Chukar hunting four years ago, at 49, I jumped off a rock because for a moment I thought I was 18. It didn’t end up well. Sometimes it seems age is the only thing. Yesterday, age took center stage on a series of steep, rocky, muddy, bunch-grass-covered, sunlit desert hills. My aging butt trudged slowly up and down them trying to follow my puppy and my old-man Brittanys.
While climbing, I was able to keep the dogs on the north-facing, frozen slopes so that when we reached the top we could reverse direction into the prevailing wind and work down the open, sun-drenched south-facing terrain. On the way up, Peat, the puppy, found and pointed two small “bonus” coveys. Angus was elsewhere. Near the top, Peat ascended with considerable interest in a straight-ish line while Angus progressed in his typical quartering fashion, and on a more northerly vector than Peat. When Peat stopped, rigid, stretched motionless I boogied up to him, then crept ahead. After a few yards a super-covey of at least 50 chukar burst right in front of us.
On the way down, Peat found and pointed two more groups that Angus did not, one of which Angus ran across without busting. I winged one bird, which sailed nearly half a mile, landing in a bitterbrush. I hustled both dogs down there, and Peat tracked the running partridge (and brought it straight back to me, thank you very much!).
In people years, Angus is nearly 63, (the “new 53”?, my current actual age, which feels like the new 73). He’s had a rough go this year with the new, young, annoying blood, and he’s still kind of grumpy about it. In the middle of the season I realized he’d lost quite a bit of weight, so we increased his food. Finally, thanks to post-hunt Vienna Sausages and elevated kibble levels, he’s not quite so bony in the hips.
After today, I can’t help wondering how well the best nose I’ve had the pleasure of hunting with these past six seasons (I didn’t hunt with him until he was three) is working. Peat clearly outdid him on the olfactory score. While I’m thrilled with Peat’s progress, I can’t help resenting at least a little bit the “out with the old, in with the new” feeling it gives me. I’m sure that everyone who works with more than one dog at a time experiences this. It’s my first go-round with it, and makes me see from yet another angle my brother’s advice long ago to avoid having two bird dogs simultaneously. Not trying to start something here, mind you, just Vienna Sausages for thought. Aged ones.
And what might Angus be thinking? The reality of it is that he’s probably looking for birds, as always, and really excited about it. He still looks enlivened by the activity, and never looks happier than when doing this. Peat sometimes focuses too much on Angus and that has got to bug him, having to shuck and jive to escape Peat. But I wonder if he noticed Peat outperformed him today, and I wonder what he thought about it. I hope he’s just lying at my feet now resting up for the next hunt. I’m sure that’s it.
Peat’s got a long way to go, but I actually hunted with him today for the first time. Here’s a bit of footage from the past several weeks of the dogs working; the first section is on a trail during a walk, hunting prohibited, with lots of grateful quail. Enjoy.
17 Replies to “Pointing Peat”
It is good to know that your perseverance with Peat has shown that all of his energy could become focused. It is always difficult to know when to cut and move in a new direction with a dog. I have watched some owners keep trying until the point of no return was long past. It looks like you are going to wind up with many good years to share with Peat.
It would be interesting to be able to hear Angus’ opinion on all of this.
Thanks, Dale. Geoff offered his take on Angus’s thoughts: “He may be subconsciously letting Peat do more of the hard work – because he probably is getting tired. He’d maybe have found those coveys if Peat had not been there – and he’d been allowed to work more at his own pace – and with more confidence. Nothing to worry too much about – (in my opinion) as it’s just a transition from old to new – with no disrespect intended. Angus has been a fantastic dog – he’ll point more birds – but they do tend to slow down as they get older.” I’m inclined to think Geoff is right.
Once again, great post. As Dale said, Angus’s thoughts would be greatly appreciated. I’ve been through the young dog old dog scenario several times and I understand what you feel. I believe the reason you worry about how Angus feels is because they are more than just dog’s to you. They are family.
Also great work getting Peat to where he is.
Thanks, Larry. I’m sure you know better than I what I’m worrying about.
Your casual writing style is a pleasure to read every week and a model for what I do on my blog. Thanks for sharing the hunt with someone who doesn’t get out as often as you do. Love hearing about Peat and Angus.
Thanks, David. I appreciate the kind words.
I have really enjoyed you posting your thoughts on having two dogs. My dog is the same age as Angus and has slowed considerably this hunting season. He is my first dog and I love him to death. I have contemplated getting another dog for the past year, but kind of like you were talking about, I don’t want to have that “out with the old” feeling.I have too many memories and Sawyer is my dog. I appreciate you writing about it because it has given me some good insight.
Hey Ryan, thanks for your comment. I’m still a bit torn over getting the puppy but I feel the tide turning because I’m starting to see Peat’s potential, and – importantly – starting to see Angus become willing to play with Peat a little bit. But Peat’s presence has definitely diluted my relationship with Angus. But since we’re stuck with Peat now (which is getting to be a better thing each week), I’m trying not to focus on how it’s changed my bond with Angus.
I have hunted with young and old dogs/brittanies several times in the past 30+ years. I always prefer the one on one experience as I think the old dog especially does. Who knows. They probably just like to be out hunting more than anything regardless. I used to save an easier hunt for the end of the day for my oldy. Great to read about your progress and frustrations with Peat. I can surely relate. It will only get better. Days in the field and birds in the mouth are the biggest factors in tuning him in.
Thanks for your comments, Phil. I have taken Angus alone several times this season, and it’s “just like old times,” which is precious to me and – it seems – to him, too. It’s nice, at the same time, to imagine the years ahead with Peat, who’s looking like a dog with tremendous potential. I feel blessed.
Hi Bob, Peat has the same hunting style as his father. That leg is up a lot. Peat looks good all in all. He’s still a young pup I wouldn’t worry so much. We at times forget to enjoy the little things and miss the bigger picture. Atleast I do because I get impatient. I really think peat is going to be a hell of a dog in time. If you want this spring I’ll have some pheasant & quail for training. You are welcome to come out and bring the dogs. Also if you put in for the draw I have a lot of wild turkey to hunt. – gabe
Thanks, Gabe. I hear you, and am adjusting. I’ll definitely take you up on the spring training work. That would be great for us. Looking forward to seeing you, and to see what Peat makes of Sioux… Any word on Peat’s litter mates and how they’re doing?
A positive response on the puppies from his litter. I have received call from others already wanting a pup from the same line who know of his siblings. One of the Brittanys from the Angus’s line won the Washington state field trail champion. He beat out 50+ other Brittanys. Won the trail by 6 mins faster than all the others. I have this newer puppy “reddy” out of Sioux & & my brother”s female who has Angus’s same breeding. He started really easy, but of recent has gotten a little unruly. In the spring I have a lot of field work to do with him.
Sorry about the punctuation my phone is awkwardly small.
Wow, that’s great news about the field trial. Sorry to hear about the unruly puppy. How old is he?
My wife and i have two GSPs – the older one is 12 and the younger is 4. I enjoyed reading this post because I have experienced the exact same scenerio and emotions on multiple outings. Early on I used to worry about it but over the last 3 years I have stopped worrying. In my experience when I hunt both dogs 1 of the dogs almost always finds the majority of the birds — then on the next outing the other dog has the “on” day and finds all the birds.
I appreciate your comments, Robert, and believe I can reduce my worrying and enjoy my dogs more than I appear to have been enjoying them!