After hunting on public refuges and private land for most of this season, my boyfriend and I were back in the rice fields again on Sunday, this time on some private club land north in the Marysville/Yuba City area.
The forecast called for wind (good!) but when we got set up in our blind, it was very quiet and still. Too still: not many shotgun blasts at all. We looked up and saw lots of birds flying high and fast and we realized the wind was at a higher elevation. Minutes turned into hours, and we never lifted our shotguns.
Finally, around 9:30 a.m. - a good three hours into shoot time - we saw the hunting party in the nearest blind take off, without having fired any shots themselves. The morning was like so many we experienced last year - deathly still - that we were tempted to leave as well. But we knew the forecast called for serious wind by noon.
It wasn't 15 minutes later that the wind started picking up, and the birds dropped to lower altitudes. Bam! A small flock of pintails dropped in. We dropped one. Twenty minutes later, Bam! Another flock of pintails. We dropped another. And within an hour, a small V of specklebelly geese that had been tormenting us from high altitudes came within range. We dropped two!
So, you see, sometimes persistence pays.
When we dropped the specks, I didn't think I'd hit one, and I didn't even realize we'd dropped two until my boyfriend jumped out of the blind and said, You get this one! I'll go after that one!
I got my assigned bird just fine - its wing was shattered, and there would be no chase. But the one my boyfriend went after apparently wasn't hurt too badly (must've been my shot!), because it boogied away from him pretty darn quickly. It swam to the nearest check - the narrow strip of earth separating rice fields - hopped over, swam toward the next check, and hopped over that one too.
Definitely my shot.
The problem was, the bird was never close enough for my boyfriend to fire another shot at it, and when he got to the last place where he'd seen the bird, he couldn't find it.
I saw he was empty handed and went to join him in the search. He was exhausted from trying to run through mud and water (try it sometime!), so I said, You go back, I'll keep looking for a while. It was probably was my fault anyway.
I walked along the check where the goose had likely taken refuge, and saw how difficult it was going to be. Tall tule grass was growing alongside the check, and cut grass had piled up against it all, forming a thousand little hiding places in the water. I walked the length of the check, slogging through the piled up grass, reaching down and pulling grass away to see if I could find our goose, looking for any hint of white belly or orange webbed feet. I must've spent half an hour at it. We hate losing birds. I really wanted to find it.
But I didn't.
So, you see, sometimes persistence doesn't pay.
We need a dog, I said when I got back to the blind. A dog would have found that bird.
He grunted. It's not really in our budget to buy a quality, trained hunting dog. And I don't know the first thing about hunting with a dog, so I'm not in a position to train one myself.But it's not something my conscience can take, losing a bird I've shot. Guess I'd better start saving money and persuading my beloved. After all, sometimes, persistence pays.
© Holly A. Heyser 2007