Last weekend’s pheasant hunt ended abruptly when Snap ran up as I called and noticed a dark red paw with blood dripping from it! Looking closer I could see a serious slice in her right leg just above the ankle. She didn’t seem to be bothered or even notice but I announced to Bob that my day was “over!” He looked ‘n agreed shouldering both unloaded guns as I cradled my young Brit for a half mile walk back to the truck. She tips the scales at just over 30 pounds but about the half way mark I needed a break and thankfully Bob offered to switch. The bleeding had stopped as we got back to the truck but my first aid kit was woefully lacking items to bandage her which made the 2 hour drive home an eternity but that’s a story for another day. What the incident has done is remind me of past 4-legged partners in my life and the tattooed marks of memories left behind.
My first dog almost 4 decades ago was a Golden puppy recommended by a neighbor and friend Rick Olsby. He was already a Golden guy and noticed this litter because of the strong field trial blood lines of a dog named Ready All Ready. This tiny male would grow to be a big tough hard-chargin’ dog. He carried the shortened version Pirate from the registered AKC Pirates’ Gold VI. Training would become the first hurdle new dog owner ya know – what, how and the when of this faze boggled my mind. I settled on a book titled Training Your Retriever by James Lamb Free which was to become my bible. Why that sticks with me I have no idea but it’s there. Thankfully my obedience efforts were successful because most of what that dog would become had to arrive somewhat naturally or maybe magically would be more precise. Those days we had both ducks and lots of pheasants along with Ruffed Grouse about 30 miles north. Pirate broke plenty of late season ice, sat patiently next to me with ice freezing across his back as we waited on the shore of Big Sauk Lake for the black ‘n white rockets to wing through opening paths in the dekes. He was my best huntin’ buddy for 16 years until one morning his back legs couldn’t hold his weight. Without a wine or whimper he struggled toward me for “pets” but it was time to say goodbye. I carried him into the vets’ office stroking his head as he left me. Crying bitterly I carried him to the truck then out to the cabin where he had spent a lot of his life. Next I wrapped him in my hunting coat as a final good bye. The boys made a small wooden cross and together we placed it on his grave. It was hard but the next puppy, as puppies so quickly do filled the void within me but the memories live on.
Another pup came along just a few days after saying goodbye to her predecessor and really put me in the dog house. This little gold female had something very special but my timing was less than ideal. You see Deb was still grieving the one just lost, I think it was Jesse with me ready to move on. It was a delicate next few days to say the least but with apologies the new pup, Maggie again filled a hollow void created yet again. Some say a man gets one really good dog in his lifetime. I’m not sure how true that is but if so this would have been it. Just a few months old this dog was making 200 yard retrieves across a ball field with eagle-like eyes. Her unlimited potential was fun and exciting while it lasted. One weekend at the cabin she bounded ahead of
In her next heat cycle I would breed Kate, Maggie’s mom back to the same sire, Frisbee’s Pilsner
I’ve learned over time that our lives are impacted and shaped by so many things, people, events, background, loves and tragedies. If you are a hunter and own a gun dog I’ll just bet your life has taken on a specific shape because of those same dogs. My spouse recently commented “I wonder what our lives would look like without dogs?” My immediate answer without a moment’s hesitation was “that’s one we’ll never really know will we!” She smiled because you see she knows me well!
With the deep snow dropped on us my season may have been shortened but of course there will be next year and gun dogs, always gun dogs!!
This morning over a cup of coffee I looked out at the temp that read 7 degrees and a thought came to mind – winter just might be here to stay. Quite the revelation huh? OK but more followed, the season was changing again much to my chagrin. Most of us, including me and I’ll bet you too just kind of roll along with each day as it comes. The past fall arrived with large amounts of anticipation much the same as the spring before had done. In the outdoors we make plans to usher in each one. A new season means a change of equipment. Winters’ short ice rods exchanged for those longer, Ice Armor for sweatshirts ‘n fleece and eventually T-shirts ‘n shorts. My Ranger boat comes out of the long winter storage looking forward to soft water again. Then as months roll past and leaves begin to change a chill creeps into once humid warm morning air bringing memories of past falls, whistling waterfowl wings, the rush of a rooster flush, excited gun dogs and the early morning silence broken by a snapped twig or crunching leaf as a Whitetail slowly creeps along a familiar trail.
For more years than I care to elaborate I’ve looked forward to each with little thought to one ending and another beginning except on rare occasions. These thoughts may come along in the early morning as darkness is pushed out by the sun, a quiet time alone in a familiar outdoor place or on a cold evening in front of the wood stove watching flames flicker feeling the warmth from the oak logs as they burn ushering in memories of seasons past. I won’t bore you with too many personal stories but one is worth consideration because if you’re a parent or the child of a parent it may have a personal meaning either now or in the future.
A long time ago as my boys, Erik and
Now about that silhouetted photo? I’ve given it to a good friend as his child was born hoping the experience of father and child growing into outdoor passions would bring him the priceless experiences I’ve had with both Erik and
Well gotta go get those short ice rods ready. Another season’s almost here and I can’t wait!
As the fist of September rolled around as usual my anticipation was at an annual high for the fall. Based on recent past seasons, hype in the print media, the absence of rainfall, friendly conversations between bar stools and pure logic, or so I thought deductions were as follows. 1. With a lack of water my
Now with Halloween less than a week away a look over the shoulder into the reality that was paints a much different picture. It’s probably not that surprising either. Prior to the waterfowl opener my walks/scouting took me to mostly dried up potholes, larger water with little cover, deep watered cattail rung sloughs once inaccessible to wader clad hunters now showing mud-exposed areas between vegetation and what’s left of open water. I could find speedy flocks of green-wings and erratic flying blue-wings but noticed an absence of mallards. That is until the Thursday before opening day when on the other side of a hill I came across a wild rice covered large slough. A stroll to the edge brought flight to literally a thousand or more mallards. Quite a sight to just see along with being a great find. Within an hour they were dropping back in from all directions. Hmmmm plans for the opener were fluid and changing. After a call to Erik and Nolan they made a bee line to the area the evening prior to opening day making their own plans. A small cattail surrounded slough near the rice-filled water with ducks constantly dropping into it as the sun set would be the opener spot. It proved to be a better choice than my suggestion since they were limited out by 7 and me on the air for yet another hour. On my arrival I was still able to manage 3 before the birds settled in remote locations for the rest of the day. After an evening of scouting again our plans changed bringing with it another move for day 2. A good choice with mallard limits and a pair of woodies by early afternoon. The next time out proved much the same although but instead of standing on a floating bog we settled on hard ground again a different location found scouting. With a number of delicious duck meals for friends and family thus far the waterfowl season has been one of the very best in a long time. Who’da thunk!!!!
Number two from above was pretty much right on. Too dry or we simply missed the woodcock when they came through. Although I’ve gotta admit I spent very little time looking too.
Now on to the much anticipated pheasant opener. Another surprise! My preseason scouting found numbers of birds on the same WPA we’d hunted the last couple years. Each of the past two saw numbers of flushes, good dog work and adequate shooting along with a tailgate of birds. This opener brought plowed adjacent corn fields, crackling dry dusty conditions and one missed shot. Our 8 man total, hunting in groups of 2 or 3 managed at day’s end six birds and limited flushes. Running birds, extremely difficult scenting conditions for the 9 dogs and a common thought between us of “What happened to the birds?” Still great fun and great company expectations were much different than reality although on day two I watched
As I write the rain is falling mixed with snow flakes. The best day this season to date has been a mist filled Thursday early afternoon. Birds sitting tight and grouped up for Snap and Tess. There’s only one problem – me! Even knowing the birds are there they still startle me to the point my misses are thus far more common than hits but that’s ok because the experience sure beats simply downed birds and an early trip home. After all I’m “hunting!”
I’ll be back out there tomorrow. The grass should be damp and the dogs well-rested!
See ya afield and good huntin’!