.

The kennel door stands open tonite....
A hunting partner and friend has faltered
Her antics, her actions, our countless hunts
Remain etched in my memories unaltered.

The kennel door stands open tonite....
Comes a time that bridge must be crossed
Heaven has been given a brilliant new star
While I weather this unfathomable loss.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Postby orhunter » Mon Aug 29, 2022 9:21 am

Thanks for the post.

It’s good that dogs have no concept of the future and death. We’re forced to do all the worrying, pain and suffering for them. A heavy burden.

Age: As I get older, (76) I always assume everyone else is much younger, not realizing we’re all pretty much a bunch of codgers.
SARCASM, one of the many free services I offer
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Postby AverageGuy » Thu Sep 01, 2022 11:07 am

Good Stuff Ken. Hope you have a safe and productive season.
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Postby Willie T » Sun Sep 04, 2022 6:01 pm

Good post GH. Awakened some memories…
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