In October, I had the privilege of being in West Plains, and I made a point to take my early morning jaunt in the neighborhood where I lived with my family for nearly 10 years. In those days, my running buddy was Belle, my Weimaraner, and though she wasn’t physically present this particular morning, she was there in spirit. This early morning brought back lots of good memories.
I have fond memories of the Weimaraners I have had over the years — Duchess, Winnie, Willie, and of course Belle. As with any bird dog owner, I have special memories of these companions and the adventures of life and times afield.
Duchess was my work buddy and hunting companion in South Dakota. One of my duties was working on Corps of Engineers land along the Missouri River. There, I spent many a day planting critical winter habitat for pheasants or managing grasslands, and most of the time Duchess was at my side. I have two favorite memories of her. One being the time she got too close to a porcupine and I had to pull out the porcupine quills with my pliers. I knew something wasn’t right when she came busting out of a choke cherry thicket, close to where I was working, at a dead run, shaking her head and pawing at her nose. I knew she wanted them out of her nose in the worst way because she seemed to be in mid-air as I lowered the tailgate on the pickup for her to lie down. Surprisingly, she was relatively patient with me as I gingerly worked at pulling out the quills. The other memory was her retrieval of a wing-tipped pheasant. Hunting a piece cover, I knocked down a pheasant and it landed in a chiseled plowed field. Duchess had pointed the bird and watched the pheasant hit the ground running. Soon the gray ghost was in hot pursuit. It was a fun chase to watch as the scene unfolded across the cloddy field. As Duchess got to the bird, she put her head down to retrieve it and soon the bird and dog were tumbling head over heels. In the end, it was another pheasant in the bag and an indelible memory.
Winnie and Willie were a male and female about the same age, although from different litters. They were inseparable and constant companions of our three young children when we lived in rural Texas County, east of Raymondville. Admittedly, they were probably more pets than strictly bird dogs, but one Thanksgiving Day afield, we hunted quail and woodcock with some success. Good points and retrieves, plus tasty morsels of wild game at dinner, made that an unforgettable Thanksgiving Day.
Shared experiences in the great outdoors are priceless no matter the companion. In my life, adventures with bird dogs across all kinds of landscapes have formed unforgettable experiences. We are fortunate to live in Missouri where varied landscapes exist and where outdoor adventures abound. I am always in constant awe of how lucky I am to live in Missouri where people care so much about their fish, forest, and wildlife resources. The ability to hike, bird watch, fish, and hunt abound across the Show-Me State. Be assured, your Conservation Department and its employees work hard each day to ensure Missourians will have these resources to enjoy today and tomorrow.
The bird dog tradition is alive and well in the Draper household. Grandson Philip just turned 1 year old, and his constant companion is Bea, the 3-year-old vizsla. It will be fun to watch and hear about the outdoor adventures of those two in the years to come.
‑Tom Draper, deputy director
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