I couldn’t take it any more…unfortunately a late start to the wild bird season this year (October 26th) and a surplus of more necessary things to spend money on left me foaming at the mouth on the couch watching youtube videos of other people’s bird hunting adventures. On my weekly day off yesterday my wife casually remarked…PLEASE take the dog hunting or I’m going to have to kill him. I love my wife. She was right though. Gus has been a wild eyed ball of energy for the last month or so. I can only assume that the cooler mornings the knowledge that one morning not to far away we’ll wake up to see a blanket of frost on the ground does the same thing to the dog that it does to me. It seems there is a little switch somewhere that flips and my brain says…”it’s time.” Each morning for the last several weeks after putting Gus out in the morning, I let him back in only to have him sit on my toes and whine, howl, and bark at me to get my attention. My wife had enough and told me to take the first hunt of the year yesterday.
I called the preserve and asked them to set me 12 quail aside and I’d be there in the afternoon. I liked the feel of the morning’s cool air, but I thought it might be a good opportunity for an afternoon hunt and a little conditioning for me and the dog. The extra 10-15 degrees could make for a good training session. Gus tends to not always listen until he is beginning to get tired. Efficiency becomes his game then. His casts become less about “how far can I get before he blows the whistle” and more about “if I stay inside 30 yards, he won’t blow the whistle, and he kind of acts like that’s what he wants anyway.” I planted the birds 3 at a time and spaced them 150 yds. or so apart so as to keep the excitement and over-stimulation that birds bring to a minimum. The first several birds were pretty poor flyers. Gus actually caught the second one. He has not caught a bird before. I’ve always been careful to not let that happen. I was a little curious to see what would happen. To my surprise, the weak flying bird got up and flew directly at the dog. Gus grabbed him out of the air. This was where it got interesting. He put the bird on the ground and let him go, made a circle and went on point again. It was like he realized “ok you dumb pen raised bird…let’s do this again and do it right this time. I’m going to point you and you’re going to flush!” It was kind of comical. The day ended with 4 hours of HOT bird hunting and good points on all the birds. My shooting was a little rusty, with a couple of inexcusable misses, and 2 “feather puff” shots, Gus was fun to watch with those. His retrieving seems to be kicking in a bit, but with those badly shot birds, he would go over and look at me as if to say “there’s not enough left here to bring back boss!” We ended with a very tired bird dog and a sense of accomplishment and anticipation of the coming season. My wife was glad to see the dog sleeping on the floor as he probably will do for a couple of days now.