WEEKEND ADVENTURES: Hungarian Vizsla: The ultimate grouse dog
Grouse hunting, for me the last few years, has been more like taking hikes through the woods with a shotgun than actually bringing home anything to show for my efforts.
There are a thousand reasons that I can give why things did not go better, but the bottom line is that if I did see grouse, it was long gone before I had my gun or body in position.
Ruffed grouse are a bird that cycle up and down. Every 10 years, they will have a boom year, so the charts claim. Habitat has been provided by the state of Minnesota, including over 500 hunting areas in the ruffed grouse range covering well over 1 million acres. According to the DNR website (www.dnr.state.mn.us) under grouse hunting, there are 600 miles of designated trails.
By far, grouse is our family's favorite woodland treat. So, fine, I enjoy going into the woods and hiking, even if I come home empty-handed. That time to reconnect with myself, nature and my spirituality is valuable. I have also walked many miles with my father, kids or friends, and I can justify each minute as highly valuable, too. However, there is a point where I must face my wife with an empty game bag, and although the occasional snowshoe rabbit is appreciated, it is not a grouse.
The time came for a solution. His name is Scout. My brilliant plan was researching what I thought would be the ultimate grouse dog. There are a lot "breed loyalists" that will argue why their dog is hands-down the best grouse dog in the world, but my mind was set on a Hungarian Vizsla.
Scout is a muscular, active and hard-charging dog that does not know to quit. He is true to his breed. He got excited the first time he saw a gun, and certainly had never seen a gun before that moment. When the trigger was pulled, he went into full scan mode as if he had hunted many times before. He seems to have some powerful instincts. I am really looking forward to seeing him in his full form, pointing grouse and pheasants. I will happily share stories of Scout and myself on adventures to come. (I sure hope he likes ice fishing!)
There is a completely different side to Scout, beside the potential hunting aspects. Scout is loved dearly by my kids. He is the dog they always wanted — until they are trying to do other things at home, he makes a mess, he is running off with their shoe and many other shenanigans.
Scout has given me ample opportunity to really get to know my wife in many new and different ways. At night, when the dog barks and has to go outside, I am reminded of the times I did not get up with our babies years ago, and it is kindly suggested that I am taking all of the turns to take care of him now. Funny how that comes up regarding "my dog."
Not every day of puppyhood will be easy on our family. I am trying to maintain a steady, clear view on the horizon and push through the uncomfortable times. I read something this week, on an online Vizsla post where someone simply said, "I am not sure which was harder: the first six months with my Vizsla or the first six months after he was gone." Heavy words hit home in the tough moments, and they can make you gain a needed perspective.
I do love my dog, and I can't wait to take him out tonight and work on our ranging and start working through some pointing exercises. The challenges make the successes more valuable, (at least I have fooled myself into that lifelong mantra).