This was our first hunting trip in two years and the first time I would carry a gun in three years. Last year we didn’t go hunting and two years ago we were hunting quail. Quail are hard for me to shoot, they fly up so fast that by the time my heart stops racing and I realize what flew up the little birds are long gone and way out of range. So I carried a camera two years ago and had much better luck capturing the moments through the lens than with a gun. Two years ago was also the last time we had AJ, our black lab, to help us search out birds. We lost him the week after we came back from that trip. Now we’re down to just two dogs, Charlie, our ten year old german shorthair/lab mix and Orso, our eight year old chocolate lab. Charlie is a good hunting dog, great nose and fast. Orso on the other hand, has preferred to walk behind us letting us beat down the path for him enjoying the outing rather than getting out there looking for birds.
Saturday morning brought clear skies bright and sunny with a fairly strong wind out of the north that felt quite biting. Our group consisted of six hunters, Mitch, me and longtime family friends that spanned four generations. The oldest in our group was eighty-nine and the youngest was fourteen, a wide range indeed. We thought that since Charlie is now ten he might be a little slower and Orso was just along for the ride. Even though Mitch is ever the optimist, saying this might just be the year that Orso gets it, I am the skeptic saying, remember we only have one dog that hunts. We started off working a long strip of tall grasses, Mitch on the outside edge on the left, me just to his right in the grass and the other four spaced out to the right across the expanse to the outside on the right to block any birds from running out and escaping unscathed. The dogs ranged back and forth between us trying to pick up that elusive wonderful scent of the pheasant.
We hadn’t gone fifty feet when Charlie stopped and went on point off to my right in front of the father, grandson combination. A pheasant flew up and caught the wind to fly across my position, the grandson fired off a round and winged the bird, I shot right after and helped bring it down, with Charlie racing hot after the downed bird to make the retrieval. After two years, nothing has changed, it doesn’t matter who shoots the bird the dogs always bring them back to me. A good omen, finding a bird so quickly.
The big surprise came about twenty five yards farther as we walked the field. Orso stopped and stood stock still with his ears cocked up and forward staring at something.
I gave the command, “Get him Orso, okay.” Nothing, Orso just stood there looking at the form in the grass. I gave him the command again, this time with more emphasis, “Okay Orso, get it up!”
Orso moved forward and the bird flew up and to the left trying to catch the wind. Three shots rang out winging the bird but no one got off a clean shot. The bird flew down the hill across the road and into the trees on the other side. Mitch ran toward the spot where the bird went down with Orso following behind him. They crossed the road and worked their way down into the draw where the bird went down. The rest of us stood where we were not moving, waiting for Mitch to resurface. Charlie even came and sat down beside me waiting, taking a rare rest break. About five minutes later I spotted Mitch coming back up out of the draw fifteen feet farther west than they went in and next to him was Orso carrying the bird. Orso had rooted the bird out hiding in the grass next to a tree, went in and grabbed the bird, just like a seasoned hunting dog. Orso trotted back up the hill straight to me bringing his prize, head held high.
After eight years Orso was finally a real live hunting dog. Miracles do happen.