Monday, February 27, 2012

Over and out

March 1 is the legal end of another bird season.  Unless the world economy collapses before then - not completely unrealistic by the way - mine drew to a close Sunday.  With a prior engagement later in the afternoon I ducked away to a site not far from town where we've found a handful of birds this year.  We managed one covey that flushed wild and the singles gave us the slip.  But the dog got a snootful of scent and I got the mental images to carry through the off-season.

For years I've held the conviction that dogs have a sense of time.  People have told me otherwise and although I can't mount a scientific argument I can serve as witness. Yesterday Wyatt hunted harder than he ever has, ranging farther and working cover more thoroughly with not a bit of urging from me.  It was pure joy to watch.  Kinda like he knew this would be the last time for a while. That's me projecting two unrelated facts on top of each other, I know, but I can't get the thought out of my head.

This dog has been a lot of fun to have around.  He was way behind the game when I got him, three and a half years old and never hunted outside of a training field, and I don't think he'd done that in more than a year.  I doubt he'd ever been run without a check cord.  The first time I took him hunting he never ranged farther than maybe twenty yards from me.  Each time he got a little more comfortable, stretched it out a bit, sorted out the different smells and figured out exactly what it was we were looking for.  When we'd get into the birds you could see the drive ratchet up a bit.  Just like it's supposed to.

He's money on pen-raised birds.  I don't know how different they smell from wild birds but I know they do. My last dog would never, ever, bump a wild bird.  Put him on a pen-raised bird, though, and he'd hold point only until you got close enough to watch him dive in and get it.  And he got every one.  Never even tried it on a wild bird.  Go figure.

Wyatt's struggled a bit figuring out the wild bird equation and the lack of readily available wild birds hasn't exactly helped the situation.  Geez, how many hours did I spend walking through fields thinking about taking him to South Dakota or Saskatchewan or some other Valhalla of birds, a place where we could have contacts all day long and in a week's time have a very educated dog?  Enough to become a bit obsessed with the idea, that's how many.  I spent a few more trying to work out the logistics of disappearing for a week or two in the fall.  Didn't quite get that part fully resolved.

Bird dog on point

He's getting there, just a bit more slowly than the last time I went through this process. Hey, I got time.  No sense in screwing up something so sublime by being in a hurry.

And it'll give me some good things to think about for the next eight months.  Seasons and hunts are spots of brightness linked by everyday life.  There are other spots of brightness but every man, woman and child has one thing, an event, an activity, a happening that is as good as it gets.  Everything else is just something in between.  And now we're in between.

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