Ghosts of gundogs past, and looking to the future
By Ralph P. Stuart
Spring. A time of rebirth, new beginnings and hope for the future. For many of us, the long winter has meant living the sedentary existence of couch potatoes; now it’s time to rouse ourselves from hibernation and return to an active lifestyle.
Shooters will take this opportunity to break out their shotguns and head to the range. There’s nothing like a few rounds of skeet or sporting clays to begin working on “problem shots” and rebuilding muscle memory. This is also a great chance to introduce someone to the sport. Playing the role of instructor helps you focus on the basics, and this often can aid in improving your own shooting.
For dogmen, spring is an opportunity to reflect, reevaluate and reboot. Several months of down time should have been enough to analyze a dog’s performance from the past season and formulate a game plan going forward. For some owners, this will involve simply polishing or fine-tuning; others will need to do additional training. Still others will have to embark on complete overhauls or even consider replacing their dogs.
If you fall into the last category, spring happens to be a great time to add a pup to your kennel. Warming temperatures and lengthening days are conducive to both yard and fieldwork. I fondly recall the first few months of owning my late griffon, Auger. He was my first bird-dog pup, and our spring and summer walks/training sessions were educational for both of us. It was pure joy watching the youngster, tentative at first, come into his own as he discovered new things and became emboldened through experience. I remember his surprised yet excited reaction upon catching scent of and then flushing his first woodcock; his frantic whimpering as he swam after a duck that we discovered in a small pond; the joy of watching him about-face and run to me on command. All were admittedly small steps, but they provided lessons and memories for a lifetime of training.
In the spirit of fresh starts and four-legged gunning companions, this year’s Special Hunting Dogs Section begins on page 78. In it Contributing Editor Tom Davis discusses the ABCs of puppy picking—or puppy “hunting,” as he calls it. As you might guess, there’s more to it than simply perusing the classifieds in the local paper. Hunters interested in a first-class bird dog need to be honest with themselves regarding expectations and how much they’re willing to help their dog achieve them. They also need to do their homework if they want to stack the odds in favor of ending up with a pup that has “the right stuff.”
The other article in the section is Field Gear Editor David Draper’s review of several dog-training aids. From e-collars to dog crates to bumpers, these select new products will help make the training process easier and more effective.
We hope you find the information useful—and perhaps inspiring . . . .
Also in this issue we are continuing our 25th Anniversary Celebration. Shooters of all types should enjoy the reprint from our archives of Charley Waterman’s “Mysticism and the Art of Shotgunning” (p. 70). And there’s still plenty of time to enter our 25th Anniversary Sweepstakes (see pp. 56 & 57). We’re giving away 25 amazing prizes, with grand prizes including a Guerini Woodlander shotgun and trips to WingHaven Lodge, Pineridge Grouse Camp, Honey Brake Lodge, and Cheyenne Ridge Signature Lodge.
It’s our way of saying, “Thank you,” by giving something back.