Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter walk-a-about (Don't leave home without shotgun, though)

News Years' Eve seemed like the perfect time for a look-see to try and find any left-over birds at the Club.

Not that the odds were all that great, what with the last field trial having been held a few weeks ago. That left plenty of time for any escapee rooster pheasants and chukar partridge to be shot by some of The Club's members who used the property as the perfect venue for hunting.

So did my wife Bev and me. Along with Jenny Lynn and Berry, our two Labrador retrievers.

We (meaning Bev and me, not the dogs) knew that the weather was in for a radical change beginning News Years Day. So we concluded that we'd take a walk around The Club.

Bev slightly misunderstood the intentions, however, believing the venture would be more of a walk and less of a hunt. It wasn't as my plan was to carry a .410 doubled-barrel shotgun in the hopes of finding a bird or even, two.

Accordingly, I was better dressed for a hike through field and forest, dressed in canvas hunting pants and wearing a blaze-orange game vest. Meanwhile, Bev was outfitted head to toe in rain wear to ward off the dampened grasses and weeds. That meant she'd be perspiring heavily.

"I wished you had told me sooner that we'd be doing more hunting than walking," Bev said, grumbling.

It wasn't all my bad, though. Bev should have understood this when she piled into our SUV and headed southeast toward The Club.

In any event, we started out, our feet slipping a bit on the greasy snow-covered grass. We knew that in a matter of a day or so the few inches of snow on the ground would be greatly added to. And as things worked out, today there's more than two feet of snow on the ground there.

The dogs led the chase. Or I should say, Berry was out in front. Sometimes too much so and she had to be corralled into hunting closer.

Not so Jenny Lynn. She paddled along near at hand, sniffing this piece of weed patch or that hunk of blackberry thicket. She took her time and was in no hurry and every now and then needed a little coaxing to hurry along. Obviously the old gal was thoroughly enjoying herself, this being her actual first opportunity of the year to bird hunt.

We took a route that penetrated a corn field, making a couple of passes. We even came upon a dead fawn doe that was laying partially hidden by the snow. Just what killed the small doe and why it died in the middle of a corn field will remain a mystery, though the raccoons and coyotes and foxes will no doubt enjoy the free meal.

Bev, the dogs and me then headed north toward a swale and eventually west into the woods. Our only contact with fresh tracks came with a set of those made by an adult deer and those made by a flock of turkeys.

Berry and Jenny both inhaled the scent from the turkey tracks but they weren't allowed to follow them.

The rest of the walk passed equally uneventful. By the time we had returned to the parking lot and our awaiting vehicle, Jenny Lynn had had enough. She was spent; understandably so since she's pushing 12 years old.

Then again, my back was saying it was finished as well. A couple of slips and falls hadn't helped any either.

So our walk/hunt was over. And might be for a number of weeks. It seems that the weather that came during the weekend poured too much snow to allow for any more deep excursions into The Club's interior. If we go there we'll have to be happy with the nearly one-mile hike from The Club's gate to the shooting range and back.

Still, it was an enjoyable jaunt. And as long as there is an outside chance of finding, flushing and fetching a bird for the pot, so much the better. And it will have to suffice until better days come, which is bound to happen.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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