Within the past year or so we decided to train a bird dog. Neither my wife or I have any experience training a bird dog, hunting birds or much in the way of dog training at all other than growing up with dogs. After hours spent combing the internet and books on pointers and how to train them, we were ready to pull the hypothetical trigger. We came home one day with an energetic and adorable German Shorthaired Pointer puppy and so began our foray into everything bird dog related. With much more research and help from some friends we have been training her to chase our Arizona desert birds.
Our first opportunity to hunt quail of the year came with much excitement and more than a little trepidation on my part. Had we trained her well enough to find these sneaky desert birds? Were there any quail here? The huge expanse of public land in Arizona is intimidating when it comes to trying to find an animal you’re not quite sure you understand yet.
Early on she bumped a covey of 15 or so birds up to a ridge. Not much she could do here, we were walking into the wind and the dry conditions never gave her nose a chance. We pursued the birds up to the ridge and began combing the area for the scattered covey. With one or two birds flushed, shot at and missed, action began to slow somewhat and we stopped to water the dog. She grabbed a quick couple mouthfuls of water and was carried off by her always running legs and curious nose.
As she circled back to us she stopped about 20 feet away from me and locked up in a hard point. We watched thinking she was smelling the cottontail that had just been through the area. We had trampled all through this little spot of ground and figured there was nothing there. There was something there. After watching her for about a minute completely frozen it all happened at once. A whir of wings and the quail was off like an erratic rocket.
It was a wonderful sight even though we weren’t remotely prepared. Dog locked up, her tail straight out behind her and front paw raised up. Laser focused on the small scrub oak in front of her. Quail flying hard and fast to clear bush and dog nearly straight up before leveling out and arcing down the bowl of the hill. It was incredible. Sage held her position a bit longer and our two late shots after the long gone bird only increased her excitement. The only problem is I’m hooked, the thought of the dog running tirelessly through the high desert and the occasional moment of extreme excitement when a bird explodes from concealment.
We came across more birds and the dog had more points. Big milestones were reached and questions on our training were answered. She will find birds and holds steady points. There’s a borderline unhealthy amount of pride in our house at the moment but we will bask in it for the time being. No shots connected on the day but that’s ok. I still can’t quite get the memory of her first point out of my head. It’s a memory I think I will carry with me forever, my first dog on her first wild bird. What an incredible moment!