In his novel, “The Float Plane Notebooks,” author Clyde Edgerton describes a family that made a trip from North Carolina to Florida each winter to visit relatives.
Their kin folks down there were avid quail hunters so the family’s two bird dogs went along – in the trunk of the car. It was a large sedan but, still, a trunk is a trunk, even without the luggage which was lodged in between the people in the
back seat. Ever so often, the driver would pull over to let the dogs get some fresh air and take care of business.
Undoubtedly a lot of readers thought that part of the book stretched the limits of credibility to the breaking point. But, I remember as a kid in Johnston County seeing quail hunters unloading their pointers and setters from the trunks of their big
sedans when they reached where they were going to hunt. Rabbit hunters might transport their beagles in their pickup trucks but quail hunters, at least in those days, were a different breed.
Those hunters I was familiar with were not on their way to Florida so they didn’t have to worry about mis-judging their dogs’ time in the back but I sometimes wondered if they considered what would happen in the case of a rear-
end collision. A lot of those men were employed in the tobacco industry and the land on which they hunted was usually owned by farmers, so I figured making an impression was a big deal with them. What better way to do that than pull up and let a pointer or two out of the trunk of a big ol’ Buick, Oldsmobile or, occasionally, a Cadillac.
When I migrated farther east, to the part of the state where there were a lot of deer – and deer hunters, I learned there were other, equally impressive, means of transporting hunting dogs. This was the first place I ever heard someone refer to a
pickup truck as a “Jones County Limousine.” I came to understand that “Jones” could be replaced with Lenoir, Craven, Onslow, Pamlico or the name of any other county in this neck of the woods.
What the term referred to was a pickup truck with a metal cage that covers all or part of the vehicle’s bed. This is the type that’s favored by most deer hunters because it will accommodate a large number of hounds and is sturdy enough to
support one or more hunters on top. Also, it can be customized to suit the owner’s (and his dogs’) temperament. One spotted last season had a tri-pod ladder stand permanently attached to the top of the box. A padded, swivel seat complete with arm rests and a gun rack topped it off. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened when the owner drove under low hanging limbs enroute to his hunting spots.
Some of those dog boxes have other refinements such as compartments on the sides for collars, leashes and other dog-hunting gear, and tie-downs on the top for two or three coolers. The most important thing, though, is that the hounds get to
ride in comfort and safety.
Duck hunters, at least those who really value their dogs, seem to favor portable boxes of the type used to ship animals on airlines. They like that style because they can be used to shelter a retriever in the field and because the hunters usually aren’t carrying but one dog at a time. Retriever owners are also notorious, though, for sometimes allowing their pups to ride free in the back of an open vehicle. The most common explanation is, “He’s trained to stay back there; he won’t jump out. He never has.”
Maybe he hasn’t – at least not yet. If training will guarantee the dog will stay put no matter what, why is it that professional trainers never transport their dogs like that? And what good is that training if a car pulls out in front of the truck at an
intersection and, on impact, the retriever is launched out of the back like a torpedo?
The result may very well be a highly trained – and very dead – dog.
A friend of mine had a “well-trained” Golden Retriever jump out of the back of his truck and get run over by a portable pig cooker the guy was towing. My friend was somewhat embarrassed by the affair. His dog didn’t think much of it either.
A dog box of some type is the best way for a hunter’s best friend to travel. The style isn’t important as long as it’s comfortable and secure. A few things to consider in selecting one include:
Size – Make sure a box is large enough for all its occupants. If it’s for just one, be certain he can stand up and turn around. A smart dog will quickly learn to avoid quarters that are uncomfortable and to be a pain at loading time.
Weight – A metal dog box will last nearly forever. If it has to be loaded and unloaded often, it can also give its owner a hernia that will last forever. In that instance, aluminum boxes are worth their weight (or lack of it) in gold. Heavy
plastic boxes aren’t as durable but work fine for one dog and are easy to move around.
Fit – Boxes that fit down into the bed of a pickup truck should be secured so they can’t slip back and forth. Several years ago I was a passenger in a truck when a hound in the back got his foot caught under the edge of a metal cage in the back.
The memory of the sound he made still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. As I remember it, he was also out of commission for several weeks during the height of the hunting season.
Safety – If a wooden box is used, it shouldn’t be constructed out of pressure-treated material. Some dogs are notorious gnawers and can suffer ill effects from the chemicals used to preserve the lumber. No matter what it’s made of, a dog box
should have a fool-proof (dog-proof) latch that can be padlocked if necessary.
When other hunters pooh-pooh this feature, I point out that my dogs are worth stealing.
Considering the time, effort and money that go into a top-notch hunting dog, not to mention the emotional attachment, a dog box is a small investment that can pay huge dividends. It just makes good sense for the hunter and is the least he can
do for his four-legged buddy.
Ed Wall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-671-3207. His web site is www.edwalloutdoors.com