I have an irretrievable retriever. I started to suspect that my Lab was missing the hunting gene her breed is known for the first time I took her hunting. She seemed excited enough about being outside and sniffing up all the smells, but she didn’t kick up a single pheasant. And that was in North Dakota, where pheasants are purported to exist under every bush.
Granted, it was, as they said up there in North Dakota, a bad pheasant year. The Game and Fish up there said pheasants were down by about 75 percent from the year before. But even so, a bad pheasant year in North Dakota is a whole different animal than even a good pheasant year down here in Wyoming. Riley should have found me at least a couple of birds.
I chalked it up to the bad pheasant year, though, and eventually Riley and I came back home to Wyoming. A few weeks ago, my boys and I took Riley out after some pheasants in a walk-in area north of Burns. We turned the dog loose, and she immediately started sniffing around, acting like a hunting dog should act. But then Logan pointed out a pheasant strutting along a tree row. I tried to point Riley in that direction, but she just looked at the bird, then kept sniffing at cow poop. Colby went in from one side, Logan came at the bird from the other, and my kids flushed the pheasant as Riley gnawed on a frozen hunk of recycled hay.
When I shot the pheasant out of the sky, Riley perked up. The shot got her attention, and she watched the bird fall to the ground. She immediately ran over to the pheasant, and I thought, “now she’ll get it.” But she just sniffed the bird. She didn’t try to pick it up, eat it, or anything else.
I guess that just means I need to take her out hunting more often, so she’ll get the idea, right? It’s my duty as a dog owner to take her hunting every day for the rest of the season. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.