I pulled into the driveway at home, mid-afternoon Monday. I had left Firelight Kennels in Kansas the previous morning, so I was punch-drunk from driving, not quite sure what I was seeing. But, after watching the pair of Hungarians waddle off into the lawn, I smiled and said “Welcome to Montana Letti!”. Throughout the long, tough winter, I hadn’t seen a Hun since November, but they reappeared this April day to welcome our new setter pup home.
With every pup comes unbridled hope and optimism. We forget what little brats they can be, only expecting the best traits that our previous bird dogs offered. It is easy to fast-forward in our mind to their first point, their first blue grouse, first woodcock and so on. Ideally, the birds have a great hatch this spring, CRP is fully-funded by Congress and work allows ample time to get in the field. Will it be my best dog ever? Hard to say. With each dog we gain more experience training a pup and have more disposable income to travel to the birdy haunts we have learned over the years. Outside factors such as weather, habitat and wildlife regulations can make an impact. There will never be five-bird limits again on woodcock or a four-month long season on sage grouse. The thick, endless CRP of the pheasant belt in the Nineties might not ever be duplicated. But, there will be birds to hunt somewhere. Letti will have a good life. I guarantee it.