The first upland bird I shot as a young hunter was a Hungarian partridge, flushed from a weedy field edge by a happy, short-legged, yellow-furred dog named Kiwi. I wasn’t old enough to buy a hunting license when I helped adopt this mixed breed pup at a local animal shelter, but by the time my first hunting season rolled around Kiwi had proven time and again that her nose found roosters nearly as often as her long, shaggy fur picked up cockleburs.
What she lacked in pedigree Kiwi made up for in an unapologetic love for following her nose while bounding through the cover and flushing birds into the sky. Am I proud of hunting with a “pound dog”? You bet. Fueled by our mutual passion for hunting, that little yellow dog and I made a lot of memories together. Knowing that she went from a cold concrete floor and chain-link kennel to a home where weekend forays into the South Dakota countryside during the fall were simply a part of living life makes me pretty happy. I like to think that’s part of the reason why Kiwi always wore a smile.
Read on to discover the story of three more dogs and their owners, happy to follow their own paths from the shelter to the field.
Chris and Ally
Technically speaking, Chris Anderson’s sharp German shorthaired pointer, Ally, wasn’t adopted from a shelter. But it was close. Two years ago, Anderson was sitting at home in Iowa, browsing social media, when a post about a free German shorthaired pointer caught his eye. The owner said that the dog needed to be picked up that night or he was taking it to the local pound the next day, Anderson explains, so on a whim he hopped in his truck and drove two hours to pick up the 2-year-old pointer.
“That first night when I went to let her out of the kennel, she about bit my hand off,” Anderson recalls. “Her aggression was the main reason why she was headed to the pound. That first week was a struggle, but I slowly worked with her until she finally began to trust me.” Their first week at home was also the final week of the Iowa pheasant season, so Anderson took Ally out to the field, keeping her on a short check cord.
“I could see that she had ‘it’ – she definitely had some natural ability,” Anderson says. “After the season, I continued to work with her, almost constantly on a check cord, and it probably took two months until I could let her off the cord and she wouldn’t try to run away. She’s come a long way since then. Her disposition has changed, and she isn’t overly aggressive anymore.”
In Ally’s first two seasons, Anderson estimates that she has pointed and retrieved 150 pheasants. Last year, Ally pointed roughly 300 birds. “I can tell by the way that she looks at me that she absolutely loves to hunt,” Anderson says. “I didn’t know what I had when I picked her up. I got dang lucky, I can tell you that.”
Ed and Jeffery
Pheasants Forever member Ed Jesson was living in south Florida in 2013 when he discovered a pointer rescue near Tallahassee while searching the internet. On his first visit to the rescue shelter, Jesson was introduced to Jeffrey, a lean 1-year-old English pointer up for adoption.
“He was going to be a family pet first, so even if he didn’t work out as a hunting dog, I was happy knowing that he had found a home,” Jesson says. “We all know what happens if a dog stays there too long.”
Jesson completed most of the obedience training before moving to his current home in North Carolina, where Jeffery was first introduced to quail. “I could see that a light sort of went off in his head,” Jesson says. “Having worked with him now, I think he may have been a field trial wash-out. He seems to have really started to enjoy what he was initially bred to do.”
Regular training sessions at the local Sand Hill Pointing Breeds Club have helped Jesson watch his English pointer progress from his first points on planted birds to his first honor of two German shorthair pointers that had found a covey of quail in the woods. “Having the opportunity to train in that setting has really helped him,” Jesson says. “Now I’m hoping that Jeffery is going to get his first real season under his belt this fall.”
Luke and Wilson
Nearly ten years ago, Luke Perman received a Christmas gift that he’ll likely never forget. “My then-fiancée got me a yellow Lab puppy from an animal shelter in Owatonna (Minn.),” Perman says. “I had talked about getting a hunting dog, something I’d never had before, but she really surprised me with the pup.” Perman named the Lab Wilson, and the two began spending hours outside on the family ranch in northcentral South Dakota.
It was a rough start for the pair – “he was kind of a basket-case when I got him,” Perman explains – but a winter afternoon of chores helped change their course toward a partnership in the field. “We were driving around when I saw some cottontails in a thicket, hopped out of the truck with the gun and Wilson looked really interested in what was going on,” Perman says. “I shot a cottontail or two and he actually ran out and picked them up – it was like a light went off in his head. From then on even the sight of a shotgun got him awfully excited.”
Rabbit hunting led to duck and pheasant hunting the next fall, with Wilson improving on every hunt, Perman says. By his third season, the rescued yellow Lab was a regular member of the Perman hunting parties.
“He’s starting to slow down, getting some hip issues, but he still wants to get out and hunt,” Perman says of his now 10-year-old hunting partner. “He’s had a good run, though. Living on a ranch and hunting is a pretty good way to live your life as a Lab.”
Story by John Pollmann
Photo Credits (top to bottom): Ed Jesson, Chris Anderson, Ed Jesson, Rebecca Caspers