Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lookin' Around in the Woods

This year I drew a tag to hunt antlerless moose in this area through November 15th.  Finding a cow moose not accompanied by a calf is no easy task.  In fact, thus far finding a cow moose at all has proven to be problematic.  I haven't even seen tracks, let alone the critter making them.  On the other hand, I have been able to scout and map some nice trails for running the dogs.

The  plan is pretty simple, really.  Fire up the four-wheeler and head into the woods looking around for fresh tracks.  Once tracks are found stop the machine and start hiking until I either find the legal moose, or decide I'm unlikely to live long enough to follow those tracks to a legal moose.  So far, the "fire up the four-wheeler" part has been going well.  It's the "finding fresh tracks" part that has been elusive.

I'm not complaining, though.  I've been spending a fair amount of my hunting time south of Chena Hot Springs Road, looking at trails that I haven't been on for a couple of years.  I've especially been avoiding Jenny M Hill the past couple of years due to a logging operation.  Well, the loggers have moved on and they've left behind an expanded trail system (they call 'em "logging roads" and "skid trails") that we dog mushers will enjoy for many years to come.

I've also been able to look over trails north the house that I frequently run with dogs.  There have been a few changes up there due to logging and fire-wooding operations, though not so dramatic as those changes to the trails on Jenny M Creek.

Throughout all this trail scouting I've been running my GPS receiver in order to map some of the trails in our system.  Here is the scouting map as updated last night after my return. 

Trails Scouted through 10/15/10
By the way, I'm choosing my terminology pretty careful.  Alaskan Native hunters never say they are going hunting, because that is bad luck.  It warns the animals of their intent.  Instead, they say they are going to go looking around in the woods.  Hey, putting a moose in the freezer is all about luck, moreso than any other animal I can think of.

Just because it is time for looking around in the woods doesn't mean other things can be ignored.  Ted and I took teams for short training runs on Thursday.  It was pretty fun, even though it is a very short little run from the house north to the section line and back.  Only a mile and a quarter, but enough to give the dogs a taste of the trail.  Though we've done this run before, I'm only now starting the training log for the season.

10/14/10.  1.25 miles.

The first team consisted of:

            Amazing Grace in single lead.
Rose and Capella in swing
Seamus and Beau in wheel

With Grace in single lead I ran the loop at the end of this trail in the opposite direction than earlier in the season to see how well Grace would respond to the "haw" cue.  It confused her, but only for a second or two.  It was great to see Rose trying to pull the team into the proper direction from Swing.  I also mixed things up a bit coming home, taking a different intersection to reach our driveway than before.  That was tougher because the route I chose intersects the drive at a very severe angle.  We managed it, but that's about all that can be said about it.  

Everyone else on the team worked very well.  

The second team we ran was:

Torus & Just in lead.
Orion & Cassie (Cassiopeia) in swing.
Nels in single wheel.  

This was Torus first run after a shoulder injury in August, so I wanted to take it easy on the old guy.  He did just fine, running smoothly and with no problems afterward.  Nels was the surprise on this run.  He's an experienced dog, but running single right in front of the machine worried him.  He spent about half the run with his head turned back, trying to watch the machine.  He settled down for the second half of the run no problem.  He's clearly a lot more confident when he has another dog running beside him.

Orion did well on the run, but afterward, as I was unhooking dogs, he managed to totally destroy his harness.  That's a problem - these ManMat harnesses cost nearly $50.00 each at Cold Spot.  We'll have to manage him carefully as we train him to keep his teeth off of his gear.  

Tomorrow we are going to truck the team to Casey Little Wolf's new place on Baseline to give them a longer run.  I'll be spending today doing dog-yard chores.  I need to put straw in all the houses and in the dog truck, put the Sacco Cart into storage for the winter, unload dog food from the car, and prepare the gear we will need tomorrow.

That's the plan - and I plan to stick to it.

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