Four Birds Up, Four Birds Down on the First Barrel

Yesterday I was awakened by the dog barking madly and a thudding at the front door. I had forgotten to set my alarm, indeed I had forgotten I was going hunting with my usual hunting buddy.

I raced to get ready and we made it out there before the fields were opened.

While my buddy and I both have dogs, neither of us have dogs we could very well go hunting birds with. I could not survive the manpoint loss of showing up at the club with my poodle. He keeps a bull mastiff, unsuited for hunting all but the largest (and heavily armed) of game. So we rent from the club. The last few times we have asked for and had Rebel, an amazing two year old German Shorthair that just wants to hunt and please the hunters, so long as you don’t miss the birds he finds for you.

Thus equipped, we depart for our field. We make it about halfway down the muddy side road we take to the field we are using, and there before us are four pheasant roosters wandering down the road. They refuse to get out of the way of my buddy’s big red SUV.

The sudden stink of dog shit fills the car. My buddy and I begin to believe Rebel has shat in the back of the truck. The stench grows worse.

My buddy honks at the birds. They look sideways at the truck, irritated at our effrontery.

The stink grows worse.

Hoping for fresh air, I alight from the truck. The pheasant march a little faster, but don’t leave the roadway. There are two trucks behind ours, the hunters within probably wondering what I am about.

My shout finally disturbs them sufficiently that they take off. One lands in our field, the others flee across the verge into a section we are not permitted to hunt. I curse my impatience. I should have gone round to the driver’s side and shouted, perhaps driving more of them to flee into our field, or at least into the fields set aside for someone to hunt.

I get back into the truck, my nose assaulted again by the aroma of high-protein dog leavings.

We park and bail out of the truck. Hurrying around back to see if there is some way we might shovel the shit out.

Rebel stands defiantly, no shit at his feet. The stench was merely his incredibly potent flatulence. He tosses his head as if to say, “What?” and jumps down. He promptly shits at the base of a nearby tree, looking at me as if to say, “I know where to do my business, do you?”

We geared up.

There was a light rain, and the temperature lingered about 42 degrees. I put my Filson upland game pants on, and found they won’t fit over my fat ass any longer. Luckily, they have long suspenders, so I managed to get them halfway up my ass, and keep my legs dry.

For the last couple years I have been using one of a set of twin LC Smith .12 double-barrel shotguns my maternal great-grandfather purchased back in 1929. We think he was using them for quail hunting in the Southeastern US, as he shortened the barrels a bit with a hack removing most of the choke (It’s hard to get through the brush in the southeast with a long gun.). My father brought the gun with him on one of his visits, and I have been using it ever since.

The ditch between the parking area and the actual field is full to overflowing with rainwater. The wooden plank set across it sagging under the weight of the hunters assigned the other field.

Our neighbors of the hunt have two labs, one yellow, one black. Dufus dogs. Water dogs. They carefully avoid the ditch by bumbling across the planks. Rebel, disdaining such high technology (and freshly lightened of a load) leaps the three feet, lands lightly, and starts to work the field.

The labs approach and sniff him, admiring his dog-ness. Their owners walk into their field, calling their dogs, who respond by walking with us. We are, after all, with Rebel the super-dog. It takes a few minutes for it to soak in for the dufus dogs that we are not their god-kings, and actually don’t like them with us.

Rebel rises above, ignoring the dufus dogs and getting into the hunt, nose up, tail rigid, and cutting back and forth across our path. Ten minutes in, and he’s on the bird I flushed into the field. The bird is a runner, but instead of running straight after it, Rebel’s doing the right thing, rolling left and around, keeping the wind in his muzzle and the bird closer than if he drove straight at it and it continued to run. He finally locks up in a perfect point.

We trudge up (remember, I am half-assed). The bird launches about twenty yards from me, I raise my LC, flick the safety forward with thumb and drop the hammer on the right barrel with the bird about twenty-five yards out. Bird down.

The rest of the day went that smoothly, aside from another visit from the hunters of the neighbor’s dufus dogs and the last bird I shot:

Rebel had run out ahead of us, and was in the brush lining the canal at the far end of our field. I was trudging along about thirty yards away. A bird flushed. I did my usual, not thinking. A beautiful and rather long shot, the bird dropped about thirty-five yards away. It fell on the other side of the canal, which was running very high.

The dog looked at me cocking his head like, “I ain’t swimming across that shit. I ain’t. Get one of those dufuses to do that shit. Better yet, do it yourself.”

I didn’t reply, except to apologize to both Rebel and my buddy.

When we went into the clubhouse, I told them to mark me down for all the birds I’d shot, telling them the story. They laughed, and added another bird to the card.

I think Great-Grand-Dad Whipple would be proud of the shooting, if not the hunter.

Oh, and my buddy has a new set of Filson upland game pants. They kept my legs dry, but my hips started to feel like I’d placed surgical tubing around my thighs. Halfassed is not the way to take long walks.