The Merits of Hunting From a Hatchback

A few weeks ago I ran into the old pro retriever trainer who first got me into dog training. He had recently come out of retirement and gotten back into full-time training, spending his winters in Texas and then driving to Montana for summer training. As a result I hadn't seen him in a while, and the first thing he said when we met was, "What's that thing you're driving?"

That "thing" was my wife's old Subaru Forester. I had folded the rear seats down flat and shoved a couple dog crates in the back, along with all my training gear. I replied, "This is my new chassis-mount dog truck. Like it?"

It got a laugh, especially form a guy who did indeed drive a real 10-hole chassis-mount dog truck, but the reality of $3.50 a gallon (and higher) gas can make a man who owns a full-size truck think strange things, things like: could you tow a dog trailer behind a mini-Cooper? Could I fit decoys and a dog crate in the back of a Ford Focus hatchback? And yes, "Can I turn my wife's old Subaru into a dog truck?"

Sounds crazy, but for those of us who must drive to our dog-training and bird-hunting grounds grounds, sky-high gas prices are making many of us re-think our way of doing things. For example, a few weeks back I asked readers for ideas on how to turn my tired old truck into a dog-hauling, bird-hunting machine.

I got some great responses and I'm still going forward with that project, but I'll be honest: lately I've taken to parking the truck altogether and doing a big chunk of my dog training and even my hunting in the aforementioned Subaru. It may not sound like much, but over time the 13 or so extra miles the Subaru lets me wring from every precious gallon of gas starts adding up. Will it replace the truck altogether? No. But for shorter hunting trips where it's just me and one or (if I really stretch it and watch space) two dogs, smaller vehicles are starting to make a lot more sense than they used to.

Gundog owners are particularly affected by spikes in fuel prices because we tend to require more cargo space, especially if you're hunting multiple dogs on an extended trip. There was an interesting thread a while back on Upland Journal about the relative merits of small hunting hatchbacks. If you'd asked me a few years ago if I'd be hunting out of a hatchback, I'd say you were crazy. And yet here I am. And I'm wondering how many of you already have or are at least contemplating a similar switch. How have you managed it? What have you had to change or adapt? How has it affected your training?