The Unplanned Bird Hunt
The cell phone buzzed (nothing really ‘rings’ anymore) showing me that Neighbor Dave deMoulpied was reaching out for me.
“Hey Davey Boy, how are you?”
“Doing Well. Whatcha doin’ bud?”
“Working hard on the book; my fingers are cramping. Why, what’s up?”
“Put the laptop down, we’re going bird hunting.”
“Thanks man, but I should really get cracking here.”
“I wasn’t asking…”
Thirty minutes later, I found myself in the front seat of Neighbor Dave’s Ram truck, with Magnus the Uber-Hund comfortably occupying the back seat. I had a box of Federal No. 6’s, and my 1930s vintage Crescent Davis Wrench Works 12-gauge side-by-side;it wasn’t long until the usual banter and laughter began. It was a beautiful October morning, cool enough to put a heavy dew on the fields, but warm enough to make it comfy; the perfect blue skies and beautiful foliage were a bonus. Magnus’ stub of a tail was flittering like a hummingbird when he heard the sound of his bell, for that means hunting, and that is exactly what Magnus was bred for. Being a drahthaar of impeccable lineage, Magneto is a heat seeking missile of a dog when it comes to that which is covered in feathers.
It certainly wasn’t long until he locked up in his tracks, on the southeast side of a small family cemetery, and the first cock rooster flushed. Let me explain something quick: I can’t hit pheasants. Not at all. They make a mockery of me, and this was no exception. I was to the bird’s left, Dave to the right. Of course the bird went left. All the elements were there. The bird flushed beautifully, sun glinting off that gorgeous plumage; I raised the shotgun, and even fired both barrels. Yup, emptied the old gun with the usual result: a healthy pheasant sailing off to live another day. Neighbor Dave, being the good friend that he is, didn’t bust my chops, although he had every right to.
The second bird locked up tighter than a drum on Magneto’s approach, and the Mexican standoff began, with neither of them moving. What a sight; to see a dog this good on a rock-solid point, and allow a bumbling oaf like myself walk up and flush the bird. The bird flushed, and the right barrel of the Crescent barked. Still the bird flew on, encouraged by an exclamation that I won’t print here. Neighbor Dave settled the affair with one load of Prairie Storm from his Remington 1100LT 20-gauge. I hung my head in despair, and wondered how many words I could’ve typed by now.
“It’s ok, you’re just leading them too far. You’ll get the next one.”
“Sure I will, if it sits still…”
We worked a thick, cedar-filled ravine, with much nastier cover, when Magnus froze mid-stride.
“Phil, get over to the left. I think it’s a ruffed grouse, and they flush quickly. You probably won’t get a shot in this thick stuff.”
Dave barely got the words out, when the brownish flurry of feathers exploded straight away from me, at Mach II. There wasn’t any time to think, lead, contemplate, discuss or ponder, simply shoulder the old double and get the job done. An explosion of feathers hung in the air, as the bird tumbled 30 yards out. I was redeemed!
“Holy Shite! You got it! How in the hell did you make that shot?”
The answer was simple. “You see, Neighbor Dave, I am a grouse hunter” I said, with the straightest face I could keep. “I have no desire to shoot pheasants, so from now on could we please just hunt grouse? And could we go home now before I ruin my streak?”
Cleaning the birds at home, he looked at me seriously and said “I’m really not sure how you hit that bird with such a small window. I mean, you had a nanosecond.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was pure luck, or maybe luck with a shred of instinct, so I poured the first brandy and handed him the glass. That’s what good friends do.