Sheep Conditioning 101

The Butte near Palmer is ready for climbing. It is one of the first hills here in the Matanuska Valley that is free of ice and snow early each spring. I just climbed it this morning, along with about 47 other people and dogs enjoying the sun. 50+ degrees feels great in April.

Climbing Buddies

It’s already April, so only four short months before hunting in Alaska is in full swing, and Sheep Hunting in Alaska starts. And often, June and July are so busy with other summer activities, conditioning takes a back seat. So I rely heavily on April and May for the bulk of my conditioning exercise. Then I often coast through to August, with only scattered conditioning jaunts to put the finishing touches on “sheep shape” for me. And, getting into great shape by the end of May helps me enjoy the Alaska outdoors to the fullest, since our fishing, camping, and hiking often demand more than couch potatoes can handle. See you on the hills.;


Gun Dog Training in the Valley

One of the many Alaska outdoor adventures during summer in the Matanuska Valley is retriever training. Last weekend I took my Labrador to the first picnic fun hunt test of the summer. These type of retriever field trials are meant to test a retriever’s ability to hunt effectively for their handler. Although some participants are interested in accruing points needed to get ribbons and move up to a more demanding category of tests, many of us simply want to improve our dog’s ability to be a good hunting dog, as well as a good companion in the field.

Waiting our Turn
Of course, us handlers can the most from these events if we keep our eyes and ears open, and ask lots of questions. The good advice has to be gleaned from all the ‘free’ advice readily given out without a request, but there is plenty of that among the very experienced dog handlers on the field. And, fellow training partners can also be discovered here. At last week’s event, I noticed how a dog’s behavior coincided with its handler’s approach to dog training. The calm, patient handlers typically had obedient – or at least managealbe – dogs. Handlers who yelled repeatedly with unchecked emotions mostly had wild dogs who ignored their handlers. My wife says, “Yeah, kid and dogs react alike to both types of parents.” In many ways, dogs and kids do react in the same way to each of these ‘parenting’ methods. However, these observations are easier to see at dog events since these animals react in more predictable ways to training methods. I always come away from these events with a better understanding of dogs and how I can be a better handler for my dog. I’ll enjoy my dog at home and in the field more because of this.
Retrieving the Duck - His Joy in Life

Three Months ’til Opening Day

Resting at Twin Peaks' First Bench

May is a great month to work on conditioning for a sheep hunt, or any mountain hunt. Here is Alaska, the warmer weather (60 degrees yesterday) has us all thinking of summer activities like fishing, rafting, hiking and camping. But it’s still too early for most of those serious Alaska Outdoor Adventures. So, it’s an ideal time to work on conditioning, before the busy months of June and July preempt us from regular workouts.

My partner and I again climbed the Twin Peaks Trail in the Matanuska Valley yesterday. The 1000-ft. climb with no stops was not very difficult with a 60-lb. pack, although we could have pushed faster to make it as difficult as we wanted. For the first time this summer with that much weight, it was a good installment into our conditioning for an August sheep hunt. And neither of us were sore the next day, so that speaks volumes about how we are approaching ‘sheep shape.’ And May days are often wonderfully clear, coll days – ideal conditions for climbing and dreaming of sheep hunting in Alaska.