Like you, I live for fall: crisp temperatures, colored leaves, the breathless anticipation. On opening day we make our quests to familiar places, reunions with friends and family, and wide open country never seen before.
We go for the camaraderie, and to be in beautiful places. Our passion runs deep for one bird, or all of them. We eagerly anticipate a return to that little café at a country crossroads, the wisdom in a farmer’s advice, that creek bottom where we shot our first ringneck. Long into the night, we debate the merits of block-and-drive versus stealth, single malt versus Canadian, pump-versus-semi-auto-versus double gun, and in the morning all is forgiven.
But whatever our proclivity in birds, guns or football teams, there is one constant. A fellow hunter spots your dog box, and a new friendship begins. A question about his breed becomes a game of who-do-you-know? We may discover a shared hometown or alma mater, but it always comes back to dogs.
As it should. Dogs add texture to our lives, punctuate our humdrum days, amuse and comfort us, remain loyal companions through thick and thin. They are there for us when we need them, and (we hope) vice-versa. As Roger Karas said, if you don’t have a dog, there’s nothing wrong with you, but there is something wrong with your life.
We know that. When all is said and done, we have one common denominator. Fuzzy, slick, galumphing like a pachyderm or elegant as a gazelle, we love our dogs. They are why we hunt. When they take the field, we are transported to another era. We tap our genetic heritage, recalling a time when our four-footed companions helped us feed the tribe. We are functioning on the deepest, primordial level.
But you know that, too. You proved it when you entered our “Fiocchi Friends” photo contest, or voted for one of the entries. Or when you took a newcomer on their first hunt, knowing they would marvel at the magic of your dog’s skills and enthusiasm. You are reminded every time you unsnap your dog’s lead and turn him loose in the marsh, on the prairie, or the deep north woods. His passion envelops you; two become one in pursuit of game. Together, you revel in the circle of life, the chance to find wild food, and in so doing, find a little bit more of ourselves.
As Ortega y Gassett said, we needn’t kill to hunt, but the prospect of killing must be part of the bargain. Should we be presented with a chance to take game, we are honor-bound to make a clean kill. A careful shot with the right ammunition, and a good dog to retrieve our quarry ensure our pursuit is honorable. For me, it is countless rounds of skeet, Fiocchi Golden Pheasant, and my German Wirehaired Pointer, Manny. For you, well, you know the answer.
When the sun sinks below the horizon and guns are stowed, it is time for stories, friendship, and once again, to remember our dogs.