Lessons Our Dogs Can Teach Us
By: Tom Goldsmith
Key in on what your hunting buddy is telling you
It recently occurred to me that after a couple of decades of following dogs around the fields and forests of Ontario, in comparison with my dogs, I know very little about finding game. Human arrogance allows us to think we teach dogs to hunt. This is simply not true. Most hunters/handlers are really trying to make a dog hunt co-operatively with us, so they can fill our game bags. And while we work hard to teach our dogs these things, the dogs also have a few lessons on hunting and living that they're only too happy to pass on to those attentive enough to notice.
Trust the Dog's Nose
I heard the twitter of the woodcock's flush and instinctively shouldered my gun to the only bit of blue sky I could see from inside the thick cover. I met the rising bird there and folded it in a gentle puff of feathers. My hunting partner, Bob, sent his fine German shorthair, Bailey, for the retrieve in the direction of a small meadow where the bird fell. Both of us also moved to the grass field to assist in finding the bird.
Bailey soon came and stood by his side, but without the bird. Bob sent him out to look again, but Bailey gave only a half-hearted search and again returned to Bob's side. Frustrated, Bob moved to force Bailey into the area where we'd seen the bird fall. As he moved his foot, Bailey reached down and lifted the bird from directly under Bob's boot.
Never Mind the Weather
It was a pleasant October evening and, as much as I tried to hide evidence of my intent to hunt grouse the following morning, Penny, my Brittany, was on to me. I awoke to a sullen sky and a steady light rain, but I didn't have the heart to deny her some time afield.
When we arrived at our spot, the rain was more of a heavy mist, but it still only took a minute or two in the thick, wet cover to soak us both. Penny cared little about such things and ended up finding several grouse under low-hanging spruce bows. As I look at my shooting diary now, I see that this was one of the most successful days of grouse hunting I've ever had. It included Penny's unforgettable point that offered me my first ever real chance at a double on grouse. I missed the easy shot, of course.
Savour Every Encounter
It was a cool, crisp December day and, while the weather gods were co-operating, the rabbits where not. Despite their best efforts, my hunting buddy, Ray, and his beagles had failed to start a single rabbit. Then, as the day grew late, Peanut finally started tonguing from the edge of a reforested area to the north.
Ray and I took positions in likely looking cut-off spots and waited. The long chase that ensued included two missed shots and at least two passes before I finally tumbled the rabbit as it made for a snow-covered stone fence. Peanut got to the prize before I did and laid down exhausted beside the rabbit. The day was one of the leanest in terms of game I ever had with Ray and his beagles, but we sure did make the most of the one rabbit Peanut found.
Treasure Every Minute
Assistant Editor Steve Galea's springer spaniel, Callie, embodies the essence of a rough-shooter's dog. Her enthusiasm and passion for the hunt is infectious to all who accompany her afield in search of whatever opportunity presents itself.
I fondly recall an opening-day hunt that included several grouse f lushes, a nice retrieve on a wood duck, and an arduous belly sneak Steve and Callie made on three geese in a flooded beaver meadow. One goose fell to Steve's shot and, while he later complained the weight of his game bag hindered his ability to get a shot at a woodcock Callie flushed, no one was listening, least of all Callie. I will always remember that day among my most treasured: a day afield with a good friend; some excellent dog work; and, most of all, a true accounting of how great it is to be in the outdoors.