Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A New Day Has Dawned... Happy New Year!!

I feel bad about posting "over" Pete on the same day, but this is breaking news and it can't wait.

This morning's hunt was less than inspiring, although very nice in terms of camaraderie... A New Year's day goose hunt in the Hoster field with Ernie, Mike O, Brent, David T., Eric and myself. The geese had other places on their mind, and the weather did not cooperate in the least. We had only two shootable flocks enter the kill zone; one of which lost four of its members, the other of which received an inexplicable "pass" from "team left." "Team right" remains perplexed, though so soaked as to feign total indifference. But I digress...

This being New Year's Day, I wanted to get Brant out for his first hunt. Most of the esteemed Grousers have met Sir Brantley, but in case you have not yet had this privilege, Brant is a pure bred Chesapeake Bay Retriever. He is 8 months old, weighs 70 plus pounds, and is as sweet as can be. He is also a classic Chessie in terms of courage and calmness.

The Moorehouse ponds were huntable and Eric was game for an afternoon hunt. We arrived at the ponds at 3:30pm, and made our way to a central pond, known to have some open water and a food source. We walked quietly in, and spooked up a loafing black duck, which Eric tried valiantly to reduce to possession, but it was not meant to be. However, at the shot, more than fifty birds took to the air from nearby ponds. We hastily set the MoJo in place and melted into the tall grasses on the bank. I left my gun cased to handle Brant, but worked my duck call.

Moments passed and the ducks circled. A single gadwall seemed interested in the call and motion below and presently dropped out of the flock, careening by Eric presenting a tough right to left...he wisely passed on the shot, and with a soft come back call, the bird banked and approached from the left into the wind, a slower target. He shot and connected, while I held Brant. I told Brant to "mark." I saw him track the bird through the point of impact, and watch the bird fall from the sky onto some ice at the end of the pond. I sent him, full of hope and trepidation and all the fatherly worries of performance anxiety. He went straight to the bird, but hesitated at the ice. I went out with him and encouraged him by breaking some ice, and he made his first retrieve. I was ecstatic, and he was even more joy-filled, proudly parading his prize.

Within minutes another flock of gadwall materialized, and they too came down to inspect the noisy hen and flapping drake in the pond. The ambush was again successful and Eric skillfully dropped this bird in almost exactly the same place as the last. I talked Brant through the same paces, and sent him. He entered the water more boldly and more stylishly, clearly having "advanced" a great deal in just one successful retrieve. He took his line and swam aggressively toward the iced bird, fearlessly breaking through the ice this time where the last time he was more cautious. He plucked the bird from the ice, turned and brought it straight back to me. Perfect!! I was beside myself.

We spent the next hour chatting, awaiting a final flight of ducks before the end of shooting time at 4:45 pm. Brant behaved well and impressed me with his willingness to sit and hang out while nothing was happening, reminding me of the patience of Fiona. I looked down at my watch, but a flash caught my eye and looking up I saw a mallard parachuting into our pond over Eric's left shoulder. I alerted him... "Eric, bird, left, take him!" He did, and retrieve number three commenced, another relatively simple but textbook retrieve. "Icing" on the cake.

The hunt was a smashing success, and a fitting way for me to ring in the New Year. I very much appreciate Eric's willingness to participate, and look forward to following Brant's budding career. Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm to have my post "iced" by such a tremendous event! The day of the Brandster has begun! Woe to any other retriever who demands comparison.

I'm hoping to come up Friday pm and hunt Saturday morning with you. Kelly and the kids return Saturday eve, so it will be brief.

Pete, ahem, DD