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.;


Conditioning for the Alaska Outdoors

The Matanuska Valley has several picturesque trails I use for conditioning. The Matanuska Lakes Trail system connects to the Crevasse Moraine Trail System. Together they contain over twenty miles of trails with dozens of ups and downs over the moraines left by the last retreating glaciers in the Valley. Friday I took my two dogs for a two-hour run/walk. It is a wonderful place for everyday dog owners and those interested in raising housedogs that stay healthy and happy. They had a great time and I took one more step toward getting into sheep shape.

Taiga located four male spruce grouse with their mating colors – mostly consiting of a large crimson patch over their eyes. He treed them, then left on command to find another. After a long winter of few bird hunting trips, he was thrilled to go ‘hunting’ again. We are both looking forward to upland hunting in Alaska this fall.

These trails are some of the first to open in the Valley and are used regularly by locals looking for early spring exercise. With the constant up/down/up pattern on these trails, it is a great workout for those looking to get in shape for the summer. However, there are also a few relatively flat areas on spurs that connect to University of Alaska land along Trunk Road. And the abundant bird life and numerous stocked lakes, there are several attractions of these trails. My wife and I and our two dogs love this area.

Taiga & Loomis Resting Along Matanuska Lakes Trail System

Hunting Dogs Grow up Quickly

My 21-month-old Labrador amazed me yesterday. Not having owned a hunting dog previously, I wasn’t expecting him to mature over the winter without training on specific tasks. I took Taiga out back to our meadow to throw and plant two frozen training birds. Without any specific training from me over the winter, he has greatly improved his quartering habit, his reliance on his nose, and his marking ability.

At this time last year, at 9 months he was just getting acquainted with birds. On one of our Alaska outdoor adventures to the Talkeetna River in late April, he wasn’t even a swimmer yet. After spotting a shorebird across the shallow rive, his running, 10-foot jump into the river after that bird was a great start to a bird-hunting career, and to his introduction to swimming. (Of course the bird was out of season, but had no chance to catch it.) After that episode, he quickly became an accomplished swimmer that summer.

Taiga before his first swim
Taiga Spots a Shorebird
My next book will be on “Raising  Housedogs.” After rasing two dogs from puppies over the past 20 months, I’m very interested in training strategies. I’ve learned quite a lot on retriever training and training Taiga for Upland hunting in Alaska. I am far from an expert on training hunting dogs, or even dogs for obedience trials, but that’s not what the majority of dog owners need or want. They just want a good companion/house dog.  That will be the focus of my book; a book for the everyday dog owner.