My favorite time of year, without a doubt, is bird season in Upper Michigan. Though I enjoy many different outdoor activities, such as walking, kayaking and camping, nothing beats an afternoon in the field alongside my pointing dog, Titan. Altogether fun and incredibly rewarding, bird hunting with my dog is more than a mere pastime to me – it’s really a passion in which I’m deeply engaged, and I’m grateful to share it with Titan.
What is it about bird hunting with Titan that I love so much? Recently, in a moment of reflection, I asked myself the same question. The beauty and serenity of the wilderness in the Upper Michigan Peninsula is part of it. It’s my happy place. My wife and I are stewards of a property formerly owned by the Boy Scouts of America and are actively involved in regional conservation efforts of the woodlands and waterways there. Then, there are the birds themselves–the Upland game birds and waterfowl in Upper Michigan are elusive creatures. I’m convinced this is because they are the product of harsh habitats in an undeveloped landscape.
Most importantly, bird hunting is a passion I share with Titan. A good bird dog is like a seamless extension of oneself, and a day spent afield with Titan gives us a special opportunity to bond while spending time together outdoors. Also, Titan was born to be my hunting partner, literally. As a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, his breed has been selected for this kind of work. Bird hunting is in his DNA.
Man and animal, working as a team. It’s what Titan is genetically programmed to do and I get to share that with him.
The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (WPG): A Brief Background
Eduard Karel Korthals is credited with creating the breed around 1873. Korthals’ dream was to create the ideal versatile gun dog; one with extreme resiliency, vigor, and devotion to its master.
WPGs are medium sized, with a noble, square-shaped head and strong limbs. They were bred to cover all terrain encountered by the walking hunter, and they excell equally as a pointer in the field or a retriever in the water. The coat is hard and coarse, never curly or woolly, with a thick undercoat of fine hair, giving an unkempt appearance. They are sensitive, devoted to family, and and have a friendly temperament. The nickname of “supreme gundog” is well earned.
When I hunt with Titan, I am participating in and carrying on a time-honored tradition of connecting to the land. We are enjoying the natural beauty of our planet and the rewards of an outdoor life. I cherish our hunting successes and failures, the sights, sounds, and smells from the days we spend together in the field.
What I also appreciate about bird hunting with Titan is that our shared passion has helped me learn important lessons which I strive to apply in other parts of my life with my family and at work. Titan has helped me understand these pearls of wisdom:
That dogs have a purpose, a deeply ingrained job they feel compelled to do, is something I admire. Once Titan and I are in the field, he knows where to go. When a bird is shot, I know he’s going to pick it up and bring it back to me. I take pride in his excellence–that he is a highly trained animal who performs in the field and provides loyal companionship at home. Also, Titan is an expert when it comes to teamwork. My dog is better at communicating and cooperating than most humans I know. He and I have been able to build a rapport over many hunts, and I take pride in the fact that we’ve established a collaborative style and intuitive sense of the other.
Titan is a consummate professional and a deliberate hunter. It doesn’t matter what species we are pursuing, Titan is always game, always ready to go. He’s a tough dog, very protective of me and I swear, he knows when the fall hunting season is upon us in late August. Showing off his own brand of enthusiasm, he eagerly awaits our next outing.
Patience & Dependability
Titan is the best hunting buddy I could ask for. He’s responsible, dependable and goes where he says he’s going to go. He appreciates being outside. Best of all, he’s extremely loyal.
Among the many things Titan has taught me and surely will continue to teach me, is the value of patience and having an open mind. I respect how conscientious Titan is, both as a pointing dog and trusted companion. I, too, do my best to be a good hunting buddy to Titan. This includes prioritizing safety and respecting local hunting laws, the land and our natural environment. When we hunt, I can’t help but marvel at Titan’s intelligence and regal mien.
The Simple Things
There are many different ways to enjoy bird hunting, but the one I choose is simple: no fancy hunting lodges, no quail plantations feigning old-timey historical reenactment. To be sure, I have nothing against hunting lodges and tours. But for me, hunting with Titan is about appreciating the outdoor lifestyle and our natural surroundings. Nothing can beat the shared sense of adventure and freedom between Titan and me while hunting together.
You often hear old-school dog trainers use the phrase honest dog. What they mean by honest dogis that the dog remains true to his training. You can count on the dog to do whatever you’ve trained him to do, to do it consistently, and in any given situation. An honest dog is really shorthand for your dog is reliable and trustworthy. An honest dog is a dog you can count on. An honest dog makes a good hunting buddy.
When I hear people refer to an “honest dog,” I always wonder whether Titan would consider me to be an “honest human.” Honesty goes such a long way–with your dog, with your family, with your coworkers, and whomever else you meet. Honesty enables a sense of trust in relationships and allows people and animals to cultivate meaningful connections. The way I see it, if your dog has confidence in you and your expectations, you’re probably an honest human. If seeing your dog succeed makes you happy, then you’re probably an honest human. When you and your dog appreciate each other’s hard work and triumphs, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Honesty figures into my relationship with nature, too. I see conservation–respecting the land and hunting safely and legally–as an extension of honesty. Treat the land as if it were your own and leave it better than you found it. It’s as straightforward as that.