A little over 4 years ago my family and I took a short road trip to central Pennsylvania and then shuffled quietly and anxiously into a small room where a new litter of pups awaited. With no experience to draw upon we took advice from the breeders about selection and after a short debate, the decision was made. When we put all of the puppies back into the pen, they crowded together nipping and playing except for the one we had just deemed our own. He stood steadfast and alone at the edge of the pen staring at us and leaving us with the impression that we had chosen well.
The following months were filled with that cocktail of happiness and frustration that puppies are experts at mixing up for us. I read books, I watched videos, I googled this and I googled that. Sometimes it seemed like we did our best when I just followed my gut. I had owned a dog when I was a boy but this was my first bird dog and I'm not sure I was prepared for the bond that we would form.
After only one season chasing birds in our home state of Pennsylvania we loaded the car and headed west towards the Nebraska panhandle. Change is never easy but our arrival in the high plains coincided nicely with the beginning of the bird hunting season. I think my dog and I both found a lot of comfort walking silently in that new landscape together. We were quickly schooled in the ways of wild birds as we waded through oceans of wheat stubble. We struggled at first and often ended the day with only a few corn cobs for the squirrel feeder to show for the miles of walking we had done. Slowly we added pieces to the puzzle and a couple of seasons later my vest was often heavy with our success.
There are days and memories from our time spent in the field together that will be with me for the rest of my life and if I'm being honest, there are some that I?d just as soon forget. Sure we still bicker from time to time but I've learned not to expect perfection. There are plenty of healthy roosters still sneaking around after my poor shooting that would call me a hypocrite if I did. Even on our worst days he's still the best hunting buddy I've ever had.
Our time in Nebraska started with the beginning of a bird season and almost poetically, we made the decision to leave just as another season came to a close. We squeezed in as many days as we could in between the packing tape and boxes and moving plans. We closed out another year of hunting with a short walk and a pair of sharptails. As I loaded the dog into his crate and slid my shotgun into it's case, he whined a little more than usual, as if he knew something had come to an end.
What followed were a few grueling days behind the wheel of a bloated Uhaul and when we finally stopped, we were back in the place we never really stopped calling "ome?. On the long ride across the country I couldn't help but wonder how my dog will transition from the wide open pheasant fields back to the thick eastern grouse woods. I'm trying to come up with a game plan and some training routines for the off season. Luckily for me I've landed here at Lion Country Supply, a place brimming with knowledgeable folks that will be more than willing to help my dog and I during this chapter of the journey that we started a few short years ago in that quiet room full of pups.
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