Wednesday, February 2, 2011
1 Beer : 3 Advil
Mile after mile, ice-covered Foxtail, Red Grass and intermittent Sand Sage crackle beneath my boots, amplifying my presence, broadcasting intended stealth. I trudge on with freeze-dried fortitude hoping amongst hope that I might cull from the bloodstock one last thoughtless ring neck. In the quiet of my mind I recall a book I read recently, Hope is Not a Strategy.
The birds, absent altogether or flushing wild beyond the horizon discourage my posse. What started as buoyant confidence has faded to exasperation, tired legs and heavy guns. Such is the truth of a late season hunt. A bewildering intelligence whispers in my head, "the jackal may just have the last laugh."
Another field... another hen.
The dogs, military in their pursuit and exploration offer some distraction. Tongues flapping, ears bouncing, tails wagging with child like enthusiasm, they are absent the burden of choice. Singular in purpose they labor on with elegant grace as the scales tip heavily against us.
A bitter afternoon gale rushes in further threatening our resolve. We've walked CRP, hit pockets, corners and tiny islands amid cut corn. We've pushed wind breaks and even been reduced to throwing rocks into private cover, yet nothing will break lose the quarry. With the hour growing late and our spirits broken, two hit the wall, returning to family responsibility while two soldier on toward last shooting light. "After all, if you're going to stay for the whole dance, you might as well close down the bar," my companion tells me.
As we press toward good bedding cover I begin to bargain with myself, "If I could only see something crossing the road.... " Then, out of the corner of my eye I receive the gift, three hens crossing out of cut corn into a small patch of grass. "They're moving," I tell myself.
Nearing The Field, the holiest of holy covers, we pass three more roosters along a road making for bed. Now in a pleasant state of mind, the game is on. With only minutes left of shooting light, we scamper out of the truck, dropping shells as we frantically get organized. The dogs are released, they're attitude focused as they interpret our mood - we mean business. A short stroll into The Field and a rooster comes up, pressed by a tracking Pointer. A roar of white flame ensues. The bird falls and is retrieved handily. With only a thumbs up from a distance, there is no time for congratulations as we press onward. Another 200 yards and my dog goes on point. Less then ten feet from his nose another rooster erupts, cackling as he takes flight. I let loose a bevy of #4's and he falls lifeless out of the sunset, retrieved enthusiastically by my young puppy.
Beaming from our good fortune, we return to the truck to revel in the afterglow resulting from our tenacity. Exhausted and freezing, it's time to return home. A hot bath, a warm dark beer and three Advil are calling my name as we celebrate the end of another glorious pheasant season
I am truly thankful for all those I've hunted with this season, for all the memories, the brilliant dogs, the opportunity to admire some exceptional guns, and the new friends I've met along the way. You've each given me a gift I may never be able to repay. You know who you are, and I thank you.