Dogs As Tools Or Partners: The Hunting Dog

How does the hunter view his or her dog? Do hunters view their dogs as tools only or do they view dogs as something more?

I recently took part in a discussion in the comment section of one of my posts. The commenter was upset about something that I had posted (which is part and parcel of putting ideas on the internet). She went on to state that hunters are a sad lot because of our tendency to discard a dog when he can no longer hunt. The direct quote:

You should care more, because when that "dog won't hunt no more' or has come up lame, the owners, they tend to discard the dogs, tie them to a rail and abandon it, take it to the lake and drowned it or maybe just shoot it in the head, what a great image for your chosen profession, you must be so proud.

A good friend of mine used to be quite involved with rescue. In fact, it was through her that I acquired my first dog. She recounted a conversation she had with the organizers of her rescue. They stated that they were reluctant to home a dog with a hunting family because of the tendency of hunters to view dogs as tools and, as such, give the dog sub-optimal care.

Let me cut to the chase. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hunters do not view their dogs as tools. "Family" doesn't even adequately describe the relationship. The hunting dog is a partner. A friend. Almost like a spouse. It is a totally unique relationship with deep ties that cannot be adequately described by comparing it to another.

Now, understand that I am speaking in generalities. Certainly there are people with hunting dogs who treat them despicably. They do the horrible things that are described above. But those are the exception. These people behave in a way that is less than human and should be penalized to the full extent of the law.

Also, I do not intend to ascribe these negative opinions to every dog rescue out there. There are outstanding dog rescues, such as The Illinois Bird Dog Rescue who take in dogs and evaluate them for their appropriateness for hunting and look to home these dogs into hunting homes. I have no idea what each and every rescue's opinion is on hunting.

Regardless, the opinion is out there, that hunters view their dogs as tools. It is passed on and passed down as so much urban legend without ever questioning the veracity; without ever having spoken with a single hunter about his dog. I'm here to tell you:  it is false. Hunters dog not view their dogs as tool. The hunter's dog is a partner and friend.


The proof of this special bond can be found in the poetry. Yes poetry. dogandhunterpaintingPoems and odes and eulogies written by men who struggle to tell their wives and children of their love will put pen to paper and write some of the most heart wrenching and touching words in honor and memory of their dogs. My favorite is here, which I still cannot read without a catch in my throat. Just google "hunting dog poems", and you will see a different side of things.

Old Dogs

The proof of this partnership can be seen in how hunters treat their old dogs. My last dog had contracted cancer. His time was short. The hunting season was over and my dog was not going to make it to the next. I contacted a hunting preserve called Quarry Ridge out in Lena, IL and told them I needed a final hunt for my sick dog. DSC01496The owner, a hunting dog owner himself, waved the entrance fee and let me hunt birds at cost. We put out 4 birds and harvested 7 that day. The dog was on fire! Two months later he was dead.

I found Quarry Ridge by contacting another dog man who I knew in passing. This man had access to land and birds and stated that if I could not get in at a preserve, he would release his own birds for me until we were exhausted. He offered this because he understands the relationship between hunter and dog. Other hunters bend over backwards and operate at a loss to help a dying hunting dog. Why? Because hunters understand that special bond.

Other Examples

Informal polls have been conducted asking how hunters will lay to rest their partners. Never once did I read anything of drowning or abandonment. Usually these guys want their dogs to die while hunting. The remains are usually to be cremated and placed in a place of honor in the house.

I looked at a Cabela's catalog, trying to sell me dog gear. On the inside cover was a hunter driving a truck with his dog next to him. The man had a smile on his face. The dog was looking out and forward to the next adventure. The text said something of that "unspoken bond". I have no idea what it was trying to sell me, but such a photo is powerful medicine. It resonates with us all.

So, please, if you are of the opinion that hunters view their dogs as tools, why do you think this? Who told you this? Do you know of hunters who hold this opinion? Talk to more hunters. Get more information. You will quickly see that this opinion is not rooted in any fact.

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