There aren’t many circumstances other than duck hunting that will require meeting a stranger in the middle of nowhere, Arkansas, at 2 a.m. That’s basically the setting for meeting veterinarian Jonathan Bradshaw.

After trading hellos and introducing the hunting dogs, Bradshaw, his retriever Prophet and his guests load up the boat and set out to chase mallards on an ox-bow off the White River.

There is no better way to get to know a person than to share a morning in the duck woods, especially when the hunting is slow. The morning is spent watching birds pass by, except the occasional, lone greenhead that would mistakenly drop into the decoys.

As the sun comes up and the hours go by, Bradshaw wears a steady smile while keeping his eyes constantly on either the horizon or his dog, drinking the morning in. The time is filled by trading hunting stories from around the country —elk, sheep, deer, pheasants —but somehow the conversation keeps returning to ducks and dogs.

On the return boat trip it becomes clear how valuable it is to have a veterinarian who not only understands a hunter’s passion but also the specific demands the sport makes on a hunting dog.

Bradshaw discusses joint pain and preventatives with pro trainer Luke Cour at a Super Retriever Series event. (Kody Van Pelt)

A Fan of the Sport

Bradshaw’s fascination with hunting dogs and retrievers started early in life. He grew up watching and helping his dad train retrievers while attending Hunt Test and other Hunting Retriever Club (HRC) events in Arkansas, and he developed a passion for the sport and environment.

“I always loved to watch them hone their skills at hunt tests and then put those skills to use in the duck woods,” Bradshaw says. “One dog in particular, a chocolate lab named Molly, stands out in my memories. She was one heck of a dog in the duck woods and even better at home. She made me fall in love with everything Labrador retriever.”

After graduating from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, Bradshaw returned to Arkansas as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and opened South Arkansas Veterinary Hospital in Arkadelphia in 2013. He cares for all sorts of pets and animals but specializes in the sporting breeds, specifically retrievers.

When not at the clinic, Bradshaw frequents public training events, hunt tests and professional trainers to answer questions and lend a hand however he can. At a summer Super Retriever Series event at Pepper’s Pond in Mayflower, Bradshaw carried his same, ready smile as he went around with his son talking to handlers and trainers. He went out of his way to answer sometimes fairly involved questions, to look dogs over and discuss treatments and preventatives with different owners.

Not only does Bradshaw enjoy attending and watching the sporting tests, his own young dog, Prophet, is working his way through training and hunt-test game.

After the Super Series event, the talk turned again to hunting. Bradshaw is asked what his favorite part of a hunt is and the best way to chase ducks.

“Right when you start to see daylight, after pushing your boat out of the hole and into cover. Everyone is calling to birds in the air and you are hustling to get back to the hole before missing that first light volley, that’s the best part,” Bradshaw says. “The dogs are whimpering with excitement, the moon faintly shines in the sky and you can hear wings whistling overhead. It’s a hard feeling to beat. If you ask me, it doesn’t get any better than a late December morning in Bayou Meto with my family and a black dog.”

Bradshaw enjoys raising his son around the retriever world, similar to how he was raised by his father. (Kody Van Pelt)

Clinically Speaking

Discussing the future, Bradshaw mentions the clinic, Green Mountain Animal Hospital, he recently opened in Little Rock in order to reach more people in central Arkansas.

He hopes to continue to expand his practice further into the sporting dogs world and has no plans to stop attending American Kennel Club and HRC hunt tests and field trials. He aspires to be a resource to professional trainers and dog owners and provide the highest quality care a sporting dog could need.

His confidence in discussions with clients and trainers is refreshing and, while giving advice, he is at the same time humble enough to listen to the experiences others have had with different treatments and medications. Bradshaw asks for feedback and follows up with owners whose dogs he had previously treated.

His passions mirror those of the hunters whose lives revolve around waterfowling and their dogs. The shared feelings and experiences make it clear Bradshaw has the expertise and drive to keep sportsmen and their best friends hunting together for many years to come.

A cloudy morning boat ride with Bradshaw and his dog Prophet. (Kody Van Pelt)