We have several Spinoni in our family and all of them hunt; Ernie is now the oldest. Shortly after he arrived, I took him and our Maggie to run on a Wildlife Management Area known as the Horse Farm. He knew Mags was boss for everything including this trip to the field. This story is about Ernie on his first trip to the Horse Farm, and how he is when we hunt there today.
The season had been over for some time when I took the two Spins for a run. It was a nice day and temperature told me we would be in the field for 20 minutes then head for home. I didn’t expect to encounter any people, dogs or find any birds. The fields are stocked with quail during hunting season, but when stocking ends, the birds disappear fast. The State takes good care of the Horse Farm and it is a nice place for a young dog like Ernie to begin experiencing the field.
We arrived and all three fields were open. I let them loose and Maggie started to hunt. As Ernie’s feet hit the grass he knew this was a very special place, even though he wasn’t sure why he was there. He stayed close to his elder Mags because she seemed to know what to do at this new and wonderful location.
A glow came over him as he ran, leaped and frolicked in the grass. Up to now everything he experienced was in our yard or on our trips into town. Now he was running on a check cord having a great time with Maggie. Each time Mags considered him out of line she would give a quiet Spinone bark-growl to straighten things out. She knew he was a rookie and wasn’t going to let him spoil any chance for her to point game. We stayed 20 minutes then started for home. Ernie looked out the Jeep window watching the fields get smaller as we drove away. He was taking it all in knowing he had just been to the greatest place on earth.
It is now 11+ years since that first trip to the field. Ernie is slowing and has settled into resting while we travel to hunting places; except the Horse Farm. In some way he knows when we turn onto the access road and starts acting like a pup. He stands with his head up, boxed ears, talking in Spinone telling me he is ready to hunt. Maybe it is stones popping under our tires, bumps or curves in the road, something lets him know we are on our way to his favorite place.
This year our State stocked quail on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Like all stocking days we hunt afternoons when the sunup crowd of hunters is gone. On that day we turned onto Horse Farm Road with Ernie standing and staring out the window ready to go.
I cut him loose and he started across the first of three fields; the one planted with low cover. The wind was blowing a steady 10-15 MPH making scent conditions challenging. He covered that field head up, then down not picking up any bird scent. As he entered the second field he went right to ground tracking. The State had stocked quail before sunup and they had plenty of time to move around and leave their scent. With his nose to the ground, his tail started wagging; E-man was on a bird!
He went into sorghum with his nose locked to the ground and tail swinging steady. Ernie was on good scent but tail wag told me he had some distance to cover before going on point. He moved out of the sorghum and into high Indian Grass with his tail wagging fast as he could make it go closing in on the bird. He went out of sight in tall grass, as the bell on his collar slowed to a ting every few seconds. He was tracking at a crawl pace and I knew from past hunts his eyes were focused straight ahead careful not to overrun the game. I moved behind him and kept talking so he knew my position.
He had tracked in circles for about 200 hundred yards when he made one final turn and came on point. I went in for the flush and a single took a hop flight of 10 yards then landed. Ernie stayed locked with more birds upwind. I worked the single until it rolled out, took a shot, and it fell in tall grass. Ernie couldn’t see me or where the quail had dropped. I hustled back, gave him a line, then sent him to make the retrieve. Using wind to his favor he made 3 circles then headed back with his head high and proud, also a bird in his mouth. He turned it over then went back to pointing the same location. When I moved in for the flush the covey ran and scattered. I relocated him and he worked the area making turns, circles and short steps, head up then down rounding up the birds then came on point. This time I moved in fast and 6 birds flew in different directions. Taking two shots one fell in the Indian grass. I sent my boy and he made another nice retrieve. In 45 minutes we had our limit and headed to the truck leaving birds for other hunters. As we headed home Ernie stood watching the fields get smaller until his favorite place disappeared from view. We arrived home and he went to sleep. I am sure he was dreaming of our afternoon at his favorite place and when he would be there again.