Saturday, December 1, 2012


     I’ve always started working with my bird dog pups the day that I brought them home from the breeder. It is never too early to expose them to feathers and birds, as long as you don’t scare the pup and keep it fun, that’s the way I feel anyway. By the time they are a few months old they are always pointing quail or pigeons and well on their way to becoming bird dogs. Without birds you can’t have a bird dog—I think we’ve all heard that.
     So this story is about a dog that friends of ours, who are non-hunters, acquired about a year and a half ago, a German shorthair pointer named Georgia. This couple has always had shorthairs, and I think this was their third. The idea of their dogs doing what it was been bred to do has always appealed to them, and one day two summers ago I asked how old the pup would be come last October. It would be six months old that fall they said and I jokingly mentioned I’d love to take her up hunting with me. Luckily for me, they thought the idea of the dog traveling up to bird country sounded like a great idea.
     Or maybe they just needed a break from the pup’s energy!
     Georgia had been well taught her basic manners, came when called, sat, stayed, and was a pleasure to be around. Of course there was lots of energy there, and keeping her sitting or staying sometimes became an issue, but, all in all, she was great for a young dog. Her manners around other dogs were impeccable, never once trying to force things to have her own way.
     So we headed up to the big woods for a couple of weeks, with Chara, my oldest German wirehair, and Colby, the young wire who was having hind leg issues that year. Georgia loved it up there, bumped some partridge right of the bat, and explored the new woods with its new and wild scents. The other dogs tolerated her or ignored her, often acting as if she were invisible. Sometimes Georgia stayed in the kennel in the back of the truck so the other dogs could hunt without her bumping the birds.
Georgia on an early woodcock.
     And then we went to the biggest alder patch that I know, where woodcock always are present and sometimes very abundant. Right off the bat Colby pointed a woodcock with Chara and Georgia both honoring. Georgia bumped a couple, and then pointed one. I made very sure that I killed that one on the flush. She was starting to see how things are supposed to work.
     The day turned out to be sort of controlled craziness, with dogs pointing and honoring and bumped birds flying all over the place, but Georgia learned a lot and learned it fast. I don’t know how many woodcock we moved, but there certainly were dozens.
     This past fall we headed north again, Chara another year older and starting to show it, Colby a year wiser and in better physical shape than the year before, and Georgia, anxious to go hunting, but with no additional real training on birds.
Grouse country.
     And what a year! Grouse seemed to be just about everywhere and I lost count of how  many were pointed. Georgia would lock up like a statue though and then take off like a rocket, determined to catch the birds. The other dogs ignored her bad manners and when they pointed I tried to hurry in before Georgia would notice them. When she spotted another dog pointing she would honor for a moment before storming in with the predictable and disastrous results. On woodcock she did fine, but those nervous grouse were just too tantalizing to not chase. Each of the dogs spent time in the kennel, and Georgia was forced to sit out some great grouse cover.
     And then one day, when all three of the three dogs and I worked down through a clear cut that I had never hunted before, it all clicked in. While Chara tried to relocate a grouse that had flushed off to my right, Georgia locked up solid on another bird ahead and stayed that way. What a sight!
Yeah, that's what it is all about!
     It happened in a thicket that all but swallowed up the dogs, where their bells went silent and I could barely catch a glimpse of Colby’s rump as she honored Georgia’s point ahead of her. Georgia, with her darker color, was almost impossible to see. The bird flashed up through the fir boughs and I fired as it disappeared. Both dogs vanished into the foliage and I feared a miss, but then Colby came pushing out of the greenery carrying the bird with Georgia following close behind.
     I took some time to praise them both, which they definitely deserved. They each looked cocky as hell and anxious to hunt more.
Georgia looking proud.
     After that Georgia pointed nearly as many grouse as either of the older dogs. Most of what she knows is in her genes and not from anybody’s training, so it’s kudos to the breeder, Hedgehog Hill Shorthairs in Belmont, Vermont. Of course she is smart too, which lets her figure things out quickly, like how to grab that unattended last half of a sandwich from the tailgate of the truck.
     I’ll hunt over that dog anytime. I keep finding myself singing that Ray Charles song…Georgia on my mind.

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