Photos by Nathalie DuPré
“I spent four or five weeks trying to ignore him at first,” quips Bob Bullard about his beloved English Cocker Spaniel and hunting companion, Luke.
The thing is, Luke wasn’t originally supposed to be a hunting dog. “My wife saw him at a charity auction and fell in love, so she brought him home as a companion. He wouldn’t leave me alone, so I decided, ‘Okay, I guess I’ll pet ya. After that it was all downhill,” he laughs. “I think she’s still mad at him.”
Luke, whose breed is known for its quail hunting ability, began training with Bob before heading to training school outside of Thomasville, Georgia. “The trainer asked me if I would mind if he worked Luke alongside the labs to see if he would retrieve ducks, which was fine with me, even though his breed doesn’t typically take to water,” Bob shares. “Turns out, he loves it.”
When it’s time for a hunt, Luke gets down to business fast. “If I pick up a shotgun, he knows we’re going hunting, so he’s immediately at the door of the truck,” Bob says. “When we’re duck hunting, we’ll load up the equipment and get his little camo vest on, trudge out into the flooded timber, set up the decoys, and then he goes to his stand to wait for the first shot. When we’re quail hunting, if he picks up the scent of a covey, you can tell because of how fast his tail wags – then you better get ready!”
Luke’s excitement and enthusiasm reach far beyond the hunting world, though. “Something that strikes me still is when he comes with me to work,” says Bob. “My coworkers see him and are always like, ‘Hey Luke! How ya doing? … oh, hey, Bob.’ I’m used to it,” he laughs. “Everyone loves him.”
Not a traditional duck retrieving breed, Luke had to fight through adversity to gain respect. “We were hunting in Arkansas, and it was really cold, but the water hadn’t been frozen long. The bigger labs couldn’t go out and retrieve on top of the ice because they’d fall through,” explains Bob. “So we had little Luke out there, skating on top of the ice, and he made all the retrievals and saved the hunters a lot of hard walking,” Bob laughs. “That’s when people started having more respect for him as a retriever.”
“If I pick up a shotgun, he knows we’re going hunting, so he’s immediately at the door of the truck.”