Bert’s Surprise Pheasant
It was a windy day in January and our Spinone Bert’s turn to hunt. At the time he was close to 12, had slowed a lot but still loves every minute he is in the field. When it is his turn, we hunt places where the cover is low so he doesn’t get worn out too quickly. We go to this nice little field on State grounds that is close to home. The grass is just right for an old dog being honored with one more day of hunting.
On this day, the plan was for him to run about 35 minutes on 3 birds. The wind was blowing 15 MPH and I knew the birds wouldn’t stay placed for very long. After setting the second bird, I was glad to have brought an extra quail if it was needed to make Bert’s trip a success.
While setting the birds Bert sat in the truck barking to remind me, he was ready. Then it was time to gear up and head toward the field. We crossed a small stream then started to hunt. I followed his nose, smiling face, and wagging tail as he worked the field. He started circling an area, head up then down figuring the right spot and time to come on point. He worked nice but the bird had moved. I relocated him and he circled up several times before moving on to other areas. He was having trouble locating the second bird due to wind then he figured things out and went on point. I flushed and fired two shots never hitting the bird. Both shots were easy; I just plain missed. The third bird I missed also. We worked around then to the truck where I switched to a heavier shot before setting the extra bird. I let my boy out of the truck and he tracked my scent for 75 yards to the bird and came on point. He knows the “game” and plays it well. I flushed, fired, the bird dropped, and Bert made a nice retrieve. We worked the edge of the wood then back to the truck. The old boy had run 35 minutes and it seemed like a good time to finish up and take him home.
We drove down the dirt road, turning onto the hardtop that runs past another State field. As we drove by there was a cock pheasant standing on the far side next to hardwoods covered with lots of briers. I never hunt here because there are better places away from roads. But with this bird near the woods, my Old Pal could be brought in on a leash to work the wood line a safe distance from the street. We drove downwind, parked and I walked Bert in before letting him loose. Once off-leash, he started to track. He was nose to the ground on a rabbit run heading directly toward the cock bird. I followed close talking to him as we moved through the grass. We were about halfway to the bird when I saw the pheasant run into briers and head toward a thick section. All I could think was great; I’m going to get cut up on this one! Bert tracked and I followed him into the woods. We hadn’t moved far when he came on point. The bird was running and I heard it get up and fly toward where we had started in the field. We got out of the thick and headed in the direction of this pheasant. Bert put his nose to the ground and started backwind tracking very slow telling me a bird is close. I had heard the cock take off and was sure he was now working a different bird and not on an old scent. The line he followed kept moving farther away from the rabbit run we had originally followed. Then he slowed even more as the scent got stronger so he wouldn’t overrun the bird. I stayed with him, his shoulder next to my knee, gun at the ready. He kept moving ever slower, one cautious step at a time, then he stopped. As he came on point a hen flew up at the limits of my gun. Having the wind to my back I took aim with a nice lead, fired, and dropped her. I hit a wing and expected her to run if we didn’t get to where she landed fast. Bert worked the area nice but didn’t find the bird. He circled up a couple of times then we moved on to hunt for the cock bird.
We worked the woods but he didn’t get a start. By now my old boy had run longer than planned. He was still strong and his little tail kept wagging even though it was past normal run time for his to quit. On our way to the truck, we had to take one last look for the downed hen before calling it a day. We got close to where she landed when I put him in track. He put his nose to the ground and this time quickly picked up the scent. I stayed with him as he moved into the wind another 20 feet then locked on point. I looked down and saw tail feathers sticking out of thick grass. Bert scented a wounded bird and expected a tap on the head and be sent on a retrieve. We were still a safe distance from the road but if my boy had to run down this bird the best thing to do was just reach down and pick her up. So, watching the bird I dropped to one knee and slowly pulled her out of the grass. We got her! And now we were really on our way home with another great story of another windy South Jersey Day to share with our Spinone friends.