Keep up with all things, outdoors, with Big Billy Kinder...
I was blessed two and a half decades ago to be exposed to some very talented bird dog men. I was flabbergasted with what God instilled in a bird dog and wanted to sponge up all I could learn. So I asked a lot of questions and listened intently to men like Charlie Henry out of Arkansas, Lester Arnold from east Texas, and the whole lot of trainers that gathered at field trials all across the country. The information was never ending. Tricks of the trade, training aides that actually worked, how to use those aides properly, scenting conditions, young dogs, old dogs, problem dogs, exposing talent...and on and on and on. But what stood out to me as the golden rule was quite simple. I heard it again and again from learned bird dog men all across the country...”Birds make bird dogs.” That will always hold true.
Bear will be fourteen if he makes it to spring. He lays beside me as I write this and travels with a limp in his gate nearly every step that I take. We've been side by side since he was five weeks old. At one year of age when I normally begin formal training with my bird dogs he wasn’t ready to start. I read my dog and was patient. That patience would pay off. By the time he was three, when most dogs are “finished”, he was well into what the others had learned a year ago, but way behind. He did his yard work fine, but transitioning that into the bird field was not a connection that he could make. He insisted on making an effort to do it all by himself. He’d point, then break and flush, then chase. Trying desperately to get that bird in his mouth. That would be his reward. Several folks were asking me if I was ready to give up on him...they thought that he just didn’t have what it takes to be a solid bird dog. But ol' Bear and I trudged on. Then one day, the light came on!
When the “light comes on” with a bird dog, it’s a remarkable thing to watch. It's an "OHHHHH O.K." moment for a young dog when they couple what you have hand taught them with what God instilled in them. For Bear, it was the old windmill pasture down by the river. A small pasture that typically holds lots of birds, and they were in there on this morning. I first turned ol' Joker loose. An older white pointer that was as reliable as grandpa’s watch and had true talent in his nose. Joker pointed, and I scooted up in front of him to flush. Birds kept coming up...and kept coming up...and kept coming up. There were singles scattered all over that 250 acre pasture. I put Joker back in the trailer and pulled Bear out.
We were alone. No other bird dogs in the field with us that morning and these birds were now his to either put it together or blow it completely. Bear was one of the hardest running dogs that I’ve ever witnessed. He totally blew up the “Brittanys are shoe polishers” theory. Destroyed it in fact! After a few minutes of hard running to “blow out”, he started paying attention to his nose. A few short seconds later he slammed to a stop...then flushed and chased...again. After another fruitless effort like that, the light came on. He pointed and didn’t move this time. I didn’t say a word to him. I just stepped in front, flushed the single and shot it. He delivered what would be the first of I don’t know how many wild birds to come to my hand. We did that 14 more times within an hour and a half. When we were finished Bear was a bird dog. I witnessed after only a couple of birds his light coming on. It was like flipping a switch. Bear realized that if he was ever going to get that bird in his mouth, his reward, that he must stand dead still...not disturb the bird...and allow my old over and under to bring the bird to the ground.
I have been blessed to own some mighty talented bird dogs in my life. Dogs that any man would absolutely love to hunt behind for a day and love much more to partner with for life. Bear would become the best hands down that’s ever shared my kennel, and later my home. He won the Lone Star Region N.S.T.R.A. Championship in 2010, defeating a 25 time N.S.T.R.A. and 4 time National Champion in the final hour of the grueling two day endurance format. He won his way into National Championship field trials from coast to coast, but my most precious memories with him will always be in the wild bird field where he was just simply amazing.
A lot of us are just like ol Bear. Hard headed and single minded with no room for God in our day to day lives. For many, entire lifetimes pass by without coming to the saving knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ. But oh how sweet is the journey if we do hear the Word, realize that we are sinners in need of a Savior, and believe in our hearts that Jesus died for our sins, rose again and lives at the right hand of God His Father. Thank You Lord, thank You for Your patience with me, Your slow and steady correction in my life, for never giving up on me and for that precious moment when my light came on.
December 15, 2015