Below are edited e-mails from Star Tribune readers, whom we asked to tell us about their all-time great hunting companions. Our main story from former Star Tribune outdoors reporter Doug Smith, on his lab Bailey, is here.

 

Madi, a golden retriever, was as good with my newborn as she was in the field. I was hunting one day in a wildlife management area that included a lake. It was December and I was hunting with Madi and Shania (my uncle’s golden retriever). I had one bird in the bag when Madi flushed a rooster. I put a bad shot on it, but it went down. Shania and I were looking in the area it went down, but I couldn’t find Madi. Two hundred yards down the shoreline and five minutes later, a rooster runs onto the ice with Madi on its tail. Roosters have claws, dogs have paws. The rooster would cut hard, and Madi would slide across the ice. This dance continued for 10 minutes while I laughed and watched, knowing Madi’s drive wouldn’t let her give up. The rooster then made a mistake: It ran over the top of a muskrat house. Madi cut it off on the other side. Amazing how she didn’t quit and knew we were not looking in the right area. She was so proud when she delivered that bird. Madi was the best. Lymphoma took her from me too fast at the age of 5. -- David Olsen, Lonsdale

 

Finn isn’t your run-of-the-mill hunting dog or companion. He figuratively and literally saved my life. He came into my life when I was in a very dark place — even suicidal. He was my reason for being, and eventually he made me smile again. When he was about a year old, I was attacked, and he pulled the guy off me. I needed to pay Finn back for all he had done, so off to hunting school he went. He lives for hunting. I love this dog so much that when we were talking about leaving the country for work, my first questions were, “Can Finn go there?” and “What can he hunt?” Fast-forward five years: He’s no longer my dog. He’s 100 percent committed to my two boys. I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing man’s best friend! -- Kristina Bullinger, St. Paul

 

Marley is nearly 10 and we are about to embark on our 10th season of pheasant hunting. She was born with a natural instinct to pheasant hunt, with a great nose, and never ranges too far as to spook any birds. I’ve kept a tail feather from every rooster we’ve harvested, and there are well over 100. Watching Marley work the fields for birds is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever experienced. Most of the time I don’t even have to say anything to her. It’s as if we know what the other is thinking. And when I hunt with family or friends, they are always in awe of how Marley hunts for birds. No shock collar or even a regular collar. Not only is she a fantastic hunting dog, but she truly is a member of the family. My wife and I got Marley when we were dating in college. Now, she is helping us raise our two boys. I couldn’t have asked for a better dog in my lifetime. -- CJ Siewert, St. Peter

 

It was February 1981. There was only one pup left in the litter of American Kennel Club black labs. I got her for 50 bucks. We named her Beauty. She had the biggest brown eyes, was a fast learner and was so intelligent. She was great for both upland game and waterfowl. Besides flushing and retrieving, she also pointed. Beauty also was a wonderful family pet to us and our two young children. She was a hunting companion to our son and me until 1993. We lost her to old age in August 1994, just days before our son, her hunting buddy, left for college. We still talk about her. She ended up the best hunting dog and family pet we’ve ever had.-- Bill Buxengard, Worthington

 

Masia and her sister were abandoned outside in the cold in Coleraine, and my fiancé got her at a shelter when she was just a little puppy. He gave her the best life and trained her to be the most obedient dog I’ve ever met. They were inseparable and the best of friends. Hunting was by far Masia’s favorite thing to do — it was her purpose in life. (She is shown in Lake of the Woods — proud of the grouse she flushed and then retrieved.) Masia was also the most loving and loyal dog I’ve ever met. She brought so much joy to so many people’s lives in her short time on Earth. She loved to get her belly rubbed, to chase squirrels, to chew on sticks, to eat homemade peanut butter treats, and to growl at the letter carrier. Masia was a once-in-a-lifetime dog, a once-in-a-lifetime friend. Osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, took her away from us two months ago. We miss her immensely every day, and we hope some day we will see our beautiful old friend again. -- Safia Kahn, St. Paul

 

Cinder is about 4 and is a wirehair/lab mix from what we can tell. We adopted her two years ago from the Humane Society. This year with only a duck hunting weekend under our belt she has retrieved 15 out of 18 ducks, all in the water. We couldn’t have asked for a better dog. Needless to say she is a keeper! -- Andy Erlandson, Hutchinson

 

Remington was a Christmas gift from my college girlfriend, Melissa, who now is my wife. We drove an hour and a half to Melrose, Minn., to pick him up. When the kennel opened, he came flying out and attacked me with kisses. Remi made life easy when it came to training, whether it was teaching him to belly-crawl to sneak up on some ducks or to find deer antler sheds. He was a great duck dog but he excelled at pheasant hunting. He was big and fast and preferred to hunt heavy cover. He rarely lost a duck or pheasant — there was a span of about six years where he found everything we knocked down. Remi and I had a goal to try to hunt every weekend of the fall, and we were always close to reaching it. He was a very independent lab. He never really was much of a cuddler. We would have to coax him in to bed with us only to have him leave shortly thereafter. He had the run of the house and the yard. If we were home, he could go outside anytime he wanted. He rarely wore a collar, and was never fenced in. He never left the yard, and didn’t want to. Because we lived on a busy street in St. Louis Park, people thought we were crazy. Remi left us last January at age 13. He hunted all of them and always seemed to amaze us. He left us with so many great memories. Mel and I would look at each other and say, “Did he really just do that?” He was a great son. -- Ryan Dalum, St. Louis Park

 

It started with picking out a new pup, a British red lab. Out of the 10-12 pups all grouped together in a large bin, my wife wanted the fat, slow one. But then came Roxie: not the biggest in the litter, not the smallest. However, she crawled and clawed her way over all other pups and ran toward us. My wife and kids didn’t care for her much during the first two years of her life. The biting. The jumping. The alpha in her was a little much. Obedience training was a must. After successful training, now her passion is to please people. One of my great Roxie field stories happened a couple years ago in South Dakota. I was hunting pheasants with a friend during the late season. It was nearing the end of the day. Roosters and hens were pouring into a cattail slough. We took a knee with Roxie by our side and watched as hundreds of birds poured in. We slowly walked ahead when we felt it was time. Pheasants started to fly, too far out of range to shoot. We stayed patient. Then Roxie pointed a rooster — boom, down. Then another: boom, down. And again. She retrieved each bird, one at a time, dropping them at my partner’s feet. She was awarded with some large hunks of meat that evening! -- Eric Jensen, Roseville