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Dogs like to get out and hunt, too

I know hunting dogs get cabin fever as bad as their owners when there is nothing to hunt. I have two dogs that would rather hunt than do anything else and I have not taken them hunting for months. At times like this, they have been known to take control of the situation on their own.

Coty is a large Labrador retriever. He will retrieve things like sticks and tennis balls, but the best thing to retrieve is a rabbit or pheasant. His idea of a good day is running through the fields 20 or 30 feet ahead of me finding birds with his acute sense of smell. A rousing game of fetch the ball just is not the same.

Dulce is a standard poodle. She prefers to flush geese or other birds so I can shoot them. She is really annoyed when she finds something for me to shoot and I do not shoot it. Excuses such as "it is not bird season" or "I do not have a gun with me" are only met with looks of disdain. She did her part and I let her down.

After a couple of months of not hunting birds, the dogs are getting a bit desperate. If given half a chance, they will go hunting without me. Coty is an outside dog, so he can go hunt the pasture whenever he wants. He instinctively seems to know, a successful hunt can not be accomplished alone. Dulce spends most of her time inside, so Coty has to wait for her to be let out if they are going hunting together. They both know they are not supposed to go hunting without me, but along toward March, they can stand it no longer.

Coty is a scent hunter. If the game he is hunting were to get up and run 20 feet in front of him, he probably would not see it. He is busy smelling the trail. Dulce is primarily a sight hunter. She will run over a scent trail, but is watching well out ahead for anything that might prove to be worthy game. Together, they make a fairly effective hunting team, in spite of my best efforts to prevent their freelance hunting trips.

Dulce will be let out for a necessary break and I may receive a phone call or become otherwise distracted. Perhaps they hear the phone ring and know I will be tied up for a few minutes. However they do it, they disappear in seconds while nobody is looking.

Coty is into the ditch, searching for the scent of a squirrel, rabbit, pheasant or turkey. It does not matter; he is hunting. Dulce runs the edge, watching closely for something to come out of the ditch. She is ready to grab it when it does. Sometimes Coty is able to trail a rabbit to where Dulce can catch it, but more often, I will find them way out in the pasture at the base of a tree staring intently up at a squirrel. Their hunt usually takes no more than an hour or two, but they come back covered with burrs and mud. Their need for hunting is satisfied for a week or two, and Dulce is even willing to put up with a bath and brushing to have had the time on the hunt.

The next time they get cabin fever so severe they need to run off, perhaps I should run off with them. At this time of year, standing in the pasture staring up a tree at a squirrel might be good therapy for me, too.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.