Opening weekend. The anticipation build up is usually more spectacular that the hunting itself. This year was probably not going to be any different. I had been trying to gather as much field intel as I could in the months leading up to November. I was watching for birds while traveling for work and occasionally running dogs to spot check a few areas. What I was gathering, was that this year had the makings of a good one. But, unlike most years, this opener actually held up, at least the bird numbers did.
I have been struggling to get out of bed early for a while now. I would say this condition has been effecting me for about the last 30 years or so. But when the morning of the opener comes, it always seems to be a little easier to rise. In fact I think I was awake for an hour before the first chime of the alarm went off. The plan was to get parked near where I wanted to hunt before sunrise and listen for birds to give away there locations. As soon as I shut off the ignition and poured steaming coffee out of the thermos, with the windows down, listening, I heard the unmistakable, Bob-White,….Bob-White, whistle. Not only was I the audience for one choir, I heard several whistlers in different directions. I was as happy as fat kid in an ice cream parlor.
After collaring the dogs and gearing up, making sure I was carrying enough water. We set out straight for the covey that I thought was closest. It didn’t take long and Hide had stopped dead in his tracks. Head and tail held high. Eyes staring forward with a piercing glare. Now this is the kind of start to a season we dream about. Just after sunrise, cold, crisp air, and a staunch pointer with birds in front of him. I circled around him on his right and motioned for my wife to move in from the left. The little setter, who was, at the time, doing her own thing, decided to come by as if on cue and backed nicely. As I paralleled him he started to slowly creep. We were in a little bowl of crp grass. The covey didn’t have woody cover to duck into so I picked up the pace and moved in front to flush. Two birds got up and flew directly at my wife. No shots offered. Then another step and another bird was up, quartering away. Easy shot and a clean miss. %$&(! At the shot the rest of covey took to flight in every direction. I emptied the second barrel…. And then I cussed again.
“Okay, fine I missed two gimme shots. Whatever”. I thought to myself. Most of the covey went over the hill. We’ll just find some singles. Bella, my young setter female, found and pointed a single and it fell after a rushed, but lucky shot. That made me feel a little better. This is her first season and I just shot her first wild bird. Success is sweet. The retrieve, well that wasn’t so sweet. She found the little flapping bird in a dense thicket and then proceeded to leave it lay. She was off to find more, I guess we have a little work to do there.
We never did find anymore singles and opted to just hunt onward for another covey. We walked for 20 minutes or so and Hide struck gold again. I found him pointing on the edge of a plum thicket. As I was walking in his direction, he started to move and then froze and then moved again. This proved to be too much for the birds and they lifted. I was still too far out of shotgun range for a shot. I thought this would make a good training exercise for him anyway. He needs to learn to stand his birds even when they are moving away from him. They didn’t go far. Maybe 70 yards and then plopped down in another thicket. I hustled over to the where I thought the birds had landed and before the dogs (who didn’t see where they went) got there, I had walked to far and was standing in the middle of the scattered covey. The first birds to get up, shot up right behind me and after a wonderful attempt at a 180 to eye the bird that flushed and another one 180 to try spy the second bird I heard flush, they got the best of me. No shots. Bella showed up and had a stop to flush as she ran over a bird with the wind at her back. I pulled up and fired… and it kept on keepin on. As predicted the remainder of the covey exploded when the shot when off. I picked out the last bird to go, the late riser of the group. This time I took my time and settled in. And… missed for the fourth time of the day. Yes, I cussed again…. a lot.
We moved on and found another couple of coveys that Hide pointed nicely. I managed to get a few shots off and scratched down one more bird. We worked our way back to the vehicle to water and switch dogs. It had been a pretty good start to the 2015 season. Well, at least we were finding birds, even if the shooting was horrendous.
The second walk of he morning didn’t produce much. I was hunting the third wheel of the dog team solo. The wind had picked up and the temps had risen considerably. We hunted towards and then around any water source we could find and then finally decided to head back to the truck after one covey, more crappy shooting, and a few pheasants that tried to out maneuver us. The two roosters succeeded and the hens used their “I’m a girl, don’t shoot” cards.
That afternoon I made the call to spend the early afternoon driving several hours just to check out an area that I thought would be promising. This was a risky call. Spending almost 3 hours driving to only hunt for another 2 1/2. But it was windy and hot, in the middle of the afternoon and scenting conditions would not favor the dogs. As the sun was setting, I was glad that I had made the call. The area that I wanted to check out was doin good in the bird department… doin real good. I ran the point/setter duo again and we moved several coveys in a relatively small area. My shooting still sucked, but I was a manage to put a few in the vest. I thought this area would be good and now I had the boots on the ground info. We will be back.
We drove all the way back to where we started, and called it a night. The next morning we where at em early again. With whistling birds singing to us as we drank our morning coffee. But this day the whistling birds could not be found. I was dumfounded and a little pissed, that we could find them. They sounded like they were right there. I looked everywhere that I thought they could have been. We hunted on. Found nothing on this windy morning. Switched dogs and headed off. Magic found and busted covey after covey. Pointing and then knocking. I have no effin clue what her deal is… or has been. All I know is that it made me furious. She did this a few times on training runs as well.
I just rembered…. A few months ago we did a little warm up session with some stupid pen birds. There was no wind and she pointed one as she basically ran it over. Pointed it right under her nose. Right before she caught it. Is that it? Did catching one bird in a training session, screw her up this bad. Maybe. Every covey she pointed and flushed she likely saw as she was in a thicket. She probably saw them running and thought she could catch them. I dunno.. I am still mad about it. Hopefully I get this think nipped in the butt quick.
After Magic’s showing I was not very happy and went back to the truck and got Hide out again. We hunted our butts off in the wind and didn’t find much. Shot a rooster and pointed a few more hens. I was tired and left a little defeated after piss poor dog work from Magic, and my shooting slump from hell. We loaded up and head home.
All in all, it was still a good weekend. We were bird huntin’ after all. And there are birds this year.