by Chastity Crist
When it comes to waterfowl hunting, dogs are not always on top of the list. It’s mostly decoys, calls and setups. But not for me. The reason I became a waterfowl hunter was because of the love for our dogs. I wasn’t born into hunting nor did I ever believe I would ever want to hunt. I started hunting about 10 years ago when my husband, who is an avid hunter and waterfowl guide, introduced me to the sport. After my first trip I was hooked. Watching our chocolate lab, Drake, retrieve was nothing short of amazing. After that, I wanted to learn everything there was to know about waterfowl hunting.
Drake was something special. We raised him from a puppy and my husband trained him. Drake’s passion, desire, and motivation to be the best was something I have never experienced from a dog before. Day in and day out, he did his job. People would always complement us on how great of a retriever he was. We had shared so many amazing memories together not only in the blind, but at home, too.
As the years went by and Drake was getting older, we decided to get another lab and begin the training process. So we got Cody, our yellow lab. Like Drake, Cody had the same drive and motivation to do his best. We never hunted Drake and Cody together until Christmas Day 2011. We decided to take both of them out with us on our annual family goose hunt. Cody was now a seasoned retriever and Drake had been retired for awhile. I’ll never forget that day. We had geese come in and we shot eight geese. Cody burst out of the blind; he was always so excited to retrieve. Drake, on the other hand, tried to keep up with Cody but couldn’t. The first goose that Cody retrieved was about 70 yards out. Drake was about 40 yards away from his retrieving partner. Cody brought every goose to Drake as if he was telling him “here, let me help you”. Drake would then get the goose from Cody and bring it to the blind. We all just stopped and watched in amazement. For never retrieving together before, they did a great job that day.
Drake lost his battle with cancer the following February. That was one of the hardest things I have been through. It broke our hearts. I know God had bigger plans; he needed a good retriever in Heaven, and that retriever is Drake. He will be waiting on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. I have had so many great memories with him in and out of the blind. I thank him for getting me hooked on waterfowl hunting. It’s a passion like no other. Our dogs are another member of our family. I also enjoy being able to share the experience with my husband and my dad. We just had a baby boy, and I can’t wait to get him out hunting and share this experience with him! Hopefully, he will be able to train our next retriever with my husband.