An Unlikely Pair of Pheasant Hunters 

A first timer and her dalmatian flush out a bird

Barbecued pheasant breast with garlic cream sauce. Wood-fired pizza topped with roasted pheasant. Pancetta-wrapped pheasant braised in white wine. Such items added liveliness to the menu at my house last fall, but I have yet to claim any credit for procuring the theme ingredient. I’ll admit that I don’t like the idea of killing anything, but I’m also a committed carnivore intrigued by her hunter-gatherer instincts.

I decided to take a cue from our 6-year-old Dalmatian—living proof that you actually can teach an older dog new tricks. I thought my husband had lost his mind when he decided to take our house pet bird hunting. To my surprise, and despite mixed success by other hunters on the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area, my husband and our dog developed an impressive record. They had been hunting four times and they’d brought home five pheasants.

It was time I joined the family in putting food on the table. However, my first excursion left much to be desired. The closer we got to Parma, the darker the already ominous-looking clouds became. On an inclement morning, the parking area was already populated with orange-clad sportsmen and German shorthairs. Drops of rain splatted against the windshield as I stepped out of the truck, wishing our dog’s enthusiasm was contagious. Thirty minutes later, the rain turned to snow, and 30 minutes after that, we admitted failure. As far as I was concerned, we might as well have been hunting Snuffleupagus—we hadn’t seen a feather, let alone an entire pheasant.

One week later, I dedicated one more day in pursuit of my quest to live off the land. Hours passed, and the only thing scrambling through the grass and sagebrush was us. Our dog was wiped out, and my adult-onset ADD was fully manifesting—time to head home. As we meandered in the general direction of the parking area, I had completely given up. That must have been what the pheasants were waiting for. A streak of feathers with a rooster’s distinctive ringed neck scurried across my path.

Our beleaguered pup sprang to life, sprinting ahead of my husband to flush the pheasant. My sluggish response left me between my husband and the pheasant when it finally launched. Dodging bullets, though not a skill I’ve ever practiced, took priority, and I hit the deck a split second before the “ka-BOOM” pierced the air. I looked up in time to see the pheasant drop like lead from the sky, but immediately had to duck again as a blur of black-and-white bounded over me. Heart pounding with excitement, I ran to where the bird landed, arriving as our dog gripped it by the neck and lifted her head triumphantly.

People who own Labs and setters often ask incredulously, “Do Dalmatians make good hunters?” We think so. And with one season under her belt, we have high hopes for next year.

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