Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Six, "Two Years Old: Part 5"

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

Don took a couple of his clients around one section of his property, and Blitz and I took two others.  The cover was incredible, and it held literally flocks of pheasants.  Unfortunately, since it was now the end of the season and these birds had been hunted many times, the birds were quite skittish, and were quick to flush, usually en masse, well beyond gun range.  However, there were always one or two birds that sat tight rather than flush, in the hopes that we merely saunter by them.  For those birds, Blitz's nose was just too much, and she generated a number of great points for the clients, always to exclamations of how unique and nice it was to hunt behind a lab that pointed. 

Our hunt progressed, and we were coming to an area where we'd reconvene with Don and his group, and right on queue, after a push through thick cover, we saw their little band a couple of hundred yards to our left.  We pivoted slightly to meet them, but still hunting hard.  As we were pushing forward, a nervous rooster flushed at the edge of range to our right, and the guest at that end of the line took a marginal shot.  A pellet or two broke the right wing of the bird, and he came back to earth with two very healthy legs and a strong determination to stay away from us.  It was clear he would be hitting the ground running, and it was now going to be up to Blitz to secure him for us. 

Blitz has been working in front of us but had seen the shot, as well as the fall of the bird, and was making an all-out sprint to the last location of the rooster.  She arrived within seconds of the bird falling, and immediately began using her nose to try and find our downed quarry.  A lightly injured pheasant is a running fool, but Blitz appeared hot on the trail, judging by her waving tail and snorting.   However, this was a smart rooster, and he literally ran in circles, thus making his most recent trail difficult to discern.  The dog, however, appeared to be game for this tactic, and was doing her best to close the ground. 

Our group moved up to her to lend support and to see if we could notice any moving weeds which would give away the bird's location.  However, we didn't provide much help, and Blitz continued to circle the location in a mad frenzy to find the wounded rooster.  About that time, we heard a huge "WHOA!" from the other group two hundred yards ahead of us.  "Hey you guys!" they yelled, "Are you looking for that rooster?"  "Yeah," I answered, "Blitz looks like she's on him!"  "Well, you better bring her over here, because he just ran right past us!"  Somehow the bird slipped out and covered those 200 yards like he was a whipped thoroughbred, and was last seen heading out of the county. 

In all of the pheasant hunting I have done, the biggest disappointment is dropping a bird and being unable to find it.  As hunters, we have the ethical responsibility to harvest our game quickly and humanely, and dropping a rooster and being unable to retrieve it just breaks my heart.  I know that eventually it will fall prey to a fox, eagle, or some other predator, and that nature has a way of taking care of things, however it is the suffering I can't stand.  That's why I always search and search and search until any hope of recovery is exhausted.  But as this example showed, if the bird is in good condition, one can search the downed location all one wants - the rooster will actually be in the next section, and making trails for the one beyond that.  Regardless of this lesson, we still search hard, as it is the only thing we can control. 

By the end of our hunt, our group had harvested a full limit of two roosters each, mostly thanks to Blitz and her fabulous hunting.  We divided our birds at the vehicle tailgates, shook hands and headed to our respective homes. 

Blitz and I had a two hour ride ahead of us, and we were both tired.  However, I was armed with some fresh birds, and called ahead to my wife to let her know that it would be grilled pheasant for dinner tonight.  We arrived at home, and I pulled the truck into the garage and unloaded Blitz, her dog crate, our gear, and the birds.  I put the birds on the work bench and got some newspapers, a knife, and a pot of water ready for cleaning.  Blitz was indeed tired, and while she'd normally be running around all over the garage, she was now just content to slowly follow me around. 

I got to cleaning the pheasants, and used a sharp knife to fillet the breasts off of the birds.  With pheasants, the breast is a massive amount of meat, whereas the thighs and legs of limited value, and the wings completely worthless.  Hence, a careful extraction of the breast yields nearly all of the usable meat of the bird, and that's exactly what I did.  As I zipped off a skinless breast, I dropped it into the pot of water and cleaned off the blood and any extraneous feathers. 

I was making quick work of the birds, but was also working up a powerful thirst.  I felt like a cold beer would be in order, and the day's success seemed like the perfect excuse to grab a cold one.  I headed for the door with Blitz on my heel, but stopped her at the door.  I just needed to pop in and grab a beer and baggie for the breasts that wouldn't be cooked that night, and having her come in with me did not warrant the potential cat chase that may ensue.  So I gave Blitz the command to "sit," waited for her to plop her butt down, and headed in for a Coors Light and a baggie. 

I returned to the garage in approximately thirty seconds to see Blitz sitting in the middle of the garage.  "Good girl," I thought, and was wondering if maybe she might be mellowing out just a little bit.  That's when I looked beyond her and spied the pot containing the pheasant breasts and water sitting on the floor of the garage.  I quickly walked over and found that the pot was completely empty.  No breasts.  No water. Nothing.  Except maybe a hint of dog spit. 

I turned to look at Blitz, who met my gaze with her own "What?" look.  All those hours of hunting.  All the road time we logged.  All my work on cleaning the birds.  Right down the hatch in mere seconds.  That was a big price to pay when a bowl of Eukanuba would have done just fine.  The other mystery was how she got the pot off of the work bench without spilling as much as a drop of water.

Mystified, I chalked it up me being too trusting and her being too hungry, and collared her up to lead her downstairs to her crate.  As we headed for the stairs, my wife called out, "Honey, is there anything I can do to help with dinner?" 

"Yeah," I replied, "Call Divinci's and order us a pizza."  

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