As a senior sportsman who never misses a meal and isn’t bashful about going back for seconds at hunters breakfasts and church suppers, you somehow manage to stay as slim as a sapling. Consequently, you’re often asked what you do to keep in shape. Likewise, if your hair isn’t as gray as gunmetal and your driver’s license isn’t restricted to glasses, you’re told you don’t look your age. Understandably, those compliments put spring in your step. But in spite of it you know you ain’t what you used to be and never will be again. What’s more, you’ll be reminded of it now that summer has hurried by and September is at hand. That is, if you still hang bells on bird dogs.
The reference, of course, is to working a dog — not to mention you know who — into shape for the Oct. 1 opening of bird season. Common sense dictates that a dog that has spent the off season lounging in a kennel or on a den couch shouldn’t be hunted without preseason workouts. To do so would be as foolhardy as you scrimmaging with an NFL team. It’s no secret that sprains, pulled muscles, stretched ligaments and torn tendons heal slowly. Therefore, any one of them could place your pedigreed hunting partner or you on the out-for-the-season injured list.
That’s not saying, however, that injuries won’t occur during preseason workouts, especially if the sessions are too long and strenuous at the start. But because you’re an old dog, so to speak, you realize, reluctantly, that you can no longer do what you did back along. Well, not as easily anyway. Accordingly, you’ve noticed that brooks are wider, hillsides are steeper, covers are thicker, boots are heavier, thorns are sharper, rain is wetter, wind is louder and dog bells are quieter. Worse yet, on arriving home after workouts, you hobble toward the house and a fix of ibuprofen. But as if to add insult to injury, your Brittany spaniel, Maggie, leaps and bounds like a ballerina. It’s not surprising that you’ve adopted the maxim, all things in moderation, including moderation.
Eventually, though, your aches and pains subside and you’re able to duck between the strands of a barbed-wire fence as easily as a boxer ducks between the ropes on entering the ring. Obviously, the importance of preseason workouts cannot be overstated. Otherwise, an untimely injury may rob you of the wealth of sport that comes with toting a shotgun and following the tolling of a dog’s bell — until it abruptly stops and shouts bird.