What’s in a hunting dog?

For some, the answer is everything. A dog can be a person’s best friend. A dog can also be used for work or therapy, service assistance, search and rescue and so much more.

One dog profession that I am fond of is hunting.

Hunters, mentors and guides gather on a brisk winter morning. They all pile into a truck with guns, ammo, hunting licenses, bottles of water and coffee cups. You would think we were leaving for a week instead of just a few hours.

A crate also sits in the truck. A quick glance inside shows a sleeping creature. Cool, a German shorthair pointer, lays there without a care in the world.

The short drive passes quickly. You can feel the shared excitement and nerves for the experience laying just ahead. We arrive in a field of knee-high grass, a low ridge on our left, a small pond with large trees on the right.

Everyone excitedly gets out of the truck, gathers their gear and has a quick safety briefing, preparing for the adventure lying just ahead. The excitement within Cool is building, you can see an intensity in her eyes, her tail is wagging, thumping the crate. She knows the plan: we are going hunting.

The crate is opened. Cool rushes out, directly to her owner, Greg. You can read the anticipation in every muscle twitch. After a quick drink of water, we enter the knee-high grass still wet with morning dew. Cool begins working the field, her head buried to the ground as she makes quick lines, about 20 yards in front of us. She works left to right and back to the left again. Occasionally, you see her lift her head and glance at Greg for direction. He offers a quick signal by a quick lift of his left hand; no words are spoken. Cool immediately puts her head back to the ground, heading left, the whole exchange taking a mere second.

Cool begins to narrow her path, slowing and becoming more precise in her movement. Greg announces, “she’s acting birdy.” Suddenly she stops, her tail locked above her body. She is on point. Every muscle is fully engaged but doesn’t twitch as she points at a bird directly in front of her.

I am always amazed at the relationship that is built between a hunting dog and his/her person, the connections, the ability to communicate with just a glance and a quick hand signal, so quick a person may not notice it. I can’t imagine the amount of time they spend together training, living, eating, walking side-by-side. The connection is one that is unbreakable, an amazing amount of trust and love.

What is in a hunting dog? You have to experience it to know.

About Tristanna Bickford

Tristanna Bickford is the Assistant Chief of Education for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.