I thoroughly enjoyed my time back East with the family over Christmas. It's always good to see them, and my sister's kids are at the stage where they are growing up at a staggering pace, and each time I see them they are completely different people. My nephew's vocabulary has grown exponentially in the past several months, and these days the little critter is downright entertaining...to me. It goes without saying that as soon as the mood changes and it's nap time or someone's hungry, Uncle Evan returns them to their creators and vacates the premises for child-proofed quarters.
My Dad and I managed to slip out for a day while I was home, and made the couple hour drive to DeCoverly Kennels, an English setter breeder in northeast PA that is owned by one of my Dad's buddies/old colleagues. These are gorgeous dogs and everytime I visit the place it's all I can do to resist throwing the credit card down and putting my name on the waiting list for a puppy. Dad's friend knows I am considering an addition to the family, so he had arranged for us to spend some time hunting released chukar over two started DeCoverly dogs; one of them his own personal 2-year old orange/white male named Rye, the other a big-bodied 5-year old black/white male named Cody.
Both dogs hunted beautifully, showing off their distinctly different styles, each getting the job done in their own way but with that unmistakable setter class, ingrained through generations of strong breeding and an unyielding drive to point something. It is always a privelege to walk up on one of these dogs when they are frozen solid as the winter ground they cover so efficiently.
Pen-raised birds will always represent a shadow of the real thing, particularly when shooting chukar in a flat, snow-covered corn field in Pennsylvania. Good dog work is always the real deal, however, and I enjoyed watching Rye and Cody do their thing far more than any trigger-pulling that I had a part in that day.
Like I said, everytime I hunt over setters, I want one. It was hard to leave without sneaking one of the little spotted critters out of the kennel in my pocket, but I managed. We wrapped up our afternoon with Dad's buddy over burgers and beers at the local pub, talking about fishing and football and trips taken or those in the works. But mostly we talked about dogs. It was a fine day.