This year on the annual “Great Pheasant Hunt” the weather was more cooperative. Saturday was sunny and chilly around 38 degrees to start the day. Too windy, with sustained winds around 20 miles an hour, but it was dry, no rain or snow. Not too bad all things considered. AJ and Charlie were beside themselves with energy and excitement for the upcoming event. Orso was just along for the ride, as usual. No interest in hunting, just happy to be with us.
Even though we’ve been pheasant hunting for decades, Mitch for almost five decades and me for twelve years, every year we either learn something new or a better way to prepare for hunting. Because we don’t get the opportunity to go hunting as often as we would like nor do we work the dogs as much as they need to stay at the top of their game, the first day has always been very chaotic. The dogs have so much pent up excitement at finally being able to do the one thing they were bred for, hunt birds.
Fifteen minutes into our first morning, we always tell each other that next year we need to come up a day earlier than everyone else to wear the dogs out a bit and never do. This year was no different, but now we’ve added a twist, next year we plan on getting set up about an hour before the others and work the dogs away from where we plan on hunting, so as not to chase off any pheasant that may be loitering in the area. We definitely don’t need any more handicaps.
This brilliant idea came to me watching the dogs the second morning totally out of control running through six foot plus tall dense prairie grass, losing sight of them almost immediately. I stomped down the hill and up to Mitch, poor unsuspecting soul, and said, “I have a thought. This area is too hard to manage the dogs with all of this energy. We need to slow them down. I think that we should take them across the draw to the open hilly field and run them to burn off some of their exuberance. What do you think?”
Mitch was experiencing as much frustration as I was and quickly agreed. We both knew that there were birds laying low in dense grasses and didn’t want the dogs to scatter them. So we called everyone out of the prairie grass, called the dogs and regrouped. As expected one was missing. AJ was nowhere to be found. I told Mitch to hold on to both Charlie and Orso while I tromped off to find AJ. Orso, thinking he was going to miss something immediately started wailing so I told Mitch to let him come with me. I found AJ heading back to the cars having lost us. After getting all of us together, Mitch explained our plan and off we headed across the electric fence that we always forget to unplug until one of us remembers the hard way. Everyone else that hasn’t touched the fence yet laughs at the victim, really glad it wasn’t them.
Even though it was only 40 degrees, the dogs found the pond at the bottom of the dam a refreshing swim. Brrr. Hydrated and renewed, the dogs bolted off up the open ground. We started yelling, “Whoa!” as soon either Charlie or AJ got too far ahead of us. The plan was to keep both of them working close to us. Orso wasn’t a problem never straying too far ahead, as I constantly clomped him in the jaw with my heel. He prefers to let me clear a path, less effort on his part.
After walking and working the dogs from one end of Todd’s land to other, we succeeded in taking some of the out of control excitement out of them. We decided it was time to head back to the tall prairie grass and give it a thorough sniffing. The dogs worked wonderfully and rewarded us with two more birds.
Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?