Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More From Fran's Diary: Eastern WA Bird Hunting

Scott & Sarge in 2010 after a good hunting day

Nov 10, 2011 – Eastern Washington Quail and Pheasant hunting

It was sunny and the temperature was mild for this time of year.  We hunted one of our favorite “feel free to hunt” areas.  I was hunting Robert, my red setter.  Scott was hunting Disco, our little lab.  As soon as we got near the draw, Robert bumped a rooster out of range in light cover.  As we continued our hunt, both Scott and I saw quail flush out of range.  Then Robert’s bell stopped up ahead of me and I felt a little rush of adrenaline.  I moved forward as quietly as possible and found Robert on point at the edge of some pampas grass. As I moved toward him, a rooster flushed before I could get within gun range.  When it cackled its way up and over the pampas grass, a second rooster nearby also flushed!  The roosters are already wary this far into the season and with the weather being warm, they have no reason to hold for anything suspicious – like dogs or people.  

We crossed the draw with no birds in the bag and started our hunt back up the other side.  I heard Robert’s bell stop again.  As I carefully worked my way his direction, to my right Disco flushed a covey of quail in front of Scott.  As I stopped to watch, Scott hit one that went behind him.  When he told Disco to fetch it up, she took off where she “thought” it went – where two or three had just flushed.  But, apparently, Robert, who I still hadn’t seen, did see where Scott’s quail had fallen and he took Scott’s “fetch it up” as an OK for him.  From where I stood, I couldn’t see Robert zip past Scott toward the downed bird.  Scott yelled over to me that “my” dog was retrieving Disco’s bird!  I whistled for Robert, hoping to stop his “illegal” retrieve.  But, as he came up the hillside and out of the cover toward me, I saw he had the quail, and delivered it nicely.  Oh well, that’s bird hunting.  You can do all the training set-ups possible, and then “real” hunting happens.  I believe both Disco and Robert thought they were doing what was asked. 

We continued up the draw and I decided to put more space between Scott and me.  I turned Robert up through the sage toward some trees off in the distance.  There were quail and pheasant tracks all over the place and Robert was definitely birdy.  But, before we could find anything, I again heard off to my right a shot.  When I turned to see what Scott was shooting, I saw about 30 quail all flying different directions.   I heard Scott send Disco for the retrieve and this time she got her own bird.   As Disco was returning, another covey about the same size flushed between Scott and me.  Neither of us could take a shot for safety reasons. 

We finished hunting without finding any more birds and headed back to the truck.  Scott and I were walking together alongside the dirt field (previously corn) at the end of the draw with the dogs at a loose heel in front of us.  We were talking and without warning, Robert slams into a point – about 5 feet in front of me!   As my heart skips a beat, I got ready.  I moved up next to Robert who was looking intensely “down” into extremely thick waist high cover.  An old barbed wire fence was in the middle of the cover.  I kicked the brush through the fence – nothing. Robert was still locked on point.    I looked back at Scott who had Disco on a sit.  I decided to try and get over the fence – which was no easy feat at this location.  I kept my gun as ready as I could and as I stepped over and into the thick brush, a single quail zoomed low and fast into the trees at the end of the draw.  I barely had time to get my safety off, let alone pull the trigger before the little bugger had disappeared.   

We got back to the truck and I cleaned up Disco and Robert, and gave them some hunting treats.  We ate some lunch and got out our other two dogs, Sarge, my young lab, and Ruby, mother to Robert.  We headed across the road for our next hunt. 

Scott and our friend Scott C. took Ruby and went off the opposite direction down the valley.  Sarge immediately went into his intense hunting mode.  He was so birdy; I thought a rooster would flush up at any second.   Sarge worked the cover non-stop as we continued our hunt.  Then, he circled back, and around – I knew this routine.  I stood perfectly still in thigh to waist high brush.  I watched his movements in the cover and as he came back toward me, I could hear my heart beat faster as I got ready.   Then, directly behind me, the unmistakable sound of a pheasant beating its way out of the brush made me jump.  As I turned with gun ready, the rooster who didn’t make even a small cackle was already speeding away.  I fired once and saw him move and fired a quick second shot and saw both legs drop.  He didn’t slow his flight one bit and was up over the rise and out of sight in a second.  I blew a sit whistle for Sarge.  I knew which direction the rooster went and with two broken legs, once he landed, he wouldn’t be going anywhere.   But, unfortunately, as we were in the bottom of the draw, I couldn’t see him land.  I called Scott on my radio and asked if they happened to see the rooster.  Fortunately, Scott C did see where he landed.  And, they were closer than me.  They were about 150 yards away.  So, they headed that way with Ruby.  By the time Sarge and I caught up to those guys, Ruby had pointed, then retrieved the dead rooster. YEA!

I have friends and family that have no idea why I love this sport so much.  And, I understand their point of view.  I also have friends and family that know EXACTLY why I love this sport.  Kate, and I were just discussing this the other day.  Is it an addiction or “just” a passion?  What makes us love to train and hunt with our dogs more than anything in the world?  Only the people that love to play this game with their dogs truly understand.  There is nothing more fun and exciting than upland hunting with my dogs.  And, for me, getting a wild rooster in eastern Washington is a prize indeed.    

In the picture with Scott and two quail are Disco and Robert

Scott, Disco and Ruby with their Quail
In the picture with me and the rooster are Sarge and Ruby.

Fran, Robert and Sarge with Pheasant

1 comment:

Irene_J said...
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