Monday, March 17, 2008
Upland Bird Hunting
Recently I got back into shotgun shooting, after about a thirty year hiatus. I searched for and purchased a 16 gauge Winchester Model 12 pump shotgun, a favorite of my Dad's. This particular gun was made in 1952, and I immediately started shooting skeet and trap at a nearby range and having a lot of fun. Then for Christmas my wife got me a gift card for a hunting preserve on Maryland's Eastern Shore called Pintail Point.
So I invited my friend Ed, an experienced wingshooter, to show me the ropes and join me for a day of chukar hunting. A chukar is a medium sized game bird not native to these parts. I don't know for sure, but it is either in the pheasant family or, forgive me, the partridge family. Here's how the preserve works: they raise these birds, you call them up and pay for some, before you get there they take the ones you paid for and put them in a field, a guide and his dog takes you into the field where the dog finds 'em, the guide flushes 'em, and, if all goes well, the hunter shoots 'em.
The day was really fun, both Ed and the guide were patient with me, I learned a lot and I think I did pretty well for a rookie. Even the dogs pretended not to notice that it was my first time out there. Speaking of the dogs (That's Bucky pictured at the top, and Jig is the darker one), this was a truly fascinating aspect of the day. I've been around dogs most of my life. And I've witnessed my share of dogs intensely focused on a stick, treat or tennis ball. But these German Shorthaired Pointers, well they were a treat to watch. And when they locked on to the scent of a bird, they stop on a dime and point at it. Not with their nose or with their raised paw like you imagine, but with their entire BEING! They do not point with the graceful elegance you might see illustrated on the cover of a dog show program. But rather in a tense, contorted, impossibly still and rigid manner that looks at once extremely uncomfortable yet wholly necessary. There is nothing else, at that time and place, that that dog wants to be doing. But more than that, there's nothing else he COULD be doing. It is a beautiful mix of raw instinct and enthusiasm directed by skilled and deliberate training.
So thanks Ed for coming with me and teaching me how to hunt birds. Maybe next I can try wild birds! And thanks to our guide Jack, and his coworkers Bucky and Jig, for working hard to make my first hunt successful, memorable and enjoyable.