Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Snow Drift Hustle

By the time I reach the southeastern corner of the quarter section Ike is already at the northeastern corner, and of course, on birds.  He's always been the kind of dog that I would catch glancing in my direction as he crossed hundreds of yards to the front.  I'd think with the heavy snow cover, and the thick freezing fog, that Ike would be more likely to work closer in an attempt to stay in touch with me.  There is a thin layer of crust on top of the snow that compounds the now difficult task of putting one foot in front of the other.  Every step I'm convinced the surface will hold, and just as I lift my rear foot my forward foot crunches through.  But that doesn't seem to slow down Ike. 

760 yards.  Seven-hundred and sixty.  Yards.  I'm already out of breath.  I've unzipped my jacket and removed my stocking cap despite the temperature in the teens.  Ike is as honest as they come, and I know he will hold as long as it takes for me to get there.  But no self-respecting wild bird is going to wait for me to come shoot him.  No way.  Doc has hunted in another direction, but I know I can't lose him.  So, I do what I must.  Break open the gun, pocket the shells, put the head down and start truckin'.  Every minute I check the Astro to verify that Ike is still on point.  I'm taking too long.  As more time passes the thoughts of a cynic emerge, "maybe he's in a trap"..."maybe he's stuck in a snow drift"..."maybe he's fallen through the ice into the pond."  Closer now I crest the hill and search for Ike.  Through the stars I see the wooded draw where lives the covey we've met before.  A few more crunching steps and I see Ike's tail swirling as he trots around smelling the ground.

Damnit!  They're gone.

I stop and turn to collect Doc...a few hollers and he's on his way to meet us, although he stops every hundred yards or so to listen for our bearing.  The fourth time the Astro chirps I expect to see Doc "on point" again, but this time it's Ike.  He's into the pasture now, solid.  "Now we're in business."  I fight throug hip-high drifts to cross the not-so-taught fence.  I close the distance, fight through another drifted low area, and Ike remains...steady, honest, intense.

I'm just close enough when the covey flushes from the base of the tree. Most of them fly straight away keeping the tree between us, but a pair peel to the left. Ike sees them and drops his center of gravity and watches. The first shot splits the pair--I was thinking double. The second shot finds the lead bird, but she's not dead.  Ike makes it there quickly and I find him head down up to his shoulders in snow, so I dig and make the retrieve.

Two hefty thumps on his ribs and a "good boy" and he's off again.  The next time I see him he's on another covey.

And like the first most of this covey escapes behind the tree, but a pair offers crossing shots and this time I kill him cleanly.  A short while later Ike finds another covey and I take another bird.  Three quail and it's time to call it quits.  My water is frozen, both dogs have cut pads, and I'm glad, because I'm ready, too.  It feels like the late season and it's only December.


Ben G. said...

Sound like quite a work out, but fun at the same time. What a great coulpe of dogs you have.

Sudeepta said...

You have done a great job and very good photos, thanks for sharing
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