I have to admit. For all the bragging, I’m a little nervous about hunting with the folks I’ve been bragging to. Maybe it’s this insecurity that has led me to do another quail hunt a week BEFORE taking one of my hunting partners out to hunt over Gus. I ordered up 12 quail and took off to the preserve armed with a whole day off and a box of shells. The day was the prettiest I’ve seen in a while. Crisp autumn morning, whisps of white clouds and bright sunshine. I got to the preserve at 9:00 Am and got acquainted with the owner- a Brittany trialer and logger. I liked the place a lot. Uncut grass fields, a couple of farm ponds 4 or so 15 acre fields with hedgerows and boundary fences on the old family homestead. Great stuff for quail. John (the owner) took off on his ATV and instructed me to watch as he planted the birds (only slightly dizzied) 5 in the first field and 7 in the second. I of course promptly forgot where he put all the birds (I really should draw some sort of map for reference when hunting in hot weather with one dog). I ran the edge off the dog in another unplanted field while waiting for the dew to dry up a little and we were off by 10:15. The first bird was pointed within minutes. Nice staunch point STRAIGHT TAIL and a good 3-4 minute wait for me to come and flush. The bird as I was pleasantly surprised to see rocketed up and flew high. I took one shot and dropped him about 40 yards out. Gus marked the bird and went over to stand on top (his signature non-retreive “get him yourself” pose). We worked about another 45 minutes and found 4/5 in the first field. I had one miss, and 2 more birds bagged. All of my hit birds fell in head high grass and I would have had little chance of finding any of them without Gus marking and standing on point on scent of the dead/cripples. He did well. By this time Gus was showing signs of getting tired. It was already climbing into the low 70’s so we returned to the truck for some water and a snack of Sardines. Now…I know this doesn’t really physically help the dog much as it won’t provide energy for hours to come, but just having something to distract and slow him down long enough to catch his breath and rest a little is crucial when he’s in “maniac mode”. After a breather we headed to the second field. I should mention at this point that the cover we were working was quite a lot different than anything else Gus had worked. There were lanes cut in grids through tall grass mixed with sorgum and various other cover. The cover was in the uncut spots chest high on me. Gus was fun to watch as he tried to jump over the cover as he ran. He quickly settled into a pace in which he quartered side to side while still conserving enough energy to navigate the thicker patches of cover. He still has a built in tendancy to gravitate to the thick tangles on the edges of fields. I love to see this for grouse, but it keeps me offering direction to the dog while quail hunting. Not such a band thing.
The second field showed some great dog work. Gus adjusted his pace and carefully covered a lot of ground. The top of the field offered some challenges up. 2 of the flushes resulted in no shot or a shot for the sake of the noise of a shot as the birds sailed in the direction of a house and barn. Both were out of range, but I won’t shoot towards something like that for safety’s sake. The rest of the birds were staunchly pointed, flushed and dispatched one by one. Gus was running with the wind behind him at one point and bumped a bird. I was pleased to see him stop and point as the bird flew. Having seen a point, I shot the bird as it was not an error on the dog’s part. The day ended with the last bird shot falling and becoming lodged in the top of a small oak in the hedgerow. I should also mention that out of the 8 birds killed and put in the game bag, I somehow lost 3 out of the bag…I really need a good vest. All that said…I think we’re ready to show him off next week.