Hunting with Jake and Mike
11/6/2010 10:11:25 AM
Itís Saturday morning and ever since I opened my eyes Iíve been thinking about tonight. Iím going to drive two hours up to Walnut Cove and take a hunt with my buddy Mike Bertrand. If youíve been around the hunts in the southeastern part of the country you know Mike. Heís the one guy in the crowd that when you see him youíll say under your breath, ďThat guy needs a haircut.Ē His head looks like Michael Landonís on steroids. Heís a big guy, actually has been a professional wrestler and heís loud. Underneath all that fuzz and bluster there's a good hunter that's a great guy to hunt with and who has a good dog. Put that all together and you have the perfect setup for a wild Saturday night in the North Carolina hardwoods.
Mike and I have made the 500-mile trip out to the PlottDogs.Com championship together the last two years. Mike has captured the Plott end of the Purina Outstanding Nite Hunt Coonhound of the Year competition for the last two years with Jake. Jake is pert-near all black but thereís plenty of brindle hair on his legs. At a distance he looks like a tall Lab but when you unsnap the sucker and listen to him roll up on the wood with a mouth thatís actually louder than Mikeís, if you can imagine,thereís no doubt what Jake is. Heís a coon treeing Plott and I guess thatís the thing Mike and I have most in common. We like the brindle dogs and we like to see a coon when they tree.
Coon hunting with friends is what this time of year is all about for me and I'm fairly sure you will agree. The big hunts are pretty much all in the books now and the hunting seasons are in or soon will be all across coon country. Hard winter hasnít set in and the cool, crisp nights put a spring in the step of the hounds and hunters alike. Itís the time of year when dark-thirty just doesnít come around soon enough.
Mike called this morning just as I was settling into my easy chair with a cup of fresh-ground Trader Joeís and wanted to tell me to avoid Interstate 40. A new outlet mall is having a grand opening today and Mike says the man on the TV says thereís a three-mile backup. Sitting in traffic is not my thing, in fact my bblood pressure rises at the rate of about a point a minute when I get stuck. Thankfully North Carolina has a great highway system and Iíll take a swing to the west and then north and miss all the shop-til-you-droppers and be at Mikeís in time to tree a few over supper before we hit the woods.
Old Hoss pup is as fidgety as a ferret just like I am this morning as if he knows weíre going tonight. Hoss lives in the house with me and heís taught me a lot about dogs in the last year. In all those years Iíve tried to understand dogs I should have known the answer was to let them move in with me. Trying to learn the Japanese language when I was stationed there I realized that guys living with Japanese girls picked up the language much more quickly than I did.
Dogs have moods just like we do. They feel better some days than others. Some days they want to play and others they just want to be left alone. They understand far more than we give them credit for and they learn quickly if weíre consistent in what we want them to learn and how we present the training. Iíve learned a lot about dogs thanks to old Hoss pup who will be two next Tuesday.
One of the things Hoss has taught me since he and I have become such buddies is to be careful where I turn him loose. I lost a nice young female two years ago to a car while hunting and I donít want to go through the pain of that again. Hunting is rife with danger at best but I think I owe it to him to use my best judgment when picking my hunting spots. I think we all owe that to the hounds. I guess thatís why I was so outraged recently to learn that a guide at a World Championship was releasing dogs near busy roads without telling the handlers of the impending danger to their dogs. A promising young hound was killed on that cast. Iím sure it didnít bother the guide but it darn near broke the handlerís heart.
I hope that you have a hunt planned tonight with a buddy you enjoy hunting with. If your hunting buddy is like Mike, youíll have a good hunt but there sure wonít be a dull moment.
Photo: Mike and AKC NITECH, UKC GRNITECH Bert's N.C. Jake II
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