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Bonds of Boykinhood

I was just heading east back to Virginia from my yearly duck hunting trip with my

friends when my phone buzzed. “Add a few days to that ND duck trip and we

could get you to our farm land there.” That was the Facebook message I

received from some random guy named Ryan, inviting me out to hunt with him

and his friends. I responded with “I may do that next year!” Despite a lot of

negativity, there are some positive parts of social media. Apparently Ryan had

seen my post about the trip. At this point, I’d just been doing the two week grind

that is freelance hunting out of state. I figured I would add upland to next year’s

docket. I’d never spoken to Ryan before that conversation, he invited me out

west purely based on the fact that I have Boykins.


The bird dog gods were smiling on me, and a few weeks later I realized I had a

number of days off in November around Thanksgiving. Well, what better day to

celebrate Thanksgiving than to be away from work with my Boykin right?

Traveller at this point had only been exposed to few dove hunts and one

preserve hunt in Virginia, but here was an invitation to upland hunt…or wild bird

hunt…the mecca…that is North Dakota.. If nothing else, it would be a learning

experience for him as well as myself. As the old phrase goes, you need birds to make a bird dog.


Once I looked at my work schedule, I figured we could make it work. I sent Ryan

a message and told him I had some open days, he told me to drive on up and

he’d meet me. Traveller and I would spend a week in upland bird boot camp.

How’s the old saying go? The best laid plan of mice and men often go awry? I

soon get another message from Ryan stating, “I won't be able to make it back up

there but [I] just messaged my best friend and hunting buddy and asked him if

he'd be willing take you/get you on my family land if that's something you'd be

interested in.” Unfortunately, Ryan’s older dog was just diagnosed with cancer

and justifiably, he was unable make it. Instead, he put me in touch with his friend,

Patrick, that lived in the area. I reached out to Patrick and made plans for him to

take me and Traveller on a few hunts and show me some of the ropes of upland

hunting in North Dakota. Without Ryan and his veteran Boykin Paco, the

pressure was definitely going to be on Traveller and I to find the birds but it was a

challenge we eagerly couldn’t wait to take on.


I did my research and found a small town which had an even smaller motel, but it

did have a bar, and figured that’s the place I will set up my basecamp. Truck

packed up, stocked up on pork rinds, Traveller and I headed to the closest

McDonald’s for our favorite road trip snack: chicken nuggets; and we were on the

road.


Patrick, Traveller, and I had an amazing first North Dakota wild bird hunt filled

with memories and stories that we will tell into our ripe old grey age, but I don’t

need to tell you about bonds of hunting, nor the bonds created over the love of

bird dogs. What I would tell you is to be a positive active member in your Boykin

Spaniel Society Chapter or a good ambassador for our Little Brown Dogs on

social media. There is a lot of great people out there and a lot of great resources.

I went from a random Facebook message, to nervously meeting Patrick that

morning at a nowhere-small-town cafe, to now joining these guys on an annual

decade long hunting trip where we cram like sardines into an RV chasing

Hungarian partridge, sharptail grouse, and pheasants across the North Dakota

prairie. Thanks to Ryan’s first invite, I was able to meet a great group of guys,

that so long as I’m still allowed (looking at you Ryan), I’ll continue to hunt with

year after year.


A lot of breeders will have specific pick-up days for their litters. Unfortunately,

with my travel schedule I had to wait a few more weeks to make it up to Indiana

to pick up Traveller so I did not get to meet a lot of his littermate’s owners. Also

through facebook I came to know Brett, who has two Boykins, one being

Ruby, Traveller’s littermate. After a few years of messaging back and forth on

social media, we ended up booking a trip to Nebraska. I would drive from Virginia

to Pennsylvania where I’d pick Brett up and one of my other lost soul’s to

hunting. If I remember correctly, Brett’s wife made a comment about just hopping

in a van (yes, that was our rental car) to make a 24 hour+ drive across the

country with two guys he’d never met in person. Luckily, despite his company

name of “Grumpy Duck”, all went well and we had a great few days on the North

Platte River. Since then there have been additional waterfowl trips and a few

turkey trips taken with each other. My point in all this is that while the negative

posts and arguing on social media tend to get the most attention, there is truly a

lot of good that can come out of it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone or

shoot them a message. While we may only see each other one week out of the

year, we talk every day, and have created lifetime friendships over Swamp

Poodles in fields and sloughs. Yes, there is an unspoken bond between hunters

and bird dog owners, but our Boykin world’s bond is even tighter.


“So much has been written about camaraderie that the word has lost its edge,

like a knife that’s cleaned one too many birds since it’s last sharpening…Hunting

is such a special part of the year, such a special part of my life, that it is fitting

that the majority of my friends are my hunting friends. It took me a while to realize

and accept that, but as the years march on, it makes more sense.” (“Ghosts of

Autumn”, Joel Spring)



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