The recent warm weather has been encouraging to local farmers, but discouraging to hunting enthusiasts. Even my hunting dog senses something isn’t quite right. Deer, Duck, Goose or Pheasant, hunters are chomping at the bit waiting for fall.
Generally speaking, my Chocolate Labrador Retriever Tucker, is wise to natures cycles. It doesn’t take many cold mornings to remind him pheasant hunting is right around the corner. With each frosty morning, his allergies begin to subside. It usually takes 3 hard freezes before he feels relief. I am sure he would love 45 degrees Fahrenheit all year round.
Waiting for fall
With pheasant season just weeks away, my dog should be on pins and needles waiting for opening day. But this year has him confused with the lack of cold temperatures. With each throw of the dummy, we move forward with our hunting preparations. I can tell a bit of laziness has settled into us both. A busy summer derailed our usual training sessions. Together he and I are a team and when we are not working together our hunting has little success. A continual reminder to me that “school” is never out for either of us.
Pulling out his kennel from storage has gotten his attention. He races over and immediately inspects it. I rattle the kennel door and he barks excitedly and repeatedly throws my hand up with his nose. As I open the kennel door his tail beats wildly against the basement wall. Smiling I open the kennel door. Without hesitation, he races in and turns around with a great big dog smile. He is definitely in his happy place.
A good walk
The pheasant chick population on our property this summer gave me encouragement for a great season ahead, not to mention some tasty pheasant pot pie.
I always enjoy the time spent walking and watching him work. Nose to the ground and tail wagging, he busily sniffs running back and forth till he pauses, lifts a foot and points. The first time out hunting with him I had no clue what “getting birdy” looked like. My lack of understanding his cues led to a late shot and a missed bird.
The look of bewilderment on his face as the rooster flew away made my heart sink. If Tucker could talk he would have said: “I set you up and YOU MISSED.” Undaunted, he got right back to work.
Flush after flush I missed. Each time I was too high or too low. With both of us feeling dejected, we decided to call it a day and head back. A reward for Tucker’s good work awaited him in the truck. I pulled out a dish and gave him a good drink and then threw him a biscuit. After several additional laps, he turned and gave me another Labrador smile. It was almost as if he was saying I shouldn’t be discouraged and that we would try again.
Chomping at the bit
As I drove out to the Pheasant’s Forever land Tucker began to whine. He knew where we were going and what was expected of him. He too had been waiting for fall. Every muscle in his body trembled with excitement. I had to admit, I was doing some shaking of my own. After parking, I turned around and gave Tucker a good head scratch. Today was our day. We were going home with a bird!
I hopped from the driver’s seat and walked to the back of the truck. Tucker had all he could do to contain himself- he was still waiting in the cab. With all the appropriate gear on and license in my back pocket, I walked back to the cab and opened the door. Tucker launch from the back seat, barely touching. The prairie grass began to envelop him and all I could see was the tops of the grass waving back and forth in the direction he was working.
Locked and Loaded
Tucker worked back and forth for what seemed like an eternity, and then it happened. He started to get birdy. Coming to a stop, he picked up his front right paw, bent his head down in a point. I knew it was all up to me and I had seconds to get ready.
Fluttering wings broke the silence as two roosters hit the sky. I pulled up my shotgun and pulled the trigger twice. Boom! Boom! The last shot hit the slower rooster and it plummeted to the ground, landing in some tall prairie grass.
Eagerly Tucker dove in. Little did we know the rooster had buried himself deep into the grass. Ten minutes had passed into the search and I began to think we had been “skunked” again. Tucker grew silent and then I saw him pounce and wag his tail. Underneath the deep prairie grass lay the dead hidden rooster.
Carefully I reached into the grass, but Tucker wasn’t so sure I should do the retrieving. He began to dig playfully at my handwith his front paws. It was his honor to pull it out, so I let him.
Proud as a Peacock
Tucker nosed his way into the bottom of the grasses. Bringing his head up with a mouthful of rooster, he walked proudly through the prairie grass path. After a few feet down the path he dropped the rooster and looked at me with a big smile and began to pant. I reached down and congratulated him with a good head rub and a pat on the back.
Bending over I picked up the rooster and placed it in my jacket. We both were tired and the walk back to the truck seemed to take longer than we both wanted. As we caught sight of the truck our spirits lightened and we both picked up the pace.
Waiting for fall had been worth all the training we have done. It’s rewarding to work together, and a successful hunt makes it all the sweeter. It’s good to be out in nature walking around, enjoying creation. It’s good to have a Tucker.
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Michele Bruxvoort is sure to draw you in with her delightful sense of humor and love for living life. She enjoys reading, repurposing, as well as remodeling the family home with her husband. Drawing from her life experience as wife, mom, and follower of Jesus, Michele brings you a very honest and real perspective on life. When you don’t find her writing, you can find her mowing lawns, stocking shelves, taking care of her grandbaby and tackling her latest life adventure.
Wisconsin native and empty-nester, she now makes her home with her husband of 27 years in the South West Prairie plains of Minnesota.