Monday, February 25, 2013

Grand Finale

February 14th, for Baron and I, was the last day of the 2012 hunting season. As such my brother and I decided to finally get up at the crack of dawn like good hunters should (I guess?). So there we were rolling out of the house just as the eastern sky began to turn pink. We headed to our usual area, and decided to hunt just off the hiking trail, an area we hadn't hunted since the 2nd day of the season.

Surprisingly, the first 2 and a half hours were entirely uneventful. No fresh tracks, no scent. We passed the time chatting to other hunter buddies on FB, and even took a few pictures.

As we got to the back of the trail however, Baron started paying a lot of attention to the wind gusting up from the gully to our left. It wasn't enough for him to head down, but the wind was blowing him some scent. I decided to double back and hunt a finger of the mountain that was opposite the gully. After we trekked into the ridge, Baron went off to the left and began hunting very carefully, up and down the ridges. Something had definitely been in the area during the night, and Baron was running around head down and concentrating. Together we combed the area carefully, but nothing. We ended up back up on the ridge that I had lead us onto, and from there Baron moved forward. I wasn't sure if he was still on track, but he moved down the right side of the ridge this time, and my brother heard it first, the half loud, questioning bark that Baron now uses to wake up sleeping boar.

The bay started immediately, and I rushed to close distance, tossing the GoPro to my brother to take some footage. Baron was charged several times, each time bringing the boar closer to us. I first saw a large boar 20 meters below me after a charge, but just when I thought they were starting to move away from us, Baron moved back in front of me silently, and as he moved in, the boar moved to meet him. At 10 meters I popped off 2 rounds, and the large boar dropped. A second boar I hadn't even seen charged up at Baron, and veered to the right when it saw me. As it stopped I popped off a round, but it had just started moving again, and the shot missed.

The large boar was still moving, but Baron was on it and it wasn't going anywhere. As I got there the boar was taking its last breaths. The first shot had gone through the vitals, the second bounced from the shoulder, up through the spine. It was 9:30am, and while there was some talk of going after the second boar, we were a long way from Kansas. It took most of the rest of the day to get this 70kg female up out of the gully, and through the mountain to civilization. At one point Baron did take off after another boar, a runner, and while I was almost in place for a shot, it slipped past us too far below, and Baron was unable to stop it.

It was a great way to end the season, another large female for the freezer, some more excellent meat. We had 26 exciting days with no major accidents or injuries. I am thankful for that, thankful for a great partnership with a great dog. 13 boar all taken with one hunting dog, Baron. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Shikoku Puppies Playing in the Snow

It almost never snows on the Boso peninsula due to the warm ocean currents, but yesterday we did get a bit of build up for the second time this year. The two Shikoku pups staying with me temporarily, Miku and You-chan, had a bit of fun in their first winter wonderland. I whipped out the GoPro and took some video. I guess this is a taste of videos to come.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Undercoat

Why do we have standards for breeds? Why are they important? Of course there's plenty of frivolous non functional aspects in modern standards, but here's a functional point that I noticed this hunting season. The Japanese Dog (Nihon Ken) should have a thick undercoat, and tough outer coat. My Kishu Baron has a very poor undercoat, and as you can see in the pictures below, his underside gets very irritated when hunting in the dense undergrowth of the Japanese mountains. This is actually a good day, on days he's been hunting, his skin is red and you can tell it's a bit tender.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Game Cam

I set up a game camera that I bought while I was in Vancouver last year. I'm finally getting some use out of it!

After leaving it on a trail for a week, I got a few surprising shots.

I've seen deer tracks, scat, and beds in this part of the mountain, but the deer are just moving in. They were nearly extinct in Chiba prefecture in the 70's. Here was the first look I got at the king of the mountain. That's a pretty good rack and size for a deer in Chiba prefecture. There was also a picture of a little boar sauntering by.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 24-25

3 friends came out with me, shovel dude and another friend from back when I used to play basketball, plus a hunter buddy. We headed to Kamogawa, an area near a dam that has a lot of deer and muntjac, not so many boar. The reasoning behind it was that it's an easier area to walk and drive to. My truck broke down the night before while driving down from Tokyo, fan belt busted just before I needed to pick up a Shikoku puppy that will be going to the States. We ended up doing a 3 hour tow through the mountains, getting home in the middle of the night.

It was another dazzlingly sunny day, fairly warm. We got into the mountains and were immediately stumbling on muntjac right and left. They're an introduced species here, they were let loose when a private zoo went bankrupt, and their numbers are rising. Baron took off after something, so I followed, heard him baying, and found he'd chased a muntjac into a pod of monkeys lol. I wanted to film it, but didn't want Baron to get the idea I was interested in any of it, so we walked away... and onto more muntjac. That was pretty much how the day went, though at one point way in the back we did find some boar, a runner. I almost caught up to them, was 100 meters away when Baron lost it.

We only walked for a couple hours since some friends of mine were coming down from Tokyo in the evening to stay the night, and hunt with me the next day. Once we got back, we had a terrific night with an outdoor BBQ/shishinabe (boar potluck), copious amounts of excellent organic wine, beer, all this a couple minutes walk from my new place. A friend of mine has a nice set up in front of his wood workshop, and we even got to use his rotenburo (outdoor bathtub). It was a brilliant meeting of great people, my friends and family got to meet each other for the first time.

In the morning our party of 6 headed out to the mountains that I've been hunting a lot this year. My friends were interested in seeing firsthand what hunting is like, and the connection between the meat we eat every day, life, and death. I needed to get a boar! So in we went, setting up my other hunting buddy in an ambush, the boar was sleeping where expected, but I messed up a bit and Baron and boar ran to a spot where my friend had been before I radioed him to move. Baron really went after this one, so I had to leave my brother with my friends at the foot of the mountain so I could move quickly. They ended up waiting there for 2 hours!

Baron kept on this one for over a kilometer and I never caught up. My hunter buddy was moving on the other side of the ridge as well, but Baron came back after around 15 minutes. We moved to the other side to meet up with the other gun, but while on that side Baron moved over a hump in the trail 10 meters away and started baying. I tried to quietly peek over, but the boar charged and were already moving down into the gully. There was more than one there, and Baron knows better than to charge in when outnumbered. He came back up to the ridge waiting for my move. The boar had already moved off, but we went after them, slowly and quietly so as not to spook them too soon. All they knew at the moment was that a stupid dog had barked at them, and they had chased him off. 

Moving down the ridge on the left, Baron kept looking down into the opposite gully. He went down halfway, and came back up. I kept hearing a peculiar sound of splashing, but thought it was the stream running below. It was strange that Baron seemed to be bothered by something down there, but a bit wary of going all the way down there. While not 100% sure, it seemed to me there might be several boar, or a very large boar somewhere down there that Baron was scared of. In these cases usually if I start moving forward, Baron gets the idea and moves ahead to engage. I turn on the GoPro, start descending, and Baron moves ahead into the gully and then up the opposite ridge. BOOM, huge charge and Baron comes flying back toward me. I can hear the herd of boar on the other ridge mumbling and moving away. I send Baron back in, and move right behind him. He goes in, bays, and the boar charge him all the down into the gully. It's the big female and her herd that I've met 3 times now, always missing her. Today is no exception, she's right behind Baron and very angry. I have a shot so take it, but miss. The herd starts to run downstream. There's a smaller boar and I have a line on him, so take that. At the second shot, the female comes back and charges Baron again. This time I have no shot, and it seems the boar have gotten away. 

I radio to my friend to tell him we're onto a herd but that I missed the two shots he heard, and he begins to head in my direction. I decide to search the swamp ahead of us that the gully empties into. It's full of head high razor grass. Immediately Baron moves into the grass and starts baying, gets charged, the boar runs. I can hear it all happening, and following the sounds I can see where they will come out into a clear area. I see the boar running through the grass, Baron on his tail, and then Baron gives it a nip and it pulls up to face him. Bay and then bang. Boar's down. And NO GOPRO FOOTAGE! Battery died while I was descending into the gully haha. Perfect.

Anyway, we strung up the boar to a branch and carried it up to the top of the ridge. Then got everyone else to come help us carry it out.

12 boar on 25 outings.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 19-23

I've been way too busy moving house, working, and getting into the mountains. It's hard to keep up the blog!

Day 19 I took a good friend of mine out with me. He's a paratrooper in the JSDF and we actually were going to originally get our hunting licenses together way back when. We had a great day, in some great weather. Baron got on a boar right off the bat, but while I got to within around 10 meters, I couldn't get a look at it in the heavy brush. This one got away. Later on in the day Baron peeled off into a small ridge to our left, was gone for a bit, and came running back. When he saw me, he gave me THE look. We followed, Baron moved forward, and came back quickly. We could hear them coming for us. An angry herd of boar with a huge female in the lead was marching down the trail toward Baron. They got to within 5 meters before I started firing. I put out three shots, then reloaded, with the herd still milling around in front of Baron and I. First 2 shots I fired at the lead female, the second 2 were at the second largest boar. First one hit it, and it was wobbling, so I reloaded to take the kill shot, and my buddy stepped in front of me excitedly proclaiming, 'You got it!' Famous last words. All the boar took off after this, and while we did track them and the small blood trail from the one injured boar, they were running for the hills. Baron tracked them another 2km further than we did. I hate injuring animals and leaving them in the mountain. Every living creature deserves as free a life, and as quick a death as possible, but life and by extension we, are imperfect.

Day 20 we figured there might be a few stragglers from the herd left in the area. I'd noticed the large female took off in a different direction from the herd the day before, so we went out to find her. We eventually did, but moved into a strategic disadvantage downhill from where she was bedded up in thick underbrush. Baron had been picking up scent and going down in and out of a gully, so I mistakenly thought she was down there. By the time Baron went around the ridge and up to her nest, there was no way we could close distance. She ran off in the direction the herd went the day before. We pushed hard the rest of the day, but had no looks at any boar, which surprisingly has not happened very much this season.

I had my GoPro 3 ready to go on day 19, but didn't have it up and running when the boar came at us!!!

Day 21 I went out with my brother, but nothing very spectacular happened if I remember correctly. Day 22 I hunted an area where the boar have just started moving into, and it's 10 minutes away from my new house. I've seen some box traps going up, and the other day the paratrooper and I saw a boar crossing the street in broad daylight. It stopped above a field on the other side of the road, and I mistakenly thought it was a gun hunting prohibited area. Found out the other day that it wasn't, so I headed in to survey the boar situation and population. Turns out there are definitely only a few individuals, but I imagine with their reproductive rate we should see some expansion over the next two years. They'll probably start being a real nuisance to the farmers by then. We basically just went on a walk for a few hours.

Day 23 was just Baron and I, hunting fast and covering a lot of ground. Day 22 and 23 I only hunted for four hours in the afternoon. We came upon boar almost immediately, Baron going after them and coming back regularly, baying, but never quite holding them long enough for me to cut them off. This was another herd, and they're pretty difficult for a single dog to tackle. The boar basically look like a NFL defensive line bum rushing the QB. At one point Baron did go over 2 ridges and into a gully and was there for a while, I wasn't able to get there in time, but when he came back he had some blood spray on him, so he'd been in close quarters with one of the boar. As luck would have it, and as we were running out of sunlight, in the last bit of mountain above the truck, Baron lit off over the largest peak. He returned after around 10 minutes, and when I started moving toward him, he headed over the peak again. I finally gave in and climbed it, only to realize he was now moving rapidly away.

He stopped for a while on the road the truck was parked on, and again in the stream below, then took off on a marathon. I imagined he was on a deer, and was pissed that he was chasing a 'runner' so hard, but then I realized he was almost a kilometer away, but wheeling toward some fields that I could get to in the truck. I raced to it, and flew down to cut him off. They were coming through a bamboo thicket just above some rice fields. Unfortunately I misjudged the spot by 20 meters, and they crossed the road above me. As I got there I looked downhill to my right and saw Baron on track. He was not interested in coming back, and I had around 10 minutes of daylight left. Whatever was running had gone into a tiny clump of mountain that is ringed by roads, and I know all the passes. As Baron gave chase through the mountain, I kept moving to cut them off. Finally they were coming to a spot I knew they would cross, so I parked the car and raced into position off the farming road (in Japan we are not allowed to shoot from or over roads). I heard something cross the road and into another bamboo thicket directly in front of me, with Baron close behind. Following the sound I finally made out the form of a small boar moving through the thicket trying to find a way to lose Baron. He picked the wrong spot to come out into a clearing, and I nailed him.

I had already worn out the GoPro battery by this time, so again no video. Bummer. I've taken some test video on different settings and have been extremely impressed. I love this little gadget. Now I just need a computer that is powerful enough to edit properly!

That's 11 boar on 23 outings now.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Available Kai Pups

There's a couple Kai pups available at the moment.

This female is from Tenro Kensha, out of Akakumaou (Kuma) ,an aka-tora, and Yuki, a kuro-tora. Kuma is a very promising working dog. This pup is a kuro-tora, a little on the small end of the standard, and she's on the left in this picture.

The second pup is a male from Gotenyama Kensha, out of Musashi (Boss), a kuro-tora, and Hana, a kuro-tora.