As any reader of this blog may ascertain, versatility in the field is an attribute that I admire. Yes, the purity of working a quail off a point defines refinement and poise. However, witnessing a dog hammer a gritty furbearer plays to primal instincts. There is something about uncertainty and perhaps a little fear that makes one’s senses buzz harder than any other expirience.
My hunt last weekend covered these bases from soup to nuts.
The day started out as many. A few bird hunters rising early, linking up and embarking on a reasonable jaunt into the hinterland of Nebraska. We had access to a friend’s beautiful family farm that is a combination of crop and CRP. Regardless of what you hear, our farmers really do care about the land. The farm we hunted on Saturday could easily be pulled out of the CRP program, but Marv’s father enjoys ecological diversity. He has invested the time, energy and foregone income into insure that his place has the complexity to support wildlife. We were the fortunate beneficiaries of this truly conservation-minded attitude.
Our first push resulted in some great dog work, with points and all the excitement that goes along with them. This time they were all hens. No complaints here. It is heartening to know that next year holds promise.
As we worked through the final patches of cover on this side of the farm, the dogs demeanor changed and they became “wolfy”. There was a clump of very thick grass that border the corn that drew them in like a magnet. They buzzed into this area and semi-locked up, high headed and intense in a way that feathers can’t elicit. After a season of hunting, I knew this wasn’t a bird. Sam pushed into the vegetation and immediately squared his haunches. Now any bird hunter gets a lump in his throat when he sees this….please don’t let it be a skunk! Fortunately, it wasn’t. I’d like to think that after a particular encounter with Mr. Stinker, my lead dog has learned his lesson.
Sam lunged forward, them sprang back revealing a very irate coon. Pissed off coons have a specific screech that makes the hair on your neck stand up despite the fact that you may be packing enough heat to end things quickly. I urged both dogs to engage…and it didn’t take much from me to convince Sam and BB to set on this “mini-bear” like he had insulted their mother. After the initial round of thrashing, the coon rolled on his back, giving him more opportunities to scratch and bite his canine aggressors. BB, a 10 month pup, thrown off by this tactic, but Sam was only stimulated.
The two mortal enemies went at it again. Worried that my best friend was getting more than he was giving convinced me to step in and give the coon a stomp. I did just that and Sam took full advantage of the distraction. Before the coon could square up for another round of biting and scratching, Sam grabbed him by the throat and neck. The “death shake” commenced. Sam whipped Mr. Nest Raider around enough to completely incapacited the varmit. When he was done, the unfortunate furbearer was out of commision for good. A quick slice of the coon’s throat from my Leatherman ended the encounter permanently.
From that point, we moved on in search of more game. Our efforts were rewarded soon afterwards in the form of a solid point by BB and Sam that resulted in a nice rooster. Back to the “purity” of bird hunting.
We moved on and hunted for another 45 minutes before deciding to move back towards the vehicles and lunch. On our way back we moved a covey of quail which warranted a quick tromp through a brushy waterway looking for singles. This effort was rewarded with a set of very staunch points by the dogs and a quail in the bag for my friend, Ira.
After a nice lunch of beef soup and a grilled cheese in the nearest town’s only full-service watering hole, we hit a couple of other spots with no results other than strained tendons.
The day ended with the sweet satifaction of watching versatile dogs, in the fullest continental sense of the term, do what they were truly designed to do….point birds and engage fur.
Hunting is what you make of it.
And coon picante is on the menu at the home of the Versatile Hunter.