Sunday, October 7, 2012

Burned-in Memories

Cap and Sharptail Retrieve
On my two day, 2400 mile drive home, I had a lot of time to reflect on the trip. A few things really stand out and will be remembered forever.  Even now, I remember selected incidents from trips taken 20 years ago.  For example, I remember an occasion on my first "traveling wingshooter" trip, back in the day.  We loaded up our dogs and, with little preparation other that hearing quail were abundant in Kansas, we drove all night to hunt Kansas Quail.  We had our dogs in boxes in the back of the truck and stars in our eyes about all the coveys we'd find.  This was back in the '90's, and I wasn't the shy retiring type I am now.  Our plan was simple.  We would find good land and knock on the nearest door and ask permission. Part A was easy, Part B proved more problematic, but only because we had a hard time finding people to ask.  It seems, in that part of Kansas, when the crops are in, the farmers go to Arizona for the winter! As drunks and fools are sometimes protected, we ended up getting invited to prime land and we shot a lot of birds and I was hooked....I've been traveling and hunting birds since. One thing I remember isn't all the birds or the finds. I remember one morning so foggy we literally had to drive just a few miles per hour.  I was riding, so I rolled the window down and stared intently in to the Cottonwood hedgerows along the road.....and counted coveys! One stretch of road, somewhere around Pratt, I counted 5 coveys of 15+ birds hunkered down in the trees while driving a half mile.  I also remember knocking on the door of the nearest farmhouse and the kind lady informing us we had permission to hunt, but "don't shoot my pet covey near the barn."  A good day, that one.


Cap on the First Point in the alfalfa
Bob's Pudelpointer had great finds and retrieves!

Many things are still fresh from this trip.  Even my 62 year old, worn out, teen in the '60's brain can remember stuff this fresh.  But one day will be especially memorable, I know.  My friend, Bob, and I hunted a farm in Eastern Montana one day.  Our other friends hunted there earlier and also in previous years and the place holds a lot of birds.  We got there and drove several miles through fields and hills and mountains (not a small place) to "the spot".  By then, it was hot, (80's) and the birds knew we were there- heck, they were sitting on the barbed wire watching us pull up.  Remember, these birds had been shot over and at, and they didn't hang around long.  The results were a long walk and worn out dogs.  By then, it was noon and we drove in to the little town and had some lunch and gave each other a pep talk.  We decided to wait until late afternoon and get fresh dogs and run them through a big flat alfalfa field, which took up a whole section.  I put my 2 year old Brit on the ground, Cap. A young dog, he's seen a lot of territory.  He missed the first trip his first year only because he was 5 months old.  He made the next 7 trips.  Not expecting much, we worked around the trucks for a bit, watered the dogs again, and headed out in to the alfalfa. We crossed a field of cut wheat and volunteer trash grass along a stream as the dogs kept up a pretty good pattern ahead of us.  At the edge of the alfalfa, I remember thinking, "You know, it's 35 miles back to the motel and we've been out here all day with nothing in the bag, and it's hot, and my legs are sore, and waa, waa, waa....!" Right then, the pager in the Garmin interrupted my pity party....Cap had jumped the creek and made it 20yds in to the alfalfa and locked up!  "Oh, hello!"  The next half hour was point, back, shoot, retrieve as we both worked our dogs and had one of those afternoons when it all went right.  Even the bird I wounded, we found later!  Eight birds in the bag and some very fine dog work.  It was a mile back to the truck lugging the birds and trying to outrun a thunderstorm moving in from the northwest...amazingly, my legs didn't ache a bit....go figure!






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