YAKIMA, Wash. —Hunting buddy Greg Wilson and I had a great trip to Montana last weekend. We headed to the eastern part of big sky country to hunt pheasants. The weather was great, the hunting was good and even though we spent a total of some 28 hours on the road, coming and going, it was well worth the effort.
Maybe the highlight of the trip was the teamwork we had with our dogs. Greg has a black Lab named Sage, and I had my little Lab Bailey. Both dogs really hunted well, helping us find our limits of pheasants on Saturday and Sunday.
I’d like to show folks some photos of Bailey and the pheasants she pointed and retrieved, but evidently I have a dog that is camera shy.
Now, at this point I am guessing some of you are saying to yourself, “come on Phillips, how does a dog know you are taking her picture?”
Good question. But she does. As soon as we get back to the rig and want to take some photos of our bounty, Bailey will slink off and jump in the truck. I’ve tried and tried to get her to come sit with me and pose for a photo or two, but she just cowers like I’m about to beat her.
By the way, I have never touched her in an angry way. Ever. She is so smart and so sensitive, all I have to do is talk to her sternly if she is not minding and she responds. That’s one of the things I love about her. She gets it.
Well, she doesn’t get everything. She doesn’t get that sitting next to me holding a couple of pheasants for a few seconds so we can get a photo isn’t going to kill her. It’s akin to the stories of those indigenous people of Brazil a century ago who wouldn’t stand to have their photo taken because it was going to steal their sole.
I really don’t know what Bailey believes, but the few times I have gotten her to sit for a brief portrait with me, she looks like I have just scolded her and she totally hates me.
Frankly, I have stopped trying. She despises photo sessions so much it is not worth the effort to try and try to coax her back out of the truck and get her to sit in the right direction so that the world can see her unhappy face in the photo.
The funny thing is, I can get Bailey to stop and sit on a dime, even from 70 yards away. Boom, she sits, when I say “sit.” And I can take a hundred photos of her then. But when I ask her to come sit next to me, and the birds she helped gather, she is outta here.
Luckily, a couple of years ago I asked friend Dianne LaBissoniere if she would like to go with me up to Red’s shooting preserve in the Yakima Canyon and take some photos of Bailey and me doing some training. She agreed, and I guess, because Bailey was so caught up in the fun of locating and retrieving the birds, she didn’t worry about Dianne and her cameras.
Dianne got some great photos and from what I can tell, they are going to be about all I am going to have of me with Bailey, not looking sheepish and wanting to be anywhere else.
On our post hunt photos from this weekend, Greg’s dog Sage sat proudly with him, and the birds she helped find. Bailey, she was peeking out of the back seat window of the truck, hoping like anything I wasn’t going to ask her to come sit with me.
I’ve had other dogs that would sit for hours with the birds we’ve bagged, guarding them like they were gold. My old German longhair pointer would actually growl, and even snap, at other dogs that got too close to HER birds. All I had to do was sit down next to her and we could take pictures all day long.
Bailey on the other hand, once she delivers a bird to me, it is forgotten and she is off to find another. And she could care less what dog might want to come take them when we get back for a photo session.
Every year I get a big wall calendar from Pheasants Forever, with photos of beautiful dogs and birds. I would love to have a photo of Bailey posing with a fully colored rooster pheasant in her mouth, like the photos in the calendar. She is such a beautiful dog. But alas, a fear it will never happen.
If that is Bailey’s biggest drawback, well, I guess I’m fine with it. She is a great little hunter that works hard, points when a bird holds, and won’t quit when it comes time to find and retrieve a downed bird.
When my family and friends ask “where is Bailey?” when they see photos from our hunts, I just tell them she is camera shy.
Poo-poo it if you must, but it is the only explanation I have.
• Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who has written the Northwest Sportsman column for over 25 years. He can be reached at email@example.com