Milestones

It had been a lackluster day for pheasant hunting in Montana.

Stout and I left our friend’s truck at point A, aiming to meet up at point B after hunting a series of ditches, fields, ponds, weed patches and canals on the way. Collecting a limit of roosters en passant was understood.

Tragically, after covering nearly a mazillion miles of normally productive cover we had seen exactly one rooster. A rooster far enough out we would have needed a .243 to take down, not the 12 gauge I was lugging.

So I think I can be excused for wool gathering at that point, gun slung over my shoulder, head in the clouds, mind elsewhere and slightly less than one eye on the dog … who was on point at that very minute.

On point twenty yards ahead, stock still at the top of a raised two track on the edge of a barren dirt field. A short six inches of green grass grew along the slope, obscuring whatever it was Stout was pointing. Hard to believe a gaudy, football sized bird was hiding in that cover.

I hurried over, simultaneously praising my young dog for her point, readying my shotgun and trying not to get my hopes up too high. The rooster panicked and exploded into the air in a desperate bid for freedom. It didn’t work.

I broke the bird’s wing with an awkward crossing shot, not my proudest, dropping it to the dirt but not anchoring it.

Stout was on it in a second. Etched into my mind is a picture of the rooster with two fully functioning legs streaking across a dirt field, Stout in hot pursuit.

Fifty yards from me their lines intersected and the bird played his last card. Cornering hard to the left, it used its short wheelbase to great effect, forcing Stout to run the outside, larger circle. They stayed like this, the rooster tucked up tight against the dog’s shoulder, both spinning, a blur, for three whole revolutions. After the third Stout clamped the hapless bird in her mouth and gave it a final chomp to seal the deal.

Whereupon my trusty pup, slightly winded, but clearly pleased with herself, trotted up the embankment and placed the bird in my hand.

Our first point and retrieve. Maybe not such a lackluster day.

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