Well, OK, not really.
My Labrador puppy did really good last weekend, the opening weekend of dove season in the North and Central zones.
Only 4 ½ months old, it was Sadie's maiden voyage hunting. It was one of those trips where you hope for the best, but expect the worst.
The pup has been going through the training paces the last couple of months, but it has been hot so there is only a limited amount of time she could be worked and that is in minutes per day, not hours.
She has mastered “sit” and “here” on her own terms, and prior to Saturday had very little experience around guns. That, of course, was the biggest concern. Would she bolt at the first report of a shotgun or would she get excited at what followed.
I didn't start the shooting Saturday morning. The first shots came from somewhere else in the field. Sadie, jumped a little and turned to watch what was going on. She was good with it.
The first close shots came when Killis LaGrone, sitting 40 yards away, dropped a bird in the milo field we were hunting. A few minutes later he dropped another. I stopped him from going after the bird to let Sadie do the work. With her on a leash we walked over to it. Her reaction was at first complete indifference. The only birds she had ever seen were those flying around the neighborhood.
Then I picked it up and waved it in her face and against her nose.
It was like a light came on.
For the first few birds I would work her on the leash. She really wasn't paying attention to what was flying overhead as much as she was the grain stubble at her feet, so I would have to point her in the right direction.
Several flocks of pigeons did grab her attention, but I held off shooting one of them thinking there would be plenty of dove to shoot before the morning ended.
Then she started to figure out that if my gun was going up, something was about to happen and she began watching the birds down. Off she ran in search of them, still easily fooled by a dirt clod or piece of trash on occasions, but she always rebounded to find the bird.
Distance, like it is to a hunter trying to find a downed bird, was difficult for a puppy. Who knows, they may forget what they are after before getting there. I can relate.
Sadie didn't back down from the head high (my head) Johnson grass or balk at traversing up and down the banks of a deep ravine. When we went looking for a bird, she actually looked like she ran around with purpose.
This was an odd start to the season. There were doves in the North and Central zones, but a lot of inconsistency.
Having moved to Brownwood for the second day of the season, I can attest to slow hunting. I never fired a shot hunting north of town. Others hunting south of the city did better.
Because of the slow day Sunday, Sadie didn't get the follow-up action I had hoped she would. Monday, hunting a goatweed field in East Texas, did. A surprising number of birds showed up for the afternoon hunt and the dog immediately went to work.
So much of bird hunting, dove, quail, ducks and pheasants, is about the dog work. Even the worst dog can make its owner smile when it makes that miraculous find or point.
But always expect the worse. Being prepared makes it easier.
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