Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Six, "Two Years Old: Part 4"

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

While duck hunting could prove to be dangerous due to the temperature swings and adverse conditions, the physical activity around pheasant hunting afforded the opportunity for both man and dog to get their heart rates up and body temperatures high.  During her second year, Blitz and I hunted birds at our farm every weekend, and even some week days where we could muster an appropriate excuse to do so.  One such opportunity came via an invite from a vendor of mine that was looking to hold a "meeting" out at one of the local game farms. 

Now there are some that turn up their nose at game farms as they don't pass their test of what "pure" hunting is, and opinions in the hunting community run the gamut of "no issues at all." to "I'd never do it."  I've found that when the birds are raised properly, which means their pens afford full flight development for the birds and their food supply is ample for their energy needs, that game farm hunting can be quite sporty.  I've had too many birds escape on me not be as humbled in those confines as I am in the wild.  And while I wouldn't attend game farms by myself just for my personal hunting, when one adds a dog and the irreplaceable experience that comes from live bird work, there is no better place to train a dog.  Just like any endeavor, the more experience one has, the more proficient one becomes, and that is clearly the case with gun dogs and game farms. 

Prior to our meeting, my vendor Doug inquired about Blitz and how she'd been performing.  "Pretty good," I explained.  "She's just over two, so she doesn't have a ton of experience, but she hunts close and has a good nose"  Doug explained that should be just fine, as his six-year-old dog should be able to pick up any birds that Blitz missed to do her youth, inexperience and exuberance.   

We met at the field at our appointed hour, and I could tell by the thumping coming from the dog crate in the back of the truck that Blitz was ready to go.  Doug and his dog met us at my lift gate, where I was loading up.  "You loaded yet, Doug?"  I asked.  "No, you think I should?" he replied.  "Judging by how this crate is shaking, I think that might be a good idea," I explained.  I slung my shotgun over my shoulder and positioned my body directly in front of the crate door.  Opening it slightly, Blitz pushed against it and exploded forward about a foot to where she bumped into my chest.  I leveraged her half-in, half out position to quickly put her training collar around her neck, and once affixed, stood aside.  Blitz shot from the truck like she was jumping out of a burning building, and immediately headed for the pheasant cover about twenty yards away.  "OK, I guess we're hunting..." Doug said astutely. 

Blitz dashed about ahead of us; nose down and tail wagging.  Almost immediately she went on point, and I moved up to flush a hidden chuckar partridge.  The bird flushed, I snapped a quick shot, and dropped the bird cleanly with Blitz in hard pursuit of the fallen partridge.  "That didn't take long," said Doug.  Taking the bird from the dog's mouth, I replied "Yeah, she kind of works fast," and before I could finish my statement, Blitz had already moved out in front of us to find the next bird. 

We hunted the field strategically, and made sure that we were covering all of our appointed ground.  Doug's chocolate lab hunted at a slow and deliberate pace, whereas Blitz was flying about like some blond berserker.  We made our way to the end of the field, picking up birds all along the way, then turned around to head back to the truck to drop off our birds, water down the dogs, and develop a new plan of attack.  We arrived at the back of my truck and stared to unload, and judging by the quantity birds I pulled from my game bag in my vest, it was obvious that Blitz had done an incredible job.  "Here's the two my dog and I got," Doug exclaimed as he threw his quarry on our sizable pile.  "I'm glad we were here to back Blitz up!  In all seriousness, she's an incredible dog.  She's maybe the best I've ever hunted behind."  Given all of the hunting Doug had done, that was a hell of a compliment, and I was delighted that such a knowledgeable outdoorsman would bestow it to her. 

During that season, Blitz and I also got enlisted to do some "professional" hunting as well.  A good friend of mine had developed a guided hunting business, and had developed much of his 700+ acres for deer and pheasant habitat.  It just so happened that his property was less than ten miles from my farm, and while I had heard stories of the pheasants it held, I had not yet been invited to hunt there.  So when my buddy Don called and exclaimed that his guide dogs had been burned out the day prior with some clients and needed to rest, and that he needed some fresh dog power, I was more than happy to volunteer Blitz's services. 

Blitz and I arrived at Don's farm, and it was as described.  The cover and habitat was some of the finest in the county, and while the hunting would be tough due to the thickness of the cover, I was giddy knowing what awaited us.  Simply put, cover that good had to hold tons of birds, and I couldn't wait to get Blitz in there and after them.  After quick introductions with Don and his two clients, we headed out. 

We made our way into a overgrown thicket that bordered a small creek, and pushed through it with desires of reaching switch grass field that lay beyond.  The cover in the thicket was substantial, and I was plowing through it to the best of my ability.  Due to the thickness of the growth, I quickly lost sight of Blitz and the others in my hunting party, but heard some of their exclamations (profane or otherwise) as they were exiting the heavy brush on the other side.  I finally got to a point where I could see the field ahead of me and a couple of guys in our party.  At this point, Don yelled "Hey, Mikey, there's something wrong with your dog! She's not moving!"  Panicked, I increased my pace to get out of the cover and looked around for Blitz.  I soon spied her, statue-still, tail high, and intently looking at a clump of grass in front of her.  "She's fine, Don.  She's pointing," I explained. 

"Pointing?" he asked. 
"Yeah, she's pointing." 
"Your dog points?"
"Yeah, she's doing it right now!" 
"What do I do?"  
"Uh, get ready!" I exclaimed, and gave Blitz the command of "GET HIM!"  Blitz moved forward and immediately a beautiful rooster burst from the cover and into the sky, where he was met by the shot of one of the clients.  As Blitz brought the bird back, everyone exclaimed that they had never hunted with a lab that pointed, and they couldn't believe what they just saw.  "Judging by the cover around here, hopefully you'll get to see more of it soon," I stated. 

My prognosis was going to prove absolutely correct.   

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