Thursday, October 18, 2018

One Cast (Of Many) in the Grasslands

Point and 2 Backs

One afternoon, we put out on a large patch of Hunter Walk-in Area near Pierre.  Mainly flat with a little roll, the land was a sea of grass.  It was obviously an old alfalfa field, as we could see the stalks and plants pushing up through the grass, providing food and cover for the Prairie Chickens and Sharptail Grouse. I started with Cap (Brit/M/8) and Shack (Brit/M/5) on the ground- my most productive team.  Hunting partners, Matthew and Shelby Puckett, had 11 year old Abby (GSP/F) down.  

Shelby and Shack

Abby struck first with a very nice point!  Cap and Shack strolled in, from two different directions, and backed her.  We all knew we had something waiting for us, and Matthew did his best to flush them, but either they ran out from under the dogs or this was old scent. We moved on through the grass. About 40 yards later, the grass parted and a chicken blasted up, right at my feet!  Instinct took over as the 5.8# AHFox 20 qa. hit my shoulder and a load of 6’s went his way. Sweet shot!  And the bird pitched forward into the grass.  An instant later, the blast of another set of wings, to my left, sent another Prairie Chicken up and away! He made a fatal turn to follow the the first bird, and the Fox barked one more time, followed by a tumbling bird into the grass.  A Double!  My first on Chickens. 


Shelby and Matthew and Shack  and Abby moved off to the south as Cap and I covered another section of the area. Thinking we may have left a bird or two back at the tree line near the trucks, I swung around and headed back.  Cap was on his game (he’s rarely not) and with 8 years’ experience, I knew, if they were there, he’d find them.  Sure enough, he slammed a point just outside the stand of trees, in the cut alfalfa. It’s always amazing to me how these birds can disappear in no cover.  As I approached, this guy gave me no chance. He blasted out before I could get closer that 50 yards. No shot there, but Cap was still birdy, and I was anxious to limit. A minute later, Cap, tongue lolling and working slowly and carefully along the edge of a drainage ditch, eased into a point.  There wasn’t a cupful of grass right in front of his nose. But, I knew my dog, and I always honored his point.  Besides, I’d just scored a double!  Two fat chickens in the bird bag would soon be joined by a third. Then, I could return to the truck (“Yeah, I’m back a little early, but, then, I limited, you know. Let me tell you all about it....”).

Cap and 3 Chickens

Needless to say, this bird was already in the bird bag.  I glanced around to clear the area, and I noticed Matthew and Shelby coming in from the south. Also, Sarah and Jesse were standing by the trucks.  Perfect. Witnesses!  (What pilot doesn’t like an audience?).  Talking to Cap and easing around him, on his left so he could see me closing in (he lost the lens in his right eye), I moved to the tuft of grass. No more than two steps away, the grass blew apart and a laughing  Sharptail blew up and straight away!  The Fox hit my shoulder, as I envisioned easing the bird into the crowded bird-bag.  The old 20 ga. barked twice and a shocked silence surrounded an embarrassed, overconfident, 68 year old, traveling bird hunter as the sharpie chuckled away into the distance.  Laughing, I thought, “Thank you Lord for, once again, showing me my misplaced pride.  But, did it need to be in front of so many witnesses?” He was silent on that one.

It was an awesome day on the prairie with good friends and great dogs.