There are milestones in your gun dog’s education. Learning to whoa on command and finding a bird by scent are two that Cooper (Coop for short) soon mastered. He took to training with farm-raised quail like a natural and the transition from gun pup to gun dog occurred this past fall. It was a drizzling Saturday morning when I took Cooper to Babcock Pond in Colchester
a put-and-take bird spot for his first hunt. I knew the birds were stocked. I also knew Cooper wouldn’t care. I hoped the rain would keep the fair-weather hunters at home watching the Outdoor channel. I wanted to have the area all to ourselves and we did. There would be no dogs distract Cooper from executing on his studies. The air was perfect for scenting birds. The gun pup was excited that I had chosen him over his rival for my attention, Bella. The rescue stayed at home with Ms. Deborah and she cried for an hour after we left the house. At Babcock, the state had been clearing pines. The road was ripped up from the skidder with puddles large enough to hide a Buick. With the Ruger
in the crock of my arm, I insisted Cooper follow me. As if you know what you’re doing he must have thought. Cooper had other plans and somewhere between the stand of hemlock and the open field a pheasant hen clucked hello. Cooper was dizzy with excitement. He took the command to work to the left where I pointed and searched using that nose of his. He worked fast and suddenly stopped, sort how Ms. Deborah stops in front of the Saks
windows on Fifth Avenue. In all the excitement he couldn’t remember which paw to hold up. It was pure slap stick. Are you a comedian or a pointer?
He was convinced the bird was nearby. I couldn’t find it until I almost stepped on her. Cooper was locked. Still as stone. Paw raised and tail out. The training was coming back to him. Whoa. We kill them in the air.
She kicked up and as wily as a grouse put the pine boughs between me and her. The Red Label’s
lower barrel coughed. A good clean miss. We followed the bird again but it was getting late. Cooper would have stayed until either I learned to shoot straight or the hen passed out from exhaustion. It wasn’t a beautiful point but it was his first hunt and showed he had learned his lessons well and has a heart for hunting.