October 4, 2001
The phone rings at exactly 6:45AM. The gruff voice on the phone is unmistakable. "Yea, it's me, they're stockin!" God Bless Howie. He's classic. Follows the stocking trucks out of Concord each year and calls just a few on the short list to let them know where the trucks are headed. "Where?" I ask. "Now how the hell do I know? Dover. Maybe Sandersons. You go take a look and call me.". He slams back at me.
"Right. I'll call you later to tell you how I made out." I answer. Finishing my sit-ups I smile thinking about Howie. What a classic individual. He's been a good friend now for around 10 years. I wish him the best of luck and good health.
I'm going to wait until Max gets out of school today. I'm planning on taking Gabby too. Should be fun. But dam it's hot! Gotta be pushing 85 degrees. Maybe hotter. By the time the kids get out of school it's still very hot. Dam. Oh well, there's birds out there and it's a put and take situation so I either hunt now or face not finding birds by the weekend. I'm going bird hunting with my kids.
The dogs are jacked out of their minds (as usual). Gunny has been puking up grass for days. Why do dogs eat grass? Gunny was also suffering from arthritis so bad the day after our first hunt that I thought he needed medical attention. But a day or two later and he was fine. We're off to Sandersons in the blazing hot sun.
Pulling up at the top of the hill reveals just one vehicle. There's a pile of birds laying at the rear of the SUV. I scan looking for fresh tire tracks from the stocking truck. I think I spot some. That and the fact that there's some dead birds lying on the ground is a good indication. They stocked. Hurried as usual, I can't find Max's glasses and I forget his sling again. Dam. No matter, we walk at a brisk pace along towards the right side of the Gully (parker side). We can already feel the heat and Max is starting to turn red. His cheeks are flushed. Gabby is manning the camera and she too looks flustered.
We get near the end of the gully and Scout who's been birdy all along the gully suddenly gets real birdy. "Put a shell in your gun Max. Do it. NOW!" Just as he slams the pump home two cackling roosters erupt at the head of the cat-o-nine tails. One goes left and one goes right. I swing on the left bird and drop it with one shot then swing on the right bird and shoot and miss. "Wow!" Gabby yells. I send in Gunny for the fetch and we get the very dead rooster. We get back out into the airstrip at the end of the gully and Gunny locks up. Scout comes up and he too is rock solid. Gabby is firing away with the trusty camera as Max and I move into position. I'm telling, no, I'm yelling at Max to hurry up and get into position. By the time he does that bird had put 50 yards between us. Sure enough I release the dogs and scout runs down to the end of the field to where the stream is and the big bird gets up screaming. I fire a shot but it is way to far off. Still, you never know with these things. The kids are excited. Hell who wouldn't be? We just saw 3 birds in less than 10 minutes. The run down to the stream is unproductive so is the walk out to the back fields crossing over the same path we took on the 1st. We end up in the back field where Max got his bird. All we have is heat stroke coming on. The kids are red...and they are hot. The dogs are heating up too. That's it. We're going home. Too dam hot to hunt birds.
Back out into the air strip the dogs head make scent, and go on point. It proves to be unproductive, mostly due to this other hunter and his two large labs who can't seem to leave us alone. Back into the gully again I hear Gunny's beeper go on point. Moving into the deep ravine I spot Gunny and he's tight alright. I step and up goes Mr Timberdoodle. The first woodie of the year makes his grand appearance. "I'll see you on Saturday my friend", I say as he twitters away.
Moving down the Gully to come around for the last pass, I'm carrying Max's gun again. It's hot boys very hot. We get up to the end of the gully at the base of the hill. Both kids have their eyes trained on the vehicle. We step around the little pond and I reach for Max's gun when Gunny wheels into a point. "Dad Gunny's on point!" Max yells. "I see him, get ready!" I yell back. Scout joins in and we have both dogs locked up again. Then we hear a rooster get up about 30 yards away flying off towards Parkers.
"Dam." I stammer to myself. "He got away." And before the last word leaves my mouth a big rooster comes bursting out of the brush right next to Max. Too startled to react, max lets the bird get up and fly off towards the woods. I fire twice and miss. "Why didn't you shoot Max?" I ask running by him towards the wood line. "I was ducking because you were shooting" he says looking completely flushed by the whole scene.
Into the woods we try and relocate the bird. Gunny is birdy as we move towards the field that borders Parkers. Still in the woods I hear Scout's beeper going off. Max and I rush to the scene. Suddenly Gunny is there too. Both beepers blaring in the woods. Max is ready this time. I yell to him to stay in this small opening. He has a good field of fire. Then the world erupts around us. The Rooster was no more than 5 yards from where we were both standing. I fire twice and Max fires once during my two shots and the bird...flies off. Oh my God! Are you kidding me? We should of had that bird dead to rights. There are no guarantees out there. That's for sure.
Stepping out into the field we are all shaking our heads at our misfortune.
Getting back to the small pond again...Scout starts up again. Old/new scent? We don't know. Suddenly right next to Gabby and Max the bushes start shaking and you can hear wings beating and dog jumping and it sounds like a typical Dog Pheasant Fight. It sounds...scary. Max is standing in a half crouch. Not knowing if this is a bird or a Mountain Lion. Suddenly a Hen bursts out of the thick shrub and flies straight at Max. "Take him Max!" I scream. max wheels and fires at the close range bird. So confident is he that he actually starts to yell...."I got hi-m-m-...." Meanwhile I am in a crouched position, I fire but to no avail. The bird sails over the gully and across the air strip. Gunny gives chase then stops and looks back at us..."Are you shitting Me? You missed those birds? I mean the kid missing is one thing, but you? At that close range? That's embarrassing." Gunny seemed to say.
I could only shake my head in disbelief. I reach for Max's gun and we head back up the hill. I'm glad. Those birds deserve to live. And young Max needed to be humbled. Now he knows. "That's why they call it hunting Mackey".
But we already knew all that..didn't we boys.
Heading to Southern Maine tomorrow...wish me luck. I may stop off in Dover on the way home. I'll let you know, when the next installment of the journal hits your email box. Until then, May the Grouse be with you.