The Other Side of the Uplands: One Dog, Two Dog, Red Dog, Blue Dog

3fbfb240-1c70-4cb7-a5ae-8e84bc944835 Story and photo by Marissa Jensen

A one-dog home has never been my MO. I’ve tried, believe me I have, but it’s never worked out that way. A sucker for the devotion one finds from a dog, I’m even more of a softie for a good story and a pup who needs a home.

Reese, my first bird dog, joined our family in 2017 at the age of three. With me being a new hunter combined with her previous years with other handlers, it took us a couple of seasons to figure each other out. Her genetics and experiences provided necessary guidance during those early years. Good bird dogs create better handlers, and I’m grateful for what she continues to teach me.

Next came the little dog, in size, not personality. Yeti arrived near the end of 2019 at six months of age. Living in a bustling city devoid of habitat and birds, the plan was to join our local NAVHDA chapter for training opportunities, until the uncertainty and challenges of COVID had another plan in mind. Instead, the force known as the abominable snowman spent time with a good friend of mine, as he taught her the intricacies of birds, gunfire, steadiness, and more.
 
Our first season provided opportunities for both dogs to hunt, from Kansas to South Dakota, and finally, back to Nebraska. However, it wasn’t until the end of 2020 when they would finally have an opportunity to share the field.
 
The apprehension and self-doubt of running two dogs together for the first time weighed heavily on my mind. But sometimes you must let the proverbial leash go and see what happens.
 
That morning we hit the ground hard on a revered public access site, as both girls slammed their points within minutes of our walk. Lingering scent, and a covey flush to the north, so we pivoted and moved on.

Reese made wide, sweeping casts, while Yeti worked closely and meticulously to find her bearings. Her confidence grew, as did mine, and we fell into a natural rhythm.
 
The trusty SportDOG handheld buzzed and indicated “blue” was on point 60 yards out. Walking in, I fumbled to recall who wore “blue,” and was met with a steady Yeti and a handful of birds. A quick grin thrown her way for a job well done, and with that, we continued. Shortly after, “red” flashed on point as Reese nailed a large covey of quail 100 yards out.

This drumbeat continued as I navigated the balance of working two dogs, a controller, and my stride as we headed into the next field.
  
There were moments that first day which left us wanting, and moments of glory, but in between was where the magic happened. Both confidence and an understanding of each other’s expectations began to grow. I could locate and respond to each dog with a quick glance at the handheld and toggle of a switch. With each dog identified individually, I knew whether to wait patiently or hustle to their side.
 
Anticipation is high for the upcoming season, with millions of acres of publicly accessible land across the country calling to us. Together our group brings a growing hunter, a seasoned dog in her prime, and a green dog ready to shine. Fall is coming, and we’re ready for it. 
 

Marissa Jensen is Education and Outreach Program Manager for PF & QF. She also writes the Other Side of the Uplands column for Quail Forever Journal.

This story originally appeared in the 2021 Fall Issue of the Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Quail Forever member today!