Quail and pheasant country has a lot of stickers, cockleburs and thorns that latch on to a gun dog like steel shot to a magnet.
A day of hunting usually means an hour of picking, combing and cutting away thorny seed spikes entangled in your dog’s hair.
That isn’t the only problem facing hunting dogs. Combing through our retriever Phoebe’s coat after an afternoon of bird hunting, I came across a gash on her chest from a barbed-wire fence.
Wow, did I feel bad.
Gun dogs don’t see barbed-wire fences, or don’t care about them, when they’re gung-ho on the scent of birds.
And hunters are so busy keeping track of the dog and any possible birds flushing, that dog injuries are easily missed.
The dog doesn’t care. It’s in hog heaven working birds. But despite all the fun the dog is having, it can get beat up in the thickets before you know it, no matter how careful you try to be watching over the dog.
We never seem to have problems with barbed wire when we’re hunting the river bottomlands because the dog is always wearing a neoprene vest for protection from cold water. The vest is also bullet-proof for barbed wire.
Phoebe’s neoprene vest is shredded in some spots from when she’s blasted under, over and through fences.
But the other day, because we were going to be hunting on dry land in sagebrush terrain, I let her run freely without the vest. The neoprene vest would have been too hot for a mild fall day. The primary use of a neoprene vest for dogs is to protect them from cold water.
Well, lesson learned. Lightweight dog chest and belly protector vests are available that don’t cover the back of the dog like the neoprene vests.
The protectors are designed to allow more air circulation, so they won’t overheat a dog in dry-land conditions. They run from $40 to $60 and are available from sporting goods stores that handle hunting supplies.
Phoebe always has her neoprene vest for waterfowl hunting, but from now on, she’ll be wearing the chest protection all the time, even on hikes or hunts in dry foothills terrain.
Another lesson learned? I’m going to give her a thorough check on the tailgate right after the hunt. That way I can check for any scratches or injuries immediately, and there will be no surprises at home.
We also have a dog kit that contains grooming and first-aid supplies and dog deodorizer (for skunk, cow-pie and other smells) in the main camping rig. I will take it with me on hunts from now on no matter what rig I’m using.
Here’s another tip. You might want to check out the book “Field Guide To Dog First Aid,” by Randy Acker, a Sun Valley veterinarian. It’s thorough, and Acker is an expert when it comes to first-aid and outdoor dogs. It’s available at some stores or by calling his office at (208) 726-7777. Cost is $15.
He also has a DVD out, “Advanced Canine First Aid For Sporting/Outdoor Dogs,” for $20.
Seeing that gash from a barbed-wire fence made me feel guilty as a dog owner, but I’ll be better prepared for dealing with dog injuries whether hunting or just walking Foothills trails.
Here it is mid-December and the state’s Idaho City yurt system is still buried in a snowbank of bureaucracy.
Talk about grinchiness. There’s a whole lot of winter recreation being denied the public as negotiations between the U.S. Forest Service and the state of Idaho drag out over liability if a yurt goer slips on a snowy deck and breaks a leg or someone burns a finger on the wood stove.
Currently, you can’t rent a backcountry yurt in the popular skiing and snowshoeing area northeast of Idaho City because the program has been suspended. Reservations were also canceled.
State Parks and Recreation has been renting out six yurts in the Boise Mountains for years. In winter, the yurts are typically booked every weekend and holiday.
The Forest Service alerted the state agency last summer that it lacked the permits and proper liability insurance.
Even though the yurts are owned and maintained by the state, they are located on Boise National Forest land administered by the Forest Service.
The state started operating the yurt system in 1996, and it has groomed ski trails in the area for decades.
Yurt lovers are getting impatient. A coalition of prominent Treasure Valley outdoor-recreation professionals, business owners, and other community leaders last week released an open letter to officials with the Boise National Forest, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, and Idaho Attorney General’s office urging a speedy resolution to issues that closed the yurts.
The letter points out that 2,500 people use the yurts annually — mostly in winter — and the user fees generate $80,000 in annual revenue that’s critical to maintaining the state Parks and Recreation’s ski trails in the Boise National Forest.
Both agencies have to resolve this snafu so winter recreation at the yurts can resume and we’ll all have a happy winter.
By the way, for full disclosure, my reservation for a yurt in January was canceled, too.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors
Statesman outdoor writer Pete Zimowsky writes a column every other Sunday in Life and every Thursday in Idaho Outdoors.