Friday, March 28, 2014

Juno Points Her First Quail

The recall house loaded with Quail
Sometimes the best lessons aren’t planned. After work today I took the dogs out for a walk. It had been a week of awful weather, so little time had been spent working the girls. Juno, our seven month old GSP pup, bolted out back past the barn. Her new joy in life has been the quail recall house that I loaded with quail a little over a week ago. The older and wiser wirehairs trotted along with me.
By the time I reached the barn Juno was racing about stacks of new bricks on pallets. I thought there might still be a quail out, but it had been a week of bitter wintery weather since I had released any. Juno squeezed between two pallets of bricks and stuck her nose in a hole left for a forklift. I looked in the other end and, sure enough, there was a quail hiding inside the pile of bricks.
I got Juno off the scent and we walked out back into the fields and woods. Returning, the dogs bolted ahead to the quail house and hunted the area hard.
Chara, our wise old German wirehair who’s turning thirteen in June, shuffled about with her nose to the ground, plowing through leaves beneath stunted white oaks. The two younger dogs were like ping pong balls, all over the place. Chara locked up on point thirty feet from the recall house.
Colby, my five year old wire, noticed and faithfully honored. I could see the quail hunkered down about three yards from Chara’s nose.
Juno ricocheted all over the place, twice passing close, but tuned into her own little world. I so wished she dragged a line so I might control her. The two wires trembled, but didn’t budge. Juno finally bounded toward the older girls and then stopped like a statue right against Chara’s side. Her head was up as she inhaled the bird’s heady scent.
I praised her and stroked her shoulders, and then took two steps toward the quail.
The bird bolted as if shot from a canon, with Juno hot on its tail.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Where are the Woodcock?

It is that time of the year again, when the snow has retreated to hide in the deepest shadows. The ground finally feels soft and is spongy, like a mattress beneath the feet. A sweet mustiness hangs in the air and soon, we hope, will be replaced with the smells of things newly green.
I walk the dogs hoping to find woodcock. The little wanderers should be here, passing through on their migration north. There are never many on our island, but we usually find a few. Last year they arrived in mid-February, but this winter has been one of the nastiest in a long time.
It is easy to imagine the woodcock’s preposterous proboscis (love saying that) pushing down into the recently thawed ground, which feels only slightly firmer than pudding. The dogs race about on the newly bared ground, plowing through the underbrush. Robins and doves flee ahead of the youngest. None of my three girls find any game birds, but the blue sky stretches between the horizons. Life doesn’t get much better. We’ll look again tomorrow.
So home we go, where I’ll wipe down my guns that have been sitting in my safe through the winter. It’s time to start counting the days until fall.

Chara pointing a March woodcock a few years ago.