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This article has been published in the NZ Hunting Magazine
A Dogs Tail….. Millie’s 1st year
Having brought countless hunting magazines in the past I have finally convinced myself to put pen to paper. I’d like to share some of my own adventures, of being a Kiwi with a passion for the outdoors.
This story is a recap of Year One with my new hunting buddy Millie.
It all began early in 2018 with emails bouncing back and forth regarding a little heading pup. She was ready to be picked up from Darfield, so my wife and I packed up the Ute and headed north to meet her.
With our new addition to the family, in a box on the back seat we all returned south. Millie soon settled in to her new home and I got some basic training underway. There is no better time to start than from the word go. Straight away I picked up on Millie’s soft nature and eagerness to please, this was later to be a great asset to her as an indicating dog.
A couple of months went by and I kept Millie away from the hunting scene. I wanted to continue with steady training of the basics, however this didn’t keep me out of the hills. The roar was approaching and I had a two week window lined up for chasing Reds.
The Roar turned out to be an eventful one. I had earned a decent Red Stag after eight days of walking around the hills with good mates, good banter and somewhat average weather conditions. We also managed to glimpse a few promising stags for the future. An unexpected outcome from the Roar was my knee injury which required surgery and some extended time off work.
My time off work with a young pup is what created a strong foundation for her obedience. I was able to put a lot of commitment into her, going from her basic commands and manners through to longline training and getting her ready for field training (I think the neighbours thought I was crazy at this point banging pots and wood together getting the pup use to loud noises).
Six weeks after surgery had me getting around slowly without the need for crutches. I was able to go for small walks on the flat with Millie and get her steady under distraction, which I feel is a key area of training. Millie’s “wanting to please” nature made this not too difficult and we were soon walking past distraction. After this was well established I introduced shooting around her. With previous loud noise training this was not a worry.
Millie’s training was progressing and my knee was slowly coming right after what seemed like hundreds of Physio appointments. It was time to return to work and I was eager to settle back into a routine after so much time off. Returning to work allowed me the ability to progress Millie’s training as well. I was able to get back into some hunting around the easy country and get some skins for her to learn what we were after. I was beginning to notice her scenting ability and was also pleased to see that she liked using her nose.
From the age of eight months I was taking Millie out on bigger walks. We mainly went up small hills, on Doc land and farm tracks to build her fitness and work on my own strength. A month later I was confident in taking Millie hunting on a farm block with my good friend Tobias, who had his Lab pup with him. This was a great introduction to hunting for Millie as she didn’t put a foot wrong. Both pups were put on a sit stay while we set up, shot and then they were released to come and find the deer.
With spring arriving and her first Deer ticked off, it was time to put all of our training into action. Our first official hunt together we got onto a few deer on the bush edge. I was able to pick out a spiker at 30 metres while the pooch was watching intently. She was a proud little dog that morning walking back to the Ute loaded up with spring venison.
The following week I headed for the bush with Millie and my best mate Craig. We went after work in search for deer. On this hunt I picked up on Millie really using her nose with fresh sign in the bush. She picked up on a mob of velvet stags which we watched move off. As we broke the bush line we started moving through broken scrub. Once again I saw Millie using her nose and 80 meters away I spied a fallow yearling. We succeeded in a clean shot and a good find.
Another week went by and I decided it was time for Millie’s first overnighter. We were joined with my good hunting mate Jesse. We decided to check out a DOC block which we hadn’t been to before. With heavy packs on we headed up the track for a good while, entered the bush and set up camp. With camp sorted we continued on for a hunt. Millie was 5 meters ahead of us with the long line on. After 20 minutes Millie was winding and we soon spied a big red hind feeding through the bush. We decided to leave her and carried on. Half hour went by stalking and we stopped for lunch. After that we just moved up the ridge 10 meters and Millie snuck off slightly to the right. She found us a fawn curled up (probably from the hind not long before). After the photo opportunity we broke the bush line and on to the tops. From here we hunted back towards camp spotting a few deer through the binos but there was nothing worth shooting.
The next morning came after a pretty warm night in the tent. Once again we headed above the bush line. We observed a few deer and decided they would be safe. The weather was starting to close in so we decided to go back down the hill, pick up our packs and head back to the truck. On the way back along the track I had Millie out in front as we were trying to beat the weather. I had my gun on the pack but when she started winding strongly to the side I decided I had better follow it up. Off came the rifle and we followed the wind down through some scrub and fern. Roughly 150 meters off the track Millie froze just in front of me. I was scanning in front of us looking for a deer but couldn’t see anything. I looked slightly lower and seen the scrub moving. A pig was rooting up the fern 30 meters away. I thought that will do, so I sent a projectile over the dog and into the unaware porker. A perfect result for our first overnighter, with a solid indication, stalk, shoot and find.
Following Spring I had decided to get one last hunt in for the year. We went on mission up a local valley with my good friend Morgan, who hasn’t been on too many hunts. Millie was sporting her Christmas gift… A Real Dog Company backpack. She looked comfortable with it on and happy to wear it. It also took a small load off my shoulders.
We climbed high on this trip, well above the bush line. We noticed a few red stags in soft velvet out in the tussock. These guys were lucky as they got shot only with the camera while watched closely by the dog. Less than 5 minutes after they moved on a decent buck Chamois came barrelling down the hill and stopped on a rock 200 meters away. It was all stations go at that point. With a solid first shot and a finishing shot, Millie now had 4 species under her collar following this addition of a 9 inch Chammy.
After New Year, I thought it would be good to continue with our momentum and get the first hunt of the year done early. This would also round off having Millie for one year. This being another overnight trip. I decided we would tick off Millie’s first Heli ride, fly in and walk out. On this trip I had my good mate Brendan visiting from up North so he and Jesse came on a mission with us. It was to be a quick overnight trip into alpine country looking for Chamois. We dropped a car at the bottom carpark before heading back round to the hangar for lift off. Millie was slightly unsure but got settled into the flight. It wasn’t long before the chopper left us in that peaceful silence on top of a ridge at just over 2000m altitude. We soon found a suitable campsite and got the binos out for the evening. We managed to see a few Chamois as the light was fading but found everything was living further down around the 1600 meter mark. We realised that if we dropped in altitude the following morning our hunting would improve.
That night was an eventful one to say the least. Millie had her first Kea experience and it appeared she thought she was one of them. A chilling southerly dropped the temperature to around 0 degrees (pretty cold for a summer’s night) and came with icy sleet that had us all barely able to sleep. The next morning couldn’t come soon enough and we rose to more cold wind but a fine day. So with breakfast and a hot cuppa down, we packed the camp onto our backs and set off down the ridge. We spooked a young Chamois as we made our way down but when we reached 1600 meters we found a buck Chamois resting on a rock 595 meters away. Jesse had brought his 7mm magnum along so we set up and dialled the buck in. Jesse squeezed off and 0.7 seconds later I confirmed a solid hit through the spotter. Millie knew we were onto something but she had no role in this animal until we made it down to the buck. She followed the small blood trail and then indicated the dead 9” chammy buck. We grabbed a few pics and Millie got her second Chamois heart for a treat before climbing back up onto the ridge. The rest of the walk out was fairly quiet with a few other animals spotted but left for another day. By the time we broke out onto the road it was three broken lads and a puffed pooch. Exhausted while heading back to town but happy with another successful trip.
As I write this I am looking out the window at the hunting paradise I have on my door step. I look forward to making new memories with Millie as we climb the Mountains together in search of game. I must say having had Millie for over a year now I’m very pleased with how she has turned out to be a handy little companion. My advice to people training a young pup to be an indicating dog is the more time and energy you put into them, the more you will gain out of them in the long run. So make the most of even the small windows of time you may have with your dog. Patience is key.
Hopefully you will see more updates of our adventures in the future.