Mitch hated me the first time I met him.  I was positive of that.  I returned a scuba diving video the owner of the dive shop had loaned me back to the dive shop that Mitch managed.   When I handed it to him, Mitch went into a tirade about videos going out without any documentation.  I thought all of the anger was targeted at me, but no it was at the owner of the shop.  Mitch intrigued me.  He came off as aloof and solicitous at the same time.  He acted like he really cared what the customer wanted or needed and at the same time held himself detached from the situation.  I made it my mission in life to make him like me and in the process I fell in love with him.

As our relationship developed, I listened and watched and memorized everything about him.  One of his passions was pheasant hunting.  Once a year he would go to western Kansas and spend a week hunting upland game birds (pheasants).  I was jealous of the time that he spent with family and friends that week while I stayed home waiting for him to come back and hear all of the stories of the past week.  In an effort to spend more time with him I decided that I wanted to learn to pheasant hunt, even though I’d never been hunting for anything in my life and had no idea what that entailed.  The very thought of sitting in a deer stand or a duck blind for hours waiting on a passing victim bored the hell out of me.  I’d rather clean the bathroom and I hate cleaning the bathroom.

Mitch was amused when I asked that he teach me to hunt.  But he dove head long into teaching me.  put together the gear I would need.  Mitch gave me hand-me-down shirts, ammo belt and bought an army surplus field coat for the cold.  He showed me how the hunters carry the gun in the field and how to wing shoot. 

My first trip I carried a camera and  watched and learned how the hunters would line up in a vee shape and work a field hunting for the very elusive pheasant.  When I came back, I was hooked.  He even bought me a shotgun and modified to fit me.


Buddy came into my life at a time when I didn’t have a dog and didn’t really want a dog.  Isn’t that always the case?  Sometimes the best things happen when you weren’t looking.  From the very beginning, Buddy brightened my days.  Here was this 85 pound clumsy yellow lab that always had a happy face.  He was always glad to greet anyone. 

Buddy was truly a rescue on death row when we adopted him.  He had been found wandering around Basehor Kansas and was taken to the county vet that was used as a shelter/pound.  The patrons of the vet put up signs  but no one came forward and after two weeks , Buddy was still at the vet’s.  Some of the pet owners that used the vet took turns taking him home at night just to keep him from the needle.  A friend of ours came to us one day and spoke those fateful words,  “Do you know anyone who needs a dog?”

Mitch said politely without much interest, “What kind of dog?”

“A yellow lab.”

“Does he hunt?”

“He’s a yellow lab.”  And the hook was set. 

Karen drove the hour and a half to the vet’s office and the hour and a half back, just to let Mitch “take a look”.  Once I saw Buddy, there was no going back for him.  He was ours for better or for worse.

Buddy was my first exposure to a hunting dog.  He was definitely not a regular old hunting dog.  He had been taught a few basic skills, sit, down, but come was not a word that Buddy thought was really important unless food was involved.  Then Buddy was right there.  We called Buddy a land tiger shark.  He would eat anything that couldn’t eat him.  He would eat until it was all gone or he would bust.  I have never been exposed to a breed of dog that just doesn’t quit eating once they are full.  Labradors have no off valve on their stomachs. 

More on Buddy later.  Stick around.

Hunter Anarchy (final excerpt)

In a way, I guess missing the bird was a good thing, because after that everybody settled down, relaxed a little and slowed down.  Buddy and AJ had their jobs cut out for them trying to work the field with all of these bodies tromping all over.  AJ was following a scent when he came up on the pheasant.  He went on point and froze waiting for help, holding the bird tight.  Mitch got in and helped AJ and shot the bird when it flew.  John was there and saw AJ on point.  He couldn’t believe it.  He told his dad about AJ pointing, but Buck didn’t believe it.

Buck said, “No, you’re wrong, labs don’t point.  It must have looked that way.”

When we broke for lunch, we had shot a total of eight birds among us.  I was surprised that were any birds left around with all of the guns blazing.  Buck and his son were still talking about AJ pointing.

Mitch said, “AJ is a pointing lab.  He was trained to point.  He actually is a registered pointing lab.”

Buck couldn’t believe it.  He was surprised to say the least.

After lunch we headed back to the preserve for more fun in the sun.  We started off again in one big group.  Once again order was abandoned and chaos reigned.  Somehow we lost Judd and Steve; they headed off over the hill.   That left Hank, Buck and Joe heading toward the woods.  Mitch, John and I started walking along with the dogs, by the way, the dogs stayed with us, close to the cow pasture.  Right in front of us was a chukar just sitting on a cow pie with no cover.  A chukar is a littler smaller than a pheasant and a soft gray color. 

Mitch was on the left, John was in the middle and I was on the right as we approached the bird.  The dogs were not paying attention to us, sniffing for something to catch their interest.  When chukars fly, they fly very erratically.  They may fly straight at you before veering off.  This can be very disconcerting and a challenge to have a bird fly right at you while you are trying to get a shot off.  We were about five feet from the bird, and he showed no signs of flying, he just sat there trying to be invisible.  Since John spotted him first, I wanted him to get the bird.  I just stood there and waited for the bird to fly so John could shoot it.  Well the bird finally did fly and it flew straight at John before veering off in the opposite direction.  John unloaded his gun at the bird and didn’t come close.  The bird flew down the hill into a plum thicket and landed.

We laughed so hard at the injustice or maybe justice of the whole affair, I almost peed my pants.  Off we went down toward the plum thicket to see if we could locate that bird again.  On the way there, a pheasant broke from cover and I shot and downed it with one shot.

John turned to Mitch and said, “She doesn’t fool around does she?”

Mitch said, “I wouldn’t want her shooting at me.”

I have to admit, for some unusual reason I was shooting great that day.  It seemed like every time I pulled the trigger a bird fell out of the sky.  I was just as surprised as everyone else, but I hid it well.  I didn’t want anybody to know that this was just a fluke.  I think I shot six birds by myself.  Inside I knew this probably would never happen again, outside I acted like this was nothing new.  If they only knew!

We trudged down into the plum thicket and with Buddy and AJ’s help; we got two more birds up and shot them.  After we cleared that side of the preserve, we decided to head over to the general vicinity where we left the others.  When we finally caught up to Buck and Hank, Buck was sitting down in the grass resting.  Resting?  Come on, we hadn’t been out there that long.  The day was beautiful, not too cold, not too warm and the sun was shining, and there were BIRDS!  What more could you ask for?  But I didn’t say what I was thinking, I just stood there.  Buck said he was an old man and he was done for the day.  We headed back to the cabin to eat some cookies (this has become a tradition I started and everyone loves it) and drink some coffee.  Todd was waiting for us when we got back.  He took the birds we shot and laid them with the others to clean.  He asked how we did, because it sounded like someone was waging a war with all of the gunfire he heard.  He looked at the birds and at us and cocked his head.

“I would have thought that you’d have more birds with all of the guns going off.”

I rolled my eyes and said, “Well you know how it is, if it wasn’t for me there wouldn’t be hardly any birds there.”

Buck said that he wanted to get the birds that he and his sons shot because they were going to head home in the morning. 

“Why are you going to leave so soon?” Hank asked. 

Buck said, “Well we limited out today and we might as well head back to work in the morning.”

“Limited out?” asked Mitch “What do you mean limited out?  We’re on a hunting preserve; there is no limiting out.  We can shoot as many birds as we want.”

This was a whole new concept for Buck.  His sons had had a great time and got to shoot lots of birds and didn’t want to leave yet.  So he agreed to stay another half day and get in some more hunting.  Another day of chaos looms ahead.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the story half as much as I enjoyed living it and re-living it on paper.

Hunter Anarchy (first excerpt)

This is the first excerpt of a story of one of our first hunting trips to Nebraska.  Since hunting season is very close and we’ve started getting the dogs in shape again, I thought it was time to get my act in gear again and start writing again.  I took the summer off and now it’s time to focus again on my dream.

We rounded up everyone and set out for Todd’s preserve.  We had quite a crew with us this trip: the Booth’s, Judd, Hank and Steve, then Mitch and me, and this time another father and sons’ group, the McKay’s, Buck, John and Joe.  Eight total, plus Buddy and AJ.  Buck’s sons have hunted deer, turkey and quail, but have never hunted pheasant.  None of the rest of us could be considered master hunters, so this would prove entertaining.

At Todd’s we made the necessary introductions and completed the preliminary paperwork, hunting licenses, and conservation stamps.  Because of the large number of hunters, we asked for more birds to be released.  We mistakenly thought with all of the bodies tromping around we would scare up more birds.

Todd pointed our merry band in the right direction and Mitch tried to get everyone in some semblance of order and not just a bunch of lunatics carrying guns scaring all of the birds off.  That was a lost cause from the start.  People were scattered all over the hillside and the cedar break.  I decided it would be safer for me to stay on the outside edge of the invading horde.  I didn’t want to be anywhere near where the guns would be going off.  I looked over at Mitch and could see the frustration all over his face.  Poor man, he was so used to an orderly routine when hunting with his father.  Everybody had a position in the line (that invisible line that hunters form when working a field) and by God; they better stay in that position.  Now Mitch was faced with total “hunter anarchy”.

There was no rhyme or reason to the hunters’ placement in the field.  Judd was wandering off down the hill; Buck was almost on top of Hank, if Hank swung his gun up to take a shot, he would probably whack Buck.  One of Buck’s sons was too far in front of everybody, probably running the birds into the next county.  Mitch and I finished the cedar break at the top of the hill; we started working our way back towards the rest of our group.  A pheasant flew up in the middle of the merry band and it sounded like a fourth of July celebration.  They were spread out in a rough backwards semi-circle, facing away from the draw.   The bird flew up behind them; everyone started shooting at that poor bird.  Six men unloaded their guns at that bird and all of them missed, not even a feather was ruffled.  I don’t think that bird quit flying until he hit Omaha.  Mitch and I stood there and watched in amazement.

I looked over at Mitch and said, “They suck!  We are never going to shoot anywhere close to all the birds Todd set out.”

Mitch shook his head and said, “This is going to be a long week.”

(Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent.)  Come back for more of the story.