Duchess, Part 2: First Hunt

My husband is nearly bursting with pride. He has a hunting dog!


A few months ago, when my husband and I decided we wanted to get another puppy, we began discussing what breed we would get. When he told me he wanted an Irish Setter, I was a little hesitant about it. Although I wanted a bigger dog, I was nervous about learning to manage the excessive energy; but my husband wanted a dog he could take hunting with him.

So, an Irish Setter it was.

Since neither of us have ever trained a hunting dog before, this is a totally new experience for us; but it has been a lot of fun! We bought Duchess a stuffed pheasant and some bird scent to put on it. We practiced in our yard by hiding the pheasant and having her find it. Her pheasant is by far her most favorite toy!

This weekend, we took a trip to a cabin bordering Pennsylvania State Game Lands, so Zach could go deer hunting. While we were there, though, Zach decided to take Duchess out bird hunting to see how she would do. I am not a hunter, but I wanted to tag along and watch. I borrowed a pair of my husband’s camouflage hunting pants and an orange safety vest and hat. After bundling up in our hunting gear, we drove to a game trail that goes into the hunting land.

As we pulled in and parked, we saw a State Game truck driving back the trail with a stack of wooden crates in the back. Peering out of the crates were pheasants! We happened to be hunting on the day that they were stocking pheasants on the state game lands! Coincidence? I think not. It was one of God’s little blessings. It made for a perfect first hunt for Duchess!

Watching our very inexperienced, six-month old dog on her first hunt was unlike anything I have done before. It’s amazing how heritage and breeding play such a strong role in a dog’s instincts and personality. Duchess needed little instruction or encouragement; she simply knew what she was supposed to do. It was exactly what she has been bred to do. Many of the traits that make her difficult and frustrating to train are vital when it comes to hunting. Her insistence on sniffing and searching every smell is annoying on walks but essential for finding quarry. Her doggedness and intensity make for challenging obedience training; but without those traits, she would never have the determination to find, flush, and retrieve birds.


With freshly stocked fields along a two mile stretch, we were guaranteed to have some action. I loved watching her sleek, red body bounding through the tall grass, sniffing and searching, with her long, sturdy legs carrying her tirelessly through the fields. By closely watching her body language, it was easy to see when she picked up a scent. A well-trained hunting dog will “point” to a bird in the grass and hold that point until the hunter gives a command for the dog to “flush” the bird into the air. Duchess hasn’t learned to wait for a command yet, but that will come with time and practice. For now, we are satisfied that she knew what she was looking for and successfully found and flushed the birds.

All in all, she flushed six birds, four of which my husband and his brother were able to shoot and bag. Zach told me that he is going to mount one of the birds from Duchess’s first hunt. 🙂 It looks like I will have to find a few good recipes for using pheasant meat in the future, because Zach will most definitely be doing this again!

Here is Duchess surveying her quarry after we returned to the cabin.





I must say, after being out in the field hunting with our dog, I just may have found a new hobby. Before this, I would have said I am not a hunter for three main reasons: it’s cold, it’s boring, and I do not have the heart to shoot animals. I found bird hunting to be different, though. It is still cold; but unlike deer hunting, you are able to walk and move around to stay warm. It’s definitely not boring, because you are hiking, talking, and do not need to be completely silent. And as far as the shooting part goes, I think I could do it. My fear of hunting deer is that I would shoot a deer but not kill it. I, as a very tender-hearted person, could not handle knowing I caused an animal unnecessary pain and suffering. With bird hunting, though, if I would hit the bird, there is very little chance I would lose it. If a bird is hit, it falls. If I would miss a bird, it would go on unscathed to live another day.

Zach, already thrilled with Duchess’s successful hunt, was even more excited to hear me say I would go bird hunting. He would like nothing better than to share his love of hunting with his wife. So, until this time next year, I plan to get a hunting license and hunting gear to go out hunting with Zach and Duchess. Zach promised me that he will mount the first bird I shoot, so we shall see how long that takes! 😉

Just for your enjoyment, here are more pictures from our hunts this weekend. You can’t see Duchess in most of these pictures, because she is bounding through the tall grass somewhere. Spending time outdoors hunting with a dog is truly time well-spent!















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