Catch and Release Upland Style - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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When the men hunted behind the liver and white German shorthair their odds were a little better. The dog was easy to see, and the jingle of the Swiss bell he wore around his neck confirmed his location. When the shorthair encountered bird scent, he slowed his graceful gait, walking on tiptoe, quickly unraveling the mystery of scent that we inadequate humans will never solve. He gave an early tentative point and nervously glanced toward the men, his tail flagging a nervous twitch encouraging them toward him. He reestablished, then locked up tight with his head nearly touching the ground. Everyone knew a bird was there -- right there. He held the point as the closest gentleman moved in for the flush. When it happened and the grouse reverberated from hiding, the bird still had the advantage. Each visitor took a tardy shot and missed again. …Catch and release upland style.

The sportsman may be content to leave the bird for another day.
Photo by: Author
The grouse is the foremost candidate for this form of catch and release upland style and neither man bagged one that day, but they experienced everything leading up to it. They discovered their woodland habitat; they observed the skill of the dogs; they heard the flush, saw the flight; and even took a shot or two. Their reactions were in slow motion, but they learned. They acknowledged hunting pheasants or quail on preserves was a marvelous sport, but kindergarten compared to hunting the most wild of birds, behind dogs enlightened in their ways. At the end of the day they had a newfound fire in their bellies and were high on it.

The Months of Training

Twelve months of the year we train our dogs (or should), and for most of that time we carry nothing more deadly than a starter’s pistol. Handlers handle, dogs hunt, and birds fly, but nothing is shot. We’re thankful some game birds are still out there when we see them and it lifts our spirits when we see them flush. We don’t feel any inclination to shoot. It’s catch and release upland style every time we take to the field to train. We always see and learn something, and it’s during the off-season our gun dogs refine their skills.

The Experienced Upland Bird Hunter

And, what about those hunters, who have completed their doctorate on upland hunting? I’ve seen many an educated “gentleman” snap his shotgun to his shoulder, swing through the target, and softly murmur, “BANG” to a disappearing mark. These hunters don’t need a kill, many don’t want it, and that’s another form of catch and release upland style. They are content leaving the bird out there for another day.

A fisherman can have a magnificent day on the water and come home with an empty creel. He does his homework, evaluates his performance, and knows when he’s had an “A” kind of day. The bird hunter can do the same. An “A day” can exist without bringing home a bird -- catch and release upland style -- and there’s nothing wrong with that.
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