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The second bird made the day
by Bob Butz
Opening day of the pheasant season was unusual because there was a steady wet snow coming down with flakes about the size of a nickel. My friend Bruce, my son Bill and I decided to hit the Atlanta Waterfowl Production Area first thing in the morning. We knew there would be the usual crowd because it was a public hunting area, but we also knew it held a lot of birds. We had been working our dogs there at least once a week for the last two months.
Bill, Jarvis (my English Setter) and I got separated from Bruce and Mandy (his German Shorthair) when Bruce wing-tipped a high-flying rooster and he and Mandy set out to find it. The snow was coming down steadily, pushed by a stout wind.
Jarvis had what I call a “bell point” when he went into tall heavy cover and the bell he wears (because of his tendency to get lost) went silent. Bill and I warned each other to be ready and just then a rooster exploded from cover on Bill’s side. He fired and missed, but I was able to score an incredibly lucky left-angle shot. It had to be lucky because my glasses were covered with snowflakes and the bird was going wide open with the wind. Bill retrieved the bird because Jarvis had no idea where it went.
But as the title suggests, it was the second bird that made the day. Bill, then sixteen years old, was mad because he had missed that first rooster and I was disappointed because Jarvis didn’t make the retrieve. We saw Bruce and Mandy headed for the car, cold and wet and without their bird.
I told Bill there was one small section of cover about the size of a football field that I wanted to try before we joined Bruce and Mandy. We were working the spot with the wind, Bill and I about 40 yards apart, when Jarvis locked into one of those awkward but exciting down-wind points where his tail and head are both going in the same direction, just like he was pointing around a corner.
Bill and I both carefully walked up to the point. We guessed it was probably a hen because it was holding so tight. I told Bill I would flush the bird and he could have the first shot. A rooster blasted from the snowy cover into the wind and the snow. Bill made a quick shot and folded the bird just as it skimmed the top of the cover. Jarvis redeemed himself by making a nice retrieve. What a way to finish a cold, wet outing: a classic point, my son making a good shot, and the dog proudly retrieving the colorful rooster in his mouth with the head out one side and the tail out the other.
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