Jim Niemiec's Blog

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A tribute to Timber
Wing shooters appreciate hunting over a fine gun dog and owners are equally proud of a good day of field work or long retrieves in a pond or goose field.


Unfortunately, the life span of a good working dog is between 10 and 12 years and my yellow lab Timber just turned 12 on opening weekend of waterfowl season. We knew he was to be operated on after that hunt, but didn't expect cancer to have spread throughout his body. Despite the fact that he was cared for by the best veterinary specialists in Southern California, at the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in San Diego, he was laid to rest on Sunday evening, Dec. 4, 2011.


Many readers of Western Outdoor News have hunted over Timber, along with many members of the sporting goods industry, while others have seen numerous fine photos of Timber published in WON over the years. Perhaps it is best to pay the utmost tribute to Timber is by recalling some of the hunts and people he encountered through the years.


Mike Raahauge called this hunting editor to tell me of a 3 month old yellow male lab that was for sale, but my wife was set on a female. Heading out to the gun club that afternoon that pup licked my face and thus would become part of the Niemiec family. Perhaps my wife was right in wanting a female, as Timber was a holy terror during his early years of training. He started out at Gameland Kennels with Patrick and Linda, moved up to Starlight Kennels to work with Paul and finally was finished off by Steve Raney at Raney Ranch Retrievers.


One of his first hunts was for native valley quail behind Irvine Lake where I had invited Mike Lum, then working for Turner's Outdoorsman, to join the hunt. Upon a covey rise Mike dusted a quail that rocked down to the bottom of a deep canyon, a lost bird for sure. Timber had great eyes, an excellent nose and was on that bird in a flash. To our amazement he came up out of very thick cover with a cock quail in his mouth and he was just a year old.


A duck hunt in flooded Prado Basin found this shooter teamed up with Curt Mohl, an ex-professional football player who weighed a solid 275 pounds. We were in a small John boat that rocked every time Mohl would shoot. He dropped a double on wigeon and I sent Timber in the frigid water for a retrieve. He picked up one bird, swam over picked up the second duck and retrieved them both to hand. Another hunt at Ralphs' Club had this yellow lab retrieve an honest triple on green-winged teal.


Timber's first goose hunt took place in a Bermuda grass field behind the North Ranch of the Cibola Sportsman's Club with guide Rick Francis. Joining us on that Canada goose hunt was Captain Buzz Brizendine and the Carlos Vega family. It was a good day for hunting geese in Cibola Valley as the birds were flying well and decoying. This shooter shot a big honker and it landed about 100 yards behind our layout blinds. Turning Timber loose for his first ever fetch of a big Canada goose he was greeted with a bird that stood up and began pecking at him. The dog tried to come in at all angles but the goose was determined as well. Finally I had to walk out and dispatch the bird, which then was grabbed by Timber and he proudly walked back to the blinds at heal. That was the last time a goose ever gave him any kind of trouble.


It was a lazy Thanksgiving afternoon when Timber and I laid out at Irvine Lake waiting for the evening movement of honkers that once used the lake as a loafing refuge. I had fallen asleep with Timber at my side and was awoken by soft whimpers. Looking back over my shoulder I could see Timber looking into the sky, an acknowledgement that there was something flying. Three big geese were locked up on to the small spread of  Feather Flex decoys at about 25 yards. I only wanted one bird for dinner, that trusty old Mdl. 870 was on target and Timber made another fine retrieve of a huge goose.


Timber was welcome most everywhere this editor wanted to hunt and many times he would sleep next to me in the SUV, back to back, to be ready to hunt in the morning. One of his more memorable hunts took place at the Union Tract with my hunting buddy Frank Theodoropoulos and his young son Johnny. Shooting next to us in an adjacent blind would be sporting goods representative Curt Dills. It was a fine morning of white goose hunting with both snow and Ross' geese working decoy spreads. I think that morning that Timber retrieved all of our geese(12) and a couple of sailed birds by Dills' party. He was one very tired dog!


Timber was a little stubborn at times and wouldn't always honor a whistle. Even owning two electronic collars, I never put one on him during a hunt, even though I was encouraged by many hunting friends and trainers to do so.


On a more recent hunt at Raahauge's Pheasant Club we were teamed up with Alex Cheely of Big 5 Sporting Goods and Jason Nash of Bolsa Gunsmithing and a bird flushed out of range. Timber had just accomplished a very long and successful retrieve on a ringneck shot by Cheely. Timber was not a quitter and he took off after that low flying bird crossing other fields and flushing planted birds with this shooter in hot pursuit and whistle blowing. Finally he quit the chase and came back to heal with tongue out and head down. He had just blown through a field being guided by dog trainer Paul Cacciatore of Starlight Kennels and boy did we get an ear full about dog control.


Although Timber was not the best pheasant dog for released birds he did excel at hunting wild chukar in the high desert, held his own on native California valley quail was at the top of his work on ducks and geese. It was in the fall of 2005 when Harold Horner of High Desert Guide Service invited us on a chukar hunt. Horner had hunted with Timber for quail and dove and knew of his temperament and suggested that I hunt one canyon alone. That hunt was one of the most memorable of our lives in the field together, as we combined to harvest a 6 bird limit with a 20 gauge and then he proudly obediently posed high in the Ord Mountains with the chukar for a photo shoot.


Timber was not only a good hunter, but he was equally great with kids and loved his long walks along the surf at Newport Beach. I would often let him off leash to ride a few small waves on his own, but the greatest moment of our lives together was that warm summer day when we went surfing together in front of our beach cottage and caught a nice wave and rode it all the way into the beach side-by-side.


Yes, Timber has been laid to rest and has gone up to doggie heaven where all good dogs get to go. Toni and I will never be able to replace all the good times with him, but we are seriously thinking about a yellow lab female puppy to start off the new year.


timber's last hunt

TIMBER'S LAST HUNT — WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec enjoyed a very successful duck hunt at Wister on opening day while hunting alongside his yellow lab who was celebrating his 12th birthday. Timber made 14 solid retrieves for his master and a hunting partner. In the following weeks this fine Labrador Retriever would succumb to cancer. JIM NIEMIEC FILE PHOTO

Reader Comments
Jim, sorry to hear about timber. There is no replacing a good hunting dog, we can only hope another one comes along some day. i do understand your loss, be patient it will be with you for awhile. respectfully Grady
Grady Istre
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