As a young boy, I have always been in love with the romance of the outdoors and hunting. Growing up, I spent weekends on my Grandparents farm in and around Oak Hammock Marsh. And my falls were spent in pits goose hunting with my late uncles Paul and Joe and my brother Glen. The afternoons were often filled with autumnal colours and smells, hunting upland game in the woods north of the farm. 

I think, at age 6, my uncles finally gave into my persistent pleas to tag along hunting; I still can’t think of a better way to watch the sun come up than gazing at it from the cover of a blind, watching geese cup their wings as they come into your decoy. 

I studied and read every hunting magazine I could to find the best set up for decoys, and had even bought a subscription to Outdoor Life magazine before I could shoot a gun. I read every page, but the ads with the English Setters and the dog training section always captivated me. 

The afternoon trips to the grouse woods were even more fun; although less productive, than the Mecca of goose hunting that was Oak Hammock. It always involved more sights, sounds, smells, and deeper conversations with my uncles. I loved hunting in the fall and that still holds true to this day. 

Growing up, my parents never wanted a dog, but we somehow got a Springer Spaniel, Spot. We took that dog on all sorts of adventures, and a Hungarian friend of the family took her hunting, as she loved to swim; and according to him, she was a natural hunter. I was too young still to go hunting on my own, but it certainly ignited a spark. Every ad that had a hunter in an old duck boat with an English Setter, or that of pheasants flying in front of a gunner and his dogs, sparked my romance for hunting with a dog. 

After moving out, I happened into a rescued German Wire Haired that was too much dog for me and I slowly lost my want for a hunting dog. I must admit that they are intelligent in that they can solve problems on their own; I had her fetching up to 10 or more different objects from different places in the house. However, they had a mean streak that just didn’t work for me. So, I found her a new home that could handle her better than I, and pursued archery elk hunting: another romantic passion from the pages or Outdoor Life. 

After graduating University, I purchased a lot along the shores of Lake Winnipeg. It was in an area I had hunted moose with my Uncle Paul and his friend Glen Laviere. When looking at the lot, the road was littered with Ruffed Grouse and I fell in love with the area. Whilst building the property, I met my wife Sheila and we proceeded to build our dream cottage together in Little Deer.

Sheila Grew up with Golden Retrievers, and convinced me that we should get a one. I wasn’t opposed to the idea, as ducks were a-plenty around our cabin and I grew up goose hunting. But, in the process of searching for a good breeding line, we were to have a baby and abandon the idea of getting a pup. Sometimes, life throws a curve ball, and having a child didn’t happen as planned—before we could try again we had to wait
a while. 

One day, while searching our local online classifieds, I found an ad for an English Setter puppy. My thoughts of hunting with a pointing dog were sparked and I convinced Sheila that maybe we should go look. After all, Setters have a good disposition, like retrievers, and what is the harm in looking? When we arrived, we were met with a happy puppy that wanted no more than to please us and bring anything we threw out for him. I think we fell in love right there, but we agreed we would look into this more and we actually left him. 

I asked what kennel he came from and called them the next day. He was from a line of hunting English Setters, had a good pedigree, and was sold to the current owner only because the original purchaser had surgery and couldn’t have a hunting dog. After conversing with the breeder and talking it over, we bought Gulliver—a name the breeder gave him—and the beginning of a tradition of never naming our dogs since. 

I never realized how much a dog could change and enrich our lives. He took us, and especially me, hunting all over North America. He had so much style, that people would stop us in the streets and ask or comment on his beauty and grace, and he loved it. We hunted all over North America, met many interesting and knowledgeable people, and learned about love and ourselves all because of him.

Don’t get me wrong, he ate a lot of things and there was a steep learning curve, but we learned that puppy-proofing a house is a lot harder than child-proofing. And, we confirmed as much when our daughter Hanna was born. 

He introduced me to the world of upland birding, great trainers, and new hunting friends. Before long, we bought Peach from Georgia, and eventually added their daughter, Lola, to our family. 

I found a bond with Gulliver that was unspoken, he knew where I was, always, and understood what I wanted without command. He worked wind and cover like a painter works canvas, and it was beautiful to watch. 

Sadly, like all things, life passes on, and so now has Gulliver. On a hunting trip to Florida, I realized that he came from Blue, George “Bird Dog” Evans’ line of English Setters. And so, as I tell of his adventures and what I’ve learned, I’ll leave you with a quote from George:

“The perfection of a life with a gundog, like the perfection of an autumn, is disturbing because you know, even as it begins, that it must end.”