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Aging Bird Dog? Blue Grouse Is The Perfect Retirement Hunt

Aging Bird Dog? Blue Grouse Is The Perfect Retirement Hunt

As I read back through the many blogs I have written for Mossberg, I can watch the transition of my faithful Thaddeus over the years. I started blogging when he was a young dog. He is now eleven. How did that happen so fast!?

As anyone who hunts behind their beloved dogs, watching them age and decline is heartbreaking. While their hearts and their want remain big, their bodies just can’t do it as they get older. The first day I had to leave Thaddeus at home to bring Nathan, our younger male hunting solo, I literally had some tears.

This dog had given me his very best all of his life. No ask was too much for him. His desire to serve was not by duty, but rather by love. I felt as if I had betrayed him by leaving him behind, but over the last year, he became nearly crippled for several days after exertional outings.

I also owed Nathan the chance to grow and learn on his own.

Older dogs begin to decline physically, but they also begin to lose their hearing, some vision, and even sense of smell. I have witnessed all of this with my aging dog. Additionally, swimming for waterfowl can also become more strenuous as they age. The heart is there, but dog gone it, their bodies just can’t do what they used to do.

I decided to take Thaddeus on some blue grouse hunts by himself. While grouse hunting is adventurous, it is not nearly as strenuous as other bird hunts such as pheasant, ptarmigan, and jump-shooting waterfowl. And I figured that if he did not have the competition of a younger dog, he could take it easy.

Talk about a home run.Thaddeus - mossbergofficialsite 

On our first official geriatric outing, I loaded Thaddeus up in my jeep and headed to the high country where I knew blue grouse were plentiful. It wasn’t long before we left the jeep that we dusted up a large male. The shot was made and the bird fell, clearly lethally hit but still flapping.

As I presumed, Thaddeus became excited by the gunshot, but he could not hear the bird that was only about 20 yards away. I patiently let Thaddeus work his way around until he located the bird. As mentioned, his nose isn’t nearly as powerful and his vision is no longer what it was. It was somewhat heartbreaking to watch him struggle to locate the bird, but when he finally connected with the bird I could see his heart was so full! He retrieved like a champ and was clearly so happy doing his job.

We got two more birds that morning and he slept all the way back home. He was still very stiff after that small outing, but any bird dog owner understands the happiness in the eyes of a dog who has had a good day in the field. I knew then that I owed it to him to let these hunts be solely his. Nathan had time and could become the lead with pheasants and ptarmigan.

I took Thaddeus out two more times this fall and the results were the same. Yes, he was slow. Yes, he was stiff. Yes, he was in the element that made him happiest.

Blue grouse hunting with this old dog of mine gives us just a little more time together doing what we love best. I will take this faithful old boy until the day I no longer see the joy in his eyes. It is, after all, the perfect hunt for an aging bird dog. 

About the Author

Kirstie Pike

Kirstie Pike is the founder and CEO of Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women, the leading edge for women’s performance hunting gear for nine years and running.
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