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.


Anonymous said...

hi eddie!
sill great looking 16ga you got there. This is my 1st post on your blog so i have to ask---gonna go crappie fishin? they are starting to bite good down here.

Ed. said...

Thanks Deputy! You know, I've never caught a crappie, can you believe it? I'm not even quite sure what they look like, is it like a perch?

I am going next week to a large Virginia Lake, Lake Anna, to catch anything I can. Crappie, stripers, largemouth, an afternoon beer buzz, bluegill, etc....

Hopefully I'll have pictures to post here!

Ed. said...

P.S. For those interested, the 'down here' that Deputy refers to where the Crappie are biting, is in Texas...

Anonymous said...

crappie are my favorite fish. using an ultra-lite spinning rig wiht 6# test and some small buck-tail or feather jigs. when they go shallow for the spawn, the action is fast. We throw the females full of eggs back and keep the males. Sometime we use live minnows but the jigin' is just more fun. Crappie is just about the best eatin' fish in my opinion. Biger than a perch and tons of fun to catch.

They love the sunken brush piles so its a good thing jigs are cheap. hope you tie into some crappie eddie. they are fun to catch and you can get'em schoolin' so once you find a sweet spot, you can stay busy for a while.