Well, I was happy as could be with my Honey Half-lab on our caribou hunt. She will be 3 sometime in October, best guess when I adoipted her (or vice versa - she Borged me!) June last year. Village dog out of Bethel, and about as ignorant as they come. She knew her name, come, sometimes "no" if she felt like it, very needy, uncertain(read cowering) , gun and noise shy. That was it. Can't learn a lot in 18 months on a chain, with, I think, fire crackers thrown at her and shot with BB guns.... she wasn't house broken either.
Boy, has she come a long way! I worked in tiny increments on the gun shy (the loud noise abatement pretty much came with our safe environment- neighbors shooting guns, etc). She finally had 3 grouse hunts in last fall with the pellet rifle- still haven't worked her with .22 subsonic, which I meant to this summer, but never got to. First hunt I had to teach her everything. Second hunt was "I got this!". Third hunt was "How the hell did you miss? It was right damned there!"
Last fall I called a bull moose that was coming in, when she yipped softly several times to let me know "there's 'things' out there", with predictable results. She was still a nervous Nellie....
On our caribou hunt a short time back, I'd taken the rifle to stalk a bull a half mile away while my wife watched from the slope above, with our packs and dogs (We have a 5 month old Dachshund ). While I was funning around down there not getting the bull, two groups of caribou came right by her. She had the dogs lay down next to her and "shhhh"ed them to quiet. The Wiener is sharp- and learns by imitation of Honey very quickly!
I'd totally blown eyeball range estimation (Leupold 800i would not 3 times range it - and yes, it should have - just wasn't picking up the target, cold, low batteries - dunno- still haven't worked with it. Tho it worked later in the hunt) and (mostly) missed that sucker 4 times (more yarn here - but wife killed him next day - had a bullet crease inches above a front hoof) . I'd not check-sighted the rifle prior to the hunt (more story there- but basically flat out of time), so naturally I lost all confidence in the rifle (had to be the rifle, right?
. ), and was headed back down to the truck to sight in- yes I had 6 rounds yet, but no good way to check sight while on the mountain, and half a box of ammo still in the truck. (It was dead on later that evening - my 250-300 hundred eyeball estimate was actually well over 400 apparently ..I suck at over-water and alpine distances).
Taking Honey, water bottle and my near empty fanny pack, I set out for the truck, while wife opted to stay on the ridge with Chako and watch the floor show until my return. Wife had made us lunch for the mountain - but it was still in the truck, hence the fanny pack. (When one has a good CF going...... ride it for all it's worth!
). Just above timberline I saw caribou topping out on the bench just below, to my right, looking like they would pass right in front of me. They did, about 100 yards out. How far off could the rifle be? - I decided to chance one shot, given opportunity. Moving several yards to a good sitting position where I could use my knees for rest, I called Honey and told her to lie down. Thanks to the wife's training a half hour before, Honey tucked herself in tight against my left thigh not making a sound ( I didn't even shhhh her) nor a move.
When I raised the rifle to shoot, she scooted back a yard or so, on her belly. She REALLY doesn't like being anywhere near the front of a rifle, tho much more tolerant now.. Her movement or mine started the caribou milling, but it was just too late for that bull. Bullet went precisely to aim-point.
When I looked around, she was several yards farther back, likely because of the gunshot, but she hadn't run for distance as she would have when I first got her and even handled a rifle.
Her tucking in and quiet with minimum command really impressed me. She can learn fast, and well.... if she wants to.
Did I mention I thought she wasn't the sharpest tool in the box when I first got her?
Pure ignorance, on both our parts. I think now she is ranked right up there with my first and last purebred Labs for smarts - just at a disadvantage for not having any stimulation for the first 18 months of her life. And of course, our catch-as-catch can OTJ "training", with no regimen at all. She is just a "family" dog - that she is turning out to be an avid hunter is gravy. With some real training..... ????
Sure, she tried to chase caribou a couple times, but always stopped and returned immediately on command, once so fast she darned near somersaulted at my "no" yell.
I think I'll keep her...... she is such a help.....