Editor’s Note by Ralph Stuart
How can you not love Labs?
I mean, really, is there a better all-around dog when it comes to getting work done in the field and being a trusted companion in the home? Whether it’s because of their intelligence, good looks, friendly demeanor or even temper (the list goes on), there are plenty of reasons why Labs have topped the AKC’s most-popular-dog roster for 25 consecutive years.
If you are an upland hunter or a waterfowler, odds are that you have shared the field or a blind with one of these rugged, dedicated dogs. Or perhaps it’s been on a driven day, watching a bevy of Labs picking up pheasants, partridge or grouse at the conclusion of each drive. Regardless, you likely have been impressed with the dogs’ calm demeanor during down times and work ethic when it’s game on.
I have been lucky to hunt with a number of talented Labs. From the rocky ledges of the Atlantic Coast to the sweeping grainfields of the Midwest, I have watched Labs track, flush, find and ultimately bring to hand everything from pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse to eiders and Canada geese. I have seen them charge into heavy cover with reckless abandon and plunge into icy waters without a second thought—their desire for game and to please their owners driving them on.
It is this latter trait—an eagerness to please—that makes these dogs so endearing. If you ever watch a Lab being handled to a blind retrieve, you are seeing the ultimate in cooperation and a connection between dog and handler that is found with few other breeds.
I say all of this without ever having owned a Lab. Until now in my bird hunting career, I have leaned toward pointing dogs—specifically Continental breeds for their versatility. But Labs are versatile dogs, too, able to hunt upland birds as well as retrieve from water. And realizing how short hunting seasons are and how long the times are in between, it has been making more sense to have a dog that is just as engaged in the field as it is relaxed about the house.
Working on our annual Waterfowl Issue has reignited my interest in Labradors. With articles like Tom Huggler’s ode to Labs and pro trainer Jessie Richards’ piece on jumpstarting retriever training, it is hard not to get fired up about the breed. And, of course, there’s Lee Kjos’s cover shot and Tess Rousey’s image on the table of contents that capture the essence of why people are enamored with these dogs.
So who knows? Perhaps choosing my next pup will come down to deciding between black, chocolate and yellow. In the meantime I will enjoy the company of other people’s Labs and spending time with these dedicated canine athletes.
Ralph P. Stuart
On the occasion of the company’s 125th anniversary
By Douglas Tate
The Great Salt Secret
The waterfowling anomaly of Great Salt Lake
By David Draper
Vetting Guns, Part 2
How to evaluate new & used guns like a pro
By Bruce Buck
Three great gamebirds in Big Sky Country
By Dale C. Spatas
Redheads & Oyster Beds
Divers on the Laguna Madre
E. Donnall Thomas Jr
From the Editor
Celebrating the upland hunting, waterfowling, couch-dwelling Lab (see above)
Cockers for quail, trap talking, in praise of spreader loads and more
Game & Gun Gazette
A holiday wish list for the shooters in your life
by Chris Batha
Efficient training plans for jumpstarting a young retriever
By Jessie Richards
Tested: high-performance pheasant & duck loads
by Tom Roster
Merkel’s 40E: build strength at a pared-down price
by Bruce Buck
Seven solid pieces for the waterfowling gear hound
by David Draper
To the Point
A life enriched by the drive and personality of Labs
by Tom Huggler
On the cover: Yellow Lab Cap photographed by Lee Thomas Kjos
Additional photo above: Duluth Pack Shotgun Breakdown Case – By Mark Fleming