Last fall I decided to try to work a little less and hunt a little more. It made me poor but happy, haha. In just over three months I managed to squeeze in over 20 hunts … So, in January, Tassla was in brilliant form, well-muscled and in good condition, and I was healthy and happy after so many days outdoors. ? (I dodged all those autumn and winter bugs!) And we had both learned lots and made new experiences.
On most of the hunts, I only handled a dog, but on the hunts I enjoyed the most, I got to be both shooter and dog handler. The best hunt was the one that took place in the late summer heat, together with three friends. We worked for hours and took turns working with our cockers, with two of us as shooters. It was pure joy. The dogs worked so nicely and we ended up in a kind of trance over the shared experience and cooperation with the dogs. Here I’m hunting over Kat:
I’m stilled not very skilled as a shooter. I often refrain from taking a shot (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, quite the contrary!) and I miss my shot too often. But a shot, as you know, can never be regretted and I would rather not take it than chance a bad shot. I’ll improve this year and I try to train regularly (I spend my allowance at Susegården – Sweden’s best shooting school ? ).
A whole new experience was that I had won a partridge hunt over an HPR (hunting, pointing, retrieving dog) in a lottery. I was only a shooter at that hunt. That experience took a spot as one of the top three of that year’s best experiences. What a luxury! The hunting party consisted of the two people who had given the chance to the lottery, a dog handler with two absolutely fabulous pointers and myself. I have never seen a pointer work before and it was such fun. A social and pleasant hunt where you can just enjoy the dogs working and suddenly the dog points, and then you need to sneak up and prepare yourself to shoot. I also got a fantastic compliment from the dog handler. Naturally I had told everyone that I was a beginner and that they needed to coach me. But I actually shot quite well and afterwards the dog handler said “I felt completely safe with you as a shooter”. I know what it is like to be the dog handler and not know the shooter – you keep an extra eye out in the beginning.
I’ve also joined some large hunts at manor estates. Then the rough shooting hunts are my favorites. The spaniel gets to work as it is supposed to, flanked by two shooters and retrievers who do the retrieving. Both Kat and Tassla are good fits for these hunts. Tassla should preferably get a bit tougher terrain in these situation. If the terrain is too open she has a tendency to hunt too wide. The dogs have to show absolute steadiness. And they have been excellent, apart from some little mishap on Tassla’s side in a couple of very difficult situations. ? Elsa and I also got to join a couple of these hunts together and that is just so great! Tassla flushes, Keen retrieves. <3
Driven shoots on the other hand really aren’t Tassla’s cup of tea. You often walk ahead, clapping your hands repeatedly to get pheasants in front of you and the dog just gets crazier and crazier. The dog has to heel by your side, a really challenging exercise with pheasants jumping ahead of you… Tassla was SCREAMING in the end and was so stressed out that I could barely direct her afterwards. Gah. It really didn’t suit her. Not Kat either, because she doesn’t dare to flush if she sees the bird. She just turns around. They need proper hunting, these two.
We have also been on hare hunts; some small and some really big with 50-60 people (!) as dog handlers or as shooters. I always bring my gun but being a dog handler comes first. And when there are so many people, who really are supposed to stay on one line but doesn’t always do so, you really need to have pay close attention if you are to turn around and shoot backwards.
One thing that stands out to me, at every hunt, is how safety is emphasized. Always. A great many times the hunt is led by quite elderly gentlemen (no, it’s almost never ladies ? ) who were born gun in hand, but that doesn’t matter. First thing’s first, and safety regulations are always run through strictly. It feels good. Not least if you like me have a bouncy spaniel who’s supposed to move in front of the shooters – they must be sure of what they are doing. But of course, also for my own and others’ safety.
Likewise, I am glad that hunting ethics are high. If an animal is injured, MAJOR efforts are made to find it. So far, I’ve never met anyone who’ll just shrug it off. Some of my most important experiences this fall have been when hunting down an injured animal. Oftentimes the spaniels get to help out with this, depending on the type of hunt and the number of retrievers there. But I really detest this part of the hunt, that an animal can get injured. If you are going to hunt at all, then you should at least keep it short so the animal dies immediately. That is also the reason that I don’t want to chance a shot, and the reason for constantly training to get better. And therefore I want dogs that are fast and efficient when hunting down an injured animal. And both Tassla and Kat are. They never hesitate.
I have also learned to cook and eat both partridge and pheasant. I didn’t eat that much of the first portion ? (I was afraid I would get sick but it was unexpectedly good; I haven’t eaten meat in 36 years.)
The season’s over now. At the end of January, bird hunting was over in my part of Sweden and training season took over. Next fall I hope to be part of a type of hunting that I really look forward to – up in the mountains. Then I hope to get to prepare my first grouse. ?