In early November, I took my new springer pup to NW Iowa for a total immersion 5-day pheasant extravaganza. It was a big gamble with a very inexperienced dog but she seemed to come through it well and showed signs of good things to come. Here is the rest of the story for the season to date.
After NW Iowa with its many honey holes, we came back to reality in central IL. The two biggest high points of the season were the Birkbeck and Sibley PHAs. At Birkbeck, we saw about 18 hens and 7 roosters. Lots of wild flushes, except of course for the hens who waited until you almost stepped on them. Managed to kill 2 roosters. Had one rooster fly right down the line of 3 hunters and we all missed him cleanly at about 30 yards. Had to have been that strong tail wind. Pip hunted pretty well in tall cover. Found several hens. No retrieves. Gary Lutterbie’s springer Sam did a good job.
Then we hunted some smaller covers with lower bird numbers. Pip was consistently finding birds but as they got fewer and farther between, she wanted to range further. Keeping her close is still something we’re working on but the pager feature on the Dogtra collar seems to be enough to do the job. I like this because it doesn’t tip off the pheasants like the whistle does.
One solo hunt comes to mind where a rooster flushed by some timber and caught me completely by surprise. As I struggled to mount the gun, I tangled it in my whistle lanyard. First shot went 12’ over the bird. As he sped through the branches I saw an opening and tried a desperation shot. Managed to hit him fairly hard and saw a leg drop but he continued flying through the woods into an adjoining field about 100 yards away. I had to pick Pip up to cross a woven wire fence and try the retrieve.
The trees had been thick enough that I couldn’t tell exactly where the bird had landed. I called Pip to the general area then kept encouraging her to “look close.” After about 5 minutes, her head came up and she started looking into a thick clump of foxtail. Jumped in and came up with the rooster. Yay!
Sibley PHA was a great trip. Saw about 18 hens and 8 roosters. We wound up shooting 5. One highlight was when Pip worked a scent for at least 70 yards through some very heavy brome grass. No flush. We stopped when the cover changed and regrouped. Of course, as we stood there taking a breather a rooster jumped up from the middle of our group and took off making a corkscrew turn as he went. There wasn’t a safe shot until he was almost 35 yards away and we were tied in knots. I gave him a salute with no effect. He had done this before. Pip made two good retrieves and rooted some birds out of dense cover.
All in all, it’s been a great season so far for “new doggie.” We don’t have any more PHA permits or honey holes but are having fun just putting our noses in the wind and seeing what we can find. This morning Pip was hunting in a dense patch of teasel and tree limbs. A Coopers hawk flew out and sat on a branch. Pip kept working then flushed a hen. I suspect the hawk had been after the hen until we screwed up the deal. No roosters but still a good day watching a young dog begin to turn into a bird dog.