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Pheasant Hunt Is More About “Baggin” Memories Than Birds

It was about a year ago that I had made the decision to get a dog. I have owned dogs before, but never had a tried and true hunting dog to call my own. I never had the time or the energy to train a dog from scratch and never had the money to pay for my dog to be professionally trained. You can say that I finally “pulled the trigger” on a goal of mine and got a black lab puppy I named Pepper. Who Is Training Who?

As I said, I have never had a dog that I tried to train more than the usual “sit” or “stay” command. So when I picked up Pepper back in February, it was the beginning of a relationship in which we both were going to be learning new things. Training a dog to hunt and retrieve on command is a part time job if you are going to do it correctly. There have been days that I have almost given up. if you aren’t patient, things can turn sour really quick. Some days it feels like she is training me! Watching dogs on TV and videos and reading stories about Gun Dogs in my magazines, I knew that someday the hard work would all be worth it. This past weekend, the work began to pay off for me and my 10 month old pup.

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Sleepless Night

If you have ever waited for or looked forward to a certain day to come, you can relate to the anxiety and lack of sleep the night before. I was up all night thinking about what was to come. Will Pepper listen to me in the field? Will the gun scare her? (She has heard gun fire in a controlled setting, not in a field setting). Will she even know what to do when we get out there? Those questions and dreams of watching her act like a Master Hunter field trial dog were in and out of my head for a week!

Clay and Pepper
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Pepper’s Big Day

It was a muggy Sunday morning in September and we were up way before the sun came up and long before my buddy and his son were to be over to pick us up. All my gear was ready, dog was watered and collar and lead were all ready to go. After what seemed like forever, they showed up and off we went! I had found a great bird farm in Darien,NY that seemed like the perfect place for Pepper to try her..paw at hunting. We got the lay out from the property owner,I loaded my new over and under and got Pepper off the truck.

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Jitters A Field

Like a little kid on Christmas running to see her presents. Pepper was pumped up but she listened perfectly as I set her on a “Heel.” Once we got to the field, I shouted “Hunt em up Pep.” She quartered back and forth like a pro. It was so awesome to watch that I almost forgot to pay attention for a bird flushing! She hustled back and forth and back and forth in the early morning sunshine as if she knew every inch of that large golden rod field.She was springing and jumping and was happier than I have ever seen her. My heart was racing in anticipation of a beautiful Ringneck poping up in front of her and giving me a shot.

Clay and Pepper
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You Never Forget That First Time

The moment of truth had arrived as Pepper cut back in front from left to right, a hen pheasant took flight 30 yards in front of me flying left to right. BANG…BANG…my 12 gauge echoed through the dense morning air like a cannon. A big old miss!!! Pepper sat on cue and waited for me to send her to retrieve but that hen flew off laughing at me and my puppy.

Clay and Pepper
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A Game Bag Full Of Memories

As the hunt went on, we finally got a few more flushed and knocked 3 birds down. Pepper did a fine job. It got hotter than heck and we decided to cut our day short. No need to run the dogs ragged in 80 degree heat. It was a perfect morning in my book. It was more than just chasing down some birds. It was more than hunting. It was a morning that I have waited for for a long time. The chance to be outside with my buddies and Pepper, my new favorite hunting partner, sharing some laughs, and watching our hard work training pay off. In my opinion, that’s what being a sportsmen is all about.


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