A guest post by Field & Stream Deputy Editor Jay Cassell
Last month, just before Christmas, I was offered the chance to go duck hunting out of Bay Flats Lodge in the Seadrift, Texas, a picturesque town on San Antonio Bay, west of 20-mile-long Matagorda Island. Each morning we’d get up at 4, grab a quick breakfast, then blast off in airboats to blinds strategically located around the bay. Our quarry was mostly pintails early in the morning, then redheads in the late morning. Green-winged teal, gadwalls and spoonbills also ended up in our daily bag. That’s not why I’m writing, though. I’m writing because the first morning, I saw a black Lab—curiously named Red, who’s 2 years old— make the most unbelievable retrieve.
One of our group of four hunters knocked down a redhead pretty early in the morning. It wasn’t a solid hit, and when the bird hit the water, it started swimming toward open water. Red, shivering from excitement, got the ‘go’ sign from his owner-handler, TJ, and dove into the water, swimming hard through the decoys and out after that duck. Soon he was 50 yards out, then 100. As he neared the bird, it took off, trying to fly, staying just feet ahead of its pursuer. 200 yards, 300 – before we knew it, both bird and dog were specks on the horizon.
“He won’t come back without that bird,” TJ, predicted. Time passed. While Red was gone, now apparently chasing the bird along the shore of an island at least half a mile away, a flock of pintails came in and we downed a few.
Congratulating ourselves on our shooting, someone yelled, “Whoa, here comes Red.” And there he was, just a dot in the water, heading our way, a bird obviously in his mouth. It took him a full 20 minutes to get back to us; when he did, he promptly delivered the drake redhead into TJ’s hand, took a breath, then dashed back into the decoys, picking up the two pintails he had noticed on his way back.
I have always respected Labradors, but that retrieve was just over the top. What persistence! That made the morning a success, even if we hadn’t taken more ducks. If you want to check some photos for the rest of my hunt, click here or on the photo above. If you’ve got some good dog retrieval stories of your own, we’d definitely like to hear about them. – Jay Cassell