Friday, October 24, 2008

Part VI: WTF Just Happened?

Note: This trip encompassed 10 days. This post is dedicated to one hunt lasting only 90 minutes. I hope I never forget this particular hunt.

From Lewistown we decided to hunt an area that I found using Google Earth, and posted about earlier in The Gems of Internet Scouting. After a brief hunt that only produced pheasants we decided to move on. We set our sights on a big piece of state land where we thought we'd find sharptails. They had been easy to find, and after frustrating ourselves with huns it would be nice to shoot the gun some more. Up until this point we were only running two dogs down at a time in the interest of preserving our hounds over the long term, and keeping things simple. I also believe that there is a steep curve of diminishing return running multiple dogs. But, the weather was slightly cooler, there was actually a humid breeze, and the land was large and featureless. So in a moment of rushed judgement down went Ike, Doc, and Ted's Dottie and Vegas. "F*** it."

The field was like a table top with the edges falling off into lower pasture land. I followed the edge of a ridge and Ted stayed to my right, bisecting the field as he walked. Doc was off to the races, but I could follow him with the Astro as he hunted beyond 400 yards. I noticed the grass seemed to have been planted as it was in tight rows. After a few hundred yards with no action I thought that even the sharptails would now elude us. And then it started. Bird busting one, two, three at a time here and there. The wind was at our backs, and the two bigger running setters each ran beyond these birds. After a few wild flushes the temptation became too strong and Ted dropped a double. I think that is when it started.

We reached a fence and opted to circle back around to the truck. Ike made a long cast down the fence line and established point. Doc saw and hunted towards him and birds broke as Doc crossed the fence. At the end of the fence we turned right back towards the truck, into the wind. It wasn't long before we saw this in the distance ahead...

Ike instinctively honored, as he has since he was a pup, from a hundred yards or more. As I went beyond Doc's nose Ike probably started creeping, but I didn't notice. I cleanly killed the sharptail and as Doc attempted the retrieve Ike rushed ahead in search or more birds.

Then all hell broke loose.

Ike would point, and Doc would bust the bird. Then Doc would point, and Ike would bust it. We lost several birds like this. All the while I'm screaming at the top of my lungs in the wind, trying to get to the e-collar transmitter, or the camera; it was pure madness. Doc and Ike, in their competitiveness, even stopped ignoring the e-collar on the light setting, so it went up. This went on for what seemed like a while, but was probably only five minutes. Right there we ended up having a harsh training session on "whoa." I have never been so red-faced in the field before. My voice was hoarse. Even now my blood pressure goes up just thinking about it--I was so angry. The most frustrating part is I knew that both of them knew better, and they chose to ingore me, and for that the "team" suffered. Frankly, I felt embarassed in front of Ted.

Eventually the dogs put it together and we were able to finish our limits with good dog work. We even got some video that I'll be posting later.

Not bad for a short walk under the Big Sky...

I'm not sure why I took this picture; I wasn't particularly pleased with either of these no good butt sniffin' bird bustin' biscuit eaters.

Now THIS is a gaggle of birds. Count 'em, six sharptails in one hand!

We unceremoniously posed for pictures, put the dogs up, and cleaned birds only trading a few words between eachother. Then we sat on the tailgate each sipping a cold brew. I think we were both reflecting what just happened for a few minutes, and I broke the silence with "that was the most stressful limit of birds I've ever shot in my entire life." Ted agreed.


Andrew Campbell said...

Jon: first time visiting the Four Seasons -- and we got here through For Love of Dogs and Birds.

That is some beautiful scenery -- and congratulations on getting your bag-limit! Sure wish I had countryside like that nearby to let my young dog, especially, stretch his legs. In any case, we certainly have our 'hot' days too... the days when you wish for slightly fewer birds to avoid them mentally overheating. Better perhaps to have a dog with sometimes a little too much drive than one that can't be bothered.

Looking forward to monitoring your progress.


Mntmaniac said...

Nice work Jon...I enjoy your post...Thanks!