"Blackie" my Black Labrador Retriever.
This is a story about an extraordinary dog. His registered name is "Caesar Scott of Glenvale". He was trained as a field trial dog and in his young and able life he won a whole box full of ribbons and many field trials trophies. I was told many times that I was ruining the dog by taking him hunting and have the kids play with him. Non of that ever made any difference. His intelligence was that of a university professor. He knew when he was at a field trial and behaved accordingly. He never broke at a trial, even when some jealous judges tried their damntest to make him do so. Yet when hunting pheasants he never waited for my call to retrieve and find the bird. He was a hunting dog that every bird hunter dreams about. He really had it all.
His marking and tracking ability together with almost human like handling, and of course his extraordinary nose, made him a champion dog and a joy to work with. My job kept me away from many field trials that I would have liked to run. Nevertheless hunting birds is what we really liked. Blackie and I and some friends hunted all the birds that fly even crows and magpies. We hunted Pheasants, Ducks, Huns, and Geese in Alberta and Sharptails, Willow Grouse in Northern British Columbia.
My friend Jack asked me to take out an American hunter from Texas for a pheasant hunt near the town of Taber. We hunted on the main irrigation canal that is about 30 yards wide. The canal has a dirt road intersected by Texas gates. On the ditch road we spotted a big rooster running ahead of the car. He flushed at the Texas gate and flew across the ditch and landed in light cover other side where he could keep an eye on us. We saw him sitting there. John said "so much for him".
I told John to get out of the car and load his gun then slowly walk up the road until he was straight down wind of the bird. "Don't take your eye off the bird." In the meantime I took out the dog and walked below the dike 200 yards in the opposite direction. From there I send the dog on a line across the ditch and run him out in the field until he was upwind of the bird. There I stopped him to sit down.
My dog handling with the whistle kept the cock curious, occasional pocking his head up and down to check on us? I got up to John and said, "Good chance to get that bird." I handled the dog some more until he got the scent of the bird. With express train speed the dog came up behind the bird and almost caught him. The surprise was on both the bird and the Texan. The man was so flabbergasted he nearly forgot to shoot. Then the bird flew straight into him trying a tight turn down wind when the hunter finally managed to drop him into the canal. My dog never missed a stride flew after bird into the water and delivered the bird to hand. It was a great performance, and I bet the guy still talks about it.
Another time on pheasant opening day, I got together with a group of field trial guys and hunted in Brooks, Alberta. There were many hunters and millions of birds. With an early snow and no frost the roads were just terrible and driving in the fields was asking to get stuck. So we stayed close to the gravel roads and walked in to areas with cover. We were hunting a fence line with heavy cover I was on the field side.
Another groups of hunter with two dogs were out in the field hunting a slough bottom with tulies 200 yards slightly down hill. My dog I and heard the shot and saw a pheasant coming down in the tulies. My dog wanted to go and I said, "no that is not our bird" and went on. A short while later I met up with the 4 hunters and ask them if they got the bird. "No" they said. "Our dogs could not find him, we searched all over". They got into their cars and drove off. My friends wanted to depart to another spot too; we almost had our limit.
I told my friends I go back to the slough and get myself an easy bird. Everybody thought I was joking. They said all the scent is destroyed and tramped down in that slough. I toke Blackie back to the same spot from were we saw the bird fall, nearly a 1/2 hour ago. I set the dog down pointed my hand over his head and said "dead bird get back". Blackie went straight into the tulies, and I walked down. Right away I could tell he was on the bird. The bird thought he gets away by running out into the field. The dog was so close on his tail he caught the bird 50 yards out in the field on the other side of the slough. He brought the bird to me which had only a small part of one wing broken. This bird was the biggest pheasant with the longest tail I ever saw, he was a smart old bird that came to my bag thanks to Blackie.
On a very windy day we were hunting in a sugar beet field near a very deep abandoned strip mine. The hole was several hundred feet deep, and the wind was blowing hard over. Some of the sides were almost straight up and down. A very dangerous excavation that was later filled and cut back for safety reasons. The pheasants would always fly into the hole for save cover. We normally avoided shooting the birds close to the edge. But that day, with the strong wind, one rooster got shot and dropped into the excavation. There were deer trails in several places. I found one trail that the dog could use, also quite far from where the bird dropped.
"Well Blackie you think you can find that bird, I ask dog". I sat him on the trail and said, "get back". The dog went down to the bottom, and looked up for help. I managed to handle him to the area of the fall and let him hunt. And to every bodies surprise he found the bird. But the dog some how lost his way back up and I tried to handle him back to the trail. With the bird in his mouth he had some trouble taking directions, too excited I guessed. It was pretty clear he thought it was my fault and that I should do something Finally he found his own scent on the bottom and came back up with out looking up again. It was a stupid mistake to send the dog for that bird. Nevertheless, I was just getting ready to go down myself and help him up.
When Blackie finally left us, he left a big void. Hunting will never be the same without him. The above is just a small amount of his hunting and field trail ability, I could carry on for a long time yet.
Fred the Re-loader