Monday, January 5, 2015

Nevada Coursing

Patti, Gil, and Pi: Ready for Action

This blog entry is long overdo, and I hope my memory of it isn't too foggy.

On the weekend of November 22nd and 23rd, Tom and I packed up his pickup truck with Patti, Pi, and Gil, and drove out to northern Nevada for some open field coursing. It was our first rarebreed hunt of the season, and the first coursing outing for any of my dogs since the Grand Course back in February.

The weather was predicted to be quite chilly, and to avoid any possibility of getting stuck in the snow while going over the pass, we decided to leave Friday night. We arrived around 8:00, checked into our hotel and went to bed early in preparation for an early roll call the next morning.

 Frank, our judge, sitting atop his giant van in the beautiful Nevada desert

As predicted, it was very cold the next morning, and by the time we rolled into the valley we were to hunt in the wind had picked up quite a bit, making the chill all the more sharp. I wasn't phased by it at all; in fact I prefer to be cold rather than warm, and with all the t-shirt weather coursing we had the year before I welcomed the sub-40 degree temperatures.

 Fadiahr the Afghan

We had a good entry of 11 hounds the first day (1 Galgo, 3 Magyars, 4 Afghans, and 3 Silkens), but not enough of any one breed to split the stake. I can't remember exactly which course numbers my dogs drew, except that Pi and Patti wound up in the same course, which I was glad about. Patti is the least experienced of the three Magyars when it comes to coursing, and I hoped that by running with her brother she would have the good sense to follow him back to the gallery when the course was over, rather than wandering off on her own.

 Diego the Galgo

Overall, the rabbits were pretty scarce and very good at evading the hounds, which is typical of my experiences with Nevada coursing. The few times I've hunted there, the rabbits always seemed to have an uncanny ability to seemingly disappear into thin air just as the dogs begin to gain on it. The landscape is deceptively uneven (it looks flat when viewed from a distance, but is actually scattered with low and high spots), and with the brush being as thick as it can be in some spots, it's easy for the rabbits to duck into a hiding spot. In sum, it's a very challenging place to hunt, but the beauty of the landscape itself more than makes up for it.

 Tom soothing Patti, who got a little impatient for her turn to run

We got the first couple of rabbits up, fairly early in the day. Gil's rabbit came up at about 10 'o-clock, and took the dogs over a rise and down into a much lower area of the field, almost completely out of our sight. All three hounds were pretty well-matched on the run up, but by the time we could see them again Gil was quite a bit ahead of the others. It wasn't much of a course from a spectator point of view, but the dogs clearly had fun, and I think they got their money's worth.

Pi, taking a break from slips, but always on the look-out for rabbits

Pi and Patti's hare got up at about 3 'o-clock, right as we were coming over a small rise (he must have been sitting on the edge of the gully). Pi and Patti took off like a light, up and over the rise and out of my sight again. From what we and the judge could tell, there wasn't as much to that course as there had been with Gil's, but I was happy that Patti got sighted and had a good slip, and that she came back safely and quickly.

We struggled to find our last prelim of the day, and had to settle for a very long call that amounted to even less than a tail-chase. With that, we decided to call it a day, and hoped for better runs the next day. Final results had Gil placing 2nd, Pi 3rd, and Patti 5th.

 Kepi the Afghan

We got out of the field just as the sun was disappearing over the horizon. Too tired and cold to leave the hotel for dinner, we had a pizza delivered right to our room. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I did not wake up at all until my alarm went off the next morning.

 A hunter and his hound

Sunday's weather was much milder by comparison. It was still cold, but without the wind and occasionally rain showers it didn't feel nearly as bone-chilling. We decided to drive further into the field than we had the day before, hoping for more rabbits. As it turned out, we got to take in lots of new and beautiful scenery, but there wasn't a single rabbit to be had until we headed back down the valley to where we had been the day before.

 Karly the Silken Windhound

We had the same number of dogs entered, and somehow Pi and Patti managed to draw the same course again. Gil drew the last course, a brace, which we ultimately had to scratch in order to finish the day on prelims. Although I felt bad that Gil didn't get a chance to run that day, he kind of deserved it for acting like a complete fool all day long. I don't know if the lack of rabbits mixed with adrenaline caused him to go into some kind of delirium, but he would not stop barking all day long, and he would get particularly crazy at the sight of some dirt bikers and ATVers who were driving around in the distance.

 Patti says, "I WANT THE BUNNIES!"

Despite not having a lot of rabbits, Pi and Patti had probably the best run of the day, not because there was any really brilliant moves on their part, but because of how long and far the course went on. Pi isn't the best courser who ever lived, but he has a knack for staying on a hare's ass, even when it starts pulling out all kinds of evasive maneuvers. He stayed on this particular rabbit all the way past the road that we had come into the field on, and up the base of the mountains that created the walls of the valley itself. I don't know exactly how far he ran, but it was quite far. The only reason he lost it was because he couldn't run vertically and stay sighted at the same time, although he tried very hard. Patti wasn't a factor in the course from what I could see, but she stayed right behind her brother, and followed him back to the gallery pleased as punch.

 Patti returning from her run

For all that effort, Pi ended up with a 1st place (his very first 1st place!), and Patti ended up in 4th place.
Overall, I consider the weekend to have been a success. We may not have had as many rabbits as we would have liked, but the weather was to my liking, the scenery was AWESOME, and my dogs had a great time. What more could I ask for?

 We got one of each placement!

The one and only thing that dampened my day was losing my Garmin Astro in the field :-(  The hand-held unit detached from the clip holding it to my belt, which I did not notice until we got back to the cars. I have since bought a replacement hand-held unit, but man did it make me sad to drive away from that valley knowing it was sitting out there with no way for me to find it (sob).

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