Jim Beverly, a hunting retriever trainer from Oakfield, hosted his second annual Companion Retriever Hunting Challenge at Godfrey's Pond in Byron on Saturday. The challenge is primarily for retrieving-trained dogs who are more often pets than hunting companions.
Every so often I stole a glimpse heavenward. The early a.m. sky was crystal clear, the lightshow overhead spectacular. Orion, Pleiades, Cassiopeia and both Dippers stood out clearly while the spiral arm of the Milky Way appeared to be a misty vapor spanning the dark expanse.
Doug in foreground, Jim in background, setting decoys.
The canoe is loaded to the max with decoys, packs, shotguns. Amid the gear sits Sadie, Doug Harloff’s chocolate Lab. I’m seated in the bow while Doug mans the stern. Some distance ahead of us a small beam of light pierces the darkness - a headlamp worn by Jim DiCasolo. Situated in his canoe are more decoys and Quaker Hill Dee Dee, Jim’s chocolate lab.
Doug looking for incoming geese.
A forty minute canoe ride – including one portage – took us to our destination, a brushy clump of growth that would serve as a blind. Before getting situated there was the business of setting out decoys. Already the first hint of light penetrated the horizon, bringing with it silhouettes of ducks zipping past at close range.
Sadie doing what she does best.
With the last of the decoys set, both canoes were then pulled into the “floating island” and covered with camo-mesh. As daylight increased it became easy to identify ducks on the wing. Mallards, blue wing teal, black ducks, woodies and even pintails were on the move. But duck season was still a month away.
Jim DiCasolo scans the sky.
We were here for geese, and once the first flocks were heard, Doug and Jim went to work on the calls. Both felt it would be a spell before they got any response, as the honkers were heading for the feeding grounds. We looked forward to their return trip.
Before long a pair of Canada’s came in, dropping into the decoy set. The shotguns barked and a second afterward, Sadie and Dee Dee leapt in, swimming to the fallen birds.
Dee Dee, 11 years old and still going strong.
It was obvious both dogs had been taught well. Whenever a flock of geese came into view, or even low flying ducks, the dogs locked in, following intently with their eyes. Dee Dee and Sadie were a joy to watch, and on this day, six hours spent standing in thigh deep water passed quickly.