Rio’s First Hunt

It’s easy to forget what it’s like to bring a young dog to the field. And it is truly revealing just how dependent one can get on a trusted and trained dog.

I could have brought Wyatt the four-year-old lab along on this little adventure.He’s got the game down. He knows all the moves, he knows what I expect and he knows how to find birds.The problem is he’s a flusher. And I need this little Llewellin from Jornada Setters to learn her own pointing moves.

I’ve returned to the Nebraska National Forest where Wyatt and I have spent tons of time chasing Sharptail. I elected to start Rio here because I have most normal hunting variables locked down – where to find birds, how they react to pressure, terrain, weather, etc. Also the Sharptail Grouse plays a fair game. If you do everything right it may hold until you get in gunning range. It’s not going to run to evade, their first inclination is always flight. And there are no second chances, when it takes to the air it flies for miles, not yards. The Sharptail rewards perfect pursuit with opportunities, and punishes flawed approaches with wild flushes at astounding distances accompanied by that dreaded “Sharptail chuckle”.

This allows me to focus on just one variable, the young energetic Rio.

With 30 mph winds, conditions weren’t great for dog work on her inaugural day. At the first barbed wire fence I’m reminded just how much she has to learn. With Wyatt I can lift the bottom strand and say “under” and he’s through. Rio just looks at me and continues to run up and down the fence line, until I demonstrate under. The first of so many lessons that will eventually become second nature.

Rio has never been in infinite ground – which is another reason why I chose NNF’s 90,000 contiguous acres. She has a chance to really stretch her legs and I’m reminded what I’ve missed so much since the passing of my last pointer Finn. That effortless gait that devours the terrain is just fun to watch.

We did manage to move a few birds this day; three wild flushes and five birds already on the wing. Rio learns that unlike pen-raised quail, she can’t run down a Sharptail after it flushes. She also learns what a cactus is. And she now knows what it’s like to be really tired.Tonight she’ll get to learn what it’s like to sleep in a tent.

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