I used to work in Washington, D.C. and would park near the tidal basin at the Jefferson Memorial and walk to my office. The tidal basin is ringed with cherry trees and is the focus of the Cherry Blossom Festival every year. The problem is I can’t remember a year when the blossoming of the cherry trees actually matched up with the festival dates. Some years it was too early, some too late. The blossoms themselves were beautiful but festival crowds often missed them.
Jeff Lampe, his son Victor and I just concluded a 5 day walkabout pheasant hunt in NW Iowa. Jeff and I had gone there in the past when the corn was still in the field (too early) and more often when the weather was around zero, winds 30+ mph and the cover was full of snow and barren of birds (too late.) This year our timing was just right. At the top of the list were two covers we hunted within a day or two of the nearby corn being harvested. In one of them, pheasants started to fill the air right after we stepped into the field and didn’t stop until we had limited out. All told, our group (occasionally including Jeff’s Uncle Rick and his son Mike) harvested 39 roosters. One of our best hunts ever.
All of this set the stage for the maiden real hunting experience for my year old springer Pip. Pip is what is called a “soft” dog. She’s shy around strangers and wary of new situations. Although I had been working with her, I didn’t know what was going to happen when the pheasant scrum started and guns started blazing. I’ve seen many dogs break out in this situation and disappear over the horizon.
All in all, Pip came through like a trooper. She has always been birdy and turns into a very confident dog in the field. She got excited and was ranging too far initially but I started using the page feature on her Dogtra collar to tighten up her pattern. On the second day I killed a rooster she had flushed and she brought it to my hand like she had been doing it her whole life. Then Uncle Rick shot a bird and she brought it to him (I’ve never had a dog before that would do that.) From then on Pip kept getting better. She hunted close, flushed birds and retrieved some cripples we would have never found otherwise. In several places the cover was head high so dog help in making retrieves was critical.
There are definitely more pheasants in Iowa this year. I had a great time with Jeff, Victor and the other Lampe kin. I have been on this trip so often and lived off their great hospitality that I have been adopted as a common law cousin. Good people, great cover, lots of pheasants and the added bonus of watching a young dog begin to blossom into a real bird dog.
Hmm, the Iowa season is open for quite a while yet.