Duckboats.net
Skip to Content


Home : Main Forums : Duck Boat/Hunting Forum :

Belle's first Montana season - 2019

Quote Reply
Belle's first Montana season - 2019
I have found this story a difficult one to write, but I do want to share Belle's first Montana hunting season. It just happened to be Steve's last hunting season and I sometimes find myself at a loss for words in telling this story and how to tell it. However, Belle does need to be shown off for the sometimes crazy, wild child she was that trip and I have gotta brag about her accomplishments that season. Especially since in a few days we will be headed north again to let her run the wide prairies, chasing grouse and huns.

So, here's a story about Belle's first hunting season....

First, Belle is my first pointy dog. Second, what I know about teaching pointy dogs to be pointy dogs could probably fill up a shot glass. What I knew then was even less. Everything that everyone had told me was her first year hunting, pretty much she can do no wrong. Let her figure out birds on her own they said. Let her run. She will come back (especially since she KNOWS that I have the water). After the obligatory Labor Day weekend/week hurricane went through, we began the trek to MT.



We left FL in high spirits. We had two pointy dogs, a nice big roomy new motorhome to cruise in comfort in and we were looking forward to watching B show how she continues to be Da Bombdiggity and Belle learn all about being a pointy dog. The trip up to MT was the most comfortable trip ever. We even asked each other if the states had resurfaced all of the roads, the ride was so smooth.

We passed a few neat things like the worlds biggest peanut ever



And the home of Superman



In South Dakota, Belle had her first pheasant point. You couldn't ask for a nicer backing done by B either.



The girls had a bit to figure out in travelling together. They both wanted to sit "up front" with us and there was a little squabbling in trying to figure things out. But figure them out they did.



There are consequences to being a bed hog.



We made it to MT with few issues and had to celebrate our finally getting to MT with a burger, beer and getting our licenses.



That year, the burger was quite good....not lousy at all.



We made it sage grouse camp and got all set up. We had enough time for an afternoon/evening hunt and the weather was nice. Steve told me that I could pick where we were going to hunt since it was going to be my girls very first hunt. I told him where I thought we should go (we had had pretty good luck in that area in the past in the afternoons) and after some grumbling by him about that's not where he would have chosen, we turned the truck in that direction and off we went. Our discussion was over, the grumbling done and we were super excited about getting out there. It is a pretty big wide open area out there, little water (though it was a pretty wet year), lotsa cactus and lotsa gorgeousness.



Belle had an awesome time that evening. There wasn't a burrowing owl anywhere nearby that wasn't chased off its perch. Or a hawk that wasn't followed to make sure it didn't come back. She did run into a few sharptail coveys that got her riled up and in general she just had tons and tons of fun! B, being a seasoned pro at this, had to run off some steam first and then got down to business. She found good numbers of sharptails as well as a couple coveys of sage grouse.



And she does it with style



Belle began getting more interested when birds began showing up in our hands



B is certainly no labrador when it comes to retrieving but she isn't bad at it. Not a great deal of style or bringing to hand because she has more important things to do, so she prefers the drive by retrieve.



Although, she was more likely to bring to hand when there is a bird that has the potential to get away. Again, she has better things to do than to chase down a cripple when there are other birds that need pointing out there.



Belle did have her first sage grouse point in my choice of hunting spots.



She even held the point long enough for us to get to her. I had my limit of sage grouse at that point and Steve was one bird shy. When the birds got up, I was hollering at Steve DON'T MISS!!! DON'T MISS!!! DON'T MISS!!! DON'T MISS!!! He winged that bird and it flew a long way before falling out of the sky. We watched it and apparently so did B. She ran off after that bird and came back with it in short order. She was mighty proud of herself too. She seems to have a pretty good grasp on when we really really need her help finding a bird and when we don't. She also basks in the glory that is all her when she does something like that. That bird was a total team effort to get Belle her first sage grouse.



Belle, not wanting to miss out, began figuring out retrieving a little bit. Not so much on the bringing it back to us, but bringing it sorta kinda back so that we at least knew where the bird was. I'm not sure she ever caught a cripple or she just made sure there weren't cripples to bring back when she got her mouth on a bird, but one never escaped when she decided she was done defeathering it. Luckily that's all she really ever did was pluck the birds some for us. In general, she shows NO interest in retrieving anything. Doesn't like the fetch game. I haven't forced the issue since I plan on getting another retriever, and the times I have needed her to hunt dead during quail or woodcock seasonI will make her do it. So, it tickled me that she was finding a little interest in retrieving birds.



The weather was great but my photography skills sometimes lacked.



We kept the hunts down to a few hours. We didn't want to wear the dogs out too fast, too soon. It was a good thing because usually by the end of the hunt at the beginning of the trip, Belle was more than ready to call it quits. As her endurance improved, I heard that she was a bit harder to get back to the truck.



I should have had a limit of sharptails and sage grouse that first afternoon. Sadly, my shooting was lousy and we couldn't find one bird that I had knocked down. B tried, but her dead birding has limits. It really made me miss Drake.



We tried a few new areas at sage grouse camp. There be huns out here somewhere.



There were even sage grouse hunkered down in the stubble from time to time.



Belle got to enjoy some hun action



And part of that enjoyment took her over the ridge, so we tried more new areas.



As I said, my photography skills sometimes lacked and this was the best I could get of my girls first hun point.



The sort of scary thing about this new spot is that there used to be a good sized prairie dog town near it. Holes are still there, no prairie dogs though. BUT there were snakes. Turns out that Belle's first trip to the snake trainer didn't totally take because she ran across this angry beauty and she was far too interested in it. Luckily she didn't get bitten but it was a tense 30 minutes for me back to the truck and waiting to see if she would swell up from being bit. Back at the truck we could find no bite marks and there was no swelling so I was mightily relieved.



In another new spot we tried, we got into a big pocket that held so many pheasants both girls lost their minds.



B eventually calmed down but we had to have seen at least 50 pheasants there. It isn't a very big piece of land either.



Nights spent in sage grouse camp always include a mani/pedi for the dogs. Whether they want it or not. Sage grouse camp is full of cactus and the dogs seldom run with boots so I try to keep their feet as cactus free as possible. Steve was usually on kitchen duty making dinner while I took care of the girls. Luckily, they both put up with the spa treatment with little grumbling.





I'm not sure how many people spend an hour or more on their dogs' feet at night but I like to think that it makes the girls feel better not being full of so many spines.

My time in MT was short due to personnel losses at work, so we didn't spend as much time in sage grouse camp as we would normally have. That is okay though. B and Belle needed a day off and we found lots of birds, Belle had her first sage grouse and hun points and retrieves. We relocated to our sharptail camp and though B needed a day off, she kept doing the "are we there yet? are we there yet? are we there yet?" thing that folk do when they're bored.



I only had two full hunting days left when we got to sharptail camp and Steve was under the weather, so I took Belle to a place I call "Bob's". It is a spot that I found and explored by myself the first year we were in MT while Steve was working. It has turned out to be an awesome place with sharptails, huns and pheasants often found. We would also often find lots of deer sheds and a skull from time to time. It is a favorite of mine.



The girl loves to run but it was hot those last few days.



I had to make sure Belle took plenty of rest breaks on our walk through the prairie. She was less than enthused about that though....she kept wanting to go go go go go go go.....



That first day at Bob's, Belle certainly found birds. I am also pretty sure that she chased every sharptail out of the county that day. I often saw her trailing behind the birds as they went up and over whatever distant hill. I never worried overly much though, I had the water and she knows it.

The next day Steve was feeling better so we headed back to Bob's. The girls really are a beauty to watch run together.







B, as usual, knew what she was doing and did it with style.



Sometimes it almost seemed like she was saying to Belle, "THIS is how a real pointy dog acts."



Belle did have her first sharptail point with me that day. Shockingly, I doubled AND Belle retrieved one of them for me. I was very proud of her and she seemed very proud of herself.





I had to go home and Steve kept Belle with him through November. Pheasant season doesn't open in MT until midish October and though I had hoped to get out there, I was unable to do so because of work. I got daily updates about Belle though. She did end up having her first pheasant point that year. Mostly she just tried running them down.



Belle's first pheasant. She didn't want to sit still for a picture with it. In fact the picture I have of her, Steve's wife Debby had to hold on to her just to keep her from running off. She is definitely not interested in posing and showing off her gorgeousness.



When pheasant season opened, you can probably tell from this picture which of the lovelies was actually responsible for Steve getting his limit. But lordy, was Belle having fun!



The trip was a fun one and Belle had a great start in learning to be a pointy dog that year. Spending a little over two months on the prairie was good for her. I am looking forward to seeing how she has matured since then what with having two quail and woodcock seasons under her belt now. I am working on steadying her up on wild birds and she is coming along nicely (except on snipe....she is a demon where snipe are concerned). She is still nowhere near steady to wing and shot, but that will be worked on.



Soon though.....we'll be out on the prairies chasing huns, sage grouse and sharptails.....

Last edited by:

Dani: Sep 18, 2021, 7:20 AM
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Great stuff! My wife and I want to buy a camper one day, it's our goal to travel and hunt.




12' Higbee, 14' South Bay, 17' Polarkraft
South Jersey
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Great story and pictures Dani!
Thanks for putting the pictures and writing together. Although I'm sure it was difficult for you at times, we who have lost hunting partners, whether friends or dogs have all gone over those memories with a flood of emotions.

I wish you and Belle a safe and fun hunt. We look forward to another wonderful chapter in your western adventures.
Steve
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Wow Dani, what a great job. I'm sure a difficult task and hunting is not the same but a great tribute to both Steve and Belle. Beautiful!

thanks for sharing.
"Pass the Tradition Along"
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Well done, as usual, Dani. Thanks for sharing. It was good to see both of your bird-silly grins on the prairie even if via a trip in the sorta-wayback machine.

You?ve probably heard but it was a brutally hot and dry summer here and it appears upland broods took a major hit. The dove hunting has been so unusually good that I?ve not yet ventured forth for bigger birds. That?s about to change as I?m headed to Glendive this afternoon for a week-long working vacation in eastern MT and west-central SD with Lab and scattergun. If the Stoneville is open when I pass it on my return, I?ll stop and toast Mr. Sutton with a cheap drink.
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
I am sure that was hard for you to share...THANK YOU! Great pictures, stories, and memories!

That rattlesnake was more than enough for me to say ...NO THANK YOU!

---------------------------------------------------------------------
***Phil (Chesapeake Boy) Nowack***

http://www.mapleridgetaxidermy.com
http://www.philnowackphotography.com

Nothing like the north wind pushing snow at your back, a bird in your hand, and chessie with ice on his coat at your side.

Birds brought to you courtesy of Nikon, Benelli, Kodi, and Otter
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Thanks y'all! Glad ya enjoyed it.

Phil, until that year, we seldom saw rattlesnakes and almost always it was on the road. We did unintentionally get into a prairie dog town one year that we ended up leashing Drake and B what with the number of sunning snakes we saw. For the most part though, this was more common....seeing them on the road and moving them off the road so they don't get squished



Dave, I'll be planning to stop in at the Stoneville Saloon as I make my way north. I think we stopped there every year we came from the east. I've never been there on Tuesdays, but they advertise Topless Tuesdays Sly It always tickled me to buy a hunting license in a bar and we needed to eat anyway. I am easily amused. I have heard that the drought and grasshoppers were brutal this year. I have a friend who has been in NE MT, north of Hwy 2 and he has been doing well on sharptails and huns. He also said he has seen a good number of still growing pheasant broods. He thinks it should be a good pheasant year up in that corner based on what he is seeing. I am cautiously optimistic that I will have decent hunting while I am up there. Even if it isn't even decent, it will still be way better than FL upland hunting!

Ross, I am a huge fan of having a camper to travel and hunt with. It's great to not have to pack and unpack every time you change locations because you are changing motels. Motels are nice for some things but more and more I am finding it harder to find motels that will allow dogs. Or they do but they charge an arm and a leg.

Thanks again y'all!
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Great story and amazing photos.
I know this must have been hard to write, thanks for sharing with us.


Carl
Mobile, AL
DHBP Member since 1998

"Life is too short to drink bad beer."
Disclaimer: This post and/or report is not a substantiation of or reflection on the true accuracy of the present surveying methods. It is only a report on or comment concerning local observation and/or results. Your results and observation may vary based on your location, local water conditions, food supply, weather conditions and migratory patterns "
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Very nice tribute to your last trip with Steve. I have to comment on the beautiful pics there that capture the varied terrain that you all hunted so well. Pics so rich that you forget how unforgiving the terrain is.

Who did up the 2019 poster for the trip? That is right up Steve's alley for sure.
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Tod, I believe his first name is Luca but Sanguemiele Design is the company name. I know he is on facebook cuz that's where Steve found him. Steve also had another one commissioned (I think he was going to use it as his business logo or something to do with his business which he had named Into The Wind) that was a big tribute to Drake and B just before me having to put Drake down. The picture of me is from a picture of me holding the last pheasant I shot over Drake. The Into The Wind one was a surprise to me. The Upland Prairie Camp was one that I worked on with him for different drafts to get it "just right"




Thanks y'all...I am looking forward to seeing the sage prairies again.....
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Wonderful reading and great photos Dani. As the others have stated I'm sure this was hard to write with probably a tear or two with the great memories of times you two shared. I hope you have a great season this year.

Take care,

Ed L.
East Moline,
Illinois
_________________________________________
If I'd had asked what they wanted they would have said faster horses" - Henry Ford

Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Dani
Wonderful pictorial and essay. It may have been hard to post, but the memories you made will always bring a smile to you.
I would love to hopefully someday go on a hunt like this with the new dog. The snakes my freak me out. I'd worry the dog may get bite or me. Other than that it looks like a dream hunt to me.
Best of luck on this years hunt and don't forget to post the hunt up.
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Belle and B sure are gorgeous dogs and do a fine job.

Thanks for sharing with us and bringing the hunt to us in such a great manner. I hope this year is even better and that it brings back good memories and creates new ones.



Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Amazing story and pictures thank you for sharing. I'm planning on doing a trip west for birds in late November. Thinking southwest Nebraska, but we'll see.

Who makes the vest you're wearing? I'm in the market for a new one.

.........................................
Recovering Engineer, Standup Philosopher, Aspiring Pirate, Cooking Enthusiast
"Life is a garden.... Dig It!"
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Dani,
What a great memory for your to have and share with us. Thank you.

Sometimes going back through the times we've shared with those now gone helps make them feel closer to us even in their absence.

I hope you find satisfaction in sharing the trip with us as it brought us not only remembrance of Steve but also reminded us of the beauties out there to be discovered in this great land.

You are a blessing,
Larry
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Thanks again y'all!

Charles, my vest is made by Quillomine (sp?). If you look up Q5 hunting vests you should find it.
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Thank You! It looks pretty slick. There's so many high tech vests on the market right now I don't know where to start. I wish I could have them all side by side to see in person.

.........................................
Recovering Engineer, Standup Philosopher, Aspiring Pirate, Cooking Enthusiast
"Life is a garden.... Dig It!"
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Dani

What an incredible pictorial and probably far better adventure. Just seeing those pictures would make any hunter want to take that trip. Thank you for sharing.

Eric
Quote Reply
Re: Belle's first Montana season - 2019 In reply to
Great tribute to a fine season. The grass was long that year, I'll bet you are finding it shorter now. Hope you are having fun.