Gathering of the Clan

A Gathering of Fly Fishermen
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 10:41 pm 
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I wrote this in 2005, late in the fall of the year we moved to Chippewa Falls...dug it up off an old hard drive I found this morning...thoght some of you guys might enjoy it.

Caught Flat Footed

…or A Tale of An Inadvertent Grouse Hunter.


The weather was cruddy all day, it had started out thirtyish and cloudy, with a twenty something mile an hour wind, and it just had not looked like a good day to go chase grouse up in the county forest.

At 3:00 PM, the temperature is down to twenty-one and the wind is up to twenty-five – gusting to thirty. A quick check of Weather.com says that tomorrow the high is going to be nine. Nine? I refresh the screen – still nine. I check the National Weather Service, they say ten degrees. Yippee.

So it looks like I’m going out today, but I’m not going to bother with the county forest. I’ll run the dogs down the railroad tracks, see how many pheasants we can find, blow the stink off the dogs and me.

As I’m getting ready; “Daaaad? Where you going?”

“I’m going to go run the dogs, Honey.”

“Where are you going to run the dogs, Dad?”

“Back along the railroad tracks”

“I love the railroad tracks!” big blue eyes, wide open, “Can I go?’

Twenty minutes later, beeper collars on the dogs, Gina dressed up like the kid in “A Christmas Story”, Kent 5s stuffed into the AyA 53, and we’re off. It’s a thousand feet to the tracks, the left side of my face is numb by the time we get there, and I think my left eye is starting to freeze. Gina, however, is fine, if looking a little like the Michelin Man. The tracks have cover, the feeling starts coming back to my cheek, and I find the left eye does still move though it seems to be ratcheting a little.

We cross the near side of the right-of-way step into the middle of the tracks and I cut the hounds loose. Halo goes about 30 feet, slams on point, softens, creeps about 10 more feet and locks up again.

“Gina, look!” I say. “Halo’s got a bird”

“I know, Dad. Is it a rooster?”

Two hens rocket out over the cornfield, one left, one right and swing back to the tracks two hundred yards down. “Nope.”

Buddy is still on this side, off to my left ten yards. Hasn’t moved since I told them to hunt ‘em up. “Go get ‘em, Bud!” Not moving at all, in fact he looks just like he’s on point.

“Dad, is Buddy pointing?”

“Could be sweetheart….” A third hen blows out flies about 30 yards past the others. Maybe I did pick the right day?

It goes like this until we are down to where the first birds flew, all hens, all buff, except for one that was a little dark, but no neck ring, I’m not taking the chance. We’ve seen fifteen birds by now, the dogs haven’t gone 20 yards without pointing, flushing or tripping over a pheasant.

Gina is chattering a thousand questions a minute; “Why don’t you shoot Dad?”

“They’re all hens, sweetie.”

“Why can’t you shoot the hens?”

“Because those are the rules, Hon”, as Halo pops another one out and I twitch at it in the hope it’s got a green head.

“You can’t shoot the girl ones?”

“No, sweetie, just the boys.” Hawk screech on the right. “Whoa, Buddy, good boy…easy!” Another hen. I’m not shooting, but we’re having a blast.

The first rooster goes out seventy yards away, cackling all the way across the field. I swing on him anyway, just for practice. He’ll be back, but not today.

“Why didn’t you shoot him Dad, that one was a rooster?”

“Too far away, babe, lets keep going.”

Things slow down a little, but we’ve already seen a ton of birds, not bad for what was supposed to be a consolation hunt. It’s also too bad I don’t hunt rabbits; we’ve seen half a dozen and Gina could have bagged most of them with a tennis racket.

“Dad, why don’t we shoot the bunnies?”

“I don’t want the dogs chasing them honey.”

“Don’t they taste good?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never eaten one.”

“We should try one Dad, Mommy might like it.”

“Um…I don’t think so…” Saved by the hawk screech from the collar off to the left.

Buddy locks up in a little patch of frozen aspen trees, nice and tight, nowhere to go. If it’s a rooster I’ve got him nailed.

“Gina, stay up here, I’m going down to flush the bird.”

“OK Dad. Are you going to shoot this one?”

“I don’t know, honey, it might be another hen.” As I take two steps down off the tracks, checking to see where she is in case I get a shot, the bird bales out. I can’t see it real well, it’s on the other side of the aspen, but it flies back the way we came from, cuts out to the tracks, hangs a hard right…I’m on it...catching up from behind… tail… body… dammit, it’s brown!

Head up, muzzles drop a little, the thought crosses my mind that pheasant don’t fly like that…and that tail I swung through had a band across it...Grouse! Muzzles back up, dump first barrel waaaay over the bird because I’m still looking at it with my head up. Head down, slap the second shot off as the bird wheels hard right back into another living room sized hunk of aspen. Lower gun, smiling, thinking an ounce and a quarter of 5’s is overkill anyway.

“Why’d you shoot at that one Dad? It was brown like the other ones.”

“It was a grouse, Honey, a different kind of bird.”

There’s no way there should be a grouse out here, we’re a long way from any woods, out in the middle of a hayfield with a railroad right-of-way through the center of it. I look at where the bird went, and he’s got nowhere to wander too, so we continue on down the tracks as I plan how to scoop him up on the way back.

We get a couple more hens out, cross the road, make it as far down the tracks as the creek, which is open in a few places. We throw in some rocks, watch the splashes, and I answer some more questions from a six-year-old’s mind, helping to fill it in with important stuff like why the dogs like to hunt, why geese fly in Vs and how do I know it’s a blue jay just by the noise it makes.

We turn around and head back, and I fend off some questions about why we don’t walk back down the road like we usually do: “I want to see if we can get that grouse we saw.”

“He was really fast Dad, and he flew all twisty.” Big blue eyes and smile of wonder.

“He sure did, babe. Let’s go see if we can find him again.”

Three hundred yards, twenty questions and three or four more hens later (I don’t know if they were missed or just moved from the first pass), we get to where Mr. Grouse cut right and avoided a swarm of Kent 5s that should have had his name on them.

I stop and survey the layout: Aspen patch on the right, 20 yards out in the open along the tracks. Nothing to the right for a thousand feet except a cut hayfield, then our house. Over the tracks is a bunch of that waist high red stuff (dogwood?) and cut corn, a quarter mile of it or better. He’s not going either of those two ways unless he’s forced. Halo’s working the red stuff, tracking like she’s got something, but the grouse was on the other side. Buddy’s over there, working like the ten season pro he is.

Buddy starts walking on eggs, head up – he’s winding body scent. Halo crosses the tracks and drops down onto Buddy’s side, just past the aspen.

“Gina, stay up here.”

“OK, get that bird.” Big smile, she’s got all the confidence in the world in her Dad.

I drop down off the tracks, Buddy locks up, Halo slams into a back from the other side. She’s a good girl, been doing that backing thing since she was a pup.

“Whoa Bud, easy…easy…whoa…” as I try to find room to cut in from the side. I’m about half way down the embankment when a rooster explodes about ten feet in front of Halo. I actually think “Maybe she wasn’t backing” as I mount, swing and shoot. He staggers, keeps pulling away, but falls for the second barrel.

I go into automatic, thumbing the toplever, grabbing the shells as they kick out, yell “Whoa” at Halo, who’s off after the rooster. My left hand stuffs the empties into my game bag and dives into my left front pocket where I fumble for shells as I turn and see Buddy breaking point to…go after the grouse that flushed on the shot and is giving me the easiest shot flying right straight down the center of the tracks that I’ll ever see.

He cuts in a hundred yards or so down the way, right in the back yard of one of the new neighbors.

“Dad?”

“Yes, Honey?”

“Why didn’t you shoot at the grouse?

“’Cause I didn’t have any shells in the gun”

“Why not?”

“Because I shot them at the pheasant.” I cross back over the tracks and get the rooster from the pup, who’s wagging her tail like a goof and just proud as hell of the bird in her mouth.

“Why didn’t you put more in?”

“More what, Gina?”

“Why didn’t you put more shells in the gun?’ Those big blue eyes again.

“I’m not fast enough for that”, I say. “Look at the all the pretty colors on the pheasant, honey”

“Wow. He’s like a rainbow.”

“Sure is. Do you want to carry him?”

“No, you can Dad, you shot him.” Smart girl. “Are we gonna go after the grouse, Dad?”

“Not today, honey, he beat us fair and square.”

“What does that mean?”

I call the dogs back, turn off the collars, put them on heel as we head back to the house and I ponder that one. “It means that we had our chance to get him, Hon, and we missed it, and he gets to stay out here another day.” I'm wondering if that makes any sense.

“But he’s right down there by Abbey’s house, we can get him down there.” as her gloved hand finds mine.

“I know, sweetie, but I’m going to let him go today, maybe some other time. Is that OK?”

“Sure Dad” She says. “Those grouses sure are fast, Dad, and they look different. Why do they look different from pheasants?……..”

We can see the kitchen window light up at the house, it sure looks warm in there. The dogs are pacing along, probably already thinking about dinner, the AyA is over my shoulder, and I’m walking in with a four foot question factory that I hope never stops.

It’s been a good day.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:10 pm 
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It doesn't get any better than that for a Daddy. Thanks for that story....it made my day.

Bux


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 9:26 pm 
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That blue eyed girl is 19 now, in her first semester at college...time...it flies...

She still likes to do things with Dad...and she still asks a lot of questions...


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 8:23 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:18 pm
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Further North wrote:
That blue eyed girl is 19 now, in her first semester at college...time...it flies...

She still likes to do things with Dad...and she still asks a lot of questions...


Good stuff!

_________________
"Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire..." Exodus 12:9


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:43 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:19 am
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I hope she'll allow old Dad to teach her how to hunt grouse, and to hit the first grouse that flushes with her first shot. This is seldom accomplished; I don't remember ever doing it myself.

John


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