Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What's it going to be? Field Trials or Bird Hunting?

I just finished two days of 10 braces of National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Association runs. I'm worn out and about $600 lighter in the wallet.  I did have a good time and my two Brittanys, Cap and Ruby, did very well, although not well enough to place.  I'm pleased with both of them, and I don't see any flaws that can't be fixed with some patient reminding in the training field at home. Here's the rub.  I'm constantly reminded, and I've been doing this over 20 years, the transition from the field to NSTRA is not instantaneous. In fact, some dogs cannot make that transition.  I can spot that problem early on and not expect that particular dog to perform at that level, but, by and large, I expect all my dogs to gain their championship in NSTRA. The dog shown below, Bo, had no problem at all and was great at both.  
Bo and Me Winning the 2001 Quail Unlimited National Championships- last bird, last brace, last day. 
 I find myself asking, "Why am I here, waiting to run a 30 minute brace, when I could be in Idaho, or Montana, or North Dakota?"  Then, I ask myself, "Why are any of these trialers here?"  Obviously, the vast majority of them have jobs during the week that pay the bills, put kids through school and food on the table.  I'm sure their spousal unit is much appreciative when payday rolls around and my brace-mate has managed to get to work on time throughout the week and not drive off in to the  sunset in search of South Dakota pheasant or New Mexico Scaled Quail! So field trialing, AKC or NSTRA or UFTA or whatever, is a great way to play with your dog and still keep a foot in the modern world.  

Bo and Me sitting next to Coon Creek in AZ 
My wife made the comment to me the other day, "You are so happy in the pictures I see of you taken when you are hunting!".  I never thought of it.  I guess I am. How could one NOT be happy when the big decision of the day is where to open the dog box and which dog starts the day.  The number two big decision is, Where do we eat lunch? 

Cap and Me in Idaho

Looking back on 23 years of bird hunting and trialing and bird dogs and stuff, I'm beginning to realize my amazing wife, the Ball and Chain, is absolutely right.  I am happiest in the field with a bird dog(s) in front of me, the wind in my face, and a not-too-critical hunting partner somewhere off to the left or right.  At 63, with a lot of miles and experience under my belt, I guess it's only time I came to realize this.  After all, I'm twice retired from some pretty good jobs, and I don't need to worry too much about where the next meal is coming from (as long as the BandC stops complaining about having to work 80 hours a week- what a whiner!).  So, as the man said in "The Cowboys", I have the time, the wherewithal and the inclination.  I suppose I should do what I love doing as long as my health holds out.  
Cap and Huns in Idaho 2012
Did I mention my health....it seems to be holding out, as well. I guess all those miles I did as a young man, running marathons , the centuries on the bike and miles in the pool are helping out now. I mentioned to the BandC that I might as well take up some bad habits as I get older. Since most of them take so long to kill you, I could enjoy them for quite a while.  She said...well, which bad habits?  I said thoughtfully..."Well, maybe, drinking, smoking and chasing loose women!"  She thought for a while, and pondered some, and then nodded.   "Well", she considered, "one of those will kill you a whole lot faster than the other two, so choose wisely, old man.  Don't you ever forget we own 100 acres, a shovel and lots of guns.  I love you, honey!"