Monday, January 26, 2009

An Ancient Den

Mountain slides in with Pearl watching. This was a dirt sette on top of a very steep wooded slope going down to a creek. The entrance to this pipe was choked with leaves, but Mountain wanted in and after a managed it.

Almost through the leaves!

Pearl found the exit to this den below where we had been standing. It turns out that the dirt we had been standing on, above, was simple wash down stopped by this massive layer of stone. Mountain was in under all this stone, and behind it too.

From the looks of it, this den may have been here since the time of Jesus. I really think stone-roofed dens like this are hundreds if not thousands of years old. Once dug, they cannot collapse, and they are perfect fortresses for wildlife.

Mountain exits. No one home this day (or if it was, it bolted while we were trying to get through on top). Another nice sette to remember to check when we are at the back of this farm.


Camera Trap Codger said...

Love seeing those dens. Can't wait to go den hunting with my new pooch. He'll be too big to go to earth, but then all I want to do is plunk a camera trap near the entrance.

PBurns said...

Brilliant! And you know he'll be finding occupied dens too! You will soon be camera trapping with a new set of eyes -- a canine nose. Hadn't thought of that.

So much of the story of forest and field is written in urine on a slate of tapestry of dirt and vine. As I have said before, eyes may be the window to the soul, but it is the nose that is window to the hole.

Great things ahead!


Anonymous said...

How do you keep Pearl out of the den once Mountain enters?? ....I'm sure you don't want both dogs in at the same time??

Also, you say "Another nice sette to remember to check when we are at the back of this farm." but from what I gather from your book, this would definitely NOT be a good sette as it seems to me to be undiggable?

Love the hunting stories...keep it up!

PBurns said...

Pearl will not follow in on top of Mountain, but she will enter a sette at another entrance if she can. She is, however, very subservient to Mountain because Mountain is SO Alpha. She is subservient to me as well; a strong word from me, and Pearl will generally stop in her tracks. Mountain becomes a bit hard of hearing when she really wants something, however. She really is a piece of work ;)

I will work rock dens, and I will work some steep hillsides because I know the dogs so well and I know how much dirt I can move (a lot). Is that dangerous? Yes. The main risk is skunk. I have been skunked a lot over the years, and in all but one case the dog got out on its own (no death in that story, but the dog had to be pulled and was pretty weak for an hour or so).

That said, it only takes once, and that's part of the equation in every sette. There is ALWAYS real risk in terrier work. Getting people to realize that is important. Just because something looks diggable on top does not mean it will be two feet down -- rock and root can intervene, and a half hour delay on a skunk and you may very well end up with a dead dog. Terrier work is not for everyone, that is for sure.

The more experience you have -- and the more experience your dogs have -- the better you are able to judge every situation. For example, my dogs have seen quite a lot, and as a consequence I know they are not as sensitive to skunk as some terriers are. Some dogs go into skunk toxic shock very easily. This appears to be a genetic thing, perhaps due to a weaker general liver function. All of my dogs have been nailed multiple times, however, and I know they can roll with it. They are not super dogs or anything -- they are just not overly senstive to skunk.

Both dogs have also faced a lot if critters and know enough to use their voice to do as much of the job as possibe. If a dog is too hard, they can get in over their head pretty quickly. All my dogs have learned (more or less) where the edges of the debate are, and they know their job is to bay to a stop end and bolt if they can. They are not going to be silly and stupid heroes if they do not hear me digging after a half hour or so.

I always worry about young and inexperienced dogs underground, as they are the ones that tend to get damaged because their enthusiasm tends to exceed their capacity. I do not worry too much about Mountain or Pearl, however. They take less stick now in than they did in their youth. I find this to be pretty common (but not universal) with working terriers.

Finally, there is the sensible caution a person like me has (or should have) when writing a book for folks they do not actually know who are engaged in inherently dangerous work with dogs. A lot of folks have more enthusiasm than capacity when they start out, and so it's best to be very conservative so that the dogs do not pay the ultimate price. A new driver should be a slow driver, etc.

Most folks in America are new to digging, many panic a little too easily, and not as many as I would like are 6 feet tall and 200 pounds with calluses (that sounds more impressive than it is, I assure you). Even fewer have dogs with a lot of experiece, and have the proper tools in the field. The best thing these folks can do is avoid rock dens, avoid dumps, avoid very steep hills. It's too easy to get in over your head.

Having said all that, I might not have let Mountain enter this pipe if I had know how much rock there was below. I would certainly have entered her from below, as she would then be going UP and would likely be close to a diggable surface if she had bottled.


Anonymous said...

Definitely answered my question....and thanks again for the insight!