Centex outdoorsman Gordon Collier, who supports his hunting habit by moonlighting as a KWTX Television news anchor, was debating last week whether or not to take one last trip to his Bosque County duck pond for a late-season hunt, when his 7 year-old lab, Willie, came up and nosed the needle into the “yes” column.
In Willie’s opinion, according to Collier, duck season should last all year long and you should be required to go at least once a day.
Willie is a rescue dog from the pound, and shortly after Collier adopted him, they took a road trip to the Texas Hill Country. “We pulled in to Luckenbach, and I had just let him out of the truck when a friend walked up,” said Collier.
“Will he fetch?” the friend asked. “I don’t know,” said Collier, who then threw a ball for his new dog and watched as he chased and snagged the ball and returned it to his new master. “Will he sit?” the guy asked. “I don’t know,” replied Collier again, and then proceeded to issue the sit command, whereby the dog immediately obeyed. Then, the friend asked, “Will he come when you call?” Collier told the guy that he couldn’t call the dog because he didn’t know its name. But he suddenly realized that “will he” sounded a lot like “Willie” – and since they were in the birthplace of the Texas outlaw country music revolution, that seemed like a pretty good name. Collier called and Willie came running, and it has been a great partnership ever since.
Willie is starting to get up in years, and long gone are the days when he’d burst out of the blind like a raging bull, pacing impatiently for the tell-tale splash of a duck on the pond. “These days, he’s much more content curling up at my feet and occasionally raising his head skyward to survey the horizon,” said Collier.
Gordon and Willie made a half dozen hunting trips to the pond this season, each time hoping the ducks would arrive en masse like they used to, but apparently, Collier says, they have found a more peaceful body of water to call home. “But for us, hunting isn’t just about the harvest. It’s about quality time together basking in God’s great creations,” he said.
Friday morning, they had barely settled into the blind when the first flight of ducks dropped into the decoys. “I was as surprised to see them as they were to see me,” said Collier. As they lifted off, he dropped two of them, and Willie was in for a long retrieve.
“I opened the door to the blind and Willie didn’t hesitate to hit the icy water,” he said. “As if I had done a tremendous job training him, he went after the longest retrieve first. He ignored the other downed duck as he swam by with a mouthful of another.”
Collier says that when Willie was younger, he’d prance around with his bounty, and only reluctantly give it up after a few harsh words, but this time, he dropped the bird into the waiting hand and waited for the command to fetch the other.
After some more success, both shooting and retrieving, the fog cleared and Collier decided to pack up and head back – but not before stopping off at another pond for some relaxing under a tree with his hunting buddy. The once freight train-like dog was content to sit next to Collier, occasionally resting his head on the man’s shoulder. Like a bottle of homemade wine, Willie has mellowed with age.
A while later, Collier decided to blow his call one last time. “The reeds were frozen,” he said, “so I had to blow extra hard.” Karooonk! The call sounded more like a heron than a mallard, Collier said, and even Willie seemed amused by it. Then they spotted four big ducks coming in on a landing path that would’ve put them right in front of the hunters. “After hearing that obnoxious call, they seemed to pivot in mid-air before soaring away,” said Collier.
Even though this year’s duck hunts were less productive than usual, Collier did manage to have a legendary day this season – on a special hunt when he got engaged to be married to his friend and now fiancée, Bonnie.
Congratulations, Gordon, Bonnie and Willie and the boys (Gordon’s sons). Have a good off-season.
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