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I was introduced to the idea of bird hunting in Kansas
by my father but cemented my love for dogs and bird hunting in rural Hinds county, Mississippi. Hind's county contains the state capital, Jackson. We lived in southern Hinds county between Raymond and Jackson and it was here that I hunted native quail independently for the first time in the early 70's.
My mother would dutifully drive me to my favorite hunting grounds.I fondly remember being dropped off - boy, dog, and SS H&R 20 GA, her admonition to "be careful", "have fun", and instructions to meet her in an assigned location.
Molly and I would hunt the amber colored native grasses in the fields with tree lines and edge. The clean smell, gentle breezes, and staunch bird work was about as poetic as it could be for a young teen. I was in my element with MY bird dog.
I was clueless about so much. I didn't know about the Bobwhites native food sources, wasn't aware of proper management of the resource, and didn't know that there were lots of folks in this world that not only didn't hunt quail, didn't care about them. Even though I was clueless, my passion for the bird and dog was very, very strong and is even stronger today, if that's possible.
My dog Molly was an orange and white Brittany female that was a natural, thank God. I didn't know beans about training even though my father had Brittanys and avidly hunted birds. Molly was MY dog and I wanted to train her 'right'. Mom took me to the library in Jackson where I checked out books about bird dogs.
After carefully studying the books, I started the 'wing on a string' training. Molly was soon pointing though it didn't seem to connect when actually hunting birds early in her life. <I had early ideas then that sight pointing is Not the same as scent pointing.>
Requiring birds to train with, Mom would drive me to a gentleman's farm that raised domestic quail. He preferred to sell large quantities of quail to restaurants and was reluctant to sell quail to me at my first visit. I explained, almost frantically, how I needed his quail to train my dog in the pasture at home. He must have had a soft spot and so sold me 1 quail as I didn't have much money.
All the books I found 30 years ago employed the pinch collar/whoa post method. I assumed that was how one 'properly' trained a dog. Not having any money, I remember carefully making my own pinch collar by simply replicating what I saw in the picture of the library book. I found some old materials and what would suitably act as a whoa post. Time to train...
After carefully following the methods and techniques in the book, I didn't like what I saw. The pinch collar made the dog look uneasy and cringe even though I was light handed. It didn't make sense to me. "Surely there's a better way to train a bird dog," I thought. With nowhere else to go, I started training through trial and error. Thank you Lord for the 'forgiving' Brittany.
Over the years I developed my own techniques as well as modifying techniques I saw old timers use. I'm never completely happy and continually look for better ways.
I met Lou around 1990. Lou was an elderly gentleman who professionally field trialed and showed GSP's (German Shorthair Pointers). Through a strong recommendation by a good hunting friend, I went to see Lou with my dog. Lou and I discussed training and I liked what I heard from a pro dog trainer...a first.
Lou helped me train one of the greatest dogs I've ever owned, Missy. Lou taught me that it all starts with solid yard work. Nothing in the field can go right without solid yard work. He showed me that you didn't have to be rough with a dog and that you could do a great job with lots of repetition. I was fortunate to apprentice with Lou and owe a lot to him.
Back to hunting in my youth...
Molly and I moved to the Big Country of West Texas as a teen. Teeming with quail, the Big Country is heaven to me. The only thing missing is grouse, woodcock, and pheasant. Oh how I miss woodcock but that's another story.
I now realize how lucky I was to be a youngster with a good dog and an understanding Mom. Who would have thought that a mom would be so instrumental in a young boy's love for bird dogs and bird hunting?
Thanks Mom and (albeit early) Happy Mothers Day.
God bless all the Moms, especially those that help a boy pursue his love of bird dogs and dreams afield.
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