Thursday, November 25, 2010

Might As Well Face It

I went hunting today with customers.  And at some point today, I realized that in this whole owning hunting dogs business, or rather, this whole hunting dogs owning me business,  something has changed.
Serious stuff, this.
I have found that I like watching my dogs hunting birds more than I like hunting birds. 
Here’s where it all get serious, because one begets the other.  Hunting dogs, especially trained bird hunting dogs, must hunt birds.  It is in their blood.  And my dogs are nothing less than ecstatic when they’re hunting. 
And I’m ecstatic when I’m looking through my camera lens at my dogs, or for that matter, any hunting dog, happily doing its job.
I realized this today when driving home.  My customer asked me, “Janie, do you hunt?”  “Yes,” I answered, “but I enjoy it just as much when you hunt, and the dogs do their thing, and I’m behind the camera.  I’m thinking there may be an art to it, and sometimes, I capture the perfect shot.”
And then, I caught my breath. “I am hooked, addicted, there’s no turning back,” I said to myself, as I drove my customers into the sunset towards home.  As they talked, I reflected.
I love shooting sports.  I love hunting.  But nothing compares to how I feel when I’m traversing across that hard ground, through the mesquite, cacti and high grass, scanning the terrain while simultaneously watching the dog.  That dog’s tracking wide left, then turning on a dime, to traverse across my path, going wide right, nose in the wind, scenting at a wide-open run, quartering back across my path again.  And… it happens.  You can almost sense the change before you see it.  On a dime, the dog turns while going into a crouch and immediately freezes, front paw up, nose extended forward, the line of the body following the nose, tail straight up. In 2.3 seconds, at least from afar, the run posture becomes a still portrait.  As I quickly approach the dog, I marvel at how that speeding spotted, muscled canine bullet has morphed into a beautiful statue, patiently waiting on me to flush and shoot that bird. Glancing at that dog, I can just see a hint of an understated quiver, maybe not so patient after all. He’s just waiting on the flush…one shot, and that dog will literally explode into action.
The bird is flushed, shot, and spirals down.  And then, part two of this beautiful dance begins.  This is the one where the dog runs straight to where that bird has fallen, grabs it, turns, and heads back to me, in yet another flat out run.  Your eyes are not deceiving you - a dog can smile and swagger simultaneously, even when carrying a heavy pheasant.  Back to me comes the dog, placing that bird in my hand, wagging its entire body in “I did good, didn’t I?” mode, waiting on and receiving the praise he so deserves.
That, my friend, is ecstasy for a hunting dog, and for an owner.  To see a creature doing the very job for which it was created?   That is nothing less than amazing.   
And when I’m flushing a bird for one of my customers, he’s successful in his shooting, the dog has retrieved the bird to hand and I’ve captured the entire thing on camera?  Nirvana.  Absolute nirvana.
It’s true.  I’m hooked – on hunting, hunting dogs, and on the photography of such. 
 “Hunt ‘em up, Wonderdogs.  Hunt ‘em up!


  1. Janie,

    This is wonderfully written.

    Consider combining it with some photos and submitting to a hunting magazine for publication.

    Loving you.


  2. Oh Yeah! I had a blast on this hunt and I must say that watching the dogs work (especially in a high hot wind) is amazing. Thanks for the invite.
    Love ya,


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