Saturday, October 13, 2012

So, any regrets?

It's been a little over two years since I brought Wyatt home.  As we eased through the public dove field this afternoon on a pre-season run I wondered, truly only for a second, whether he was glad he came to live with us.  Compared to his old digs this is something on the order of moving into Biltmore Estate, what with an honest-to-goodness roof over his head and something softer than dirt to sleep on.  Creature comforts aside he's a shamelessly affectionate dog and there's no shortage of that in our home either.

Brittany bird dog

Any new dog comes with a bounty of hopes and a measure of trepidation.  My most prominent fear stemmed from having two young children, visions of a dog who can't tolerate the occasional innocent aggression and eventually lashes out in protest.  I don't have kennels; my dogs live with the rest of us and such a curmudgeon won't have a place around our house.  It would truly suck to own the finest field companion I may see in a lifetime and have him not get along with the kids.

There was also the concern about him being a total washout in the field.  A dog who won't handle, won't hold point or worse still, points only butterflies and grasshoppers, chases everything that runs until he hits the county line and catches sight of something else.  He might be more fun that a turbocharged slinky back at the ranch but I already have one dog with "Non-hunter" on his ID. 

From my seat it's worked out just fine.  He's no field trial champion and we haven't bagged a limit yet but after a year without a bird dog the tally didn't really matter.  Being in the field behind a dog, any dog, is good medicine.  Being able to do it on your own schedule, not waiting for an invitation, is even better.

For whatever reason dogs seem to find their way into our lives.  And I mean the right dogs.  Not necessarily field trial champions or Nat Geo special candidates.  With the exception of the rare few that are plain disasters - the ones that run off, bite the in-laws, or destroy the house, and even these tend to teach us something along the way - certain dogs have a curious karma-like way of ending up with us.  They have a way of fitting into the family, quirks and all.  They have a way of filling a need or two, sometimes more.

Happy bird dog

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Vote early, vote often

I'm not talking about the Presidential election, I'm talking about something that matters. SportDOG is giving a $25,000 grant to the proposed project receiving the most votes in its Future Forward Fund competition.  Of the 7 finalists, the one that caught my eye was developed by Dr. Theron Terhune of Tall Timbers.  From the proposal page on the SportDOG website:
Operation Outdoors is a designed to bring students to the outdoor classroom by providing a field site for undergraduate curriculums, especially for underserved universities and colleges. The intent of the project is to foster the integration of hunting and game management into education. The ultimate goal of this project is to conserve and protect upland and grassland ecosystems, the species inhabiting them, and retaining the hunting legacy.
There are several other proposals that would benefit upland birds including one aimed at prairie chicken habitat and another at bobwhite focal areas.  Both of these are extremely worthy of consideration, and this may be the only time you'll hear me advocate not voting for a quail project, but Theron's project edges out the others because of one word: leverage. The other proposals are geographically limited. Theron's project, by educating and inspiring a group of young biologists, holds the potential to impact a far greater area for decades to come.

Theron Terhune prescribed fire

Habitat work is vitally important, arguably the most critical piece of the puzzle that is declining numbers of many species of gamebirds.  As long as there are adequate numbers of habitat specialists and supporters the work will get done.  Maintaining that adequate number necessitates efforts to recruit and train them.  

You can vote as often as once a day between now and November 30.  Don't be disenfranchised -  do it before Al Sharpton gets wise to it.