I'd waited for this day for way too long-a year and a half to be exact. I've owned Golden Retrievers and Black Labs through out much of my adult life and some have been okay hunters, some just along for a walk in the woods. Both are fine, but since taking up hunting in North Dakota the past six years and watching a friends lab work both ducks and pheasant, I knew my next dog was one I wanted as a hunting companion-trained to the best of my ability. As luck would have it I found a kennel in Chippewa Falls that was ending their business and the owners retiring and they had several dogs looking for a home. I had all intentions of getting a Chocolate Lab they had, but as sometimes happens, a young Black Lab named Molly choose me. "Dakota Labs" had an excellent reputation of raising champion labs, in fact, Molly would be related to my friends dog we had had so much luck with in the Dakotas. If Molly was anywhere close in ability and instinct to that dog, I'd be happy.
Fast forward a year, and Molly ended up starting her training with me, then unfortunately had a couple surgeries and almost 6 months off from any kind of hard work. She missed last falls' hunt completely, but gradually started improving health wise. I was determined to get her out finally this fall. A friend who trains Griffins helped with tips and a few pigeons and we started to work again this spring and summer. She loves retrieving of course, and I gradually introduced the gun. The loud report of a shot didn't bother her at all thank goodness and she seems to have a super nose and tons of enthusiasm.
Our North Dakota trip didn't work out this year, but I reserved a hunt at a game farm up near Sand Creek to give her a lot of birds to smell. Hoping she does well there in a few weeks, I just had to get out beforehand to see how she'd do and this weekend I found a spot where the DNR owns land and stocks pheasant from time to time. So I loaded the truck and drove over in the morning. There was a DNR Warden parked there so we visited for a bit-very nice officer from the Eau Claire Region, who told me where to try and thought this would be a good place for the young dog. We headed out, 20ga. double in hand and started working the really this hilly mixed habitat. Molly seemed to bound with joy, never getting too far out. Windy on this day, so we tried to work into it where we could and soon she got "birdy" I quickened my pace to keep up with her and soon had a rooster in the air cackling-I shot twice and missed. Another rooster crowed below in a swamp, so we worked our way down. I had seen another rooster bumped by a hunter and sail up and over some trees, so I figured there must be a field there-yup. We worked our way around that one and again, Molly had the nose nailed down on something. She worked the edge of the field for a minute and then a flush of color and another rooster got up-this time I connected and down he went. Molly saw the pheasant, went in and got him-first bird she's picked up. She brought it back to me and I just felt like a proud father or something!
Limit was one bird this weekend there, so we walked out in the sun and wind and I was just so pleased with her first time out ever! Drove back home happy as a clam, dressed the bird and then started preparing a slow cooker recipe for it. The rest of the day I was just giddy knowing all the training, and patience paid off and look forward to our next trip afield.