A Long Walk Behind a Slow Dog
When I was a boy, almost everyone had a bird dog. On weekends during November and December, it was common to see a pickup with a dog box and to hear gunfire from the fields.
Today, with plummeting game bird populations caused by habitat loss and weather extremes, it is not so common. It is even less common to find a young person who has trained his or her own dog to hunt upland birds.
One of the greatest joys of bird hunting for me is to watch the dogs work. There are times when I may not go home with a bird in hand, but I have a smile on my face and dog-pointing memories to carry me through the years. My kids often wonder why I didn’t take an opportunity to shoot, and my answer is always, “I was watching the dog!” (Maybe I am getting slow, too?)
Taking a long walk behind a dog that is slow enough for me to watch is what it is all about. Some breeds of bird dogs will range far and wide during a hunt, lock up on point, and wait for you to arrive for the flush. For my taste, a dog breed that works closer is a lot more fun to hunt behind. Especially when the birds are flushing wild, a close-working dog will not send them out of shooting range. And the extra steps I need to follow close-ranging dogs surely must be good for me.
I also prefer a bird dog with a lot of pointing style, like my German wire-haired pointer, Heidi. When she goes on point the front of her body is tilted down and she almost always raises a front paw. And when she catches scent of a bird off to her side or behind her, she locks up on point with her nose nearly touching her tail. Heidi is not the perfect bird dog, which is the fault of her trainer and not her. However, some of her best hunting performances will be forever etched in my mind.
Boys and Their Dogs
My grandfather and uncle taught me to hunt when I was in high school. Following in their footsteps, I have tried to pass the hunting heritage on to my kids, and I hope they share it with my grandkids, too.
Those early hunts with my kids paid off, and now they continue