A sea­son to re­mem­ber

Daniel Airo-farulla is an ac­com­plished chef who was in­tro­duced to hunt­ing as a child by his grand­fa­ther. He’s con­tin­ued the fam­ily tra­di­tion of hunt­ing and ex­tended his own fam­ily with his first gun­dog, Archie. This is the story of their first sea­son toge

Field and Game - - BUSH TO BANQUET -

Hunt­ing has been a part of my life for as long as I can re­mem­ber and my ear­li­est mem­o­ries are of help­ing my grand­fa­ther skin rab­bits he had shot and brought home; I re­mem­ber pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to pick­ing out the lead shot from the meat.

Soon enough, as I was a bit older, I was al­lowed to come out on the early morn­ing hunts with him and his friends to par­take in this tra­di­tion. It wasn’t long be­fore I had my first shot of his old side-by-side Ber­nadelli, in 12-gauge of course, and even though I was sport­ing the bruises on my shoulder for days after, I was hooked and the rest is history.

To­day I still hunt with such en­thu­si­asm and fol­low the same re­spect for the land as I was shown nearly 30 years ago, and being a chef by trade, noth­ing that is shot is ever wasted in my house.

This year was to be dif­fer­ent how­ever, as this quail sea­son was my first hunt­ing with my own dog.

After los­ing our fam­ily dog of more than 14 years, my wife and I de­cided last year to get a new dog. It was de­cided we should get a ger­man short­haired pointer (GSP), or should I say, I de­cided we were get­ting a GSP, pri­mar­ily as a fam­ily pet but with the in­ten­tion of join­ing forces in the field.

After search­ing high and low for nearly eight months I fi­nally found Archie, a pedi­gree GSP with both work­ing and show lines, and after see­ing him at only one week of age, I had al­ready made my de­ci­sion.

At eight weeks of age he was a new fam­ily mem­ber at home and the train­ing had al­ready be­gun for both my­self and Archie, as this was my first time train­ing a gun­dog. The manda­tory soft duck toy, small bumpers, duck wings, hes­sian filled with quail feath­ers were just a few of the ‘toys’ he had to train with on a daily ba­sis. There were sim­ple games of fetch and re­trieve that Archie picked up in no time. I was qui­etly con­fi­dent of his abil­ity be­fore he had even laid eyes on any game birds.

As his train­ing pro­gressed, the next big phase of his development was to get him used to the shot and for a few weeks I would grad­u­ally make loud bang­ing noises around the home to which he didn’t re­act. His first en­counter with a gun­shot was out in the field us­ing my .22 from a slight dis­tance. His re­ac­tion to this was to shift his at­ten­tion and fo­cus to the direction in which the shot was pointed.

Quail sea­son was al­most upon us and it was with a mix of ex­cite­ment and ner­vous­ness that I took Archie, now at about five months of age, out for his first en­counter with real live birds. The last thing I let him train with was that small hes­sian bag filled with quail feath­ers in the hope it would be a fa­mil­iar smell once he was work­ing in the field. Within five min­utes, he had put up two birds and I don’t think that grin came off my face for a few weeks. It was a very proud mo­ment for me. I didn’t use a check cord as I wanted him to just find birds and build his drive. I fig­ured the tech­nique could be taught to him but the drive was natural in­stinct, which only he pos­sessed. He was given praise ev­ery time he flushed a bird and I learnt to un­der­stand his body lan­guage from that day as he had changed and shown me a side only live birds could bring out of him.

Open­ing week­end had come and by now Archie was about six-and-a-half­months old. D–day, as this would be the first time he would en­counter a shot bird, if I could do my part, that is.

Archie was back into ac­tion and sure enough, within min­utes he had flushed his first bird of the day. I was shoot­ing straight and the bird was hu­manely dis­patched. While he didn’t find it im­me­di­ately, with some en­cour­age­ment he was fi­nally re­warded with his first bird. I found it but I led him close to it so he could pick it up. Huge praises and lots of fuss fol­lowed and I think Archie was even smil­ing at his ef­fort. We ended up with only eight quail on that first day but it was the be­gin­ning of an ex­cit­ing jour­ney for us both.

By the end of the sea­son, Archie went from strength to strength and while there are many years of train­ing ahead, he has shown the drive and skills to be a great bird dog. The rest is up to me, and with­out the help, sup­port and guid­ance from other ex­pe­ri­enced dog own­ers and train­ers, I hon­estly wouldn’t have known where to be­gin.

The true en­joy­ment I get is from watch­ing these multi-skilled gun­dogs work in the field, and at that very mo­ment, while quar­ter­ing, when they pick up a scent and fi­nally lock on to a quail, is my ultimate re­ward.

I am look­ing forward to years ahead work­ing with Archie and learn­ing this skilled sport.

Archie at 4 weeks old. Pick up day 8 weeks old.

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