My new bird dog is named Jag. He was 2 years old in July and is the sweetest and handsomest German Shorthaired Pointer I have ever seen. Jag is short for “Jagerin” which means Hunter in German. I have owned several great GSPs in my life. Each has been unique and wonderful hunting buddies in their own ways.
Last year I was not able to hunt due to back surgery. I tried to hunt but… We only get so many hunting seasons in our lives, and I missed one. Jag and I went out, but I could not safely hunt. Instead of hunting, we trained.
Jag is a pointing machine until we hit the field. I can drag a pheasant wing around on a fishing rod for hours and Jag will follow, and hold point beautifully. He has been that way since he was a pup, that came from great hunting stock. In the field, Jag hunts within 30 yards without any commands. We quietly sneak along the wheat field edges together perfectly.
Opening day was beautiful. After recovering from back surgery, I am finally on the hunt again. Not 100% but each day is better. We trekked some edges and up goes a rooster. BOOM!!! Down came the bird. This was the first bird that I have shot over Jag. He was thrilled but did not know what to do next. We found the bird together, but he would not” hunt dead. “I tried to get him to mouth the bird but no luck.
Later, Jag was obviously interested in some scent. His nose was down, and he was searching. Two feet in front of his nose, up goes a rooster. BOOM!!!. Down came the bird and we went toward the thick cover where it fell. “Hunt Dead”, I commanded, like we have practiced so many times before. He would not hunt for the downed bird but just stayed at my feet. After some tough searching, I found bird #2.
We continued down the wheat field edge when suddenly 3 roosters got up in sequence. All were chip shots, but the cover was so thick that there was no way I would find them without a dog hunting dead. I held my fire. The birds got up on their own and not off point. Jag never smelled them.
My older dog Shelby never lost a bird. No bird could escape her nose or retrieve. Shell is half GSP and half Golden Retriever. She was a whoops dog that was given away. Shelby is also the BEST bird dog I have ever seen.
Sadly, Shelby is on a wing and a prayer. Her kidneys recently showed signs of failing. The vets are doing their best, but it doesn’t look good. I was hoping that Shelby would teach Jag her tricks and skills.
When I hunt my dogs, they wear an orange collar with a metal tag from every other dog I have owned and hunted over. When I hear the jingles, I feel like I am hunting with Kriegie, Liebe, Tessa, Sheba, Magnum, and now maybe Shelby. Jag wears the collar proudly and Jingles as he “Jig Jags” through the fields. The music of the jingling collar tags is wonderful. All my pups are alive again.
My back is sore and stiff, but I still love the sound of roosters flushing, wheat and corn scraping my legs, and the jingling of my beloved hunting buddies. Getting old is hard. We have the experience, skills, and gear to be great hunters, but our bodies decline, and our dogs cross the Rainbow Bridge.
All dog owners and hunters understand my story. Dogs are our children. All they do is love us and want to take one more hunt. We spend hours training them and loving them back. They point the way to hundreds of exciting moments. Hunting dogs don’t complain, criticize, or hate, they just want us to love them and hunt.
Jag and I brought home the pheasants for Shelby to smell and nuzzle. Her ears and eyes perked up. I sensed that she was happy for Jag and wished that she was there too. I took them into the yard and let Shelby show Jag how to point, mouth, and retrieve. Jag followed her lead. The fresh wings were taped to a water bottle and hidden in the bushes. Together, they found each one. Both pointed side by side. Shelby looked like she was 2 years old.
Tomorrow, I will be taking Jag afield again. My hope is that his light will come on as more bird encounters happen. Back in the day, Kriegie was the same way. Then suddenly, she went on point, up went the rooster, and Kriegie came back with the cockbird in her mouth. After that, it was all gravy. Maybe I will just take Shelby for her last hunt. I hope that she is up to it.
If Shelby can go, I will take her to. What is the worst that could happen on her last hunt? We will see. Many old hunters would love to pass while doing what they most loved. If Shelby can’t come, Jag and I will bring her home some more fresh smells and feathers. I hope Jag has been paying attention. His time afield is just beginning. I have high expectations for him.
Great hunting dogs never die, they just fade away into the fields. I can still hear their jingles.