On some hunts things just all come together and make it a hunt to remember. Such was the case last Monday when my buddy, Lowell Boldt, and I decided to make another try for pheasants.
Both of us are members of the Lowellville Rod & Gun Club and despite the name, the club was not named after Mr. Boldt. The club does, however, turn a number of pheasants loose each year and we both love to hunt them. Of course, I took Scooter along and also a very special shotgun.
The shotgun is a Winchester Model 12 that was manufactured in 1917. It works as smoothly today as it did when it left the factory in the year before America entered the First World War. I consider that a tribute to the fine quality of craftsmanship Winchester employed in those days and the fine care it received from its previous owner. Gene is no longer with us, but I take the Twelve out once in a while in his honor. It is a great pheasant gun.
This is Scooter's first year as a serious hunter and so far our success had been mixed. On a previous trip she did manage to flush two pheasants, which I missed. One was such an easy shot that I still wonder what happened. While Scooter had found and flushed the birds I don't think she really put two and two together. A dog needs to see a lot of game to become a top notch hunting dog.
Monday was cold and there was plenty of snow on the ground. Eventually, we found some bird tracks, but neither Scooter nor I was able to flush anything. This was thick cover and I think the birds were sitting tight in some nasty briars that were so tightly spaced they were impossible to penetrate. Poor Scooter backed into one and yipped to let me know it hurt.
Later, as we passed another briar patch, I saw her head come up and she dove in. Something in there had her interest and she kept working that patch and refused to leave. Then it happened. With a loud cackle a big cock pheasant took to the air and the Winchester came to my shoulder. I pulled the trigger and the pheasant hit the ground, but was not about to stay there.
Although he was hit hard the bird kept trying to get airborne, but that is hard to do when a mountain cur keeps grabbing your tail feathers. Scooter can perform a vertical leap of close to 6 feet. Even after both dog and bird had zipped down a hill and out of sight, Lowell and I could follow the action by their tracks and a line of tail feathers.
By the time two old guys made their way down a slippery hill, I saw that Scooter had the pheasant by the head and was swinging it around in a circle. It made me think about the old-fashioned farm wife doing the same thing as a first step in preparing Sunday's chicken dinner. The pheasant was ready for my game pouch.
Scooter got a lot of pats and plenty of "Good girl" compliments. She had done her job and I could see in her eyes that two and two now came together. I think the need to run down the bird was what finally made it click for her. All of her genes that could be traced back through years of breeding hunting dogs had surfaced. My little girl was without a doubt a hunter.
I didn't see Scooter's next flush as I was behind a thick stand of hawthorn saplings, but I heard it. There is no mistaking the cackle of a flushing cock pheasant. I wish we still had a strong native population in Ohio.
The last flush of the day came past Lowell and he made a beautiful shot. It was a difficult crossing angle and we added another bird to our bag. By then, however, the humans in the trio were ready to call it a day. It wasn't easy getting Scooter to quit hunting, but I eventually got her in the van.
It has been two years since Star died and I didn't think I would ever have a day like this one. On the way home I realized how great the day had been. There were two pheasants and a special shotgun in the back of my van and a great little dog curled up and sleeping on the seat next to me.