Monday, December 3, 2007

Sometimes persistence pays

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


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

I want a dog too, but they're such a big commitment, maybe I'll just have to train the kids. what am i saying? Where's that copy of gundog trader!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Hey, if your kids have good noses and you don't mind throwing them in nearly freezing water, what the heck?

Phillip said...

Throwing the kids in freezing water? Hmm... I like that idea!

Seriously, bummer on the speck. I hate to lose anything too, whether it's a little dove or a huge goose.

I've kinda got a jinx on those danged birds (hence my handle on the discussion forum at Jesse's Hunting and Outdoors... Speckmisser). I can drop other birds all day long, but put a specklebelly over me and it's like someone switched my ammo out for blanks. I get a couple every year, but should have a pile to my credit.

Sounds like ya'll were in a good spot, though... and waiting it out is definitely the right call.

A dog is definitely the way to go if you can, or hunt with someone who's got one. It makes a ton of difference. They're not really that expensive, and training one well enough to hunt over can be done by just about anyone with a touch of patience and a firm hand tempered by kindness.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Hate to break this to ya, Caz, but a dog would not have found that speck. It was waay too far off for the dog to catch the scent, and the bird would have been too far away by the time Rover got to him.

Dogs are better for upland hunting, anyway. Most of the ducks we've lost would not have been retreivable by dogs, so I am less concerned about that. But it does keep us from pheasant and definitely quail hunting more often!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Dear Hunter:

We're getting a dog. You know you can't fight it. And you definitely know you won't be able to resist a lab puppy. No one can.


P.S. That goose wouldn't have gotten so far away if a dog had gone after it immediately. Dogs are just faster than you are. Sorry, Hon.

Marian said...

At least you waited it out and shot at a bird...I know you didn't want to lose one...just like I hate losing a deer.