Maybe things haven’t changed at all
In just a few days, deer season will be over. A couple more weeks and waterfowl season will close. Still, there will be a lot of great hunting weather left. The great thing about this is that the game preserve season runs until the end of March and offers some great hunting and shooting opportunities.
When I was a younger man, this time was a great time for bird hunting. Jack Leonard and I hunted together a couple of Saturdays a month, sometimes at my home farm behind Ledford and sometimes around Kermit Eller’s place in Midway. Jack wasn’t a sophisticated hunter; he was an ordinary guy who loved his shorthair pointer, Sam, and loved hunting birds with him. I was fortunate enough to be Jack’s son-in-law and therefor eligible to hunt with them.
We got together for a sausage biscuit and coffee and struck out. Jack was a real hunter and I a mere neophyte, but he treated me as an equal. We rarely got more than a dozen birds between us, but it was great hunting and great fellowship. Jack passed away a few years back and good old Sam has been gone for decades.
A few weeks back, I got an email from Garson Rice, of Rice Toyota. Garson’s been a member at Beaver Pond Sporting Club for several years and he’s a great guy and a real outdoorsman. I feel lucky to call him my friend. He was getting a walk up pheasant hunt and was looking for “a few good men” among his friends. I hadn’t worked my Lab, Larry, all season because of my busy schedule and I emailed back to ask for a dog handling slot. My son in law, Jeremy, signed up to bring my grand-dog, Regan, so we could ride together.
The morning of the hunt, the weathermen were calling for rain, but luck was with us. It was a little warm, but that somehow reminded me of those warm summer days when Jack and I would hunt hard and dress light. When we arrived at Whippoorwill Lodge, it wasn’t full light but the lights were glowing in the kitchen and owner, Johnnie Miller had a little fire going; after all, it was December.
There were sausage biscuits and coffee in the kitchen and the guns began trickling in. We had a little prayer meeting in the breezeway on shooting safety and saddled up on the trailer for the field. Pheasant hunts at Beaver Pond work the same way as in the Midwest. The dogs work the rows of cover a few yards in front of the guns. The guns walk slowly in a straight line. Slowly so they don’t push the dogs, straight for safety so they can shoot in any direction but down the line.
I was proud that Larry found the very first bird; he pointed and held a few seconds and the bird got nervous and took off. I don’t remember who made the shot, but it doesn’t matter. There were seven guns and five dogs. At first, I thought we had too many dogs, but the dogs worked like a team that practiced every afternoon after school and combed the field, pushing the birds along and flushing them. When we neared the end of the rows, some of the guns went to the end of the mile long field to serve as standers to get the wild flushers that always happen in a pheasant drive.
Larry worked like a pro and my girl, Regan made more than her share of retrieves. All the dogs worked well enough we could give the shooters a little ribbing when they didn’t bring a bird down. A lot of birds made it out of the field to be there for the next hunt but a bunch wound up on the trailer for the ride home. By the time we covered the field, every man was tired and the dogs were still raring to go. Photos were taken, some analysis of shooting performance was expressed, and everyone was smiling.
Back at Whippoorwill Lodge, there was country style steak, green beans, mashed potatoes, and home-made biscuits for lunch. With our bellies full, some still talked about the hunt while others sat around the TV watching the football game. It was a Saturday the way Saturdays should be; spent in the outdoors with friends, good dogs and great food.
It occurred to me later that a lot of folks think those kind of days are gone. Fact is, they’re not. You can still spend time with the people you care about, outdoors. Sure, the guns have changed, the locations have changed, and even the kind of birds we hunted, have changed, but we were still a father and his son-in-law along with a couple of dogs, enjoying each other’s company.
Jack is gone and so is old Sam. I’m still here and I have fond memories of them. Someday, Larry and I will be gone, but Jeremy, a son-in-law who’s like a son because of the love of the outdoors we share, will maybe spend a Saturday afternoon with his son-in-law and spend a little time thinking of us.
Come to think of it, I guess things haven’t really changed at all. Thanks for inviting us, Garson.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several NC newspapers as well as national magazines and websites. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or offtheporchmedia.com