Today, I went hunting without my dog. It was not by choice, it was one of those things situations that came up quickly and no arguments could be made. I received phone call from a friend, who had a friend, who locked up a hot corn field with more than enough geese to produce a quick four man limit. These types of sure things usually have a few caveats that go along with them. The person who had received permission to hunt the field was under the impression that it would be too difficult to hide four people and a dog in a plowed corn field. If I wanted to go along, I’d have to leave the dog at home.

The typical hunting day routine started early and Dalton was up before my feet hit the ground. The nuances of hunting days are much different from those of work days. The signs and smells are more than enough to trigger a warning to a veteran birddog. This is an unmistakable dance that could not be mistaken for some other outing. There is no shower, the same pair of pair of grungy pants get put on, gear is gathered and finally the gun is packed up. For those who think that dogs do not have emotions, they clearly do not have birddogs. His excitement for these days are what keeps me going. Today would be different.

When I went to leave my dog was patiently waiting by the door; he is usually the last thing to be loaded up. Instead of him bailing out the front door I needed to nudge him aside with my leg as to say, “sorry bud, not this time”. The look on his face was one of incomprehension. Today, compared to any other his master would not need his services. The dejection on his face is something that I carried with me to the blind and throughout the hunt, it was something that I could not shake all morning. The hunt went according to plan. The birds flew in groups of 10-20 right into the kill zone. It took only a couple flocks before we were done. It was one of those days that you dream about during the non-hunting months. It was one of those days that wasn’t as good as it could have been.

This will be go down in the books as the sixth year that I’ve had Dalton by my side in the blind. The number of days that I’ve gone hunting without him can be counted on one hand. Each time he was left at home there was a reason, out of my control, in which he could not come with. Numerous times I turned down offers to hunt a sure thing, instead to find myself and the dog sitting in a swamp with no birds around. The interesting thing is that those are the days in which I find more memorable than those days when there are piles of birds and no dog around. Of the less than five hunts in which the dog was unable to come with, I’m sure we limited out on most but I couldn’t say where they were, who they were with and what was shot. What I can remember is every time that I have loaded the dog up he happily jumps into the truck, bounds out with anticipation and loves every second in which he is able to take part in a hunt. There is not a single scenario or hunt without a dog that could replace the way that I feel when my dog gets to go out and do what he was trained to do, proudly bringing back the game that was taken. Today, I went hunting without my dog and I a going to do my best to make sure that it is the last time that happens.