Learning to hunt

Rumi (Flow of Spirits Silver Skipper) awaiting a driven hunt Dec 2021

Hunting can be a sensitive subject in our modern society. In the Netherlands many hunters are confronted with demonstrators and disturbance of wildlife by people who have strong feeling against the old craftsmanship of hunting. I deliberately use the word craftsmanship as it is not a sport. First of all one must have a great deal of knowledge (through study and field time) of Nature and her inhabitants. Furthermore one must be able to handle the technical parts of owning a gun and ammunition – as well as the permits and police checks that a huntsman complies with. On top of that – a hunter must invest in a gun dog with the right inheritance and train his dog(s) weekly to assure that he can use the dog to retrieve any game on land and water. No taken life must be wasted. Then he must know his area well, he is connected to this area all year round – supporting the farmers too. The hunting is just a small part of flora and fauna conservation that takes place in nature by men and women who have their hearts in the outdoors.

Nature and her beauty – farm land and Dutch rivers – Friesland Dec. 2021 – will there be any hares out here for the Christmas dinner?

Another aspect that I find fascinating is how we as humans can eat other living beings, meaning that all animal products that we consume – have to be taken by somebody’s hands. Wether it is killing a cow for beef or a chicken for a Gordon bleu. Or taking the cow’s milk from the kalf for our daily cheese. Somewhere between the range of living on these products and acknowledging that it is on their “cost” that we consume – is how we humans feel about doing this. We have created a society where we do not have to feel this ourselves. We just go to the supermarket and pay for what we want. So there is no emotional regulation in our consuming other than our hunger/greed and financial limitations. He who has taken the life of an animal himself in order to live and provide for himself and his family develops a whole different sense of the value that the specific animal has. It works a bit the same with having your own vegetable garden – you realize how much effort and hard work it takes to grow food.

So back to dog stuff – I was invited to join a group of hunters in the North of Holland: Friesland. A driven hunt. Normally these groups consist of hunters and helpers to drive with our without dogs. Today we were short of helpers due to the covid situation and the foreman hunter decided to continue with a smaller group, meaning a narrower chance of bringing home meat for the Holidays.

Wild duck with brussel’s sprouts and red wine-fig sauce and mushrooms

So I drove to the beautiful North and had brought Rumi with the idea to do a bit of retrieving in case we were lucky to “harvest” some game like hare, pheasants and or ducks.

Flat farmland on a frosty December morning

However due to the short amount of helpers and the large area to cover – I figured today would be a good day to see if Rumi could find her “HPR blood” and do some hunting like spaniels and pointing dogs. This is a bit tricky because Rumi is rather “hot” when working and I was reluctant at first. I was afraid of losing contact with her and unsure wether I could convince her to hunt sideways and not run forward towards the hunters. We have never trained this but I have always tried to get her to follow the direction of my body when walking her. So I did the exact same and called her back when the distance became to far. Guess what – flatcoated retrievers can work on a driven hunt. I was so amazed how easily she adapted to the situation and she just ran as if she has done so all of her life: on frozen soil, on grass land, on chopped off corn, in the forest, jumping small rivers and checking the covers for scent. It was pure pleasure to watch. Flatcoated retrievers have HPR (hunt-point-retrieve) blood in their vains from when the breed was build. But this has never been their purpose and they are today expected to only retrieve. On field trials one will be disqualified if she does a point. Well, Rumi pointed several woodcocks – she found several pheasants (no pointing here) and she retrieved 3 blind duck retrieves, one very difficult one in the water, or rather on ice under a tree just a meter offshore of an island on the wrong side of the wind. So there I had it all coming together: ability to work on her own – still following my directions – despite her sensitive shoulder ligament ploughing through ice. What an amazing girl she is. I felt so humbled of what she showed me and I felt utterly proud of what we were able to show of the breed.

Queen of the Friesian fields

After a cold day in tough terrain – I checked my iPhone: 19.639 steps – 13,6 km of walking in an average speed of 4,3 km/hour. I do not even dare to think how many k’s Rumi has run but today she is rather lazy.

Yesterday was not only a flatcoated party – I had the pleasure of enjoying two German long haired HPR’s one younger dog who had a great hare retrieve in a river – just sent Rumi in case he needed encouragement but he was sure of his case and Rumi respected his turn. Beautiful ending of the day. I was so filled with joy and thankfulness for this experience. In the evening I contemplated on all the efforts of the farmers (saw again grassland eaten to mud by geese), the hunters, the dogs and all the training, preparation and precautions.

Honoring the spirit of the animals – reminding ourselves that they gave their life and being proud of the craftsmanship of hunting – in my case the dogmanship.

I concluded – no man or woman would out of pure greed for game be able to sustain this amount of effort unless there is a held love for Nature. Thank you for this insight and appreciation. Thank you Lieuwe for inviting me to be a part of your little group of hunting friends for a day. And a special gratitude towards the Frisian land for her beauty.

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