Back in the day, I had 5 black labs at one time. My very first dog, Coot, I trained myself. She was an incredible dog– especially for the little bit I knew at the time. I didn’t force fetch until she was 13 months old and that's when a very good buddy of mine, Richard Barnes with Susquehanna Kennels, helped me get into the groove of things. Fast forward 26 months and she was a Master Hunter.
We trained field trails every day and ran with some pros around the Susquehanna region. Richard was who I learned the most from. He was retired and trained dogs every day. When he would get home, he would call us and we would all meet up to train.
I ended up getting a pup from Richard, which is a funny story looking back on it. He had a pup that was having some growth plate issues and would only use three of her legs. Now don’t get me wrong, she kept up with all of the other dogs, she just did it on three legs even though she had four. Richard didn’t have the time he wanted to put into this dog and simply wanted a good home for her, so I picked her up when she was around 6-7 months old and named her Diamond, Susquehanna Black Diamond to be exact. Well, March rolled around and we had a 32-inch snowstorm roll through. With so much snow, it forced her to start putting weight on that fourth leg. By the time all of the snow melted she was running on all four legs like nothing had ever happened.
Coot and Diamond were my two gundogs at that time in life. With such long seasons, I needed to use them both, so it worked out great. It became a routine for them and everything was on autopilot. Diamond was the one to jump up and look at us if we didn’t see the birds she was looking at. They were both so much fun to hunt over. All of my dogs have been fun.
Over the years, I’ve had a few other incredible dogs. When the time came that each dog passed away, it was really tough. I told myself I was done. My wife, Karen, would check in every so often to see what I thought about getting another pup, but I didn’t change my mind until she asked about finding a pup that stemmed from Coot. That really did change things for me.
A buddy of mine called me not too long after that conversation and invited me down to Texas Teal to hunt for a weekend. We hunted over some incredible dogs and it put the itch in me even more. Karen was on the lookout for a litter stemming from Coot and found a litter from a guy wintering in Georgia. When I called him, he had one pup left and just so happened to have another pup being dropped off in Massachusetts. We were happy to welcome that pup, Scoter, into our home. Scoter is now 8 months old and we are training to hunt a bit this season.
We are in the process of force-fetching her right now. I am taking it one step at a time, but it’s nonstop. Between here and Canada I am hoping to have a few controlled environments to run her on some ducks and geese. She may not be retrieving every day of the season, but moreso in those controlled environments.
It is really cool to see the small quirks and characteristics come out of Scoter that I saw in Coot and even Diamond. It feels really good to get back into the training and planning for the season with a dog. We both missed it.
For every Susquehanna Kennel or Food Crate that our GUNNER customers purchase, we will be giving a portion of proceeds back to the Ducks Unlimited R. Madison Mitchell chapter. In addition, when customers choose to donate $1 at checkout to the organization, GUNNER will equally match that donation in honor of the customer's gift.
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