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    The year was 1899. A young boy of twelve followed his father Carl hunting along the Mississippi River. Carl was a hunter of great local reputation - during the days of year-round market hunting – with a well-developed personal code of sportsmanship. No spring waterfowl hunting for this sportsman. He never hunted after the sun went down. He set his own personal bag limits when there were none. Rand’s father taught him well and started him with a single-barreled shotgun. Gun safety was paramount; “Never point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill.”

    In 1945 Rand, now a seasoned hunter and writer, vividly recalled shooting his first ruffed grouse. That “partridge” came after nearly two unsuccessful seasons behind his dog. The dog often treed partridge, but his father’s words echoed in his head. “You may not shoot partridge from trees. You’re old enough to learn wing-shooting.”

    “A big partridge rose with a roar at my left…crossed behind me hell-bent for the nearest cedar swamp …a swinging shot …and the bird tumbled dead in a shower of feathers and golden leaves.”

    Ethical lessons learned well, young Rand Aldo Leopold later became quite famous. Today we know him as Aldo Leopold.

I wrote this essay a while back and thought you'd enjoy.


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My Dad wrote this. I hope you duck hunters appreciate it.   The bent-framed, wicker rocker sits empty today since the old duck hunter journeyed on across the bay. His briar black,

Bones: I have two dogs but this evening I only had one bone, a femur or some sort.  So I decided to saw it into two pieces.   Out to the garage I went with both dogs following and obser

THE OLDER I GET   The older I get the more I sit. I sit to fish, on shore and in my boat. My duck blind bench supports my bottom, and a folding camo chair follows me from poth

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Cedar Swamp

"Frankly, Scarlett, I Just Don't Care Very Much"

Murphy’s Chessie “Rommel” farted again, drawing tears that blurred a sky full of chill rain but no ducks. My prospects for roasting a fat mallard any time soon had been flimsy to begin with. On recent Niagara River hunts, Rommel had retrieved ducks successfully; not whole ducks, though, just duck parts. Too bad Rommel doesn’t eat beaks or guts first. Neither do I.

Half an hour after the rain turned white, so did my toes, nose, and fingers. Noticing me shivering glumly, Murphy asked if I wanted to pick up and have a hot breakfast. The hairs on Rommel’s nape bristled when Murphy reached toward the decoy sack.

I chattered through lying teeth that I didn’t care. Maybe I didn’t, but getting the hell out of there had definitely crossed my mind. It was after we collected the dekes and began schlepping our gear back to Murphy’s pickup that it hit me. The phrase “I don’t care” is often about as genuine as one of Murphy’s rubber ducks.

Like a puppy’s growling during a game of tug of war, “I don’t care” can be a soft-pedaled misdirection from the actual “I’d be delighted.” When a young Nimrod's eyes first start to shine on grandpa's well worn scatterguns hanging on the wall, the twinkle is contagious. When the boy finally asks, his grandfather might tell him to take down any gun he wants and to go enjoy himself; grandpa doesn’t care. But the old man’s faint smile tells a different story.

Most commonly, though, “I don’t care” is intended as a literal declaration. For example, Angler B might tell Angler A he honestly doesn’t care which pond they try first on a pleasant summer morning. In this particular case, Angler B should refrain from expressing a geographical preference, such as for casting from the pond’s rocky-bottomed western shore, lest his initial declaration become littoral.

“I don’t care” has a salty side, too, and is versatile enough to use when the gloves come off. A hunter will occasionally float a harebrained scheme – like hunting turkeys with beagles, or making coot jerky – past a buddy, looking for some encouragement. Saying that he doesn’t care what his pal does slams the door on that conversation. If needed, emphasis can be added with a well nuanced eye-roll.

Chillier still is this response for a guy met now and then in camp. He habitually carries his gun with the safety off so he’s ready for a quick “sound shot.” His companions bob and weave every time his gun barrels trace through their torsos in merry arcs. When the host asks whether it’s OK for this jerk to hunt at camp next weekend, the nays are phrased to spare the host’s feelings, but just barely. Even in the funny papers, the thrust of “I don’t &%#@$ care” is crystal clear.

While the example above crashes on the ear, the most ominous expression of not caring is delivered less with a bang than a whisper. Imagine a sportsman receiving an email from his buddy who’s discovered a pond stiff with foot-long brook trout just north of Saranac Lake. Better still, the region was logged about 6 years ago, leaving the cedar and birch clumps that remain a bonasa bonanza. His buddy wants him to drive up late in September so they can enjoy an early season Adirondack cast ‘n blast. The sportsman is excited, and hurries to share the good news with his wife. He thinks better of it when he sees her enjoying herself on the riding mower out back, and so, not wanting to interrupt her fun, he decides to wait for a more opportune moment.

An hour later, still in her sweaty work clothes, sipping a lemonade, she smiles happily at him after hanging up the phone. Now is the time, he senses, to announce his plans, which he does in breathless detail. What he’s forgotten is his promise, made after his salmon fishing expedition last September, not to miss their wedding anniversary again this year. What he doesn’t know is that her phone call confirmed reservations for a romantic anniversary dinner on the very night his buddy expects him at camp. He watches as his wife gently sets down her lemonade, walks toward the bathroom to shower, and sweetly tells him to do whatever he thinks is right. She says she doesn’t care, then quietly clicks the door behind her.

This fellow has just heard Bad News, just like the deer that’s heard the snick of a 12 gauge slug being chambered in a pump gun nearby. For both, any hope of a long and happy life depends on their responses to these dangerous environmental sounds. Even if they both scoot at just the right moment, only the deer can hope for a bloodless getaway. Heck, it’ll even be safe enough one day for the deer to come back.

If Murphy ever invites me back to hunt with Rommel, I’ll probably say something like “Sure...OK... I don’t care... Or maybe we could hunt with my dog this time.” And if Murphy says he doesn’t care, either, maybe I’ll be enjoying that roasted mallard after all.

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Hope another fishing one is okay.

A Fish Tale

There are some things in life that one just does not do.  I think that there is a country song written about that.  I want to just mention a couple.

First, you never show up late for a fishing trip.  You may show up late for dinner from time to time, you may occasionally be late to school and community functions, but you never, ever show up late to go fishing.

Do you remember the movie, “A River Runs Through it?”  They guess correctly that the boyfriend would not only show up late but also that he would bring worms…they even named the brand of coffee can the worms would be in.    To quote the movie, “In Montana, three things we’re never late for: church, work and fishing.”

I know that it is difficult to imagine something more grievous than showing up late for a fishing trip, but I discovered something just this last weekend.

Now, for you to really understand the seriousness of this crime, you must first have a picture of the perpetrator.   There is no better man than Colt.  He truly is the salt of the earth.  He will give you the shirt off his back.  He will help you put in sprinklers or dig your garden.  If you need help with anything, anything at all, just let Colt know it and he will be there elbow deep working alongside of you.  Furthermore, he is an honorable man.  If he says it, you can count on it!

You may ask how a person so near perfection could ever commit any heinous act.  Unfortunately, like everybody, Colt has his weaknesses.  You see, Colt loves fly fishing.  I don’t mean that he likes fishing and goes frequently.   No, Colt really loves fly fishing, with the kind of deep passion that has the potential to get somebody into trouble…. And so it was this weekend.

We had a family reunion up on Cedar Mountain.  Camp just happened to be a short distance from Panguich Lake.  Colt and I made arrangements to sneak away from the family reunion for a few hours.  I had gone up on Friday night and Colt was to swing by and pick me up at the crack of dawn Saturday.  I knew Colt well, so I was up long before the sun.  I knew that he would never let me live it down if I was not ready when he showed up.  Who wants to start the day off on the wrong foot and miss the best fishing hour of the day?  I sure didn’t and I knew that Colt was not even capable of imagining such a thing.

When mid-morning had come and gone, and Colt had not yet shown up, I knew something was dreadfully wrong.  As I began to prepare to drive down off the mountain, and search for his wrecked truck, lo and behold, here came Colt.   Before I could ask a thing, his huge grin betrayed him.  He had done something far more grievous that show up late for a fishing trip.  He had forsaken his fishing buddy and gone straight to the lake alone.  I don’t know which was worse: my sorrow at missing out on what he described as one of the best fishing mornings of all time, or my befuddlement that such a man could fall so far, so fast, as to break one of the cardinal rules of fishing and desert a buddy.

The stories that he told of that morning would have been classified as ‘fish tales’ anywhere by anybody.   However, the photographic evidence on his phone was quite convincing.   Trying to regain some grace, he quickly offered to go back out to the lake, as soon as lunch was over.

After a quick lunch, we were off to the lake.  As we drove, the morning’s catch grew in size and quantity.  The stories were told and retold, of the glassy water only being disturbed by giant trout sipping his flies and then dancing across the lake as pitted their strength against his experience.

Upon arriving at the lake, I learned the sad truth that the Colt’s addiction had progressed much farther than I could have ever imagined.

The fish tales that he had been telling us appeared to be just that: tales!  As I pushed myself through the frigid wind, making my way down to the shore, I could see the white caps that covered the lake.

We waded out thigh deep and began fishing.   We flailed at the water.  We fought the wind.  We hooked ourselves. We froze to death.  We did just about anything a person might do at the lake, other than get a bite.

Suddenly, Colt reported a take… Dang! He missed it.

Then… a lady in a boat in front of us hooked up and started reeling in a fish.  Perhaps there is hope.  Perhaps we will catch something…

Colt had another hit it and again he could not set the hook.

(I still hadn’t experienced any evidence that fish even lived there)

Finally Colt connected and the fight was on.  As I watched from a distance, I noticed that things looked a little ‘off.’  I waded out of the cold water and approached Colt as he was unhooking the fish.  To my utter horror, I noticed that Colt was unhooking the fish, but not from his line.  Rather from another line, that he must have planted earlier.

How could he have fallen this far.  I had previously heard stories of addiction.   I knew that one’s tolerance would increase over time and then everything would come crashing down.   This was, however, the first time that I had ever witnessed it myself.  Right before my eyes, was a man transformed.  He had sunken so low in the addiction of fly fishing that not only would he abandon his fishing buddy and tell him tall tales of the morning’s fishing trip, but also he had to secure fish before taking another fishing, for fear that they might learn the truth.

When we arrived back to the parking lot, things didn’t get better.  I saw the lady that had caught the fish in front of Colt and when over to see how their day had been.  To my amazement, the only fish that she had caught was the one directly in front of Colt.  Furthermore, it hadn’t taken her bait.  Rather she had snagged something and pulled it out.  Her fish too was on the end of somebody else’s hook!

Colt HAD had a busy morning after all.


Editor’s (me) notes:  The only things in the story that are not true are: I was never worried about Colt nor preparing to look for him nor did he plant the fish that he caught.  He just snagged some poor suckers line that had broken off that day.  Also the lady that had snagged a rod with a fish on it hadn’t done so in front of Colt and he did not plant it either.  However, both she and Colt did snag lines with live fish on them….

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8 minutes ago, quailguy said:


Grey skies, clean, crisp snow


Dogs dance an old gunner hopes again


Birds fly, fall, dogs dance


Love it.

We call this Hillbilly Haiku where I come from. Got any more?



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My Dad wrote this. I hope you duck hunters appreciate it.


The bent-framed, wicker rocker sits empty today

since the old duck hunter journeyed on across the bay.

His briar black, well caked, now cold rests in it's cherry rack.

The Barnegat sneak, in disrepair, lies out behind the shack.


Upon the dust-shroud mantle the Chessy pictures stand,

a tribute to his grand old dogs, Old King, Old Queen, Old Dan.

The decoys in the corner hang their hand carved, pine knot heads

granting solace to the 10 gauge in its case of spider webs.


Outside the moon gleams dully upon a running tide

that laps with muted voice against the sea-smooth driftwood hide.

Fog, with fingers reaching, lays upon the eelgrass beds

and shivers to the passing of the Widgeon overhead.


Tales he would often tell of days on the eastern shore

where he plied his trade as a market gun before the skulling oar.

Of battery guns, and fingers numb, and bullseye lanterns bright.

The lethal roar of a huge 4 bore shattering the night.


He spoke of Cans out on the flats and of black ducks in the fog,

of other men with salt rough hands, and the smell of sea wet dogs.

His eyes would light, he'd take his pipe, settle back and sigh.

Then he'd weave a verbal tapestry of geese and leaded skies.


Now somewhere in the great beyond where the flights are always in

the northern birds are massing to ride a sleet-stiff wind.

He listens to the keening of a rising off shore breeze

and smiles at the Chesapeake who's head rests on his knee.



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In 1956 my parents got married.  My Mom bought my Dad a gift - an L.L.Bean hunting coat - the 3-button classic duck canvas with corduroy cuff, 5 pockets and a waterproof game pouch.  Only 1 button is original and all the waterproof is gone off the pouch, there are a few patches and stitching repairs aplenty.  It's uninsulated and only got washed in the rain and snow.  It's probably carried more ducks than I ever will.


I took it out and put it on the floor with Dad's A-5.  Dobs barely sniffed it before flopping down on it without chewing - Don't try that with anything else...

Dad's Coat.jpg

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The Heart of a Lion

Mandy, my little French Brittany and I didn't do a lot of waterfowling together. Her aversion to water above her ankles pretty much precluded trips to the duck marsh. Our waterfowl time together was limited to an occasional field hunt for ducks or geese.

One morning did find us hunkered in a shallow depression on a layout mat, covered with a camouflage sheet, a poor man's layout blind, with a handful of goose shells scattered around us. The decoys were probably unnecessary as this field was a historic feeding location and myriad generations of geese had set their wings to land here in the early morning. Today was no different. A small band of geese, circled. I elected not to call. A duck or goose call in my hands is one of the most highly effective waterfowl conservation tools known to man. They circled lower and set their wings to land. I picked out the biggest of the group and threw back the cover. I came up with the Beretta and promptly muffed the first shot. Never have gotten the hang of shooting from a sitting position. My second barrel connected and down he came. Mandy launched from my side to retrieve our prize.

The gander hit the ground but immediately was his feet, spitting mad with one wing slightly dropped. He locked in on the diminutive brown creature hurtling his way and squared off. Mandy hit the brakes and they stared each other down briefly and began to circle one another. The gander made a lunge. Mandy dodged it. They continued to circle. The goose would lunge and Mandy would side step until on one lunge she let the gander nearly make contact and lunged in herself. She clamped down with all that was in her on that powerful brantan neck. For a moment, time slowed down. It seemed it took me forever to cover that short two or three score yards as I hurried to rescue my little girl from the murderous intent of this giant. All I could see on the dry ground of this harvested cornfield was a swirling cloud of dust, goose feathers and brown fur. The telling and the reading takes far longer than the event.

As I closed on the pair, the swirling stopped and the dust began to waft away. Out of the cloud emerged a triumphant brown dog, the now deceased goose still locked in her jaws. Her attempts to drag it brought me a hearty laugh. She lifted the neck to my hand, released the bird, and I swear, swaggered off like John Wayne.



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Fishing Partners

It has been a brutal spring,
an unrecognizable April struggling toward a more hopeful May.
But the rod has been patient
and deserves its first try -
a 7-1/2’ flea market glass,
early 50’s I’d guess.
I’ve brought two reels
and have decided it’s a six;
we were hoping for five
and it may yet have its chance to convince me.

A Great Blue Heron shares this water -
in fairness he was here first.
I am adamant that I will not invade his space
but soon we find ourselves a mere twenty yards apart
and yet he stays;
apparently he doesn’t consider me competition
and so far he’s right.
I see his nearly motionless advance along the edge.
He lowers his slender head – I know he’s close.
Lightening-quick, he lifts his wiggling morsel,
shakes it, tips his head and slides it down his silver gullet,
hones his narrow beak on the rocks,
looks for another.
I watch him closely –
might as well learn from the best.
He takes another,
and following his lead,
I drag my nymph as close as I can to the rocky shore.
Bass fry, I suppose,
and just now I’d settle for one.

He’s ten yards away now, facing me…
I wonder who is watching who.
He misses – selfishly I’m glad,
although I know it’s he who must be laughing.
Suddenly he shrugs his great wings apart,
lifts in that insolent way of the big birds,
establishes himself on the opposite shore
leaving me to my ineptness.

I follow his lead
But give him his distance.
One cast, another,
and finally a fish is on,
larger than those he swallows down that slim throat.
As I play the fish he rises,
makes one swooping, deeply banking pass over me,
settles himself back in the same spot.
Curiosity, I suppose,
but just maybe
it was a thumbs up
held high by a kindred spirit.
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I've written a story.  It's unusual for me to have reservations about sharing but in this instance I do.  I hope you enjoy it.




            It had been a rough week.  Darren had been arrested for the rape of a local girl on Sunday.  I knew it had been coming and knew he wouldn’t handle it well but it was still difficult to stomach.  Some of his loved ones called me at home obviously worried and scared.  I could offer very little in the way of comfort or even information.  So many questions I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, answer.  When Darren made a damn fool of himself at his first appearance on Wednesday it was just salt in an already aching wound.   Darren thinks he is a hard man.  Soon enough he’ll meet men made brittle-hard by the crucible of hopeless loneliness.  He and I’s journey has just started.

            Thursday had been particularly difficult.  Two different parents, a father and a mother, had been failing to meet my expectations regarding their children whom were in state’s custody by my order.  Apparently they each separately thought taking out their frustrations on me would distract me from their failings.  This is somewhat unusual as most parents recognize the fruitlessness of directing their anger at me.  The father in particular just almost let himself get angry to the point of physical violence.  Sadly, I was disappointed when he didn’t as I knew the resultant harshness of the orders that would follow might cause him to re-evaluate his life circumstances and force the change of which I knew he was capable.  He managed control at the last minute and delayed, perhaps forever, his metamorphosis.

            Then, in the afternoon, I was supposed to see Stacey.  I knew she wouldn’t be there but it was still painful when I had to issue the warrant.  I’d had her cases since she started at fourteen and had probably been easier with her than I should have been.  I’d always been extra soft with her, initially because she was pretty but later because I saw the adult she could be if we did things right.  She’d slipped and had a positive drug test last month so I had put her in juvenile detention for a long weekend over her strenuous protests.  She was clearly surprised and hurt when she couldn’t talk me out of the punishment.  When she was released she packed a bag and disappeared with her twenty-five year old, meth-dealing boyfriend leaving her mother, grandmother, caseworker and judge frightened and angry.  Her caseworker told me she might be in Lubbock.  I just hoped she was safe and nursed a logic-defying sense of guilt that something I’d said or done had encouraged her to run away.

            Friday had been quiet and I’d followed up with Larry about our plans to take the dogs out this morning.  I’d spent most of the day in chambers listening to music, doing paperwork and anticipating this morning.  Larry was usually good for a quail hunt on his weekends off work.  He’s great to hunt with as he’s naturally quiet with a dry, pointed sense of humor that serves as a fun counter to my garrulousness.  His little Brittanies were fun to watch and murder on a busted covey in thick cover.  He’d sent me the text cancelling last night just as I was sitting down to let the first two fingers of Beam try to pry the tension of the week from my mind.  I was disappointed, but not too much, as I rarely get a day alone in the field and after the week I’d had being alone with the dogs was strongly appealing.

            Just the faintest tinge of Beam headache accompanies me as I drive through the beginnings of the sunrise.  The radio in the Jeep doesn’t work very well so the thrum of the tires is the background music to my thoughts.  I can’t seem to shake the hateful hopelessness I’d waded through in the past few days.  It seems to cling to my soul like mud and as I age I find it harder to shake.  The whine of the dogs from their box in the back finally moves my mind to a more hopeful place as I think about the upcoming hunt.

            I’d decided to only bring two of the dogs.  Scarlet, my old faithful Vizsla bitch, and Dot, the pointer puppy.  Scarlet doesn’t have many hunts left but is still usually good for a few birds especially if she doesn’t have to go far to find them.  Both she and I know that our partnership will soon come to an end but I’m committed to getting as much time with her as possible before that happens.  She just wants to kill birds.  Dot is in her first year and is more wiggles and bounce than hunt.  I’m probably more like Scarlet but want to be more like Dot.  It should be a fun juxtaposition and will undoubtedly be good for Dot as she needs work on wild birds.

            November this far south is usually more fall than winter.  That has been particularly true this year with the temperatures staying warm until the cold front that finally moved in with December Thursday.  The front hadn’t brought any moisture but that was okay because we’d had a wet summer and the cover is thick.  So far the season bore promise as I’d found the quail to be plentiful on opening weekend and each weekend thereafter.  It was going to be a great year for quail hunters and bird dogs.

The day opened cold and clear as I pulled the Jeep into the quarter of farm ground my dad had given me a year ago.  I’d seen a small covey of bobwhite in the hay yard late in the summer and hoped Scarlet would be able to find them without too much trouble.  I wouldn’t hunt these birds with other hunters and probably would only shoot into the covey one time depending on numbers but this morning seemed like a good time to harass them. 

            The front had brought some moist air if not rain as there was a heavy frost.  I’d had to scrape the windows on the Jeep and could now hear the grass crunch under my boots as I dropped the tailgate and began the comfortably familiar process of setting up collars and equipping the dogs.  Dot alternates whines with spinning around her box wound tight with the expectation.  Scarlet, never much of whiner, is true to form this morning but her nose pressing against the door lets me know she is just as anxious as the pup in the box beside her.   It is cold enough for the light gloves I keep in the left pocket of my game vest.  As I pull them on I can feel the cold on the back of my calves and neck.  I know it won’t take much walking to offset the initial chill.

            I’m a little surprised that I can see the dogs’ breath as I collar them.  Strangely seeing them breathe like this has always humanized them for me in ways that their other behaviors don’t.  I’m comforted by the fact that their urgency and anxiety for the hunt to begin clearly is as strong, if not stronger, than my own.   Or maybe they just really need to pee.

            With the opening ceremonies out of the way I head towards the weeds that line the corrals.  The hay yard is beyond the corrals and I think the covey will likely be in the grass between if not still lounging among the bales waiting on the sun to warm the grass.  Every time I’ve been out this fall I’ve been surprised by the thickness of the cover.  The summer has been really good to us and the bluestem in the corner reflects that kind treatment in both thickness and height.  The remnants of a north wind tickles my left cheek.  The gun feels good in my hands as I drop in a pair of yellow shells.  I’m certain the handful I put in the right pocket of the vest will be more than adequate for whatever may come.

            The sun has come out.  It’s still cold but the sunshine will lay claim to the day sooner rather than later.  Scarlet pushes hard towards the weeds while Dot runs hell-bent into the wind away from the cover.  Clearly experience will educate youth today.  Knowing the likely outcome I follow the dog with grey in her muzzle.  Perhaps seeing my direction Dot quarters back coming fast from my left.  She’s probably eighty yards ahead of Scarlet who may be fifty yards in front of me.  The weeds start strong at the edge of the corral but taper gradually as they trace the edge of the grass towards the hay yard.  As Dot closes on the weeds she slows, hesitates then sets up in a beautiful point.  Almost with an air of frustration Scarlet stops, offering what seems like a half-hearted honor.

            I barely have time to smile when the covey comes up wild.  They are too far to shoot as they fly over the fenceline, the county road and well into the neighbors CRP field.  I’m pleased to see that there are at least twelve birds and perhaps as many as fifteen in the covey.  As I was taught by my father I closely watch where they light.  They come to rest at the base of two small trees approximately two hundred yards into a slight draw across the road.  With an understanding born of experience Scarlet has already released and is working the weeds in the hopes that there might be stragglers or another covey.  Fresh from training Dot sits, tail pointed to heaven, awaiting my release.  I’m certain she’ll learn how to better handle spooky birds.

            The neighbors are an older couple who live several miles away nearer my parents.  I’ve never spoken with them about hunting and while I don’t have any reason to expect that they would say no I certainly don’t have any permission to hunt their properties.  The bluestem on their half-section went ungrazed this summer and is tall and rank.  Frost still shows on the uppermost parts of the grass and as the wind moves the grass the early morning sun catches the frost making small twinkling reflections that seem to float above the vegetation.  It looks like thousands of small, silver butterflies fluttering in the morning sun.

I release Dot and almost without conscious thought crawl through my fence and cross the road.  I’ve handed out enough ass-chewings this week that the thought of taking one myself is almost welcoming.  People would rightfully expect better of me but I need, truly need, Scarlet to find these birds.  I’ll hope for forgiveness in lieu of seeking permission just this once.

            The grass is slightly taller than both dogs.  As Scarlet runs past me she bounces on her hind legs to look back at me.  She appears to be smiling or maybe she’s just smiling back at me as she takes an almost straight path towards the small trees.  Maybe she’s also learned my father’s lessons.   Dot is charging headlong back to my right tearing through the grass like a locomotive headed nowhere.

            Walking though the rank grass is much more difficult for me than for the dogs.  I’m probably no more than fifty yards into the field when my handheld beeps the point alarm on Scarlet’s collar.  I know without looking approximately where she’ll be.  I also know she won’t bump her bird.  I immediately look to my right to check the pup as I need to be ready to whoa her if she comes into the area where the birds will be too strong.  She’s still hunting hard without the knowledge that her efforts are hopeless and that her elders know a lot more about quail than she.

            I can just see Scarlet through the twinkling grass.  Her head is low and her three-quarter tail is horizontal.  I’ve seen her point so many times through the years and it’s neither classic nor particularly classy but it still bumps my heart rate.  I know the birds will be there.  They will sit tight as they won’t want to flush again.  Scarlet has done her part and now I need to do mine.

            Despite all my experience and the knowledge that the birds are there the flush still comes as a surprise.  The thick grass amplifies the noise as two birds come up and go hard to my left.  I pick the closest of the pair and catch just a glimpse of the white trimmed head of the little cockbird as I pull the trigger.  I know without really watching that it’s a good shot.  My eyes and hands instinctively track the second bird but I see no need to have two birds down in the thick grass so I pull up and watch the bird flare back to my hay yard across the road.

            Scarlet has either located the downed bird or caught his scent.  She’s always been a strong retriever and she must have marked his fall closely.  I can see the rapid beat of her tail as she burrows through the grass and comes up with a mouthful of quail.  As she brings him to me Dot comes roaring into the action coming strongly to a point perhaps twenty yards to my right as I take the bird from Scarlet and offer her my thanks.  Not wanting to flush the rest of the covey in getting to Dot’s point I fade back away from the two trees taking a slightly indirect route to the pup depositing the bird in my vest as I walk.

            Scarlet, better equipped than any of those present to know where the birds might be, resumes her search while I move towards Dot.  As I get close to the little pointer I can see that her whole body is shaking.  Other than her eyes she’s standing so rigidly that she’s shivering.  Scarlet again honors once she spots the pup on point through the grass.  My heart is screaming happiness as the bird flushes.  It’s an easy straight away shot.  I’ve made that shot dozens if not hundreds of times and I don’t miss.  Scarlet is almost instantly on the down bird with Dot dancing a circle around her as she brings it to me.  I again offer my thanks to Scarlet but take a minute to show Dot the bird and let her know how pleased I am with her.  My affections only briefly distract her and she dives headlong back into the grass so I nestle this bird with the first.

            Scarlet’s clearly back in bird scent off to my right about twenty yards.  She’s methodical when working singles and has to be completely convinced of the bird’s location before pointing.  It’s like she knows they won’t flush wild after alighting in thick cover.  Out of the corner of my eye I see Dot go on point again out ahead of Scarlet.  Just as I had hoped this morning has already been a great experience for the young dog.  I decide I’m going to shoot at least one more of the covey for Dot before we retreat back to somewhere with permission. 

            As I move into another intense point the bird comes up to my hard left maybe a much as ten yards out from the pup.  It quarters away back towards the hay yard and as I mount the gun I know I’m going to miss.  I’m not sure why, but miss I do, and I speak my apologies to Dot as I watch the bird settle near the first beyond the round bales in the grass corner of my quarter.  As I turn back to check on Scarlet a pair of birds comes up wild past where the last single flushed.  With some degree of wisdom I simply watch them join the singles in my grass.

            I know there are more birds to be had but I feel sated even if the dogs do not.  I move away from the two trees and direct the dogs to follow.  Scarlet knows I’m leading her away from the birds and comes begrudgingly.  Dot doesn’t know any better.  As I walk back towards the county road a familiar truck tops the small hill to my left. 

            My tinge of guilty conscious quickly passes as I recognize another neighbor whom I’d grown up with.  Mert pulls up as I reach the road and offers a knowing smile and a handshake through his window.  “Is that your new pup Judge?” starts the conversation prompting a few minutes of bragging in light of the mornings work.  Scarlet sits to my side watching as we talk about the pup, who is hunting the heck out of the ditch on both sides of the road.  We briefly catch up on family and a bit of the local gossip.  It feels like the first pleasant conversation I’ve had in a week.  Before he leaves he says “I see Scarlet still has some point left in her.  Take her down to my tree grove east of here and see if you can get her a pheasant this morning.”  He again offers a smile as he drives off.

            I guess if Dot and Scarlet are ready for more than so am I.  





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Mike Connally

Well written. Reminds me of a healing hunt I took a few days after losing my Dad. 

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