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.;


The Wonders of Nature

The Alaska outdoors is full of sights and sounds this time of year. Birds are returning and nesting here in the Matanuska Valley – some right in our back yards. On one of daily walks my Lab jumped a female grouse that led him on a fluttering chase. I immediately thought ‘broken wing act to lead him from her nest.’ Sure enough, I found her ground nest tucked up against a small spruce tree, complete with 11 tan-with-brown-speckles eggs.

Spruce Hen on Nest

I quickly called my dog and led him at heel away from the sight. The bird returned quite quickly with no apparent distress. Now we walk a different route and I’m watching for any other ground nesting birds to keep my dogs away. I keep tabs on her from a distance to make sure she has a successful nesting season, and so I can take the neighbor’s kids to see once her chicks hatch and they all desert the nest. They will love to inspect the nest and the remnants of the eggs.

Eleven grouse eggs

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