The truck splashed through the mud as we made our way between the grass hedges. I came to a stop as Ronnie was buckling collars on the lively pair of nine year old Brittanys, who were both eager to get tracking. If you’ve ever had an opportunity to hunt with good birddogs then you know what I'm talking about.
Rango and Tango were professionals. As soon as Ronnie opened the box they came out ready. In a blink the dogs were hunting, noses to the wind, legs churning. The dogs cut back and forth through the tall grass as Ronnie called out the simple commands. The dogs would turn on a dime at his word. One second they were totally focused on the grass ahead, and as soon as they heard his voice they would turn sharp to follow.
Suddenly his command changed.
“Whoa… careful…” he ordered.
I looked up and both dogs were frozen. Locked in on a small clump of grass up ahead of our group. I could see the battle raging inside of the animals. Their physical instinct ready to explode and flush the quail from their hiding spot was so evident they were quivering. These dogs, however, knew their commands, and their commander. They knew that in only a matter of seconds, when the hunters were ready, Ronnie would release them to jump the birds.
I marveled at their discipline. There is something so soul-replenishing about seeing a well trained hunting dog do what it was created to do.
“Ready?” Asked Ronnie.
“Ready.” Replied the hunters.
Ronnie released the dogs and they moved in on the spot. Suddenly, with a flurry of feathers and flapping, four quail shot out of the grass into the air.
“Bird!” Shouted Ronnie.
The familiar thunder of a shotgun blast echoed through the pines as the guns unloaded. As the gun smoke drifted in the wind the men laughed and high-fived.
“That’s the way to do it boys! Good shooting!” Ronnie remarked, then quickly turned his attention back to Rango and Tango.
“Dead birds… fetch um’ up!”
The dogs were gone in a flash and within moments came trotting back to Ronnie, both carrying a mouthful of quail.
A quick pat on the head and the dogs were right back after it. They worked like clockwork, hanging on every command of their master, driving hard to fulfill their purpose, loving every minute of the hunt.
People often marvel at the discipline and behavior of hunting dogs. Their graceful and determined pursuit resonates with us and connects on a soul level. Whether it’s retrieving waterfowl, tracking deer, or locating upland birds, I find a tremendous amount of inspiration from these canines.
While the animals themselves are often the object of our amazement, I think we often overlook the bigger truth. Hunting dogs are wired for their pursuit, yes, but without the voice of the master their pursuit would be aimless and unproductive.
Knowing the voice of the master is the key difference between having a dog that is capable of hunting, and a dog who is, indeed, a hunter.
Anytime I’m in the field with a hunting dog I always note the way the dog responds to the trainer’s voice. No matter how many other hunters may be in the group, the only voice that matters to the dog is that of their master. These dogs trust the voice of their master. They respond and react to the commands without hesitation or fear.
Jesus said in John 10:27 (MSG):
My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
If we are going to be men who live out our purpose and produce the results we were created for we must learn to hear and trust the voice of our master. When we learn to recognize the voice of the master and lean in with faith to where He leads, we will find the peace and fulfillment we are searching for.
Just like Tango and Rango, who couldn’t wait to get after it in the field that day, when we listen to the voice of the master we will be unleashed to pursue our passion with intensity, and never grow weary in the chase.