It is said that you should never insult a man's gun or his dog. I think further emphasis ought to be on the dog. Insult a gun in the presence of its owner and he will be mildly offended. Insult his dog and you better be prepared for a roll in the dirt.
Such loyalty, I believe, is merely a reciprocation of allegiance. Dogs will do anything to please us (though it helps if there's a bird in it for them), and as they quest for game we derive the same great enjoyment that's been experienced since man first partnered with wolf. It makes no difference whether your affinity is for pointers, setters, spaniels or hounds, the thrill of a dog on game is universal. Rivalries persist between fans of flushers and pointers, but rare is it when gundog owners can find no common ground. Hunting dogs are part of our essence—our mental health depends upon them. We probably wouldn't even hunt without them.
As I write this, a springer spaniel is curled at my feet who provides me more joy than he'll ever truly understand. It is a pleasure to watch him hunt, but in this era, especially, our dogs are also our companions—part of the family.
I love having a dog in the house. There's nothing so satisfying as waking up eye-to-eye with a tail-wagging bundle of bliss who believes your return to consciousness is cause for great celebration. Not to mention the delightfully sincere greeting a dog provides every day upon your return from work.
I have owned many dogs over the years, some good, some not so good; however, I have found strong points in all of them. And even when they have disappointed me (a phenomenon precipitously linked to the number of witnesses involved), by the time the ride home was over we were buddies again. When has a quarrel between humans ever found such swift resolution?
If dogs have a flaw to be found, it is in their tragically short lives. I remember the first one I lost, a Gordon setter named Luke who was partaking in his evening meal and simply fell over, abruptly dead of natural causes. It was the first time I ever saw my old man cry. Dad wrapped Luke in a blanket, and we buried him with two 12-gauge hulls and a handful of pheasant tails.
Whether owning dogs is worth the pain of losing them is not worthy of discussion. Of course it is. Just consider the companionship we get from our animals; the realization they are improving afield and our training methods played a small role; and the pride that overwhelms as they trail a running pheasant, bust through ice to retrieve a wounded mallard, hold point while pinning a grouse or howl hauntingly at a treed coon—these are pleasures to be cherished!
It is June now, the month "when champions are made," according to a friend who trains bird dogs for a living. He was referring to field trial dogs, but now is also the perfect time to prepare a pup for its first season. Summer's oppressive heat has yet to arrive, the cover is just the right height and, if you start now, that young dog who has inspired your irrational optimism will be ready to roll on opening day. It's a great time to own a dog. Isn't it always?
How to Think Like a Rabbit
by J. Scott Olmsted,
Editor in Chief
Rabbit fur provides poor insulating qualities.
So think about it: Where would you escape the cold if all you had was a light jacket? Check briar patches and fruit brambles that offer shelter from the wind while remaining open to the warm rays of the January sun.
When hunting thick cover look for their eyes,
not their brown fur, to spot rabbits. A rabbit's shiny, round, dark eyes stand out against the monochromatic gray tones of the places it calls home like a dime on a cow pie.
Anyone who's hunted them knows rabbits are nervous critters, likely to bolt before they need to in the face of danger. When you enter a briar patch walk slowly, then stop, look and listen for about a minute. Then repeat. Your movement will likely flush a bunny from its hide. If not, the silent treatment should convince the critter it's been spotted and it'll make a run for it.
Contrary to popular belief,
rabbits don't exactly run in circles when chased by dogs. They do, however, tend to run within their range. If your beagle jumps a rabbit stand and wait—the dog will chase the rabbit back within shooting range.
Use an improved cylinder choke and No. 6 or 7 1/2 loads
to provide a wide, sufficiently heavy pattern without excessively damaging meat when hunting alone. Beagles push rabbits farther afield; switch to a modified or even a full choke and No. 4 or 6 loads when hunting with them.
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We Hunt Bear by Adam Heggenstaller, Editor in Chief, Shooting Illustrated
The season begins with 22 of us staring at a net of rhododendron that rises steeply to meet a lead-colored sky... Read More »
Like the fossilized skeletons of its ancestors displayed in the Smithsonian, a 12-foot alligator can be scary even when it's dead—something that Shooting Illustrated's Adam Heggenstaller learned in person during a gator hunt in Florida. Read More »