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First Season – Journey of a First Bird Dog

First Season – Journey of a First Bird Dog

A candid and honest look at a first season with a bird dog. 

If there is one thing I hope that people take from this film it is the true reality of bird dogs. We all start somewhere, whether you are the Creative Director of Project Upland or not. Failure is okay, it is part of the journey. This film is meant to break down the walls of unrealistic expectations, show all of us that no one is perfect no matter what resources they may have in this process or outward projection they give. Even the best dog trainers in the country started from nothing.

My dog is not the best. I am not the best trainer in the upland community. However, he is my best, and I do my best, and that is the dynamic we must embrace. Together, my dog and I add up to our own measure of success and failure, never losing sight of the fact that this journey has nothing to do with the rest of the world. It is our world, a world we share often among the greater community, but it is not a competition. Never be afraid to ask for help, feel as if you are being judged, be embarrassed when it does not work out. We have all been there and for those that tell you otherwise, take it with a grain of salt.

My dog is a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. His name is Grim, with one “m” as in Harry Potter. I have many personal reasons that I chose this breed, but absolutely not because “my breed is the best.” Pick a breed that fits who you are, what fits within your goals. Do not get caught up in the falsehood that “mine is better than yours.” Instead, do it for who you are.

“There are many firsts along the road of a gun dog. Some good, some bad, but all part of an incredible journey . . .  It will challenge who you are, define an aspect of life that has been missing. They will steal you heart and lure you further into the uplands. And like Grim, they become part of the fabric we call family.”

I could write a book on the advice I have absorbed to this point about training a first bird dog. But there is one thing I would say above all others: I believe that the best measure in life is to wake up and try and become a better version of ourselves each day. That is the most realistic and accurate measure we can ever apply to our own lives. So goes the world of training a bird dog. Wake up, try to improve, repeat.

I could not have gone from thinking my dog would never point to the moments that are now seared in my memory without the upland community. A trainer like David Trahan, my breeder, the countless people I meet on the road who have always listened and given nonjudgmental advice. I needed more training than my dog. He, after all, was bred to be this way. My most recent motto has been “how to not fuck up my dog” because training ourselves is often the greatest challenge.

It took till the very last day of our first season for me to see Grim point again and again. It was the first day I truly felt like it all came together. Up to that moment it seemed impossible. Each dog is different, and that process may be quicker or slower for some. Do not give up.

“These fall days belong to him now. No longer can I call these cuts my own. The joy found at the silence of a bell and the rise of wings in a deafening forest is like a siren calling. And with the realization of how short their lives are it becomes even more impending. Time will reveal its unfair bargain between my best friend and me. But although I fear that day, you could never trade the now. Our memories together will live on, we will always have our first season.”  

The most selfish thing I will say here is to please share this story, this film. Help us to pull back the veil of bird dog training and inspire more people to take this important journey.

This film was presented by OnX Hunt and Dogtra

View Comments (9)
  • Trailer was great. I can’t wait to watch the full length version! I started with my first Pointer 2 years ago (also a Grif – Abigael). My biggest fear, as you mentioned, was not f-ing her up. It’s almost paralyzing sometimes.

    It’s been great working with our local NAVHDA chapter and learning along the way. Still much to work on but we had a great second season together.

    • 100%. I look back at so many moments from my first season (we now finished our second) and I laugh at how I was questioning the dog. It was all me. When I thought everything was failed and broken all that was needed was time and bird contact. Truly amazing experience that many of the NAVHDA folk helped me through as well.

  • Beautiful and honest film as always. I’m also a first time bird dog owner and my Griffon, Otis, and I are in our 3rd season only on wild birds. I share all of your thoughts. It can be frustrating and challenging but with flashes of success and partnership, mostly rewarding. Thank you for your films, the magazine and your portrayals of the Upland community.

  • A great film that captures the emotion of a bird dog owners first year. Hoping all the time and effort we spend with our pup to expose them to all that is upland hunting will pay off. The anxious anticipation waiting for his first point on wild birds on a real hunt to happen. I watched with special interest because I have a half brother to Grim, his name is Apollo. He has many of the same mannerism’s as Grim. I really enjoy films you are creating, Thanks.

  • This video was absolutely inspiring to me, I just got my very own bird dog last summer, his name is Church, a German wirehaired pointer. The video brought me to tears thinking about the joy and frustration me and him have gone through in preparation for our first season as a team.

  • Well done video and great story! I’m a first time bird dog owner myself trying to learn the sport with a 4 month old GSP. Its refreshing to see this type of film and gives me hope that we will be out there getting some birds together in a short while.

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