Man’s Best Friend – 2022

Local Hunters & Their Loyal Companions 

The bond between a huntsman and his hunting dog runs deep. It is fueled by trust, love, and a mutual passion for the sport. We asked several local men to tell us all about what makes their dogs special, both on the hunt and in the home. 

As W.R. Pursche wrote, “Everyone thinks that their dog is the best dog in the world. And none of them are wrong.” 

By Catherine Smith | Photography by Sarah Unger

Luke Hutchins with Bea

Soddy-Daisy

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It was love at first sight when Luke Hutchins met Bea, his 3-year-old yellow lab.

“I knew immediately that I had to have her, and she has rarely left my side since then,” Hutchins says. She caught his eye as the only yellow female born in her litter, but her personality is what makes Bea truly special. 

There are two sides of Bea’s personality. Around others, she’s the life of the party – energetic, goofy, and ready for anything. At home, though, she’s a bit more laid back. “I call her our couch potato,” Hutchins says. “She is as close to being human as a dog can be. She rests her head on pillows and steals whatever spot I’m sitting in if I get up.” She also has a thing for stealing socks, but she’ll steal your heart while she’s at it.

While she may be quirky in her off-time, Bea has razor-sharp focus when she’s out on a duck hunt. “From the moment she sees me pick up a duck call or a shotgun, she knows exactly what we are doing. When we get to the field, she burns a trail between me and the blind until we get there,” says Hutchins. Bea loves her job, and sometimes she even takes it more seriously than her human counterparts. “She truly loves the hunt more than I do,” Hutchins explains. “If the shooting accuracy is not up to her standards, she lets us know with a series of disappointed moans and groans.”

Bea’s impressive skills are a result of Hutchins’ dedicated training. “I used a variety of videos and training tips to train Bea myself. Or, as my fiancée likes to say, ‘She is homeschooled!’” he says. Their partnership is built on mutual trust, which was a critical component in the training sessions. “Her instincts for retrieving are strong, so it takes a lot for her to trust where I’m sending her. It was equally important for me to learn when to get out of her way and let her do what she was born to do.”

Whether she is in the field or on the couch, Bea brings nothing but joy to her family. “Her obvious love for hunting has completely changed my outlook on it for the better. She is just a constant, positive aspect of every day,” Hutchins shares.

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Sergeant Wise with Crow, Icarus, Obi, Otis, Poncho, Sully, Tuck, Ghost, and Dan

Northshore

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Sergeant Wise and his pups are proof that you can’t have too much of a good thing.

In recent years, he has gone from having just one dog to hunting with a team of nine. “I got Icarus eight years ago, and I’ve been adding to the pack ever since,” Wise says. He currently has one black lab named Tuck, two English setters named Obi and Crow, three Brittany spaniels named Icarus, Poncho, and Otis, and three English pointers named Sully, Dan, and Ghost. 

Wise’s goal was to create a dynamic team of hunting dogs that could work together effectively. “I chose a variety of breeds because each one has its strengths and weaknesses,” Wise explains. Some of his dogs excel at spotting the birds, some are great at flushing them out, and some are best at retrieval. Altogether, they make a strong team. “Seeing how they all complement each other is fascinating to me,” says Wise.

When they’re out on a hunt, these pups work together like a well-oiled machine – strictly business. Each dog has a role to fill, and they know just what to do to get the most birds possible. Though quail hunting is a favorite for Wise, his dogs are thrilled no matter what they’re going after. “I’ve trained them to hunt every bird under the sun,” Wise says.  “They aim to please, and they just love to catch birds. They are definitely the most happy when they’re hunting.”

The benefits of having nine dogs extend far beyond the field, however. For example, the ability to curl up with all of them can come in handy in the winter months. “One time, I was camping with a buddy out in Idaho and when it got really cold at night, we brought the dogs into the tent with us,” shares Wise. “They snuggled as hard as I’ve ever had an animal snuggle with me – we definitely stayed warm!”

Whether they are working, playing, or cuddling up, one thing is for sure: There is no shortage of wagging tails in the Wise household.   

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Jeff McKamey with Buster

Ooltewah

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After hunting with a friend who had an Appalachian turkey dog, Jeff McKamey was determined to get one for himself. 

This breed was created specifically for the purpose of turkey hunting, which requires a different set of skills than hunting for other birds. In order to make the perfect turkey dog, three tried-and-true hunting breeds are combined: the English pointer, the English setter, and the plott hound. The result is a dog who has speed, prey drive, the desire to chase birds, and the stamina to keep it up all day. 

After seeing what a difference having a specially bred turkey dog could make in the field, McKamey brought his dog, who he named Buster, home. Buster’s careful breeding has given him all the instincts he needs to be an excellent hunting companion, and he required very little training. “I simply exposed him to birds and let his breeding take over, and he’s been the best hunting buddy,” McKamey says. “He is eager to please and very disciplined in the field. He knows what to do, and he loves it.”

Though his drive to track and chase turkeys is strong, Buster also knows when he needs to lay low. He has no trouble staying quiet in the blind or keeping still under a camouflage blanket. “He’s great. He’ll stay there with me as long as it takes. He’s just happy to be out with us,” McKamey says. “He is so personable to everyone in the blind while we’re waiting.” 

McKamey enjoys watching Buster work through large expanses of forest in search of turkeys, and Buster enjoys it just as much. “His determination to get out there with us and find turkeys is really something,” McKamey says. “Every time we set foot in the woods, he impresses me. We’ve made great memories over the years.” 

What makes Buster an excellent hunting companion is a combination of his skills, his drive, and his close bond with McKamey. “He really is a member of the family. He’s got a great personality,” McKamey says. “We’ve been going on fall turkey hunts for seven years now, and Buster still gets just as excited every time.”

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Nathan Farrow with Cardi and Charley

Rock Spring, Georgia

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After losing his previous dog to cancer, Nathan Farrow felt there was an empty place in his home that only a loyal lab could fill.

“I’ve always loved the Labrador retriever breed. I was looking for a dog that would serve a purpose in the field along with being a good companion at home,” Farrow says. Little did he know, there were two labs and a lot of American Kennel Club (AKC) titles in his future. 

Charley, a 4-year-old male, and Cardi, a 3-year-old female, consistently bring love, joy, and excitement to the Farrow household. “Both dogs are full of funny quirks and personality,” Farrow says. Charley, for instance, has a lot of love to give. “He hates that we have to leave in the morning. He will lay around and act ‘sick’ in hopes someone will just stay home with him,” Farrow explains. Cardi, on the other hand, is a big ball of energy. “We joke that we’ve never seen her walk since we’ve owned her,” he tells us. “She’s constantly running wherever she goes.”

“Both dogs are great hunting companions, but they are also great life companions,” Farrow says. Since his four girls started college, Farrow missed the excitement of coaching their softball teams. He and his wife joke that they needed a new outlet for their supportive parenting energy, so now Farrow puts his coaching skills to good use training Charley and Cardi for field trial competitions, in which they have been very successful. “The training that comes with competitive hunt tests allows the dogs to see numerous hunting scenarios and allows me as a handler to work with my dogs in those scenarios,” he says. “We constantly work on the basic and advanced skills year-round to keep the dogs in shape and ready to hunt.”

All that training certainly comes into play when the dogs are in the field. “Both dogs know that when I pick up a certain bag or start loading the truck, it’s time to go hunting,” Farrow says. They both get excited, but they listen well and look to Farrow for guidance. “I think what makes them great hunting companions is their desire and intelligence. Both dogs absolutely love picking up birds. They love to do the work no matter the situation,” he says. 

 

Nathan Farrow and his hunting dogs, labs Cardi and Charley

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Ross Purcell with Daenerys

Hixson

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Growing up, Ross Purcell was enamored with the Deutsch-drahthaar breed – now he has one of his own.

“My best friend’s grandfather had a Deutsch-drahthaar, and that was the most amazing bird dog I had ever seen. I decided that if I ever got a bird dog, I wanted one of those,” Purcell remembers. He kept that promise to his younger self when he purchased Daenerys, or “Dani,” as he calls her. She has been every bit as impressive as Purcell expected a Deutsch-drahthaar to be. “I wanted a dog that could point, flush, and retrieve birds. That’s Dani,” he says.  

Purcell brought Dani home as an 8-week-old puppy, and it didn’t take long for her to adjust to her new role as a hunting dog. “When we got her, she was essentially ‘plug and play.’ She has been the easiest dog to train in the house and field that I have ever had,” he says. For example, at just 14 weeks old, Dani experienced her first quail hunt and proved that she had strong instincts. “My buddy flushed a bird, we shot, and she immediately retrieved it back to hand. We both looked at each other in surprise because this had not been part of my training – it was an honest display of instinct,” Purcell recalls.

Though Dani has hunting instincts in her blood, Purcell has certainly put in work to train her. “Dani’s quail hunting improved with each trip she went on, but waterfowl hunting required a bit more discipline,” he says. “I spent a lot of time training her with the help of my buddies, and by the end of the season she made a lot of progress.” Throughout this training, Purcell built a strong bond of trust with Dani – though it wasn’t necessarily easy to get her to trust him over her own sharp instincts. “Dani is probably smarter than I am. Sometimes she second-guesses my judgement, but other times she flat-out proves me wrong,” he laughs. 

At home, Dani puts her hunting instincts aside and is a very loving companion. “Dani thinks she is a lap dog and loves to give kisses. I feel like this is primarily my wife Shelby’s fault!” Purcell says. Getting to know her personality in the field and at home has solidified Purcell’s love for the Deutsch-drahthaar. “Her discipline, intelligence and sweet personality make it hard for me to ever want a different dog breed,” he says. 

 

Daenerys the Deutsch-drahthaar hunting dog

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David Boatner with Quick

Trenton, Georgia

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David Boatner had been searching for the right dog for quite some time before he found Quick, his 8-year-old black lab. 

“I looked at about 10 dogs before I found him,” Boatner says. One day, a call from a friend immediately got Boatner’s attention. “He told me, ‘Dave, this is going to be your dog.’ After I watched the dog hunt, I told my buddy he might be on to something,” Boatner tells us. He spent the weekend hunting with Quick to make sure they were a good team, and by then it was a done deal.

Quick was the pick of his litter and was thoroughly trained by professionals before coming home to the Boatner household. “He’s a true duck dog,” Boatner explains. “He’d hunt for you just the same as he does for me. He loves it.” All that training certainly paid off, and Quick’s retrieves have been consistently impressive. “He probably picked up between 350 and 400 birds last year,” Boatner says. 

Over the years, Quick has stolen Boatner’s heart … along with an impressive collection of American Kennel Club (AKC) ribbons. “I knew I was getting a nice duck dog, but he turned out to be a really nice duck dog, so we started competing and doing hunt tests with him,” Boatner says. Quick has received several Master Hunter qualifying scores over the years, and he shows no sign of slowing down. “He’s got no fear – he’ll jump right into cold water without a second thought if it means he’ll get a bird,” Boatner says. 

At 8 years old, he’s still got all the energy and drive a duck hunter could want from a dog, but there is a softer side of Quick’s personality as well. When he’s around Boatner’s grandchildren, who are five and two, he understands that he needs to be more careful. “He’s so good around my grandkids. He’s always so gentle with them – he’s a great family dog,” Boatner says. The bond between Quick and the Boatner family proves that when you’re looking for a hunting dog, the right one is worth the wait. 

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