Joy of Hunting
bruce's blog &
Today I had the great pleasure of hunting my eighteen month old Brittany, Reacher, until he was actually showing some signs of tiredness! This is a first! The dog wants to range and crash through premier pheasant cover a quarter mile ahead of me, normally. But today he actually didn’t wear out the electrical charge on his collar…although I did recharge the unit midday!
Here’s the story: three non-experienced hunters and one experienced with a black lab, but the lab was not oriented around pheasants. Instead of flushing, the lab was focussed on retrieval. Nothing unusual about this. Training labs to be effective pheasant hunters, to charge through dense pheasant holding cover within shotgun range, is not a simple task. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of “pheasant” experience.
But this was what we started with. And the group was young and fit, which really helped! They all had shotgun experience, but two were shooting borrowed guns. Not so good! Over the course of the day, I expect they shot nearly four boxes of shells at birds!
From their perspective the hunt was wonderful. Lots of action, and some birds. Reacher loved it! He had at least four birds shot directly over his points, and another four or five that were early birds that didn’t quite hold solid as hunters approached. Pheasant are that way. The birds occasionally hold tight, but just as often blow out early! We were all watching for those moments when the cattails would stop vibrating! Then quickly moving in to be within a shot opportunity!
The group collected eleven roosters, and one inadvertent hen, over the course of the seven hour hunt. Two late season greenwing teal were an unexpected bonus. The plumage on the drake teal was almost startling! It’s early December, and teal are normally long gone by now this far north! I remember a mid-December drake wood duck from a few years back…but that’s another story.
So this group initiated three new hunters into the enigma of the pheasant hunt. These guys were blooded. I remember it taking five minutes for one of the newbies to figure out how to pick up and carry a downed bird. It was his first, and there’s so much misinformation out there that he is excused! Reality…the urban experience just does not prepare one for the life of a hunter. Not today! But the hunt itself came off well. Safety was at the fore front. Guns were up, for the most part. Shots were deferred, as needed in some settings. The hunters themselves were both, willing and receptive to input.
Reacher shone. He had a couple flat out “classic” points. I doubt whether the newbies appreciated this fully, but I’m sure they will repeat the images in their “mind’s eye” many times, and remember just what hunting behind the quintessential pheasant dog is all about.
I’m incredibly grateful that this group had the firepower to down several of the birds that Reacher pointed. This resulted in “bird in the mouth” for Reacher. A terrific “home run” for him! He also learned that “bird in the mouth” is not a given…he has to do his part and “hold tight”, when he can. The alternative is a rooster flushing a hundred yards ahead of the guns. But he’s actually getting it, looping ahead of “runners" and getting in their space, on the other side of the guns. Blocking them, forcing the birds to either “hide” or “fly”. Reacher is beginning to pattern birds. It’s a marvel!
Bruce knows and loves the pheasant like no other hunter / landowner, and he writes with humor and expertise about this glorious bird. His stories are full of wisdom and insight and are fun to read! Eventually they will be published - working title "Pheasant Book".