Posts Tagged ‘bird hunting’
It’s easy to get maudlin this time of year – family far away (or too close), the frantic shopping scene, lousy weather, not enough field time … the list goes on and on.
But seriously, as the Dalai Lama (I think) said, “keep a diamond in your mind,” and you can see the beauty in almost everything. Read this, then find the diamonds in your own memory, then tell us all about them at my Facebook page.
Mine include …
A sympathetic spouse who understands that I am feeding a raw, primitive hunger when I hunt. It’s a need that isn’t met in a grocery meat department or at the skeet range. Ortega y Gassett put it best: One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted.
Sympathetic dogs that honor me simply by allowing me to hunt with them, despite their superior abilities. Dogs that embody the entire Scout Oath (trustworthy, loyal, etc.) in their too-short lives.
Loyal friends who put up with my bad shooting and worse cooking in camp. Buddies who share the same values: dogs rule, dirt is a cleanser when worn on clothes and under fingernails, in hunting is truth.
An incredible career serving you, helping you become better hunters and dog owners through television, blogging, magazine articles and my new book (feel free to buy two copies).
Co-workers who make me look smarter and thinner on TV than I deserve. Even they can’t do much about my bad shooting.
The incredible resource we have available. Millions of acres of public land that we own and access, plus friendly private landowners who let us on their property. I am also thankful for the care you take when using our precious lands.
New friends, that I’ve introduced to our sport. The wonder and awe they express after following a dog or enjoying a chukar dinner remind me that there is often more joy in taking someone else than in going alone.
The magical moments we experience in the field. A magazine-cover point, the conundrum of how DNA can be so exquisitely manifested. The willingness of our dogs to break ice, brave thorns, pant through the heat to serve us. The deep, primal connection we get when we team with our dogs to seek prey – literal and emotional sustenance for us both.
The small miracles we witness that non-hunters don’t: pear trees in the desert, arrowheads and petroglyphs, crystal-clear water burbling from lava rock, bobcat kittens tumbling among boulders, a blanket of stars that shrink us to the specks we are in this vast universe, friends that don’t mind if we walk without talking for a whole day.
Who needs jewelry?
Posted in bird hunting, hunting dog, What the Dogs Taught Me, tagged autumn, bird hunting, fall, German wirehaired pointer, gun dog, hunting dog, upland bird hunting on August 27, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Pretending to be attentive to my company, I had a hard time keeping my eyes off the single, fluttering yellow leaf as it drifted to the ground. It was the first of millions, but at least to my eye it was a sign.
I wore a jacket for the first time this morning. Then Manny’s exhalations created clouds in the brisk morning air. And the ground exhaled too, showing moisture in the sandy soil for the first time since March. Buddy smiled as he raced through the sage – at least it looked like a smile to me. And both dogs ran with a verve fueled by the bracing air.
I’m ready. Are you?
I’m pretty well whoa-trained. When telling a dog to stop, I slam on the brakes too. It’s one of the funny things about that word that got me wondering how differently we think – and act – about the whoa command than we do about other commands.
Along with the barrel, gut hitch, place board, half-hitch, training table, pinch collar, e-collar on the flank or whatever strategy you use, something often gets lost – our ability to speak. If you subscribe to the belief that once a dog scents a bird “whoa” is an obedience command, why do we clam up once the dog obeys?
Check yourself: Fido is coursing a field and slams into a point. If you’re me, you’d also lock up, eventually realizing you’re in charge and need to do something – hopefully while the dog remains staunch. You might skulk toward the dog and bird, or stride purposefully, but how many of us proceed silently, hoping against hope that our dog holds still?
Meanwhile, the dog considers his options: he’s done what comes naturally (point) and wants to do what next comes naturally (pounce). He might have been taught a pounce is verboten, but without feedback, there’s a fifty-fifty chance he’ll get what he wants.
Is that okay with you?
Instead, quit expecting your mouth to “whoa” when he does. After all, Gunner heels in the yard, you praise. Coming back with a bird in his (soft) mouth merits a scratch behind the ears. But that end-swapping point on sketchy bobwhites is met by a silence as heavy as the moment between sermon‘s conclusion and congregation’s “amen.”
To a young dog torn between primitive passion and desire to please you, a word of praise may mean all the difference. I know Manny’s steadiness improved once I began delivering positive feedback instead of zipping my lips.
How about you? Does a cat get your tongue when your dog scents a bird?
Social animals, dogs touch for any number of reasons. In the litter, a mother’s touch means warmth, food, safety, life itself. Littermates snuggle, introductions start with noses to butts. Even my guys will nuzzle, spoon, or lay back to back.
It’s only natural that touch would become a form of communication between our dogs and us. As this is written, Buddy is getting a scratch at that spot on the front of his ear hole … that magic place where the right pressure will make his head will sink lower and lower until it’s on the ground. But his repertoire goes well beyond that.
Scratches, rubs, strokes, nudges are like cocaine to a dog. They will do almost anything for some finger action behind their ear, a palm rubbed on the chest, a squeeze on the sweet spot at the base of the tail. Fingers applied to flank equals leg twitch equals ahhhh.
But don’t dogs get as much from touching as being touched?
A nudge urges movement, attention, or warning. I used to think it was a German dog thing, but most bird dogs get a quiet thrill from simply leaning against a leg. It is often accompanied by a deep, satisfied sigh … from both of us. A cold nose brushed against the back of our hand reminds us that the hunting relationship involves two beings.
A paw on your arm asks forbearance, or assures that someone loves you. Chin on thigh signals admiration, or maybe tolerance.
A dog’s touch feels good, physically. It feeds the psyche, too.
I may be anthropomorphizing, possibly reading more into it than I should. Real dog experts might pooh-pooh my ideas. And that’s fine. Maybe they’ve never had a need for the tangible, tactile communication in which dogs excel. But I do. Maybe you, too.