Strengthening the canine-human bond.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but compulsion is the captain of creativity. At least that’s what I told myself, as I packed a pistol into my chest-pack, laced up my running shoes, and set out for a ten-mile run-hunt on the west side of the Bridgers one fall morning.

It started as a joke. My hunting dog, Seamus, is a German Shorthaired Pointer, which means that’s all he is—a hunting dog. All summer long, while I run the trails in search of exercise, fresh air, and a clear mind, he runs in search of grouse. Which he finds almost every time. Locked on a bird, he shoots me a pleading glance: “Come on, dude, shoot that bird!”

Week after week this happens: me disappointing my dog. By fall, he feels downright betrayed. All those birds he’s pointed for me, and I’ve done nothing about it. He’s doing his job… when am I going to do mine?

So I started telling friends and family that I should pack a .410 pistol when I run, to remain in Seamus’s good graces. Apparently, I talked about this enough—or my relationship with my dog was deteriorating enough—that my wife bought me a Judge. For those unfamiliar, the Judge is a small revolver chambered in 45 Long Colt, designed for home defense. It also fires a .410 shotgun shell, which will kill a ruffed grouse at close range. 

So there I was, with a solution to Seamus’s problem. But now I had my own: how to pack this thing? I can’t strap it to my hip, because my running shorts don’t have belt loops. I could only imagine the response if I wore it in one of those chest holsters—people would think I was some paranoid city slicker who hadn’t heard of bear spray. Besides, who packs heat in the Bridgers? The gun needed to be subdued somehow.

Then I remembered my fly-fishing chest pack. I found a pared-down version online—called a “Runner’s Kit Bag”—with a large main compartment and some extra straps for a comfortable, secure fit. The Judge fit perfectly.

bird hunting, trail running, runting 

Now, what to do with the bird, assuming I actually got one? I needed a way to safely store it while running, without carrying it in my hands. Turns out my hydration vest has plenty of room, as does my cycling jacket. This is going to be easier than I thought, I told my wife.

But of course I spoke too soon. Not three miles into my first run with my grouse-gettin’ mini-gun, Seamus pointed on a bird. I crept toward it, grinning like a schoolboy. The grouse exploded out of the brush and was gone before I even pulled the pistol out. Seamus looked at me, as usual. But it was a different look this time.

bird dog, hunting, runting, grouse

Did run-hunting repair my and my dog’s broken relationship? Yes—eventually. Hunting with a pistol is a very different beast. You have to get very close. Most of the birds get away. But every so often, one falls. And then Seamus gives me the look I live for this time of year: “Nice shot, dude.”