Another first in the life of a birddog

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We did a little more hunting today.  Months ago I was fortunate to find a generous fellow not too far from me who had taken to raising quail.  He seemed as enthusiastic as I was to hear that his birds were being used in training a legit bird dog, so in return for his ridiculously cheap quail (Thanks Trevor…I’m forever in your debt) I gladly offered to do a little hunting with him if we could get a time together.  Last week after a frenzy of emails, and a phone call to a farmer friend of his it was all set.  I have to admit, when he mentioned in his last email that his brother was bringing his young dog and maybe we could hunt them together, I was having visions of mayhem in my head.  Sure…Gus has been doing great, but he’s not a year old yet, is still VERY exciteable, and has never been hunted with another dog.  I felt the distraction might be too much.  Not to mention this dog of his brother’s was young as well.  What the heck…You gotta try stuff sometimes right?  I picked up Trevor and we loaded up the 24 birds he had left in the back of the truck and headed off to the farm.  He told me his brother would meet us there as he was driving up from North Carolina for the hunt.  After negotiating an uncooperative herd of young milk cows, and several gates, we were there.  The terrain scared me a little too.  It was a cut corn field with sparce hedgerows and a woodlot that had just been logged.  The back portion of the logged woods had some nice pines, with a brushy floor (perfect quail cover) but had another problem….It was full of cow carcasses left to rot.  I had a fear that my dog would be too interested in the prospect of another pup to play with, big open spaces, and dead cows to even think about birds.  As we got our gear together and I planted 6 or 8 birds I started a plan of attack.  I suggested running Charlie the 8 month old Boykin Spaniel first.  I wanted to see what I was up against I guess.  Brandon put the pup on the ground.  The first thing I noticed was that he didn’t seem at all distracted by the tub of quail sitting 6 feet in front of him.  Gus would have been freaking out in the same situation…strange.  As we put the dog on the ground I took the right side of the hedge where we had planted 4 of the birds.  The brothers took the other side with the dog in front of them.  Charlie literally ran OVER the first bird and appeared not to notice.   The bird stayed put.  The second bird he came to, he seemed content to follow his master in a classic heel position as he gave him commands to “find the bird Charlie…find the bird.”  I instantly relaxed a little and casually asked how much hunting they had done.  “Well…”Brandon replied sheepishly…”Charlie found his first covey of quail in Kentucky last week.  That’s really the first “hunt” he’s been on.:  I reassured him that that was fine and suggested he watch the dog closely and if he knew the dog was on a bird but was about to walk by it that he go ahead and flush himself.  He sounded relieved to hear that I wasn’t expecting perfect performance.  “Remember, he’s young, and he needs to figure out what this is all about” I reminded him.  The next bird we came to, Charlie stood on point looking unsure of what to do next.  the bird jumped up on a low limb over the dog.  I told Brandon to flush.  He did as the bird took off into the open field I dropped him.  Charlie ran after him, and brought the bird to hand.  After celebrating the find and retrieve it was like the light came on.  Charlie started covering ground and finding and flushing birds himself just like he was supposed to.  He clearly didn’t have the nose that Gus does, but much of that was probably just inexperience.  After 4 birds, we staked Charlie out.  He seemed content with our decision and sat patiently while I unloaded the drooling, wild eyed Setter from the truck.  Gus hit the ground and didn’t even look at Charlie as he took off like a rocket across the wide open field.  All I saw was a quick flash of white at about 120 yards.  I tried calling him, but it was no use.  The truck ride and having to watch another dog hunt HIS birds was too much for him.  We laughed as he made 100yd dashes back and forth for about 30 minutes.  As we talked I noticed I hadn’t seen the dog in a while and I couldn’t hear his bell.  I figured he was probably rolling in a cow carcass by now.  Much to my surprise when I came over the knoll and looked in his last known direction, I saw the scene in the picture above.  Gus was at about 250yds in an open cut cornfield with a 12:00 point.  I was not hopeful, but one of the brothers had missed a bird headed in that direction earlier.  We hiked all the way across the field while Gus stayed staunch on point.  As I approached, the bird attempted to take flight, and quickly fluttered back to the ground.  As he tried to take off again, Gus snagged him and held him in his mouth until I came up.  As he dropped it in my hand he gave me a look like “I had to boss…really”.  The bird had been crippled in the initial engagement apparently and couldn’t make it off the ground.  The boys were impressed.  Over the next hour, they witnessed point after point after beautiful point.  He didn’t miss a single bird.  After we had hunted the first 12 birds, I set the rest of them while the dogs rested.  The farmer showed up and gladly accepted an invitation to hunt with us.  He was clearly not a hunter and looked to have not fired a shotgun possibly since childhood.  When we started hunting we put both dogs on the ground.  This was the moment of truth for me.  I’ve NEVER worked on backing with Gus or really even run him with another dog.  Charlie started out wanting to play with Gus more than hunt but Gus was all business.  He only wanted more birds.  Charlie got the picture pretty quick.  I told Brandon to watch closely and stay near Charlie.  “If Gus goes on point, let’s see if we can send Charlie in to flush” I said.  Not 10 seconds later we had a beautiful high-headed point.  Charlie heeled as we approached.  I set JJ (the Farmer) in position to shoot.  As Brandon sent Charlie in for the flush I saw him take a classic Springer stance and jump into the cone of delicious scent.  JJ got his gun about halfway to his shoulder but was too surprised to shoot when not one but 4 quail popped up.  I fired twice killing one of the birds.  He was laughing, swearing, and excitedly recounting “That thing was right at our feet….How come there was 4 of them?”  It was clear he was hooked. The day continued and we took away a full bag of birds shot over the dogs, two dogs that both gained new experiences, two excited brothers that continue to email me questions and future hunting/bird rearing plans, and one very proud owner of a young setter with some more brags for the blog!

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