OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou’ll recall that I had just fired and watched an injured bird sail away over the horizon…

The three of us met up and Katie says “it dropped right over here, right?”

“No, it flew way over to that other pond” I replied

“No, I’m pretty sure it dropped right around here”

While we argue about where the duck dropped, Wylie is running rampant, nose to the ground, searching for some fallen fowl.

“I’m pretty sure there’s nothing here, but if you think you saw it drop, we better look” I said, half humoring her but also knowing that she’s usually right, so I figure I better lend her hallucinations at least a bit of credence.

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“Hunt em up, Wylie.”  He remembers this command and scours the prairie, busting through the dry grass until he finds it.  A hen mallard, the unseen, unexpected and accidental victim of a poorly aimed twofer hangs dead in Wylie’s mouth as he excitedly retrieves his first duck in two years (almost) to hand.  We don’t shoot hens on purpose, but this beautiful bird, sacrificed by my errant pellets, will make for a fine dinner.  With one bird in the bag, we make our way towards the pond and the injured drake.

It’s a very large pond, nearly five acres, and surrounded by a rim of thick cattails.  This will be a challenge for Wylie.

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“Hunt em up” we tell him again, and even on a blind retrieve, twenty minutes after the last shot, he goes into hunt mode and tears through the cattails, searching for some unknown, unseen bird at the command of those three simple words.  Ten minutes go by and he shows no sign of letting up.  He is truly in his element, searching for a hidden quarry, sniffing, bounding, tail wagging a hundred miles an hour.

Excited to see such vigor in my retriever, but also starting to lose a bit of hope for finding the injured bird, we carry on.  We make it all the way around the pond and when we’re almost back at the beginning, almost completely out of hope, Wylie makes a beeline for a small patch of cattails that form an island twenty yards off the bank.  He sticks his head into the vegetation and the speed of his tail wagging increOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAases rapidly.  Hope returns.

He pulls his head out, takes another tack and the next thing I see is that beautiful red dog with a beautiful greenhead mallard in his mouth swimming my way.

Throw in another blind retrieve from the uplands, and this would go down as Wylie’s best day ever on the duck pond.  Somewhere in the recesses of that little brain of his, he retained all that he ever knew about duck hunting.  In fact, he hunted with an excitement, relentlessness and concentration that I’ve never seen in him before.  The boy’s got potential.