By Eric Mathes.
The best part of being a dog guy is that the work is never done. Crash and I are always working. We’ve been working since the very beginning. I write about our journey together often because it’s something that I invest a lot of my time into. With that, I like to celebrate our accomplishments together and we do that through sharing our story.
As I’m always reminded with Crash, my one-and-a-half year old black monster, everything is more fun when you get to share it with a partner. That’s what love is all about right? With our partnership comes a labor of love and endless hours together working towards a multitude of goals. This last year has been a lot of working and a lot of waiting while summer counted down to opening day.
We worked hard putting things together in the training yard, hoping that the little mechanics would translate into the field. As our first few months flew by, everything continued to be a smooth first season. Sitting here in December, there’s been a bit more couch time the last couple weeks. A fizzled trip south over Thanksgiving turned into a bust of a trip north battling cold weather and ice.
But our season is wrapping up nicely with a few more hunts to go, visiting some new and old friends around the country after the holidays. This weekend I watched the snow melt and felt a strong southern breeze blow through the area. It was an interesting emotion to be back outside comfortably in a sweatshirt. I walked around the front yard on Saturday morning and Crash seemed eager to feel the grass again.
There was a haze covering the surrounding farm fields by my home. A soft mist filled the air and it looked a bit too much like late March when the big thaw comes through. I was antsy. I looked at Crash and he shot one back. He wanted to run and I wanted to set him loose. I kenneled him in my truck while I gathered some gear and training dummies. I made some make-shift markers that I wanted to set out a few hundred yards so we could run blind retrieves in the mud. My goal was to wear him out and let him have fun in the muddy corn fields. This was no doubt going to be a mess.
I picked a hilly field and set off to place the blinds. It was slick walking through the field, but underneath the top later of grease, the ground was frozen. I tried pushing the stakes in the ground with no success. I searched the ground for a large enough rock to use as a hammer.
Putting out six total blinds, Crash would be covering some ground on this late season workout. Lots of bird hunters shut down their training regimen when the season starts, a mistake that is often costly as the season wears on. Crash and I made a point to train often during the weeks after work, even if it was only for a brief fifteen minutes.
The dividends are paid when I see him making only a small amount of errors in our drills in the second week of December. Since we did enough upkeep, he is still running as hard as he was on Sept. 1. I’m proud of that. He still has a lot of puppy in him, a trait that I’m happy he is carrying. His character is beyond description and his drive is something I could have only dreamed of. Crash is the whole package.
I sent him on the first of six blinds and he ripped through the mud like a kid in a ball pit at McDonald’s. He loves his job and it shows. The first bird is always his most difficult, but after a few whistles and some heat from his collar, he made the next three look easy. I know he is working his tail off, but he makes it look so effortless sometimes. Covered in mud, Crash ripped across the chopped corn with ease.
We switched back over to a cut bean field with a beautiful downward slope that looks to be a mile long. It’s one of our favorite fields to train in because one where we get to work together without a lot of distractions. Just my dog and my whistle.
Working a well-trained dog on blind retrieves is literally the most satisfying thing I have ever done as a hunter. Watching my dog pick up the last two birds was another proud moment in a long list of early accomplishments. We celebrate often with a lot of couch time and fun around the house. Crash rides in the front seat and get a hamburger whenever we stop for a break on the road.
The feeling is indescribable as we near the end of our first hunting season together. We picked up more birds than I planned and got to hunt with a lot of great people both new and old. A few last hunts this year will just be icing on the cake for a proud pop and his dog.