Monday, October 5, 2009

Amy's first hunt

A few days before the close of teal season Amy and I left the kids with my beloved mother-in-law Valerie and packed up the Subaru with guns, ammo, and two smelly Boykin Spaniels. My father-in-law Danny has a nice farm with a 20 acre pond that sees some duck activity from time to time. I had taken Eli here to fish two weeks prior, and we saw about 2 dozen blue wing teal in their normal feeding area. We arrived at the pond about 5 that evening with a few decoys and several fishing poles. We fished our way down to the end where the teal usually congregate, and after catching a mess of fish for dinner we threw out a few mallard hen decoys and headed back to the cabin. That evening we enjoyed a healthy dinner of fried largemouth bass from the pond, fried coral mushrooms from the woods, fried zucchini from the garden, and cold beer from the Busch family mixed with a little bloody mary mix to class things up. The next morning we awoke just before dawn, enjoyed a cup of coffee, and proceeded to our spread. We tucked into some small trees along the edge of the pond with dogs at our side and watched dawn break over the glassy water. No ducks seemed to be flying that morning but we enjoyed watching a pie-billed grebe swim amongst the decoys, and did see two wood ducks fly in at the opposite end of the pond. Scratching the idea of shooting any teal that morning, we proceeded to shift tactics and try to shoot a few doves that we had seen feeding in a newly planted wheat field. As we approached the field about 15 doves took flight and landed in the tree line bordering the field. We snuck in and took position in some brush about 20 yards from where we had seen them take flight. After 10 minutes or so a pair came flying by, and I dropped one with my first shot, while leaving the second one unscathed. Finn the wonder dog did not see the bird drop so I took him over to the field and sent him in the direction of where the bird had fallen. After a little searching he soon found the dove and happily brought it back to me. Amy and I decided our set up was not a good one, so we crossed the field and hunkered down in the treeline on the opposite side of the field. After a few minutes I spotted a dove in the distance and told Amy that one was coming, and as I was telling her it was a little out of range I was rudely interrupted by a loud BANG echoing from her 20 gauge. This dove was not impressed and continued on his merry way. Not long after another dove came in flying directly toward us, fearing it might land on Amy and peck her eyes out I quickly jumped up, dropping the unsuspecting flyer with my first shot. The momentum of this swift flying acrobat took it across a hogwire fence blocking the path of retrieval for both the wonderdog and myself. With Finn only weighing 40 pounds or so, I decided to pick him up and put him on the other side of the fence and then try to direct him to where the dove had fallen. I spent countless hours with Finn as a pup teaching him to retrieve with hand signals and he has learned that when I point my arm one way or the other that is where he is supposed to go. This works well, but a spaniel does not "line" as well as a Labrador, as they seem to think they know where to look better than you do. By directing a dog over and over again to their reward, they eventually decide to trust you over their instinct and will improve on their lining skills. Unfortunately Finn still thinks he knows best, and while he will follow the signals for a distance as soon as he picks up another scent he quickly turns, and starts to hunt himself. I forgot my whistle that day, so after stopping and sending him with voice commands for what felt like forever, I finally got it through his little pea brain where the bird was and he picked it up and returned with it like he had done a splendid job. I wouldn't have one any retriever titles with that performance, but I ultimately got the bird back to me without having to climb the fence. By this time it was starting to get late, and our stomachs were starting to growl so I decided to go get the mule and bring it back to get Amy. I hadn't walked 15 yards when I heard several shots followed by a string of words that would make a sailor blush. Amy is acting like a seasoned dove hunter already!

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