The 2016 season represents my fifth year chasing wild birds in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas. My gundog partner, Pride, is now officially retired. A seasoned birddog, we adopted him at seven years old. Over the last five years, Pride taught me how to bird hunt. He put up with my misses as well as located that late-day rooster to fill my limit or salvage the trip. The formula was easy; I pointed him into the wind and he did the rest. It was upsetting to see him slow down towards the conclusion of the 2014/2015 season. It was my first indication that Pride’s hunting career was coming to an end. When cancer took part of his left front paw last summer, we knew that our time in the field would be limited. He had a few successful jaunts over four trips last winter. On December 31st 2015, with birds flying everywhere, he could not make the walk back to the truck. I handed my shotgun to Jeremy, and then carried my friend back to the truck. On that day, Pride stopped chasing birds.
Preparing for that moment, Jenny and I had been talking to different breeders throughout the fall. I ended up speaking with a nice man in Yuma, Colorado. Francis Owens and his wife, Teressa own a breeding/training business called Advantage Pointing Labs. Francis and I spoke multiple times during the season, and he invited me to hunt over his dogs. While we had a tough day finding birds, it was obvious that his pups demonstrated everything we wanted in a pet and gundog.
Echo was born on December 13, 2015. She is one of three females in a litter of twelve Labrador retrievers. We took her home at ten weeks, and then returned her to Francis and Teressa one month later for basic puppy training. Admittedly, I am not yet confident in my ability to train a gundog. With that in mind, I asked Francis to start Echo. The plan was to do an initial introduction to birds at three months, then bring her back for obedience as well as more complex field work at five months. My responsibility has been to educate myself on the how to reinforce the teachings. SportDOG offers a variety of content that helps me understand how to work with Echo. Additionally, Francis regularly posts YouTube videos demonstrating the specific techniques he utilizes with his dogs. I observe then do my best to employ the methods during our practice time.
Echo is now seven months old. She has a sweet disposition and a strong prey drive (video – Echo @ 7 months). When the season opens in November we will be ready to patrol the same fields that Pride and I once scoured. I look forward to our upcoming hunting adventures.