Retriever reflections

Published 12:20 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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            This week marks the end of duck season in our area. Since Labor Day, our dogs have been retrieving birds and sleeping hard after hunts. This being their twelfth season, they know that the crisp cool mornings mean early morning rides in the trucks and looking up at the sky to pick anything up that falls. 

            Bird hunting of any kind is a calorie-negative way to get food. There is no way that I could live off the land by eating feathered creatures. On Saturday, I walked over two miles, carrying 40 pounds of gear to only get one duck. Thank goodness for Ingles. 

            The company while bird hunting is also a draw to the sport. Unlike deer hunting, you can talk, joke, and carry on unless birds are flying close. That being said, you may wonder why I just don’t hang out with my friends at someone’s house while watching a game. 

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            That’s a valid point, but some of us have heard the siren song of the retrievers that leads us, not into rocks, but swampy places with our furry friends. Watching an old dog look up to the sky when their aging ears hear wingbeats is a better view than any championship game. 

             Seeing the determination of a retriever fighting through the mud for 80 yards to retrieve a duck is more exciting than a running back fighting for a first down. 

             The bond between owner and dog is tighter than anything in a huddle. 

              For twelve years, my dogs have been by my side in the swamp and the field no matter what. These dogs may not want to go outside when it’s raining, but if I am wearing camouflage and carrying a shotgun, they would happily walk out in a blizzard. 

              Icicles hanging off my dogs’ fur is a yearly occurrence. The longer-haired Golden can get an impressive mat of ice dreadlocks on a cold, windy morning. 

              This past Saturday, the morning flight of birds slowed and I looked at my Golden Retriever, Sage. The ice crystals started forming on the tips of his thick coat as he scanned the sky for ducks like he has so many times before. 

               A duck flew into range and fell after the report of my friend’s shotgun. Eighty yards away floated an expired duck, and the adrenaline built inside Sage while he waited for me to release him. 

              Sage had no problem getting to the bird and started swimming back with the brightly colored Wood Duck in his mouth. It’s a picture I’ve seen hundreds of times before, but the picture has changed. The once deep red face is now white. 

              I couldn’t help but smile and enjoy Sage’s long swim back to his stand. At twelve years old, he is on the tail end of his career. But as long as his tail wags at the smell of feathers and gunpowder, I’ll take him hunting. After all, I can only hope someone will take me when I’m old and gray. 


Sage, the twelve-year-old Golden Retriever, still enjoys the thrill of a hunt.