Monday, October 10, 2011

Sweet Victory In Eastern Washington Quail Hunt: Fran's Diary

Quail hunting eastern Washington – Oct 7

Scott was hunting the bottom of the draw with Disco and I was up a little higher with Sarge.  We had been hunting for about 15 minutes and I heard Scott shoot.  There was a line of trees and cover between us and I couldn’t see him just then.  I blew the sit whistle so Sarge wouldn’t get any bright ideas of running over to where Scott was.  I waited a few seconds and then Scott let me know he had missed on a covey of quail Disco had flushed.  We continued our hunt and had some quail flushing up ahead out of range.  As we worked our way along, it was obvious Sarge was smelling birds.  He worked the cover well and for the most part stayed within gun range without too many reminders.  Most times, I can hit the “beeper” on his e-collar and he’ll come back within gun range and check in with me.
Sarge popped in and out of sight, but stayed close enough that when the cover was over his head, I could still see it moving and I knew where he was most of the time.  At one point we got into some of the yellowish brown weedy stuff. (I should, and would like to, know the names of all the flora where we hunt, but sadly, I do not.)   This stuff is about two - three feet high, dried up leaves, with stick-like stems that make a little noise when a person or a dog moves through it.  But, birds can maneuver around pretty easily.  Sarge really wound up and then suddenly his hunt slowed down and he went zigzagging one way, then circling back and around and I stopped moving.  I stood there with my gun ready, knowing a bunch of quail would be shooting up any second.  But, then, Sarge “kept” moving around, and back over ground he had already covered and then back toward me.  I thought to myself, “Do quail run around in circles and back and forth like roosters?”  Before I could answer myself, a young rooster flushed right next to my right foot!  I “squeaked” out loud with fright (better than peeing my pants), but shouldered my gun at the rooster knowing I couldn’t pull the trigger.   And, before I had a chance to catch my breath, another rooster, an older guy with a tail about 4 ft long, flushed up about 5 yards from me making all the racket a flushing rooster is capable of.  I swung my gun on that one, too.  Sarge was bouncing around in front of me watching the birds fly off, saying, “Shoot!  Shoot!” (in dog body language)   I blew the sit whistle and after a couple times, he did sit – at full attention watching the roosters make their way back behind us and into the trees and bushes.   I called Sarge over and told him what a good boy he was – that we only had a few weeks before I would be blasting up a storm at those ditch dragons.  I also reminded him that we can shoot quail, so go ahead and find some.   Then, I heard the flush and cackle and saw a rooster flush up in front of Scott and Disco.  I heard Scott yell, “EeeHaw!”  

A short while later Sarge got birdy again in some grassy weedy brush that he had been working.  Again, I stopped and got ready as he slowed down and wound up.  This time, there was no time to ask myself dumb questions.  Quail erupted in front of me.  I swung left (too late) as three or four took off up the hill and dodged out of sight, then three more took off ahead of me and I swung my gun and zeroed in on one that suddenly zipped to the left.   The other two were heading straight out in front and I picked one and pulled the trigger – a miracle happened.  Yes, a hunting miracle – I hit the bird!  Then, another two came up and I swung hard to my left and took a shot just before it disappeared up the hill.  I was behind the bird and missed.  I quickly ejected my two shells and reloaded my gun while keeping my eyes on the cover in front of me where Sarge was jumping around.  I almost had my gun closed when two more quail took off.  In the instant it took me to close and shoulder my gun, they were gone.  I waited for more, I was ready, but no more flushed.  I heeled Sarge over to me.  I had hit the quail at about 30 yards and it propelled into very thick grassy cover about 6 to 8 feet high.  I was worried this one would be really hard to find.  When we got to the place where I had seen the bird go in, I sent Sarge, “Find it, fetch it up.”  He jumped in and instantly vanished.  I heard him searching around and I started looking around the edge as much as I could.  The cover was too tall and thick for me to get in.  I could barely hear Sarge now, and had no idea if he really knew he was supposed to be looking for a dead bird; or if he was hunting and not working the area of the fall.  This was only the beginning of his second hunting season.   Sarge doesn’t turn two until December.   And as he has hunted most of the time with me, who hasn’t hit a bird in two years, why would he think he’s looking for a dead bird?  Just when I was about to call Sarge in, I could hear him coming back.  As his head popped out of the thick cover, I saw the quail in his mouth!  I can’t even describe how happy I was.  I dropped down to my knees and took the bird and gave him a big hug.  Sarge’s face and tongue was covered with his own blood.  He had tiny cuts and scrapes all over from the sharp grass and prickly cover he had been hunting in.  I took out my water bottle, gave him some water and washed off his face.  The damage was superficial and he obviously felt nothing but joy – just like me.  Sarge and I got a quail!  It don’t get no better than that.

The best things come in small packages!

And, I have a picture to prove it.

1 comment:

Micki said...

Great story Fran. You should write or a sports magazine. Keep blogging your hunting adventures I love to read them. Micki