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Posts Tagged ‘springer spaniel’

Would you subject this little guy to 200 rounds as his introduction to gunshots?

Does it make sense to haul a four-month old springer pup to the sporting clays range? Recently, I was followed most of the morning by two “hunters” who seemed to be turning a beautiful dog into a whimpering, gun-shy puddle of canine misery. She cowered and whined in the corner of a crate lashed (not so securely) to the back end of a golf cart, while her master enjoyed a day of sport with a friend … each station appeared to be a lesson in terror, at least to this observer.

What dolts.

Back in the day, many folks thought this was a sound (pardon the pun) strategy … flood the poor thing’s ears with the sound of hunting, and it would become inured to the bangs and booms and soon transform into the ultimate bird-finding machine, afraid of nothing, including shotgun blasts. As I understand it, many of those dogs ended up “living on a farm,” as the euphemism goes.

Okay, at some point in a young dog’s upbringing, exposure to several up-close shots is part of the strategy. But a first-time experience? To 200 rounds (two hunters, 100 targets each)?

I was shooting with acquaintances, not good friends, on a new course where I don’t know the operators well. So I kept my thoughts to myself. But I wanted to give them a piece of my mind (you might suggest I can’t afford that.)

What would you have done?

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The gateway to a good time

The gateway to a good time

The indelible mental image is a metal ranch building blown over by the gale-force winds. Up to 60 m.p.h., the TV weather guy said. Of course, that was in Sioux Falls, where the citified weenies freak out at a strong breeze. More like 70 here at Sutton Bay on the Oahe Reservoir of the Missouri River near Onida, SD.

Three years ago we had a sedate, civilized group hunt through standing corn here at Sutton Bay. Today, it was a lean-into-the-wind-or-be-blown-over hunt wherever we could find shelter among the knolls and hollows on this former cattle ranch turned golf and hunting resort (where else but in South Dakota?).

Buddy’s first cast out of the truck was short and to the point, literally. He locked solid on the downwind corner of a milo field, and five skittish roosters screamed first into, then up, then afterburners-on catch the tailwind and we’re outta here gone. Premature shots from this unprepared gunner wing-clipped two by sheer luck. A propitious start, to say the least.

Shelterbelts and tall CRP were our chosen objectives, because both the birds and we could get out of the jet engine-like wind. Most birds flew wild, long before I could catch up to Buddy on point. Some ran, and all knew if they could catch a tailwind, they were home free.

What’s the lead on a ringneck at 50 miles an hour? I never figured it out. Nor did either of my barrels connect with the lone sharptail Buddy jumped at 40 yards. I’ve got to check my choke tubes.

Whether it was the wind, a day off, or new surroundings, Buddy was as disobedient as I’ve ever seen him since puppyhood. It was a fine time to forget the Tri-Tronics collar in the room. As it was, I could barely keep track of my hat being blown off every ten minutes. A collar transmitter would probably be halfway to the Gulf of Mexico by now, either floating the Missouri or in the jet stream.

“Chinese fire drill” best describes the hunt, all dog-and-operator error. That’ll teach me to brag, even in a low-key manner, about Buddy. We finally tapped out, more by sheer luck than any human or canine skill, though the retrieves were pretty good, for a wirehair. This according to one semi-biased observer (he owns springers, but don’t hold that against him).

The pocket-protector types say that moving air, like moving water, generates negative ions (whatever they are), and make us feel good. That is enough to get me out of the truck, even if my butt gets hit by the slamming door on the way.

And seeing this beautiful place again, feeling the raw power of nature, and celebrating the (challenging) hunt among verdant hills and valleys that harbored Indians, pioneer settlers and buffalo, makes the occasional hat chase worthwhile.

Sutton Bay is private, so get close to a member and enjoy a beautiful setting and incredible hunting amidst well-tended habitat. If you’re a golfer, they’ve got one of the best and beautiful courses in the Midwest.

Me? I’d rather carry a 20 gauge than a nine-iron. How about you?

Where would you lace up a new pair of Irish Setter boots? Tell me in the comments section below and you might just win a pair, as well as an Irish Setter hunting coat.

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