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Autumn Days – Fall Hunting with Dogs

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248 – November/December, 2018


The peak of fall colors was a tad late this year in many of the northern tier states and was often accompanied by clouds and drizzling rain with the kind of subdued light that shows off the hardwoods brilliance in autumn to its best advantage. The burst of color is nature’s last gift before the stark winter reality of a world of barren trees black against the white snow, an Ansel Adams winter landscape pho- tograph writ large. The sugar maples are bright yellow with just a hint of lime green in the center of most leaves and here and there some have reached the bright red stage with the red ones usually scattered among the leafy carpet as the dog and I amble toward the duck blind. Well, I amble, the dog bounces and bounds.

The oaks turning bronze, the yellow aspen, purple chokecherries and red maples are all in contrast to the deep green of the conifers. The wind, which a week ago was soft and gentle, now has the kind of edge that reminds all creatures that the season of lotus eating is about to end. For waterfowl and many species of songbirds, the sharp- ness of the wind means it is time to head for a more temperate zone to sur- vive the winter. To a lot of folks with sporting dogs, it means it’s time to put aside all the training, pick up the shot- gun, grab the whistles and do their part to help the dogs do what they were meant to do.

I know some people who hunt without dogs and claim they don’t need them. They contend they aren’t miss- ing the essence of bird hunting by not hunting with a dog. But, I can’t believe that any of them have ever walked behind a good hunt- ing dog doing its job, watched their wind- milling tails or seen them lean on point into a wall of bird scent or felt the joy of seeing a dog find a crippled bird far from where it fell or a retriever taking directions on blind faith that its hunting partner knows where a bird fell when the dog did not see it fall. Anyone who experiences these things and as a result doesn’t become owned by a dog doesn’t deserve to have one.

People who hunt with dogs and the dogs they hunt with rarely have their fire for the chase dampened. Come autumn, it is this fire that is a better reason than most to get out of bed and watch the sun come up over a prairie wheat field, see a spread of decoys in the first grey light of dawn with the mists still rising from the lake, hear the cackle of a pheasant rooster greeting the sunrise or the call of a bobwhite happy to have once again escaped the pre- dations of a great horned owl or marauding coyote during the night. And, I say this as a confirmed night owl who, at other times of the year, tends to view early rising with all the enthusiasm of the con- demned who have been sentenced to hang at sunrise.

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248 – November/December, 2018

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