If there is anything you should know by now about Judith O’Keefe, it is that she is always up for a new experience, regardless of how foreign it may be to her. Now join her on the front lines of her visit to the Highland Hills Ranch in Condon, OR for a traditional driven shoot. What you have all been waiting for, Part Two!
There are many things about a well executed British Driven shoot that are impressive, the shooting skill required to participate in such an event, those magnificent shotguns, the well trained dogs, and those beautiful birds. But there is one thing that shines above the rest and impresses me most, the bond between a human and dog.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend the day at Highland Hills Ranch, just outside of Condon, Oregon, on the dry side of the state. In a recent blog post I wrote about that day and the various components that make up a driven shoot. Today I want to tell you a little about Michael Coleman and his dog, Charlie. Charlie is a wonderful, little English Cocker, who clearly lives for days like the one we all shared last January. The evening before the shoot I was introduced to Charlie. He was the only dog on the ranch belonging to one of the clients. While the rest of the dogs were tucked away at the kennels, Charlie was resting comfortably on a cozy pad in a room just off the main entrance to the lodge. Michael had just checked on Charlie and given him his evening treat. One of the staff suggested, in a whispered tone, that Charlie might even join Michael up in his room after the rest of the group had retired.
The next morning, shortly after finishing a hearty breakfast, I began to gather my camera equipment. The hunters began to ready themselves for the morning, lacing up boots, buttoning up jackets, and pulling together all that was necessary for a successful shoot. Charlie was right at Michael’s feet. It was obvious this was not his first rodeo. He was rested and ready for a day of retrieving.
Throughout the day, the little eight-year-old cocker performed magnificently. The only pause in the action took place to remove the occasional dried weed from his fur. Poised at Michael’s side, big brown eyes to the sky, he watched and waited. Charlie continued to retrieve one bird after another, until they were piled around Michael’s feet like so many leaves fallen from a tree.
That afternoon, as the sun began to slide behind the hills and the temperatures dipped, both man and beast walked off with such an obvious air of satisfaction about them. A day well spent, a job well done, and so much more gratifying when spent with a friend.