Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why I NEVER Brag About My Bird Dog

Recently, I was hunting in the great state of Michigan, chasing the King of Gamebirds, the Ruffed Grouse.  (It's always referred to as "chasing" grouse, for some reason.)  The habitat was perfect.  The day was a little warm, in the 60's, the sky was overcast and we had a little breeze.  All in all, a perfect day to be in the grouse woods. As I unloaded dogs and proceeded with the goat-rope involving excited bird dogs, tracking collars, vests, water, guns and trucks, I noticed an older man with worn boots, scarred leather gloves, battered hat and patched trousers walking down the road. He was toting an old double in one hand and had his other hand tightly gripping a lead attached very high energy liver Brittany. Seeing as bird hunters, generally, are a small group and Ruff hunters are an even smaller group, I took the time to corral my dogs and greet the old man.  We made some small talk about the birds, cover, weather, and even old shotguns. 
Finally, the conversation turned to bird dogs.  Since he was obviously a man of discernment, as I could plainly see the beautiful, male Brit at the end of the tether, I asked if he thought the pup was going to be a great dog. He smiled ruefully and said, "In my youth, I would brag on my dogs like they were part of the Second Coming!  Now, I keep my mouth shut.  I found the moment I bragged on any dog, the die was cast and I was in for a real adventure with him!  Let me tell you about one morning, right here in these beautiful, Michigan woods......"

The old man turned out that fateful morning with his two males on the ground.  It was a good combination of dogs- the 6 year old superstar, and a 3 year old up-and-comer.  He knew these woods held grouse and he was ready for an enjoyable morning. The 6 year old, was his best dog, and everyone who knew him, knew his dog.  He wasn't shy about about bragging about the liver Brit (some may say it approached obnoxious, but any bird dog man would say that's impossible!).  So, off they went down the trail, the old man with double in hand.  After a half-mile or so, he noticed the young dog was still working well, crossing the trail and working either side, but the other boy hadn't checked in for a while.  A glance at the Alpha told him he was .21 miles out.  Not concerned, he toned him and expected him to turn back and check in, as he worked with the younger dog getting him in to some great cover.  A short time later, he glanced at the GPS again, and saw the other dog (Let's just call the wonder-dog "Cap" for sake of clarity.) was now .42 miles out!  Slightly alarmed, the old man blew his whistle and switched his Garmin Alpha to map mode to see where the boy was headed.  Relieved, he saw only a creek and an old dirt road in front of the moving triangle. .75 miles out now.  He raised his double and fired twice, and blew his whistle again, while watching the map.  Cap stopped, circled and headed out once more! At 1.2 miles out, Cap hit the dirt road and started back to the truck. Whew, thought the old guy, he's come to his senses and will joining the party in a little bit.  Then Cap reversed course and headed away down the dirt road, 1.5 miles out and running down a road.  
Said Alleged Offending Dog

The man yelled to his other pup, reversed course and moved as fast as his old legs could carry him back to the truck. He crated the young dog, removed his vest, stowed his gun, closed the tailgate- all in record time.  He cranked the diesel and turned around on the two-track, throwing leaves and dirt as he accelerated to the dirt road his dog was running.  1.75 miles out and approaching some private parcels along the road, now, Cap's little marker seemed to stop and then run in circles.  The old man turned a corner just in time to see his prized, champion, perfect bird dog holding on to a big yard chicken by the tail feathers!  He slammed to a stop and glanced at the house, noticing the big picture window facing the alleged altercation.  At this point, the feathers came out of the chicken and she made some very tight right and left turns- to no avail, as the highly trained BIRD dog pounced on her. Cap looked up, saw the truck and the agitated, old man running to him, and made a perfect retrieve to hand.  "Where in the world have you been?" Cap said.  "Here, I've got something for you!"  The man took the chicken as Cap jumped into the front seat of the truck, now covered in feathers, mud and slime.  As the man climbed the steps of the house, he could only worry about how much this now-expired chicken was going to cost him.  

Since that episode, the old man explained, he's refrained from bragging on any dog, because, at any given moment, any dog can lose his mind and act like a complete fool. 

The follow up, one year later.  The confession:

Image result for chicken
Alleged Deceased Yard Chicken