Autumn With A Good Bird Dog

Summer’s end in northern British Columbia comes well before the autumnal equinox. It starts with those hot afternoons that fade into cool evenings, and mornings where the light frost that falls on gold-tinged leaves gets burnt off by the rising morning sun.

Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.
Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.

For those of us with bird dogs, summer’s end is marked by an ever-growing energy, an ever-growing anticipation. It’s as if something switches in a good bird dog’s brain; he knows that those long morning walks through the poplar and willow stands are no longer just for fun – it’s time to get down to business.

And when that first cool morning comes on the 1st of September, a good bird dog knows that it’s go time. His demeanor will change as his owner comes strolling out of the house, thermos of coffee in one hand and shotgun in the other. A wiggling blur of anticipation, a good bird dog tries his hardest to stay sitting while the last of the gear is gathered, even though his body just wants to go – go run in a pattern in front of his beloved hunting buddy, following his nose back and forth through the thick underbrush of the forest.

Flint with the girls. Credit: Garth O'Meara
Flint with the girls. Credit: Garth O’Meara

Summer’s end, and therefore autumn’s commencement, all comes together in one moment. The good bird dog, locked on the tree in front of him; the low, throaty chirps of the grouse in the tree; the cocking of the shotgun just prior to the pulling of the trigger.

That moment is about more than a grouse. It’s about a lifelong connection to the seasons and watching that good bird dog makes you realize that there are few stronger bonds in this lifetime than those between a bird dog and his hunting instincts, and bird dog and his two-legged partner.

Bullet is also all smiles. Credit: Matthew Ewen.
Bullet is also all smiles. Credit: Matthew Ewen.

For those of us who are unfortunate enough to have to go through the changing of seasons without our good bird dogs by our sides, summer’s end isn’t quite the same. You can put on your vest, grab your shotgun, walk out through the morning fog, and inhale the bittersweet smell of frost-bitten cranberries; but the sounds of your good bird dog rustling through the bushes in front of you is replaced with the whirr of wings as a flock of grouse take off that you noticed moments too late. It’s just you, the birds, and your memories. A good bird dog may not be running to your side with his prize in his mouth, eagerly awaiting your praise yet simultaneously saying let’s go, time to find more birds – but a good bird dog will remain in your memories for every hunting season that follows, long after he is gone. And that is the legacy of autumn’s spent with a good bird dog.