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Man’s best friend is an excellent hunting partner, even when it outhunts you

  • Author: John Schandelmeier
    | Alaska Outdoors
  • Updated: September 19
  • Published September 19

A man walked down the road with his dog at heel. As he walked, he realized that he had died. The dog by his side was his favorite dog from long ago.

A white picket fence bordered the road and soon he came to a wide paved drive that led to a golden staircase with a great golden arch. A man leaned by the arch with a notepad and pencil.

“Where am I?” the man with the dog asked.

“Welcome to heaven,” said the guy with the notebook. “Come on in.”

“Can my dog come in?”

“Sorry, no dogs allowed here.”

The man with the dog turned away and continued down the road. Soon he came to a tiny gravel path. A man sat by a tree reading a book.

“Where am I?” the man with the dog asked the reader.

“You’re in in heaven,” said the man with the book.

“Can my dog and I come in?”

“Certainly, come on in and make yourselves at home.”

The man pets his dog for a few moments and then asked the reader, “What’s the place down the road with the golden gate?”

The guy closed his book and smiled. “That’s hell.”

“Doesn’t it make you mad that they claim to be heaven?”

“Nope, they weed out the people who would leave their best friend behind.”

Fall hunting season is winding down and I see a lot of folks who leave their best friend behind. Hunting without a dog is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the peanut butter. There is no substance.

It takes four or five years to really read a good dog. They can’t tell us what they are seeing, but as dimwitted as we humans are, we can eventually figure things out. One doesn’t need a wire-haired pointer or a trial-trained Lab. Yorkies will find and run to a downed ptarmigan. German Shepherds retrieve ducks as well as Labradors.

The Shepherd will get water-logged and the little Yorkie won’t be able to drag in the bird. But both dogs will serve the purpose and get the job done. Think about it: they both trained you to let them in and out when they scratch at the door. Who goes to the store and buys dog food?

In bygone days, I had a dog who would only get excited about a bull moose track. Cows were of little interest because he quickly figured I was not going to shoot one. What messed him up was antler restrictions. I never figured out if he couldn’t read a 50-inch bull or if he was just mad about the regulation.

Folks who don’t know much about dogs will tell you dogs can’t see animals very far off unless the animal is moving. That’s bunk. I have been embarrassed by dogs many times ... and me with the binoculars.

Once my wife and I sat on a hill glassing for moose. It was not quite full light and I was looking hard at two moose in a pond, attempting to grow antlers on one or the other.

“Look at Maudie," my wife said.

The dog was staring at a swamp 500 or 600 yards distant. I couldn’t see anything, but I put the binocs up anyway. Sure thing, on the edge of the meadow, barely visible in the dim light, was a big set of moose antlers. The antlers finally moved and I realized they were attached to my winter supply of moose meat. That dog could see.

Your uneducated “city” house dog, be it a short-legged dachshund, a half-blind cairn terrier or Pedro the Taco dog, is a better hunter than me. He only needs to come to call and voila, you have a hunting companion extraordinaire. The smaller they are, the less of your candy bars they will eat.

My German Shepherd got tired of me working on the house all day and not looking for a moose, so he went out and brought one home for me. Of course, he expected me to skin and quarter it — no kidding. But that’s another story.

It’s raining in the day and snowing at night along the Denali Highway. The caribou are starting to move. Bring cold-weather jackets and full rain gear — and don’t forget your best friend.

John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives near Paxson with his family. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and a two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.

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