Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"So Much More to a Hunt"

What would happen if one day someone took all the piles of dead animals away? What about the photos of the birds? What if everything was gone in an instant? Would you still be able to look back at particular hunts with fond memories, or is the long and short of your hunting career the dead birds and accolades you received from the photos?

Nine years ago this past September, I realized I needed more than a bloody pile of dead animals to draw upon. I brought home a hard-headed puppy I affectionately name "Harrison's Eight Gauge". My friends know him simply as Gauge. Pretty much at that moment, 8 Gauge Studios was born, I just didn't know it yet.

That puppy that has become an elder statesman and symbol of sorts has lead me down many paths. Some strange, some were failures, some were meager successes, but all were wonderful in their own right. Several years later while coming home from a week and a half hunting trip to Montana, I picked up another puppy. Eight Gauge's Mountain Man isn't near as rambunctious as his older counterpart, but all the more hard headed. Again, Trapper as he's called along with Gauge have seen as much as any two dogs would ever hope to see. My hobbies have gone beyond the dogs now, into call making for a short time, now decoy carving which I enjoy immensely, but the dogs are always present, always at the forefront. Simply put, THEY ARE 8 Gauge. Without them, nothing else would be what it is, no hunt as special, no ear to scratch waiting on shooting time, and no post hunt burger to share.

Considering my hunt yesterday, this was going to be about the shear volume of working birds I saw. That was, until one of Trapper's retrieves. I had shot a canvasback, and while Trapper was in route the bird (as divers tend to do) flipped over and dove. For the second time this year, I told myself "Trapper's not the dog for this", and for the second time this year, my little dude made a believer out of me.

The canvasback surfaced about 20 yds from where he went down and just as Trapper was getting to him, dove again, and again, and again. Finally, Trapper had enough and dove with him. Completely submerging himself, underwater for a couple of seconds and came up with the bird.

As we both spent the rest of the day shivering in the cold, I thought about what I ask my dogs to do. Sometimes, it doesn't seem fair to be completely honest, but they don't complain. They are just content to be spending time with me, waiting on the next retrieve.

I haven't killed enough canvasbacks in my time to be able to shake off losing a bird, and yesterday I didn't have to. Not because of me, but because of the one thing that makes the hunter in me who I am. Take the calls, take the decoys, take the photos and the birds, and none of that will matter. In the end, it's the black dog sitting next to me that matters.

Me, Trapper, and an all drake limit (canvasback, scaup, and shovelers)

Hope you enjoy, check back often, Justin

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