My First Bird (first excerpt)

This is the first excerpt from another one of my stories.

If I said I wasn’t nervous and a little scared, I’d be lying.  I was also excited and eager to jump right in.  I was going hunting with four seasoned hunters, all men.  As I packed up all the clothes and hunting gear I own it seemed like, all these thoughts kept running through my head.  What if I shoot at a bird and miss?  Or worse, what if I line up a shot on a bird and accidentally shoot one of the other hunters or God forbid, Buddy?  I’d heard that happens all the time.  Maybe I wouldn’t pull the trigger at all, nobody would notice, would they?  Can I keep up?  Will I embarrass myself? 

Of course when I voiced these fears out loud to Mitch, I was given the reassurance that everyone misses sooner or later. 

“Don’t worry you’ll do fine.” Mitch said.

“What if I shoot someone?” 

“That would not be a good thing.  Getting shot happens sometimes, though.  I can show you the holes in my field jacket that I got when my father shot me.” He smiled. “Come on, let’s get loaded up.”

This year we were going to central Nebraska to hunt at a controlled shooting preserve.  This was something that no one in our group had ever done before.  In fact, they had always looked down their noses at hunters who hunted preserves.

“That’s not real hunting, where you have to kick up the birds to get them to fly.” Mitch had often said.  “Real hunting is tromping around in the open field not knowing where the birds are.  And another thing, I’m not paying someone to hunt birds.”

“Well what do you think you’ve been doing every year going to Kansas with Floyd as your guide?” I asked.

“That’s different, we just pay for his meals.”

“Oh, and what about his wife and his grown children and all of their meals, too?  What’s the difference between feeding his family breakfast; lunch and dinner every day, so he can ride around in the truck and take us to places that don’t have any birds and paying someone up front to insure the birds are there?  All we know for certain is that there are going to be birds out there.  We would still have to find them and shoot them.  The only guarantee we have is that there will be birds.  Something that hasn’t happened for the last few years in Kansas.” I pointed out.

It was a long speech for me.  Here I was sounding like the expert, when I’ve only been hunting for 3 years and hadn’t even shot a bird yet, and Mitch had been hunting since he was a kid.  Maybe because I’m so new to hunting, it was easier for me to change and try something different.  He stopped and looked at me like someone that has just had a revelation.

“I never thought about it like that, but you’re right.  We’ve been paying for birds all along.  Okay, we’ll give this a try, it’s not like anybody else wants to go back to Kansas anymore.”

Everyone had gotten thoroughly frustrated with little or no birds, long uncomfortable rides in the back of a pickup truck bumping along the dirt roads in drought ridden Kansas for the last four years.  It was colder this year than previous years, a good thing for the dogs.  But how would I do in the cold?  When we finally got to the preserve, there was a strong North wind blowing and I couldn’t keep my hat on.  It didn’t take long and my fingers were numb, too.  After we got acquainted with Todd, the owner of the land and shooting preserve, he told us the general area the birds were in, but these were wild birds and we still had to find them. 

For some reason, Mitch led us off in the opposite direction that Todd pointed out.  This must have been some new strategy that I didn’t know about.  Maybe he wanted to sneak up on the birds from behind.  Is there a behind in hunting?

We brought Harley, one of my son’s dogs with us to hunt with Buddy.  The idea was to get Buddy help in the field.  Harley is a lab mix and he’s not afraid of guns but had had no hunting training.  So we thought we’d bring him along and let him watch Buddy and maybe learn what to do.  Harley liked wandering around with us.  He ran back and forth following Buddy, but still wasn’t real sure what was going on.

The wind was biting and there were heavy gray clouds, so I offered to head down into the middle of the draw and work under the cover of trees and slope of the hill that acts as a windbreak.  There were no birds down there, but I didn’t care, there also was no wind either.

We finally worked our way back toward the cabin where we started in a wide arc.  Buddy picked up the scent of a pheasant.  His head jerked around in mid-sniff and he abruptly changed direction.  Harley wasn’t sure what was going on, but he picked up the pace and followed Buddy.  Buddy scared up a pheasant, and as it took off, flying off with the telltale sound, whump, whump, whump, that sounds like a helicopter taking off.

Mitch, who is always ready it seems, got off a shot and downed the bird.  Buddy ran it down and brought it back to me.  Harley wasn’t quite sure about the whole process, but he was still game at that point.  He started acting a little more interested until he found his own bird.  We were tromping on the side of a hill when he literally walked up on a pheasant trying to stay hidden in some tall grass.  He stuck his nose on it not quite sure yet about it, when the bird flew up almost in his face and Steve shot it very close to where Harley was standing.  That was all she wrote for Harley.  He was done looking for birds.  The rest of the trip he spent walking next to me.  He never strayed too far from my side and if I stopped Harley would sit down next to me and if I stopped and stood in one place for too long, Harley would lie down and take a break.  So much for training Harley into a hunting dog.  Time for plan B, whatever that was.

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