By: Kirstie Pike
CEO Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women
October marks waterfowl month at Prois. While we speak often about the gear, decoy spreads, firearms and preferred ammunition we all prefer for this season, we felt it was time to pay tribute to our faithful canine companions. The bonds we share with our dogs are deep and unbreakable. They are not only essential to our hunting endeavors, they are our ultimate, loyal companions. Dogs are indeed a girl’s best friend.
And…my dog is indeed this girl’s best friend.
Over the last several years I have really become passionate about bird hunting. All birds. I love the sport of the hunt. I love that I can hunt for short periods of time or an entire day. I love the solitude of heading out in the early morning hours with my knuckleheaded lab, Thaddeus. I love his excitement when we load up, when we head out and when we get on birds. I love the way we are learning to work as a team. I just love that wacky dog! While there are many philosophies on dog training, we have always believed that our dogs are pets but that they also have a job. We don’t personally believe in outdoor kennels and sending the dogs away to trainers…and that is just opinion as many people view hunting dogs in a completely different light. Whichever philosophy a dog owner believes is the right philosophy for their needs. I have to admit, Thaddeus is spoiled rotten. He has three different beds. He travels with us. He has specific ridiculous routines that we not only humor, but encourage. He is extremely connected to us and I personally believe that (in some sense) this plays into his desire to perform and please us.
Initially bred for upland hunting, Thaddeus took to pheasant and quail hunting very naturally. Even as a pup. My husband spent countless hours training him to become an exceptional dog. He works a pheasant field like no other. He has a great nose and never tires out. Despite being a smaller lab, he will pull down a pheasant in flight. He will move heaven and earth to perform. He’s fun to watch in the field and just continues to get better year after year.
What has been even more fulfilling is getting Thaddeus out on different bird hunting opportunities. While he is bred for upland hunting, we decided to get him into the field on grouse at an early age. The hunting methods for the dog are somewhat different than those of pheasant hunting. With some work, Thaddeus has become quite efficient working the mountainous terrain here in Colorado for grouse. These are some of my favorite hunts. He has a great nose on him and loves to work for birds. It is really exhilarating when the quiet solitude is broken up by the flush of a bird, a clean shot and a good retrieve.
My husband started working with Thaddeus on ducks when he was just under a year old. As mentioned, he is smaller lab and he initially had some difficulty with the size of the birds. Interestingly, he finally took to it and has even been efficient at retrieving Canadian geese. In our region, jump shooting birds isn’t uncommon. While there are birds here, the numbers are nothing like the water rich mid-west. The terrain can lead a duck hunter to beaver ponds, streams and lake channels. This type of hunting took (and sometimes still takes) some special work with Thaddeus. Keeping him close at heel is essential and that can be confusing for a dog that is bred to flush. It has been fun to watch him begin to transform. When I creep, he creeps. If I need to crawl into the lake channels to get in on top of birds, he creeps in right behind me. If we are waiting quietly in the early dawn against a tree or behind fallen logs, he positions himself behind me so he can see but is hidden and warm. I enjoy watching him as much as I enjoy being out there hunting. I enjoy watching him when we first start hearing birds come in on top of us. I enjoy watching him charge into the water after a bird and successfully bring back his quarry.
He next took to ptarmigan hunting very naturally. In Colorado, finding ptarmigan is the difficult part of the hunt. They are located way above treeline so getting to them takes quite a bit of time and effort. Time and effort that is often wasted if we cannot locate the birds. We typically ride out early on horseback for several hours to hunt. Thaddeus works the ground much like he does with upland birds and if birds are present he will flush them out. There is nothing like that tell-tale sound of a ptarmigan flushed from hiding. They are beautiful birds and the difficulty in hunting them makes the hunt even more enjoyable.
There is no doubt that Thaddeus has enhanced my desire to hunt and learn. I look forward to a solid season of grouse, duck, goose, pheasant and ptarmigan with this guy. It is indeed true, dogs do not merely exist in our lives…they enhance our lives.
It’s waterfowl month at Prois. Share your dog stories and photos with us! Because where would we be without these faithful companions?