Waterfowl season in my neck of the woods opened up this past weekend, and like hunters in many other parts of the country, persistent drought and scarce water is forcing me to hunt areas I normally wouldn’t hunt. It’s also forcing my dog to run across areas she’d normally be swimming over. And that’s precisely how my first hunt of the 2012 season ended before it started, with a drought-induced injury to my dog.

Drought-induced injury? Yep. My private water is mostly gone, and the public water I hunt is about half the size it normally is. And when your public water is half the size it normally is, that means your dog is running across exposed lake bottom instead of swimming above it. And that’s how your dog picks up a rusty hook in one of her pads, ending your hunt before it’s over.

So here is today’s “Thus speaketh the voice of painful experience” tip: If your duck water is lower than normal this year, be careful, and watch where you and your dog walk. You might even consider booting your dog if you’re hunting public areas are that low. I don’t much care for dog boots.

They’re a pain, and I always seem to lose them. I much prefer dogs with tough pads, but even tough pads won’t stop a fishhook or a broken bottle. I’ve never booted my retriever (and rarely boot my setters) I don’t know how she would do swimming with them, and trying to do so is probably an invitation to lose one or more expensive dog boots, but if I’m forced to continue duck hunting in what amounts to a junkyard of lost tackle, broken beer bottles and thousands of razor-sharp mussel shells, I may be changing my mind.