“Find it! Dead bird, find it!” “Sprig” and I came out of a cattail draw after flushing out a few ringnecks, one of which my buddy winged down. She was now tracking her first cripple.
A minute or so went by, but with the warm, dry conditions on this Minnesota pheasant hunting opening weekend, I wondered if the scent trail would vanish as they had all weekend. But Sprig’s tail kept wagging while her other end kept sniffing. She followed the trail off the edge of the cattails, up into the surrounding grass stand and zigzagged up and over a hill. A few seconds after she disappeared, I saw the flutter of the rooster on the ridge…and then Sprig came into view. The bird made it about another 10 yards before she smacked into him headstrong; hunting without pulling the trigger has never been so much fun.
I embarked on the “My First Bird Dog” series with the goal of choosing a dog breed, breeder, a litter, a pup, taking the little he or she home, naming it, training it and heading out pheasant hunting. Twenty one blog posts, 229 online comments and a year and a half later, my baby bird dog grew up right in front of my eyes during two days of pheasant hunting.
My only regret is that I didn’t get a dog much sooner. Most everyone I know either works too much, worries too much or whines too much – including me, at times – and having a devoted dog, I’ve found, is perhaps one of life’s best defense mechanisms against all that. Sprig goes with me practically everywhere I go, including work, sleeps in my bed and, including my significant other, Kailyn, has become the joy of our lives. We’ve become “those crazy dog people” and subsequently are wondering When’s the right time to add bird dog number two?
My desire to upland hunt, wingshoot and conserve wildlife habitat through Pheasants Forever’s conservation mission has only grown since Sprig entered my life. And Kailyn, smitten with her puppy and not wanting to spend her entire autumn as a “hunting widow,” without any prodding from me, completed her firearm safety course and joined hunting’s ranks. She’s become a Pheasants Forever member and is recognizing how conserving wild places is important for our wildlife, our environment, our quality of life and our dog’s quality of life.
As the “My First Bird Dog” series draws to a close, I’d like to thank Pheasants Forever’s community of members and supporters for participating. You’ve helped create an online catalog that future hunters and conservationists will find valuable. As for Sprig and me, this isn’t the last you’ll hear from us, but we’ve got to get to work and flush some more roosters. See you in the field!
“My First Bird Dog” posts:
Introducing “My First Bird Dog”
What I’m Looking For
Gun Dog Experts’ #1 Piece of Advice
Just Show Me the DOGFAX
Why Attend a Hunt Test or Field Trial?
What Was Your First Bird Dog?
Stuck Between Two Litters
Rationalizing the Sticker Shock
Best Bird Dogs for an Apartment
When everyone’s a Dog Expert
Meet My First Bird Dog!
Puppies: What the Training Manuals Don’t Say
Make Retrieving an Addiction (VIDEO)
Searching for the Best Bird Dog Registered Names
Bird Dogs Make the Work Day Better
What’s Your Dog Training Golden Rule?
Dog Training – How Hot is Too Hot?
My First Bird Dog: Time for Help from a Pro
Lap Dogs for Longtails? Small Dogs Will Work for Big, Bad Roosters
Meet My First Hunting Dog
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.