Rookie mistake means being dogged by perfection

On Saturday, I took my young English Springer Spaniel Rosie out on her first duck hunt. It was at the river that edges my best friend’s new property.

We had two goals that morning. The first was to see if his stretch of the river offered waterfowling opportunities. The second was to shoot a bird so Rosie could make her first retrieve during an actual hunt.

We answered the first question quickly when a low wood duck drake came screaming in on my side. I quickly raised my gun and pulled the trigger and dropped the bird. Unfortunately, it landed in a place where Rosie could not see it and since the water was flowing steadily, Tom got in the boat and retrieved the duck.

Minutes later, however, a second wood duck came in fast and low about three feet off the water on my side. And again, I shot and folded it.

The good news was that Rosie was able to mark this fall and I sent her out for her first retrieve, which she executed beautifully.

The bad news is that was the last shooting opportunity we had.

Though we met all of our goals, Tom and I looked at each other and then addressed the elephant in the room. I’m talking about my monumental blunder.

“Do you know what this means?” he said.

“Yes,” I replied while hanging my head in shame.

“Rosie – sweet Rosie – has never seen you miss,” Tom blurted out with some dismay.

“I got carried away,” I replied. “I didn’t mean to hit both birds. It just happened.”

“Now you are in for it,” he said.

It was true. I had made the rookie’s mistake of providing my dog with ridiculously high expectations. Which meant from here on in, things could only go downhill.

It was really the worst kind of luck. I’m not saying I’m a bad wing shot, but I will say that I get a thank-you card from the ammunition companies’ every year.

But on that day, you wouldn’t have been able to convince Rosie of that.

Later that day, as I was cleaning my shotgun, she sat at my feet, looked up at me and wagged her tail.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I said.

“She seems to be very happy with you,” Jenn said. “It’s almost a look of pride, admiration and respect.”

It was true. Rosie was basking in the afterglow of the kind of hunting anomaly that young dogs should never be subjected to.

Now, the next time we hunted with another dog, Rosie would say, “Just so you know, my guy never misses.”

And then when I did, she would feel like I let her down and have to work doubly hard to regain credibility, which wouldn’t be easy if a flight of teal or woodcock were in.

No, it would have been far better had I missed both ducks with three shots each, so that Rosie did not harbour such high expectations.

What was I thinking?

Had I just done that, she would have been overjoyed on every hunt thereafter when I actually connected – jumping around with glee like she had won the lottery or something. Instead, from here on in, each miss would just force her to growl at me with frustration in the same way every one of my grade schoolteachers did.

I should have been a little more considerate.

So that night, I took her aside and explained through words, illustrations, and pantomime that daddy didn’t always hit everything he was shooting at, and that he sometimes likes to just shoot holes in the sky.

I hope she believes me. Otherwise, Rosie is going to have a ruff season.

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