I just got back from my annual trip to ND for pheasants. It started out a little rough when my dog came down sick on the drive over to ND. She stopped eating and was really wiped out, and I suspected she might have salmon poisoning since we live on a little creek that fish had just started to come up, and we thought she might have gotten into a carcass on the bank the week earlier. Found a vet in Billings and had her looked at and finally tracked down the meds she needed. Continued on to ND with a really sick dog.
Salmon poisoning is a disease limited to coastal areas with salmon and trout. They carry a parasite (fluke) that also often have another particular organism ( rickettsia) that complicates the infection. Dog eats fish, gets fluke and rickettsia, and if not treated most die.
We got to North Dakota (connected with another vet) and had to hunt without my dog for the first three days. She stopped eating and had no energy at all. The outfitter had a big bulldozer of a golden retriever and he did OK pushing birds around. The first day we hunted a shelterbelt around an old farmstead and must have pushed 200 birds out of those trees. Incredible sight. We were done in about 30 minutes. The second day we worked a beautiful draw between two wheat fields for about a mile and only managed to put up one rooster in range. Fantastic cover, but the birds were not there, so we moved to a small line of trees along the fence line nearby and found the birds. Done.
Third day was similar, with lots of walking in great cover but only two bird in the vest for the two of us. Moved to another shelterbelt and picked up the remaining birds.
The last day, I decided to hunt Lightning for a short hunt. I couldn't take her there and not let her get at least a nose full of pheasant, even though she hadn't eaten for 4 days. Usually we try to hit a honey hole so we can get on the road back to Washington by late morning. We went back to the place we hunted the first day and the birds were not in the trees. It had finally rained the night before and the pheasants had stayed roosed longer than usual, and were all out in the fields eating. We hunted some nearby windbreaks with little success, and after wasting some time, the pheasants finally began working thier way back to cover. We headed down to some bottomland with water and really heavy cover, and finally started finding birds. I had Lightning out and she rallied. She and I worked one area while my buddy and the outfitter worked toward us. The birds held tight in the heavy grass, and we finished the day with limits and a totally wiped out dog, but it was a great way to end the trip.
Pheasant numbers were better than last year, but still below the average for the area. Even a so-so year is great compared to most other places. It's just so cool to see dozens and dozens of birds breaking out ahead of you, and walking in the fields in the morning and evenings. I'll never get tired of getting rattled when a rooster gets up at my feet without warning.
When we got back home, Lightning finally got her appitite back and is now the normal chow hound she usually is, although she has a fair amount of weight to gain back. It didn't turn out to be the trip we had planned, but it was still a great time chasing birds in North Dakota.
Keep your dog away from raw salmon, and if your's does eat some, watch them closely for signs of illness. I was lucky that I had heard of salmon poisoning several years ago. The vets in Montana and North Dakota had never seen it and would not have treated my dog properly if I hadn't pointed them in the right direction. It can take several days for test results to confirm the diagnosis, and by then it might be too late if not caught very early.