Saturday, 12 November 2011

Nebraska I

Erdos pointing a pheasant the first morning.
I met Carlos in Sidney NE and drove on further east to small town where on weekends he regularly rents an apartment in an old brick hotel.  He prefers I not mention the location.  The next morning we headed south, almost to the Kansas border.  It was opening day of rifle season for deer and there were hunters roaming the countryside everywhere and in fact we saw a very nice whitetail buck on the edge of the walk-in area as we pulled up.

Oscar the nine month old Drathar is ready to go.

In the first area we hunted the dogs were on scent almost right away.  Erdos was ecstatic.  Carlos and Oscar flushed some birds about 150 yards diagonally to my right and then they bumped two more. Erdos and I kept hunting parallel to a fence line next to a corn field that had recently been harvested.  I heard shots ahead and Carlos had killed a rooster. Erdos was on a trail of scent and I followed him as he carefully followed the birds for  a good distance, more than a 100 yards. And then he went on point and would not move.  I stepped forward and a pheasant flushed just behind me.  I turned, raised my shotgun and pulled the trigger and nothing happened.  Much of the fall I've been hunting my single trigger 20 gauge  O/U and, like a fool, I did think to pull the other trigger on the Jeffery.  As I struggled to reload (an unfired shell will not cock the ejectors and hence will not eject) I realized I'd had a misfire. And then, another cock went up right in front of me.  I got off a late shot, a feather flew, but the bird did not seem phased and disappeared over the next ridge.  Typical.  And then, in a few more minutes, Erdos was on fresh scent again.  This time I was ready and when the pheasant flushed I fired once and again.  On the second shot the bird tumbled into the tall grass. I marked it down and ran to the spot but did not see it. I looked and looked and looked some more -- with no help from Erdos who was off on more scent.  Carlos came by with Oscar, and we all hunted for the downed bird, but still we did not find it. A bitter disappointment.  I regret not having worked with Erdos on retrieving.

The dogs get a drink and cool off.
Carlos and Oscar with the first pheasant of the trip.
Erdos' right shoulder has been injured for some time - the vet says - and a long energetic hunt in tall grass had him hurting.  At the next walk-in I left him in the truck and Carlos hunted Lola, a six year old Pointing Griffon. Lola hunted hard quartering back and forth in front of us until she went on point.  We moved in quickly and a cock pheasant went up. Carlos shot and I shot and then he shot and the bird tumbled down. We marked it down and ran to the spot and there was no bird to be seen.  We dropped a hat to mark the spot and circled.  We found no bird until Lola found it, more than fifty yards from where we'd both seen it fall.  Carlos had two now and I had none.

Oscar, Lola and Carlos.
Within the next half hour I was carrying two pheasants in my own game bag. Expertly pointed by Lola.

Sitting in the shade eating lunch.
After lunch, we looked around for Erdos and Oscar.  They'd just been sitting with us as we ate in the shade of the truck.  We called them and then saw they were both on point on the far side a hedgerow.  A covey of quail took off like a rocket.  I grabbed and loaded my gun and moved to the other side of the fence where  Erdos was still on point.  I kicked the brush and Oscar and Erdos charged in -- but no bird came out.  Erdos moved further down and went on point again.  This time the quail went up out the other side by the truck.  I mounted and took something of a hail-mary shot as the bird flew just above my line of sight over the hedge.  Carlos heard the shot and saw the quail drop.  We would not have found it without Oscar.  We followed up on the singles and Carlos killed one more quail.   We separated, with Carlos dropping into a ravine and Erdos and I hunting the top.  Erdos  had been following fresh scent for more than a hundred yards, intent on birds every few feet. As I was starting to loose faith in his absolute conviction that the birds were near Carlos and Oscar came up from the ravine below where they'd filled out Carlos' limit on pheasants. Oscar went on point and when the quail flushed I instinctively mounted the shotgun and cleanly dropped one of the fast fliers.
A brace of quail from my game bag.

It turned out we were in the Republican (river) region that Nebraska Game and Parks had reported as having good Northern Bobwhite Quail populations this year.  Quail populations are estimated by whistle counts and by interviews with rural mail carriers.

A great day in the field.

A day like this one makes it almost seem easy.  Good dogs, good guns, good company, lots of birds.  Our next day was to prove that good days like this do not come for free.

The bag from an exceptional day.

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