by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson
Bleeding paws, a gash under her left eye and a slow gait were the tell tale signs of a good day for a veteran hunting dog.
Battle wounds gratefully accepted as part of the gig.
Casey, a 9-year-old yellow lab had just finished up a late season walk for roosters just outside the Twin Cities metro area, and was now drifting off to sleep to dream about the birds she found amongst the snarls of cattails.
Walking this piece of land the week of Christmas has become a tradition for us even if it doesn’t yield as many birds as a walk in South Dakota would. It becomes a chance for me to hunt with my family one last time for the season and watch my brother’s partner in crime sniff out the most stubborn, well hidden pheasant.
It also means deep snowdrifts, cold fingers and roosters that flush wild. But it allows me another chance to get my nearly 2-year-old lab, Mika back out in the field. I’ve written extensively about her exploits this fall and while she did her job on this hunt, today I’m going to write about the wily veteran who led the charge, Casey.
If you read my article in the fall issue of the Minnesota Sporting Journal magazine, you know that I wanted to find a genetic scientist to clone Casey. She could track down a running rooster, find a felled mallard blindly and even bring in the newspaper, as clichéd as that sounds.
She was calm when she needed to be and ready to work anytime a gun was uncased. Like many hunting dogs, she knew what it meant when the hunting boots came out of the closet. Like many hunting dogs, if she was left behind, she let it be known that she wasn’t happy about it. In fact on this particular day, she talked her way into the truck.
We had planned on a quick afternoon hunt with Mika and her sister, Echo. Echo is being “mentored” by Casey, but we felt we’d give her a chance to run solo. Casey would have nothing of it.
By the end of the day, I’m glad she came along. She mentored us all on this day, tirelessly sniffing each and every inch of the sloughs we walked, never once slowing or showing her age.
While I’ve been “bragging” about Mika’s sophomore season, this day belonged to the wiser, more experienced canine. Mika’s exuberance can be a hindrance in the snow-clogged cattails, quickly wearing her down, while Casey’s methodical approach keeps her from missing a beat.
She put on a clinic. The majority of flushes came inches from her nose and no cover went unsearched. From the time she climbed out of the truck to the time she climbed in, she was clocked in and on the job.
Maybe she had a chip on her shoulder from almost being left home. She’s a smart pup, maybe she’s figured it out that she’s on the backside of her hunting career. Either way she made us all hope for more afternoons of watching her work the cover like a pro.
We also hoped Mika and Echo were taking notes.
Bret “T-Bone” Amundson