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He's a natural.

THE 2008 HUNTING season has reached its end. I cringe at the thought, but I guess that's normal. That doesn't mean I'll have nothing to do; there will be plenty on my off-season plate.

For starters, I'll winterize the boat and dean the shotguns (twice). I'm sure I'll make a trip south to pull my deer stands so the tree rats can't gnaw at them for the next nine months.

January through March usually passes at a snail's pace, but when Minnesota's lakes and rivers start to thaw and the turkeys start gobbling, it's game-on.


My main focus during the winter and summer months will be on gaining Dude, my six-month-old Labrador pup. I first introduced Dude to Gun Dog readers in this very column in 2008's September issue. There was a bit of confusion as to who was picking up a Lab pup, but editor Rick Van Etten quickly cleared the air and explained to readers that it was I, not him, who would soon be welcoming a new Lab pup to the family.

Well, he (Dude) has arrived and I am happy to report that he's well ahead of schedule. Here's just a taste of his progress:

This past October, a couple buddies and I headed to a piece of private ground where we have permission to hunt ducks. It's a small slough surrounded by timber, chock-full of wild rice and, of course, ducks. After the opening flurry of teal and woodies, I headed back to the truck to get Dude a drink and a stretch. Once he finished, I introduced him to his first bird, a blue-winged teal.

He loved it, couldn't get enough of it. Near the end of his first real-bird encounter, I would toss the bird into knee-high alfalfa, and Dude (at the time, at two months, he was about shin-high) would use his powerful sniffer to retrieve the bird. I was so infatuated with his performance that I missed out on the rest of the morning's flight. I didn't care. It was the most rewarding opening day duck hunt that I've had in my relatively short hunting career.

It was like he had been retrieving for years. I guess it's in the genes, but I never would've expected the performance I got on that day.

By next duck season, Dude will be eagerly awaiting the first pull of the trigger, and so will I.

Watching him work during the past few months has been a joy, and I look forward to writing many more columns about Dude's progress.

In the meantime, Dude and I will be putting in work. He also has a full summer of fishing to look forward to, but he doesn't know that yet. It should be a blast!

Ryan Hamre

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Title Annotation:Passing Shots; six-month-old Labrador pup
Author:Hamre, Ryan
Publication:Gun Dog
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2009
Next Article:E-collar sensitivity.

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