Article by ShennonDoah, photos by Chris Helms
Bill’s packing up the truck, and I think I know what that means. I’ll just try to be patient and see if he brings out the … gun! There it is! We are going hunting!
I can’t wait! I just can’t wait! Before I know it, I’m standing by the screen door, my tail is wagging non-stop, and I’m whining my impatience.
Finally, Bill opens the door and says, “Bella, come!”
Yippee! I bound out of the house, down the steps, and into the front seat of the waiting blue pick-up. I then settle in for a ride.
Living in south central Nebraska, this ride can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 ½ hours, depending on where Bill decides to go. Today Bill slows down after a short jaunt down the road. Funk Lagoon is our destination. Oh yeah, this means primarily pheasant on the agenda for today.
Time to explore
We navigate around the wetland until we reach the parking lot where Bill decides to stop. I morph from a lackadaisical state to full alertness in probably less than a second. Bill has the window on his side of the pick-up rolled down, and blowing in, I smell an infusion of scents that I really need to explore further.
My excitement gets a little out of control, I realize, as I hear Bill laugh and say, “Bella, sit.” I then pull my head in the truck and step back off of his lap to sit properly in the passenger seat. Now is the time that Bill adorns me with my special bright orange hunting collar.
I really didn’t like this collar the first few times I wore it, but through experience and selective listening, I learned its importance. What once felt like the bane of my existence now seems like a badge of honor.
My shock collar used to give me a little zing whenever I ran too close to a road or got carried away chasing rabbits or mice. I didn’t really care for that stinging sensation. Not that it hurt so much, more that it scared me. Now I’m an aficionado on it, though.
I know that the bright orange color protects me from being shot by other hunters. Whether it be a bow hunter after a deer, or a pheasant hunter after a wounded pheasant, when they see my flash of orange, they know to back off. As for mice and bunnies, I know I’m not supposed to chase them. It’s just that they smell so good and aren’t always predictable in their running patterns.
Now that I’m a little older and listen better to verbal commands, Bill usually just has to use the collar to remind me to slow down when I run too far ahead. He no longer has it set on zing; it’s now just a buzz, a vibrating reminder of where I should be and what I should be doing.
Miles of open range
Collar clipped in place, Bill flings open the truck door. He would have been hard pressed to keep me in the vehicle had he tried. Out that door is miles and miles of open range. I run circles around the truck and even run out a little ways while Bill makes sure his gun is ready. When he’s got his vest on, he gives me a whistle.
My muscles have loosened up and I eagerly look up at Bill. He points to the left, so I round the bed of the pick-up, breaking hard left. I run about 50 yards, enjoying the brisk fall afternoon air. When I sense that I’m some distance from my master, I do an about face, and start heading forward diagonally in the opposite direction. I know that Bill is constantly either watching me or listening for the sound of my body crashing through the dense brush or stepping on dry grass and leaves.
I keep running crisscross in front of Bill for about an hour when I catch the scent of a bird. Instinctively, I know this is a bird that will please Bill. Freezing in place, instinct kicks in and I pull up my left front leg, point my nose toward the bird’s hiding place.
When Bill catches up to me, he commands me to move forward slowly. Shortly before I reach a tall thatch of weeds, the pheasant of interest flies up in an attempt to escape.
Boom! Boom! The second shot connects with its target. Bill issues another command, “Fetch!” I can still smell the pheasant and I watched it fall. Locating it is not a difficult problem. The only problem now lies in the temptation not to eat this warm and tasty bird. As much as I want to, I know that Bill’s disappointment and my tummy ache are not worth momentary satisfaction.
Our day continues much the same, adding two more pheasants to our bag. When pink and orange fingers cross the evening sky, Bill and I jump back in the pick-up. My collar comes off, so I lay down, resting my chin on my paws. Today felt like it was the best day ever. I can’t wait to go hunting again!
ShennonDoah is currently a French and Spanish teacher in rural Nebraska. She spent many years working various jobs such as conference coordinator, international sales representative, Tai Chi instructor, YMCA associate, and hotel sales manager. She also spent one year of college in Nice, France, traveling extensively in Europe at the time. She is the mother of three children, ranging in ages from 10-16. She loves every opportunity to act in a melodrama or perform in a local play. For the past year and a half she has been a regular contributor to the Poetry Asides Blog on the Writers Digest web site. Currently she is writing the third book in the paranormal “Scattered Moonlight” series.