|George Gordon and His Bird Dogs|
|George Gordon and His Bird Dogs|
With 18 pointers and two English setters, one former cowboy’s passion for quail hunting is evident in his love for bird dogs.
"I used to be a cowboy before I got old," joked George Gordon, whose Tuskegee farm is still home to two horses.
Gordon served in the Navy as a Boatswain’s Mate until 1966, and it was only then that he started quail hunting, while he was working for the government, which he did for 30 years.
Born in Tuskegee, Gordon and his wife, Della, have lived in the same house for 17 years. While Della also loves the bird dogs, her favorite animal is a black lab named Puncho who is constantly at her husband’s side.
As a child living with his two sisters and two brothers, Gordon loved to hunt, and often hunted deer.
"I just love to shoot," Gordon said. "They say it’s the sport of kings."
Having been retired for 10 years now, Gordon can take advantage of quail-hunting season from about November to February, and he makes hunting trips almost every other day.
When Gordon heads out on a quail hunt, he usually takes five or six dogs with him and hunts with them two at a time. Each trip lasts about three and a half hours, and trips are shorter with younger dogs.
Gordon usually goes hunting with a friend, and between the two of them they can shoot as many as 15 each.
He said he enjoys going with friends because the sport is so laid-back, but much of the joy of the sport is in taking care of the canines.
Though he trains his pointers and setters to point, bag and retrieve, Gordon says, "You can only teach a dog to be obedient." Bird dogs point instinctively, and he says he only guides them in doing what they were born to do.
Care of the more than 20 dogs is fairly labor-intensive. Kennels must be washed twice a day, and in addition to always providing fresh water and food, Gordon must also provide the dogs with shots regularly.
The dogs are fed Sport Mix High Energy, which Gordon buys from Taleecon Farmers Co-op, along with any other supplies he needs, such as jeans, dog feeders and dog boxes. He said he likes the Sport Mix because it is small and granulated, so it is easy for the dogs to eat from the feeders. "They do real good on it," Gordon said. "It seems to keep them in pretty good shape."
Each dog has a formal name and a call name. Formal names are used for shows such as the Cox Covey Classic, but Gordon uses their call names on a daily basis.
Gordon’s most award-winning dog, GG Mac, or Max, came to be that way because he is
exceptionally obedient. Gordon said where most of these types of dogs will run off if let out of their kennels, Max will stay.
"I try to touch every one every day," Gordon said. "I never beat, kick or abuse them. They just want to love you that much more."
The dogs in their kennels are easily excited by human interaction and sometimes get so excited they climb out, Gordon said. For the most part, though, they just like to show off how high they can jump.
The dogs are not overexposed to hunting, Gordon said. He tries to keep the dogs on a schedule that helps them continue to see it as a fun activity and not get bored.
Gordon said in the days of hunting wild quail, the hunter would simply follow the dog to the birds. Today, though, most hunters raise their own birds, and Gordon is no exception.
Gordon said he keeps about 500 quail. When they are first born, baby quail must be kept in high temperatures of about 100 degrees. Slowly the temperature can be dropped to acclimate them to the current temperature, but during the first few weeks of life the birds require a great deal of attention.
When it is a day old, a baby quail is only the size of a quarter, and it can fly after about two weeks. The quail is fully mature at 16 weeks.
"It’s amazing to watch them," Gordon said. "Looking at them every day, you can almost see them grow."
Gordon uses Game Bird Starter as the birds’ first feed, then moves them up to Game Bird Grower. By the time the birds are 10 or 11 weeks old, they are feeding on Game Bird Flight Conditioner, which keeps them lean. He gets all of his feed from Taleecon Farmers Co-op.
Gordon said he thinks male quail, with their black and white stripes, appear more majestic than their female counterparts.
Gordon usually takes the birds out 20 at a time per box. Sometimes he lets them fly, other times he may put a few to sleep on the ground for the dogs to find.
As a member of the East Alabama Bird Hunters Association, Gordon and his bird dogs have won several awards in field trials, including those sponsored by Taleecon Farmers Co-op and Sport Mix Dog Food Company.
"We haven’t captured first place yet, but there’s no doubt in my mind that we will," Gordon said. "It’s only a matter of time. I’ve got the dog power to do it."
Having participated in field trials for about three years, competing is just one aspect of quail hunting and raising bird dogs that Gordon loves.
"I have a lot of fun with these dogs," Gordon said. "They never cease to amaze me. They do something different every day."
Ginny Farmer is a freelance writer from Auburn.