Tag Archives: Gun Dog

Something to Remind You

On February second my wonderful gun dog Pride, passed on.  He was thirteen and one half years old, and his health was deteriorating.  We were fortunate to adopt Pride at seven years old, after his original owner lost a long battle with cancer.  His personality was unique for a seasoned gun dog.  In the field, Pride demonstrated all of the characteristics of an accomplished bird hunter.  He could locate evasive roosters, and retrieve downed birds out of the thickest cover.  At home, Pride was quiet and reserved. He loved to be loved, and that was obvious by the way he responded to our family.

The most special moment in my hunting life occurred during my first ever pheasant opener in 2011. In our initial field, Pride located a half dozen roosters, and I missed every shot. I had pheasant fever, and my confidence was shaken.  In the early afternoon, hunting became difficult when temperatures hit the lower sixties, and the wind blew at twenty miles per hour.  We were walking a public CRP field just northeast of Holyoke, Colorado.  About two thirds of the way into the quarter section of native grass, Pride stopped on a hard point.  He was not a pointing lab, but his posture was unmistakable.  Realizing that a pheasant was present, I started to make my way over to my focused dog.  The bird must have started to run right as Pride suddenly moved left. When Pride shuffled, the rooster took flight.  I shouldered my A400 and fired. The bird tumbled from the sky, and fell over a nearby hill.  Pride was already in a full sprint when the rooster landed in the waist-high grass.  Almost immediately, I began to second guess my shot.  Was that a rooster or hen?  Did I make a lethal shot?  My anxiousness disappeared when I saw Pride running towards me with the colorful bird in his mouth.  I just shot my first wild pheasant.

Thank you Pride.  Thank you for teaching me how to be a bird hunter.  Thank you for your patience, love and kindness.  Thank you for being my partner in many amazing adventures.  Rest in peace my man.

Something to Remind You


Last Wednesday, legendary gun dog trainer, Gary Ruppel, introduced Pride into our home. Pride is a handsome, seven year old, Grand River Labrador retriever who recently lost his owner. We had been considering a bird dog for months, but we could not decide on a puppy or a started dog. My wife and I were on edge as we did not know how our dog Bo would react to another male lab on his turf. After two hours of working the dogs through their paces, and with Gary’s professional recommendation, we decided to bring Pride into our home. As Gary left our house, Pride followed, looking distraught when the door closed and the truck pulled away. As Thursday unfolded, it became obvious that Pride was incredibly stressed by his new environment. We made a concerted effort to stay close to him, trying to provide comfort during this difficult transition. Pride was now a member of the Freedman family, and we quickly felt a real devotion to his wellbeing.

A few enjoyable bumper throwing sessions on Thursday, along with a ton of tail-wagging, lead us to believe that Pride might coming out of his funk. As 4 pm rolled around on Friday, I decided to cut out of work and take Pride on a short hunt. The conditions were perfect, 20 degrees, slight wind and no one in the field. Admittedly, I was pretty excited to watch Pride execute his craft. As we journeyed into the wind, I told Pride to “hunt-it-up”. He hesitated as we moved slowly down an old creek bed toward tall bulrushes that line the north part of the land. When I slowed, Pride actually sat by my side almost telling me that he was not ready to hunt. We walked the countryside for about 60 minutes with old Pride angling at my car the entire time. Eventually his eyes told me that he wanted to leave.

As we drove home, Gary and I talked about the experience, and Pride’s perceived resistance to hunt. He told me to take him out again and say nothing in the field. I must allow Pride to follow his instincts and do what he was trained to do. Gary critiqued my demeanor, attitude and intensity, emphasizing that patience and calmness would work best for the dog and for me.

We had a great Saturday throwing the bumper and playing in the yard. Pride was settling into his new family, and was acting like a different dog. At times he actually pranced around the house with his tail pointing up towards the sky. He seemed to appreciate the attention my 6 and 4 year old boys paid to him, taking every opportunity to nuzzle into them while gently licking them on the face.

On Sunday morning, my oldest son and I headed 30 miles east towards the property that we hunt. I was not overly anxious as I felt that this trip was just another day for Pride to further acclimate into his new situation. After opening the hatch on my car, Pride enthusiastically jumped out, but seemed hesitant to move into the field. Following Gary’s direction, I said nothing to him, hoping his instincts would eventually take over. Without any commands, Pride abruptly turned and moved eagerly into the open land. He began to trot toward a large brush pile about 150 yards from the car. He moved right then left with his nose guiding us in the right direction. As he approached the mound of sticks, he slowed to a determined crawl then stopped suddenly; shoulders low and tail erect. I had been in a steady jog but stopped to set up about ten feet behind him with my gun mounted. Maintaining complete focus, Pride moved into the cover flushing the bird who quickly flew low and to my right. Given the proximity to the dog, I could not take a safe shot at the chucker. When I could not see black, I fired once missing my mark then quickly regained my composure and fired again. The bird fell about 40 yards away, and Pride was there to retrieve it for me. It was our first bird together and we celebrated. Pride, Ty and I hunted for another 90 minutes. Pride pointed to and flushed six more birds. He walked the land with confidence and purpose. It was an amazing experience to watch the dog flawlessly execute the job he was tasked to do.

For 7 years, Pride was trained, raised and cherished by the Webber family and Gary Ruppel. We look forward to continuing to love and care for Pride.


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My Introduction to Upland Game Bird Hunting

Moving to Colorado in January of 2009 has allowed me to experience the outdoors Western style.  Early on, I quickly replaced my bait casting/spinning gear with a fly rod and reel.  Initial frustrations with technique and execution has slowly evolved to now being able to meander through tail waters and catch fish.  I thank Mr. Joe Butler (and his son Chad) for having the patience to teach me how to fly fish. 

The excitement of hunting rabbit with beagles a handful of times in my life, along with watching a variety of programming on Versus and The Outdoor Channel, prompted me to investigate upland game bird hunting.  After acquiring my first shotgun (Lanber 2097 Sporting Lux – 12 gauge) in the fall of 2009, I ventured out to a sporting clays range to test my admittedly limited skills.  My four year old son (now six) volunteered to pull clays, and joined me on my initial foray into the sport.  Like my first day with a fly rod, my obvious lack of skills produced little results.  Clays went out, and only came down when the law of gravity took over. People watching me shoot must have felt badly for my kid, as they quickly came over to offer me technical advice.  Five or six trips to the range prompted me to try my first pheasant hunt in December of 2009.   Our lab is not a hunting dog, so we (four year old alongside) decided to try to kick up some birds during a windy snowy winter day.  Ninety minutes of not seeing a bird lead to a lot of complaining and criticism from the boy.  Two gentlemen and a lady watched our lack of success from afar, and graciously offered to run their dogs for us.   I missed the first four birds the dogs raised.  Even with the weather, they were all makeable shots that should have met their mark.   My wife and I had dinner plans, and I knew the hunt would have to end soon.  As we walked to the car, the Brittney Spaniel (Spicy) suddenly darted left down the edge of some tall grasses.  Seven or eight determined and vigorous steps put Spicy on point.  As I approached the cover, a loud noise followed by a rising rooster startled me.  With my gun already mounted, and I started my swing as the bird flew high and quickly to the right.  My first shot missed, and I consciously realized that I needed to make the next count.  Soon after my second shot, the pheasant tumbled in mid-flight, and hit the ground about one hundred yards from where we were standing.  The golden (Jasper) fetched the bird and brought it to me.  My son had never been so excited.  He insisted on eating the entire bird that evening. 

Fourteen months later, we have been fortunate to have been on over a dozen hunts.  People have been kind, allowing us the unique experience of hunting over their dogs.  My entire family (wife and other son, now four), walk the fields together, appreciating the outdoors like we have never done before.  We are now strongly considering adopting a seven year old lab who recently lost his owner.  Next year, we plan on traveling to Kansas and Montana to continue the adventure. 


Emmy Flushes a Chucker Final

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