Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fido The Trusty Hunting Partner

Sunday was a wonderful day of waterfowling, but not for the reasons you may think. Yes, the big northern storm that Terry and I wrote about did indeed come-a-howling. But for some reason the ducks didn’t arrive on the leading edge as I had hoped and predicted.

Myself, The Hunting Partner, The Friend and Max (The Dog) went to one of our favorite spots and set up for what we hoped was going to be a lights-out shooting day. Shortly before sunrise there were a lot of birds moving, but they were ginormous flights of geese and ducks moving from point A to point B in the stratosphere. It was beautiful to watch the long ‘V’ lines stretching across the horizon as far as the eye can see.

The morning was calm and clear, but by 8:30 the storm started to blow in with thick dark clouds rolling over one another until the sun was blotted out of the sky. At that point the birds shut down and barely anything was in the air.

Our only harvest were a couple of teal that zigged and zagged into the decoys and were quickly dispatched. As Max lurched into the water for his only retrieves of the day, I was reminded why hunting is so special to me. I love the richness of the entire hunting experience: waking up with the marsh, the fellowship of hunting partners, connecting with my food source, the gunning, and Max.

As I watched Max effortlessly paddle out and back with the quarry, I was in awe at just how incredible it is to have such a strong connection with an animal. An animal! I wish I could adequately describe the way he looks in my eyes and communicates with me while the ducks are working the decoys. His eyes following their every wingbeat right until the point of shooting, where he leaps into action without so much as a command from me. He completes my experience as a hunter.

At just 3 years old, God willing Max and I will share many more days in the boat and the blind. He lives to please me, which is a tremendous responsibility as well as a humbling experience. The best I can do is offer a little praise and throw him an extra treat for a job well done. Oh, that humans were so easy. This is why I live to hunt.


Blessed said...

I love watching our dogs work - it might be one reason why I like waterfowling so much!

It amazes me how a dog can be in a dead sleep and then suddenly sit up and start watching the sky a good five minutes before we can see or hear anything...

Oh and spring and summer training is a great way to get outside, enjoy the warmth and sunshine and spend some time together cultivating another hobby we have as a family.

Tom Sorenson said...

Dogs are the best. Love the picture of him hitting the water - great shot. He looks sorta like a big version of my little dog...guess my dog has got some retriever in him....maybe I'd better see if he's got the instincts?

sportingdays said...

Nice-looking pooch. Young, too. You will have many wonderful days afield together, no doubt.

You don't see many duck hunters these days with Golden Retrievers, or many other hunters for that matter using that breed. I know of only one other hunter using the breed. How did you get hooked on the breed? Are they hard to find from hunting lines?

Glad to see that there are still a few around that haven't fallen victim to the show ring (which has ruined quite a few hunting dog breeds).

Live to Hunt.... said...

Hey Sporting, thanks for the sentiments. Max is indeed a handsome fellow - but I'm biased!

I grew up hunting over black labs, which I still love, but became hooked on Golden's because of a wonderful experience I had hunting over one that a friend had for many years. I got spoiled. My wife also wanted the best family dog. As far as I was concerned that is a tie with the lab, but she preferred a Golden. So a Golden it was.

There are still a few hunting breeders, but many of them are in the upper mid-west and one in Oregon. I also found one here locally (Nor Cal), who had great hunting lines. Max's great, great Grandfather is Top Brass Cotton, which was the winningest field trial Golden of all time.

The bonus is that his line is very small as Golden's go. He is only 50lbs. Like a lot of the super-charged hunting labs you see these days, most Golden's you see coming out of the midwest are grown to be in the 100 lb. range to sustain the cold harsh hunting conditions. You'll also see that in the show lines. But as you know, we hunt in a very warm climate (relative to other locales), so big and hairy works against us here. They end up burning out in the field pretty quick because it is just too warm.

I think a lot of guys get bought into the whole 'big dog' concept because they think it will make a better hunter. I guess I'm just too pratical and wanted a dog that would be a companion and hunt like the dickens for me. Max is that pooch! I read in Holly's blog about your hunt that you have some wonderful dogs yourself! It is the best isn't it.

sportingdays said...

Interesting about the Goldens. I agree with your observations. Most Labs you see are too large for their own good. They tire quickly, get injured more easily, have shorter careers in the field.

The bigger labs aren't nearly as effective as upland dogs, in my opinion, as smaller, more athletic dogs that can hunt all day. You even seen this same kind of thing with other hunting breeds. An Irish setter from hunting lines, for example, is a much smaller and lighter dog than the big-chested, long-haired, feathery dogs you typically see. A German shorthair from the show ring is quite a bit taller than many of the good shortharis you see in the field.

Cazadora is very generous in her observations about my two Labs. The reality is that they are very average hunting dogs. I've hunted with some truly outstanding dogs in my life, so I know the difference. But they are MY hunting dogs so, of course, I love them and think they're wonderful. And I love the fact that they love to hunt even more than I do!

I did my homework, bought them from hunting lines (as opposed to show lines or field trial lines), had them professionally trained and taught myself to handle them and continue their training.

Today I find myself hunting as much for them as I do for myself. Example: I hated to pheasant hunt as a kid. I was consumed by duck hunting and thought pheasant hunting was boring, hopeless (we never hunted with dogs growing up)and a big waste of time for minimal results. Why walk all day for a couple of fleeting shots at a funny looking chicken?

It just happened that my Labs are good upland dogs as well as water dogs and really like that game. I've found myself doing more pheasant hunting -- and quail hunting -- because the dogs enjoyed it so much, were good at it, and I had fun seeing them work. Even when it's slow, the dogs still get their exercise and can do their thing. When it's slow duck hunting, there's just not much for the dog to do.

Anonymous said...

Dogs are awesome animals. We've always had Black or Yellow Labs and they've always been sweet dogs that were eager to please. They're a lovely breed.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh, Sportingdays, I'm not being overly generous! Those are some lovely, responsive dogs you have.

And HuntEatLive, I can't wait to meet Max!