Northstream Blue Belle (14) & Aidan Luca Olsen (15) with Californian Quail & Brown Quail, May 20th 2018
A couple of years ago the American outdoor writer Tom Keer wrote a piece called The Honor Hunt in Covey Rise Magazine. He talked about taking the old dog out for a hunt, perhaps their last, even though you have younger dogs who have taken over. Honouring the old dogs has always appealed to me. We have new generations coming along but have spent so much unforgettable time with our companions. They deserve it. You deserve to allow yourself that time with them. Last season I thought for sure that was the end of Bella’s hunting career. However, she’s still here. She turned 14 at the end of February. By the time the NZ shooting season came around in May she was corresponding 100 years in human years. She is nearly deaf and spends most of her time sleeping. But when any outdoor gear is brought out she’s keen and ready to come along. Aidan and I have taken her up north a few times this season. We have to pace her, or she’d run herself to the ground. But her desire and her nose is still there. She has produced both quail and pheasants under the gun and she can still retrieve. She’s a bit messy sometime in the delivery and may drop the bird on the ground instead of delivering it to hand. But I’m happy to let the centenarian get away with that. Her one year older 3/4-sister Northstream Alinghi has also been taken out in the field by Bob Crain in Australia. It’s their anatomy that has allowed them to have long and active lives. I said early on that Bella had the best movement of any dog I’ve owned or been involved with. Bella’s pedigree can be seen here: Northstream Blue Belle
Above I’ve posted a translation of another old article I published 20 years ago, about some old masters of the past. Well, it started out by chasing William Arkwright and what his best pointer material looked like (Seabreeze; bred 1896) and that led me to another fascinating character I’d never heard of, Sir Lionel Walter Rotschild. Time goes by. The kids grow up fast, too fast. On opening weekend of the hunting season Finn came along too but it’s not really his thing. Aidan has grown up to be a very fit and capable outdoors enthusiast. Always keen on adventure. As well as getting in some bird hunting, Aidan has continued doing his best to provide my kitchen with ingredients. We had some more dives before the weather got too bad and the water temperatures dropped significantly. It has been a few first for Aidan, which included catching his first crayfish with me, shooting his first wild goat with his mate Liam and kept shooting more possums with his mate Daniel. We’re laying some exciting plans for the summer while making the best out of the NZ winter. On Thursday we first went flounder spearing and speared a flounder who had a bite taken out of it. We sometime see flounder with beak marks from shags but this was a proper bite taken out of it, we’re pretty sure it would have been by an eel. We then went fishing off the rocks at Ocean Beach at dusk, to check if the kahawai have started running for pilchards in the surf. Aidan caught a nice “ocean goer” but became very distracted landing the fish, as he suddenly saw a seal which moments after was chased by a very large shark. We can only think it would have been a Great White. We are not the only predators in our local waters.
Evening hunt for rabbits, kayak fishing trevally & snapper, a big billy goat and below Finn & Aidan at 90 Mile Beach.
Back to the dogs. As always I’m still keeping an eye on what’s happening in the European pointer & setter trials. While most of the northern hemisphere have started their summer holidays, the Classic Quail Circuit had its closing trials two weekends ago, at the Campo Felice mountain plateau in central Italy. On the Saturday separate qualifications were run between setters and pointers, before the Master final on Sunday. The 2015 winner Bill della Steccaia (pic below) won amongst the pointers ahead of his son Charun della Cisa. The nearly seven year old pointer Bill has been a consistent performer at European Grande Quete trials and he seems to thrive on the Campo Felice plateau, having done well here also in 2014 and 2016. In last Sunday’s final with 10 setters and 10 pointers it was again Bill della Steccaia who took the full honours. This year my Norwegian mate Geir B. Larssen was there as a spectator, having special interest in Bill della Steccaia – who’s maternal grandsire is Anter, who Geir successfully used at stud some years ago. Bill’s maternal grandmother was by Tristan, a litter brother of Titan who Geir also used. Titan was indeed also the maternal grandsire of Bill’s son Charun della Cisa. Several of the setters at Campo Felice were handled by Rudy Lombardi, all of them descendants of his 2007 European Setter Championship winner Orio. One of them was Tris (Orio – Birba by Radentis Nomar). Tris was was last year one of the most successful dogs in Europe, winning the European Setter Championship, placing third in Coupe d’Europe, as well as winning both days at the Campo Felice.
Finally, back to the old girl again. She is pictured below, lifting her head, tasting the scent of what turned out to be a large covey of quail some distance away. I sent her off and she worked her way up a couple of hundred meters before setting. That produced several situations and shooting opportunities. She may not be what she used to but the nose and the magnificent instincts of a well-bred setter stay with them till the very end.