Love for Hunting; Family Values; and the making of a hunting dog
“He taught the boy the woods, to hunt, when to shoot and not to shoot, when to kill and when not to kill, and better, what to do with it afterward.” – William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses, p. 197
The yellow labrador retriever sat on a platform in the water, alert and ready. The launcher released two bumpers (training dummies) with the sound of a shotgun. The labrador watched anxiously as the bumpers fell, but sat patiently. He knew the sound. He has a love for hunting!
On a balmy afternoon in the middle of fall, my husband Eddie and I visited TJ Cockrell and his Dad, Tim, at their family home on Lake Greenwood, near Chappells, S.C. We were there to see TJ’s yellow lab, Chief, perform waterfowl retrieval demonstrations. And, during a break, we talked about how growing up with a love for hunting led to values that guide TJ’s success today.
As soon as we arrived, we could tell that the Cockrell’s love the outdoors. The wrought iron gates at the entrance depict a beautiful nature scene. Beyond, the lakehouse stands on a treelined slope overlooking the lake. After greeting us on the porch, TJ slipped quickly into his waders and tested several duck call whistles. He’d already set the stage for training. Duck decoys were floating in the water and a remote-ready bumper launcher was set up in the yard.
The making of a hunting dog with a love for hunting
Chief bounded energetically from the truck. Little more than a year old, still a bit of a puppy, he grabbed a stick and began showing off. But Chief had just returned from training in the spring and TJ easily coaxed him into obedience, using hand gestures and firm verbal commands.
Labs are bred for hunting and with proper training, they love it! They also want to please their owners. With little more than a hand gesture, it was not too long before Chief was on his stand in the water.
Next, TJ gave Chief a hand gesture indicating the first bumper to retrieve. At the same time, he commanded him to go, using the word “mark.” Chief jumped into the water and swam with purpose towards the first bumper.
It’s important for waterfowl dogs to retrieve the bumper gently and return it directly to the owner’s hand. This is called “retrieve to hand” and in this way, the bumper arrives intact. With focused attention, Chief ignored the decoys, retrieved the marked bumper, and returned it directly to TJ’s hand.
Labs respond well to the demands of hunting. Their purpose-bred lineage includes the ideal traits for it. They are powerful swimmers and use their thick tails for steering in the water and webbed feet to swim more easily. They are also intelligent, energetic, eager to please, and willing to do hard work.
Although labs are bred to hunt, owners have a job to do too.
Formal training is not the end of training. It’s the owner’s job to instill purpose, control, and focus in the dog through patience, discipline, and persistent training. And above all, the owner must praise the dog for a job well done. These dogs love praise more than anything!
TJ and Chief are doing their parts to ensure Chief’s success and that he becomes a hunting dog with a love for hunting. This is key! If a dog has no drive or joy for hunting, then there’s no need for them to hunt. After several demonstrations and a little mischievous puppy behavior from Chief at the bumper launcher, we took a break. Chief rested while we snacked on the porch.
Love for hunting and family values
During our break, we talked with TJ about growing up with a love for hunting and how it influenced the values that guide him today. But first of all, TJ served tea sandwiches, our choice of chicken salad or pimento cheese, and iced tea for a snack. Good food and hospitality, as Southern as hunting, and we knew, without a doubt, that TJ learned this from his mother, Mary Beth.
TJ’s love for the outdoors grew in the woods around his parent’s farm in Mountville S.C. and on nearby Lake Greenwood. His favorite recollections include the freedom of playing in creeks and woods and hunting with his dad. He enjoys the outdoors now as much as he did then!
TJ and Tim fondly recalled TJ’s first hunting session when TJ was five years old. Tim put TJ in a sleeping bag in the stand and let him sleep until dawn, at the first sign of deer. That was the beginning of TJ’s lifelong love for hunting.
Above all, having close family ties is the most important value that TJ learned growing up. And, hunting played a role in this too. As a boy growing up in the South, TJ was almost destined to hunt. But his Dad taught his Sisters Leann and Heidi how to hunt too. As a result, they all learned to appreciate the outdoors. Today, they continue to spend a lot of time outdoors together, and now with his extended families too.
We wanted to know if there was more that TJ learned from his love of hunting.
He talked about courage, patience, discipline loyalty, and trust. “These are essential for hunting and working with a hunting dog,“ explained TJ. And now, it’s clear that these values extend to all areas of TJ’s life, such as the goals he sets for himself.
Late afternoon shadows grew, and we finished our snack in time for one more training demonstration before bidding goodbye to TJ, Tim, and Chief. It was a great time with friends, highlighted by first-class hunting demonstrations, warm hospitality, and an appreciation for the love of hunting.
TJ Cockrell is a recent graduate of The Citadel MBA program and a newly commissioned Second Lieutenant in the South Carolina National Guard. On the civilian side, he works in real estate sales and builds custom docks on Lake Greenwood with his Father, Tim. He has a love for the outdoors and the experiences that being in nature have to offer. He has a passion for bird hunting and fly fishing.
Chief is a line-bred yellow Labrador retriever, little more than a year old. His pedigree includes the best sires and dams of Labrador retriever lineage, 36 years on the sire side. This year, Chief graduated from his first training session at Beaver Creek Kennels, Inc.
Owners Randy and Cathy Hoffman of Beaver Creek Kennels, Inc. in St. Matthews, S.C. have over 35 years of experience in gun dog and obedience training. Their breeding program consistently meets the highest standards, including AKC/UKC registration. Both Kathy and Randy agree that the most important thing an owner can do is to put the lessons to practice when they take the dog home from training. In their words, “The dog needs to hunt.” For more information, visit their website at Beaver Creek Kennels, Inc.
South Carolina Hunting & Fishing The Official State Regulation Guide provides specific guidelines for hunting and fishing in South Carolina.
For more stories about animals and nature see:
Weekend with Friends at Maggie Valley and Four Easy to Moderate Mountain Trails Nearby
One place in the World to Legally Swim with Manatees