Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Parables of Gunnar: Pleasing Progress

The boy is 18 months old, which means still very immature for the breed. He is all legs and wiriness, prone to bouts of running around in circles, throwing rags or pieces of moss up in the air just because he can, and generally being playful and frequently over-exuberant. But amongst all of that he is slowly being trained into the deer tracking dog that I want him to be.

Frequently a deer dog is kept in the car during the stalking outing and only used should a beast be wounded and/or lost. I want more from my dog; I want him to accompany me in the woods and on the hills, walking to heel, sitting down next to me as I scan the woodland, and doing his bit to literally point me in the direction of where the deer will be. Then I want him to lie down out of sight while I close on the selected beast and take the shot. I need him to remain quiet and motionless until all this is done and I go back to him and release him verbally so that we can go to the shot beast and get it processed for the larder back at home. All of this requires a lot of training and buckets of patience. But if I do not succeed he will be only a fraction of the dog that I really want. If we don't succeed I will feel that I have let him down because he will not be able to come out into the woods with me nearly as often. If he is prone to making a noise, or will not be still or simply doesn't show any ability in scenting the deer, then we will both miss out on truly fulfilling our sporting ambitions. For me, working with the dog is every bit as fulfilling and enjoyable as the hunting itself.

So, has he got it in him? As I type this the adolescent lunatic is chewing on an already burst football outside in his pen. He is constantly tormenting the old warhorse Maximus, who nevertheless is still top dog when it really matters. However, lunatic or not, he certainly has the latent ability to be truly wonderful. I can already tell by his body language whether he is on to a pheasant, woodcock, rabbit or deer, and his pointing ability is outstanding: he goes into leopard crawl as soon as a bird is located, then, if it does not fly he turns and locks into position just a few yards from the quarry, front paw raised, eyes fixed in a laser beam stare. Very impressive to see and hugely enjoyable for us both when I send him in and have the bird fly off through the woods; the woodcock jinking its way at low level through the tree foliage, the pheasant rising powerfully amid a clatter of wings and the iconic call of the fleeing cock bird. Not sure who enjoys it more.

He is best on the deer though. Last time out he took me straight to a couple of beasts, then laid flat as I did the leopard crawling forward. It took 5 minutes before I could take the shot and the pup didn't twitch for the whole time, his head remaining firmly on the ground. At the rifle report he walked up to me so I took him back and laid him down again all nice and calmly. As I began the approach to the fallen animal another appeared which Gunnar saw. I sat him down with a hand signal, crawled in to position again and took a second shot. On looking back to see his reaction, he hadn't moved, and his eyes were fixed on me, awaiting instruction. Outstanding!

Then on the way home he put up another beast and began chasing it through the woods. Just to keep me humble! He turned off on the command, but it is clear he is not altogether trained yet. Does that detract from my enjoyment of him, or from his accomplishments? Of course not. He is a work in progress.

As are we all.

I am delighted with him.

As is our Creator as we seek to please Him, and He never gives up on training us, for our benefit and for His glory. He likes spending time with us too, even more than I enjoy spending time with the pup!