I know I promised to only discuss the present and the future in my blog but today's blog needs a little (okay a lot) of background. I promise to quickly get to the present and then the future if you will just bear with me. This blog is about my bird dog and I have three options at the moment - the big dog, the mad dog, and the little dog.
|My current bird dog options.|
I did not grow up hunting (catch my drift). My first exposure to hunting came when I was 21 years old from my older brother who lives Wyoming. He and I would talk on the phone (way before email much less the availability of smartphones) almost daily during the fall hunting season with him telling me all about the fun he was having and about his first bird dog named Georgia. Georgia was a bullheaded black lab but she could hunt. She just wouldn't quit but this blog is not about her.
My brother convinced me that I needed to hunt so I headed to Walmart to buy my first shotgun (actually the only gun I have ever bought still to this day). I bought a Remington 870 Express shotgun with two different barrels. One barrel was shorter and rifled for shooting slugs and the other barrel was long and smooth for shooting bird shot. Well now that I had a gun I was ready to hunt.
I arranged for my first hunt to be a whitetail deer deer hunt on a professor's land. He had just planted a 40 acre field with thousands of trees and the deer were talking their toll nibbling all the buds off the tips of the trees stunting their growth. He welcomed my attempt to hunt deer. Well - one problem. I had not shot a gun since I shot skeet at a family reunion when I was 10. Sure I had shot a lot of BB guns growing up and in scouts but never a real gun. I went deer hunting without ever shooting my shotgun - I would never recommend this to anyone and was foolish to do this myself. However, this blog is not about my first deer hunt - it is about my bird dog.
Well now that I was a hunter, I needed a bird dog. I introduced Ripley in a previous blog (Introducing Ripley) and he tried to be my first bird dog. He was part labrador retriever but the shepherd half of him made it very difficult to retrieve. Ripley would definitely find birds and pick them up - it was the getting him to bring them back to me that was the problem. However, as promised this blog is not about my past; it is about the present and future so we will leave Ripley stories for another time.
|Ripley with a forced photo pose - he hated these photos.|
My next bird dog was the real thing and he is still going strong (well not really strong but his will is there when he is awake). Hunters Marsh Masai Warrior (aka Maddux or Mad Dog) is a yellow labrador retriever with an amazing pedigree. Both his father and his mother had national hunt test or field trial champions as grandparents (Lean Mac was his mother's grandfather for those of you who follow dogs - Lean Mac is one of the most decorated labs out there). Maddux could down right hunt. He had an ability to mark 3 birds down and remember where they all were as he retrieved them one at a time. His nose is the best nose I have seen on a dog. And he was fast! He routinely would catch the pen raised pheasants we could hunt in Wyoming - yes catch them before they had a chance to get off the ground for us to shoot at them. The only sharp-tailed grouse that I have ever harvested was caught by Maddux. His nose would find the bird, quickly pinpoint its location, and he would be on top of it before the bird could react. As amazing as Mad Dog is, this story is not about him. Maddux is 13.5 years old and unfortunately for me cannot hunt anymore - it hurts him to just walk much less chase after birds all day.
|Maddux at 6 months old|
|Maddux at 9 years old|
|My brother, his son, and new puppy walking the grassland.|
|Shep walking at my heels|
The best part of Shep's story today was at the top of a small knoll. Pheasants seem to congregate on the tops of hills so we typically plan our hunt with a path that takes us from hilltop to hilltop. Well as we get close to the top of each hill, the hunters go on high alert expecting a pheasant to jump up at any moment. At the top of this particular knoll, I happen to spot a pheasant just 5 feet from me hunkered down in hopes that I just walk right by. With my real bird dog, Maddux, this probably would never have happened because he always hunted in front of me and would use his nose to find the birds. Well Shep was in his usual place at my heels. I stopped moving and told Shep to get the bird while pointing forward. Shep just looked at me. SERIOUSLY! We are hunting pheasants and there is one less than 5 feet away and Shep just looks at me. I couldn't believe it. My brother comes over and was just about 10 feet from the bird just as I make the determination that this pheasant was wounded so it couldn't run or fly. I squat down and pick up a small stone to toss at the bird. I was hoping this would inspire Shep to chase the stone bumping into the presumed wounded bird. I had hoped this would inspire Shep to at least think about hunting.
|Shep and his blank stare|
|Maddux with one of his last retrieves at 13.5 years old|
|The Big Dog Hunting Pumpkins|