Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two Hunters, Two Dogs, Four Shots, One Rooster.

Frankie And Her Rooster

Posted by Fran Seagren

We were hunting down a draw in eastern Washington – one of our favorite spots.  It was a wide area between two fields.  One field hadn’t been planted and was plowed dirt.  The other field was cut corn. The draw sloped down steeply until it came to a point at the bottom.  The cover in the draw was very thick with grass, thick brush, Russian Olive and willow trees.  Some areas were fairly open, but most of it was the type of cover that late-season pheasants love.  If you don’t have good dogs, it would be almost impossible to hunt.  The pheasants have lots of hiding places and by late season, they are always very wily.  When we’re lucky, we can get a bird or two out of the draw. 

There was a crosswind that afternoon so my lab, Jonz, and I took the upwind side of the cover giving Scott, and his Brittany, Franki, the downwind side.  Jonz is a great pheasant hunter.   It’s his claim to fame.  He will stay in the thick stuff and hunt it hard.  He knows roosters and how tricky they can be.   The “hunting plan” was for us to push any birds that Jonz didn’t flush up on my side over to Scott and Franki.  Or, with us hunting both sides, to squeeze the birds down to the bottom where the draw comes to a point and where the birds would run out of cover.  The cover in the draw is so thick, for most of the hunt, Scott and I don’t see each other until we meet at the bottom. 

Jonz worked the cover as I walked along the edge of the cut corn field.  He popped in and out of the cover on our way down and I could see he was birdy.  As was our practice, Scott and I don’t talk unless absolutely necessary.   This late into the season, the birds are wise to hunters, voices and even whistles.  We use a minimum of whistle commands and try to use hand signals instead of our voices.

As I worked my way down the draw, several times I thought Jonz would push a bird out and my adrenaline level was high.  But we got to the bottom without seeing a single hen, let alone a rooster.  I signaled for Jonz to heel and looked for Scott and Franki.  As I walked around the end of the cover into the plowed dirt field, I saw Scott about one-third of the way up the draw, just standing there with his gun casually over his shoulder.  He was looking my way.   Now, I’m very confused.  I gave him “the universal shrug.”  Meaning, “What ARE you doing?”

He called out in a very loud voice, “Well!  It’s about time you guys showed up!”  I’m stunned.  He’s not only talking, but he’s loud!   I was so surprised; I just stood there looking at him for a second.  He immediately blurts out,  “Franki has been on point in this thick stuff for about 20 minutes.  I can barely see the white end of her butt in there.  She must be eyeball-to-eyeball with a bird because I can’t get her to flush it.  She won’t budge and I can’t get in there.  It’s like a jungle!   Send Jonz up here.  I need a flusher!”  I told Jonz, “Go see Scott!” And off he went leaving dust clouds on his way up the dry field. 

I saw Scott send Jonz into the thicket, and immediately everything exploded!  A very large and noisy rooster came out at head level directly in Scott’s face, with a “flying” black lab at almost the same height right on the bird’s tail.  Franki was also in mid-air right behind Jonz.  Scott ducked the bird and dodged the dogs.   As the rooster barely cleared Scott’s head and took off flying fast, Scott took a shot from a “spinning-around-while-ducking” position.  As Scott is (normally) an excellent shot, I expected the rooster to fall.  It did not.  In an instant, Scott fired his second shot as the rooster gained altitude and curled to the left down the draw toward me.  He misses it, again.  I couldn’t believe it.   And, I’m standing there flat-footed just watching this comical scene. 

Both dogs are in full pursuit as they also know that when Scott shoots, birds fall - usually.  But, not this time.  I, on the other hand, am typically a lousy shot.  As the rooster comes my way, I take a shot.  Of course, I miss.  The rooster is flying high and fast and is now getting out there past me.  After uttering a foul word, I take aim and fire my second shot.  Yes!  There is a Hunting God!  The rooster falls, making a big dusty “poof” as it hits the plowed dirt.  Both dogs are still in hot pursuit.  I don’t trust Jonz to let Franki retrieve the bird if they both get there at the same time.  He thinks all retrieves should be his.  I whistle him to sit as Franki doesn’t slow her pace.  Scott is hooting and hollering.  Jonz doesn’t want to sit, and it takes another two whistles to get him to comply.  Franki closed in on the rooster and as pheasants are known to do – it suddenly came back to life. 

Just as Franki reached it, the rooster jumps up and gets about three feet off the ground.   Franki launched into the air.  Rooster and Brittany come back down in a cloud of dust.  We watch as the rooster jumps up again, and Franki after it.  They started rolling down the slope with the dust so thick I couldn’t see if Franki still had “the dragon” or not.  A few seconds later, out of the dust came a little red and white dog with a big rooster!   Score one for all four of us!

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