By Glenn Elison
Every serious bird hunter, if they are fortunate, has had a truly great hunting dog that shines above all others. Wildrose Kiska was my great dog. She recently died at the much too early age of five. This is my homage to her.
Kiska was a small lab with heart and drive. After four decades of bush travel in Alaska, I wanted a compact dog that would easily fit into small airplanes and square stern canoes. Kiska fit.
Kiska was a methodical, tireless hunter. She was an exceptional bird finder, retriever, and pointer. At the tender age of ten months, she was regularly finding pheasants and sharp-tail grouse my older dog, Foxy, another Wildrose Lab, missed even though Foxy was a good hunter by any standard.
Hunting was my greatest interest when I brought Kiska home, but I wanted more than that. I wanted an outdoor companion for all seasons and all places. Kiska delivered. I am fortunate to have retired in the West where we enjoy a smorgasbord of great outdoor recreation after 40 years of working, living, and recreating all over Alaska. She was my stream side trout fishing advisor, rafting companion, hiking buddy, cross country ski companion, and guard dog when in Alaska bear country. She was diligent in keeping our gravel bar campsites bear free.
Kiska was friendly, loving, and social. Just saying her name would start her wagging, not just her tail, but her whole body from the front shoulders to the tip of her tail; the full-body wag. She was the crowd favorite and camp mascot whether we were rafting and fishing remote Alaska rivers, caribou hunting in the Arctic, or assembled for North Dakota pheasant hunting. She would go from the ultra-mellow fireplace dog to the laser focused, driven hunter at a moment’s notice.
The last day of the 2022 pheasant season was New Year’s Day 2023. I chose to hunt a long brushy coulee dominated by thick stands of choke cherries and hawthorns. It was an area that had no resemblance to the famous pheasant fields of Nebraska and South Dakota. We started a couple of hours after sunup. It was clear and cold with a bright sun that lacked warmth. After an hour I had two roosters. Another hour brought me to a large stock dam where I planned to turn around. Kiska went into the brush and soon came out clearly trailing a running bird. Forty feet into a patch of high grass Kiska flushed a rooster. The sun lit up the gloriously colored pheasant. I shot and the bird fell into a side coulee full of brush but without the finality of a well-centered pattern. Kiska disappeared into the hawthorns. After a minute or so, she returned with the rooster, running back to me drenched in the bright winter sun. I had no way of knowing that would be Kiska’s last hunt. If I could have scripted it, I couldn’t have done better. Kiska provided five years of rich memories, more than most dogs could generate during much longer lives. I am fortunate to have had her with me in all my outdoor places.
Dam: Astraglen Tiger
DOB: January 9, 2018
Photo Credit: Don & Lori Thomas