Bird Dogs & Training  |  04/01/2020

Of Bird Dogs and Unprecedented Times


Bird dogs help us find solace, peace and hope

By Tom Carpenter, Editor at Pheasants Forever

I’ve been around the proverbial block – or in upland parlance, perhaps we should call it the back 40 – a few times, and never seen anything like this. Neither have you, I am sure. Coronavirus, COVID-19, whatever one chooses to call it, is rocking our world for now in ways we could not have imagined.

I am not here to preach about safety or containment. Let experts pursue that. I am here to talk about something else that you and I care about deeply – habitat, wildlife, conservation and this organization to which both you and I entrust our love of the uplands: Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. 

* * *

It was a bad week. I needed a break. So after work, I loaded up my little bird dog Lark and headed for a patch of upland habitat on our way home. An occasional pheasant can be found here, but it’s more of a woodcock spot.

The day’s worries melted away as I slipped on her bell. She romped down the lane with joy. My heart lifted.

March can be an ugly time of year in Minnesota, but it can also be starkly beautiful to winter-starved senses, even on a gray day.

The crunch of old snow underfoot in woodland corners not yet reached by the sun. The smell of a wetland unlocked from winter. The brushstroke of red dogwood stems. The call of red-winged blackbirds swaying on last year’s cattail stems.

We walked. We forgot. The wind picked up. The sun poked through below a cloud bank that was hanging just above the western horizon. My little dog locked up on point. I walked in as if entering a cathedral. Up twittered our russet prize … one of the year’s first woodcock returning north. The first timberdoodle of the spring is a sure sign of greener days ahead. 

The dog looked at me askance, but she knows that sometimes we can’t or just don’t shoot. We turned and let the bird be, having found what we came for. One flush was enough after whatever trip the doodle had made.

Walking out, spying the track of a rooster in the goldenrod, I remembered again what was going on in the world, but felt better: Thanks to a little wild place and a little bird dog. 

* * *

Yes, times are tough. Unprecedented.  We can all see the challenges that will impact our world, and organizations like Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. As time goes on, grab a bird dog or a loved one and hold them tight. Look ahead. Keep PF and QF and wild places and habitat and the mission in mind: Keep your membership renewed, stay engaged, be involved.

And remember to savor the joys of a life well-lived behind a bird dog in the uplands – forever memories of epic days past, hopeful wanderings now, and dreams of good days yet to come.





Tom Carpenter is editor at Pheasants Forever.