Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

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By Parker Heinlein
Outdoors Columnist 

Ace Knew What He Was Missing

 

October 12, 2022



It’s the season of the backup.

Dot came up lame last week. She may have blown out a knee. I’ll know more when we go back to the vet.

In the meantime she’s supposed to take it easy, which means no hunting, and no pheasant season opener for her.

Enter Ace, my Jimmy Garappolo. The San Francisco 49ers’ aging quarterback wasn’t expected to play this season until hot-shot newcomer Trey Lance broke his ankle in a game against the Seahawks last month.

Jimmy G, like Ace, had been relegated to coming off the bench. Now he’s back under center, and my old dog is back underfoot.

I wasn’t going to hunt him much this season. He’s 11 or 12 now -- we aren’t sure which -- and is beginning to show his age, whatever it may be. However, after leaving him home twice this season he’s been on every hunt since.

Apparently he howled incessantly while I was gone. He knew what he was missing.

I didn’t have to pay much attention to him though. Dot, the rising star, required all my focus. Ace would simply walk with me, never straying too far, while I wore out the tone button on the e-collar transmitter keeping the youngster in range.

Now, with Dot resting at home, Ace leads the way.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Unlike every other bird dog I’ve owned, he paces himself. Always has. Unless the scent is hot or the bird is visible, he’s in no hurry.

It’s a refreshing change from the frantic pace of an athletic young dog. It’s also very quiet. Years of being shot over rendered Ace stone deaf. He can’t hear me if I scream at him from two feet so we hunt in relative silence.

That is, until I stop. Then Ace begins barking and won’t quit until I start walking. He’s never liked to take breaks, and can be quite vocal about it.

Dot will retrieve anything, but Ace is a bit more discerning. Consequently I’ve passed on shots that would require him crossing the creek or swimming for a retrieve. He knows his game and sticks to it, perhaps the reason he’s been a perennial backup.

But he’s always had a nose for birds.

Walking along the creek on our way back to the truck last week, I led him down a cow trail to the water where he could drink. It was hot. We’d walked five miles. Before he reached the creek, though, he made an abrupt turn into a patch of brush and flushed a rooster pheasant that exploded into the air. We watched it fly away.

It was merely a warmup for the backup I suppose. This might just be his season.

Parker Heinlein is at [email protected]

 

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