It is January and the duck and goose hunt is still in season. So early Saturday morning me and the girls drove to Friesland in the hunting field of Lieuwe who owns Flatastic Platinum Alignment “Gurbe”.
I had not slept much that night as I am starting to experience hunting nerves on beforehand. Many hunters know this sensation – it is a conditioned hormonal response in the body. Hunting generates adrenaline and cortisol in the body. This stress response can be very useful and at the same time very addictive as it makes you feel very present and alive. Apart from that the huge dopamine pay-out when I bring back food for my family assures a very content and satisfying feeling afterwards. The human race is genetically made to collect and hunt, however these days most modern folks seem to live out these instincts in buying gadgets and clothes in amounts that mostly out rise our needs.
Anyway, the conditioned physical response in my body made me very attentive and energetic. My stomach seemed to close off so breakfast did not really want to cooperate.
One of the benefits of a rise in stress in a body is that all senses become more intense. Biologically this has the purpose to increase chances of survival by predicting danger and better at gaining food. Until a certain level, stress is very helpful and and not harmful because the body can easily break down the cortisol afterwards. If your body has a little extra reserve of energy (muscles and fat) the temporary lessening of digestion will not cause any problems for the homeostasis. This works for humans the same as dogs. So in wintertime me and the dogs have a bit more fat on the ribs.
Making it easier for the body we dress warmly, it saves energy. Also the brain will not be distracted by the sense of discomfort in case of cold or heat. This is why assuring that your working dogs are not too warm or cold – especially during winter hunting, is not merely a question of how much we “spoil” them but simply to preserve their bodies and have their minds on the job all day long. Their brains will have more focus and their muscles and ligaments in better shape.
So my dogs have isolating jackets (neoprene) when working below 5 and/or in cold water areas.
The weather forecast had promised wind (which is great for goose hunting). Reality gave us not even a breath of wind so all geese flew too high to come closer to our dinner table. So our morning had been a lesson in patience for both us and Rumi. Nevertheless it was magnificent to see the amounts of geese and so many different kinds too. Being alert and awake due to “hunter’s stress” made the beautiful sunrise even more breathtaking and impressive than I remembered it had ever been.
After the morning “goose time” and a warm cup of coffee it was “duck time”. So I brought both the girls out – Lotte (Flatastic Red Strength) was very happy to join her mother and did a nice job walking at heel. Hunting goddess Diana was with us and 4 big male mallards fell. Lotte was at first a bit careful as the duck was moving it’s wings, so I send Rumi to help. Rumi also got to search for one in a little creek with thorn bushes and wired fence. Lotte followed and learned. Young dogs learn faster during a hunt from the older dogs than from the handler so this hunt was a great opportunity. Lotte got to practice recall a lot as she was keen to run out far. The 3rd duck she retrieved very well to my hand and I could see she was really starting to enjoy the game.
At lunchtime my stomach was still a bit tight and I had been rather busy managing the two eager girls. Lieuwe and I decided to do one last hunt despite the rain and wind coming up, so for educational purposes we decided to bring Rumi and Gurbe.
Rumi soon got in action as we lost a duck in a very big river. As the access was obstructed – we needed to mark well and walked rather far to a suitable entrance. I sent Rumi to the other side and Gurbe followed. The distraction and the difficult water was too much to ask for so we let Rumi work alone and she managed to get the last bird nicely.
A wonderful day to look back at – two Flatastic youngsters had a good bit of training without overwhelming them with excitement and unfortunate situations. Maintaining the steadyness and heelwork and allowing them to hunt a bit. Tomorrow will be a day of preparing the ducks – there will be a good few meals out of them and the feet will be kept to withdraw glucosamine.
Looking at the experience from a stress perspective – my body needed a great deal of healing today- having walked 8 kmrs plus and not eaten enough throughout the day – I wisely took some rest and ate well to support the removal of the stress hormones. Short periods of stress followed by rest and healing is a natural balance that we need to maintain. For animals and humans. Therefore it is a good thing, for wild life too, that Sunday is a non-hunting day.
Thank you Lieuwe for inviting me and the girls again – in gratitude of the beautiful Friesland.