What a trip! Warm weather had erased all the snow, but a new dusting covered the ground when we woke our first morning. Up higher, where we hunted the first day, an honest inch sat on the ground.
My older wirehair, Chara, and I hunted the same cover that held grouse last fall and came up empty. Dropping down through the cuttings we picked up the edge of the softwood that ran along the river and followed it back toward the truck. Sure enough, we found lots of our partridge, but the ground was steep, the woods thick, and the walking tough.
We found small plateau stuck out in the river, covered with spruce, birch, and fir. On the side against the hill an old beaver pond hid in the shadows. I started taking pictures, and then realized I couldn’t hear Chara’s bell, and she was only thirty yards away a few seconds before.
I jammed the camera in my pocket, spoke her name, and two partridge burst from the edge of the pond just below my perch. One flew straight away and I knocked it down with my second shot. With dismay I watched it bounce on the ice and then sliiiiide…and for a moment I hoped it would slide to the shore, but no.
In a panic I called Chara, not wanting her to run out onto the ice. Seldom do I regret having let her “unlearn” the steady to wing and shot routine, but that was one of those moments. Fortunately she never saw the two birds, which took off twenty yards from where she pointed, and she immediately started to hunt again.
I called her to heel, then brought her to the edge of the pond and had her stay while I searched for a stick long enough to hook the partridge and slide it ashore. It was about eight feet out and the ice was only about a half inch thick, and, like most beaver ponds, there was no bottom to the mud I am sure.
My retrieve was successful.