Winter Bird Doggin' Wonders

My German shorthaired pointer, “Scratch,” brought me a squirrel yesterday. Perfectly frozen, no sign of disease or damage, but perfectly dead. (I wish I had the camera. Scratch came bounding out of the trees, legs flying in all directions as usual, ears smacking across his face, with his quarry held high, its fluffy tail streaming in the wind.) A little later, “Rimfire” brought me the foot of a leftover pen-raised training chukar that escaped our steadiness training but not sub-zero temperatures. Rim probably ate the rest of the bird. I didn’t ask.
A few years ago, Rimfire dispatched and delivered a mink to me. I told him to get a couple dozen more so I could make a coat. “Harley” once retrieved an old Dokken dead fowl trainer from the upper field. Pretty much all that was left intact was the head, rope and tail. The foam body lay in chunks spread across the snow. Since I’d laced the foam with a fair amount of grouse scent for training, no doubt there was a coyote somewhere either very confused or nursing a stomach ache.
Rabbits? I can’t count how many have been brought to hand or deposited at the back door. Mice? No problem. Varmints-R-Us (the three German wirehaired pointers) think there’s nothing better than plunging head first into 20 inches of snow to burrow deeper and pull out a mouse. Or a mole or a vole. It’s amazing they not only can smell them through the snow, but they scent them across a big field.
On today’s snowshoe trek, “Tank” snapped on point at the top of the field. Scratch backed. “Rudder” backed Scratch. Rimfire backed Rudder. “Scrub” backed Rimfire. When no bird came up, we released them. About three minutes later, as the dogs scrambled along turkey tracks that looked busier than a downtown intersection at rush hour, two turkeys flushed from under the apple trees 30 yards away.
How can you tell your dog that hunting season is over? Would we want to?
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.