Miles

She was running big, maybe just for the fun of it. She’d been cooped up, in recovery mode with only short jaunts for the last week. But now she was loose. The beeper turned on silent and miles ahead. The setter sees that as permission to stretch and she was ranging way off to my right. There was no point worrying about bumping birds in country this big. No point worrying about covering it all or how to hunt it. Just pick a general direction and go at it.

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She knew where I was, so I plotted my own course heading west toward the aspens on the edge of the foothills a mile or so ahead. It was the last few days of sharptail hunting, a warm October day that is Idaho’s finest hour.

I carried the 16ga broken over my shoulder, not planning on shooting unpointed birds and knowing my chances of walking them up in this sea of grass was thin anyway.

I watched the setter swing across in front of me, covering ground that she had missed in her northern swoop.

She stopped 100 yards ahead, pointing back at me. She was steady but relaxed, watching me with her eyes. I walked in, talking softly to her as I closed the gun.

“Good girl. Good point. Thanks for waiting for me.”

The world shrunk down to a white dog on point and the familiar weight of a shotgun in my hands. The sun shone from a blue sky onto an ocean of golden grass. Time ticked slowly, counting down to an eruption of feathers.

And then nothing. No bird. No covey of sharptail. Just grass. The setter unwound, but not into the mile eating lope. She moved left, carefully. Relocated 20 yards, then steadied again. This time not looking at me. Sure. Her nose and eyes locked on something invisible to me.

This time it was a quick. A step, a flush. A squawking dandy of a rooster got up and for a moment I hesitated. This was sharptail country. What was this swashbuckler doing way out here? I recovered and swung my gun, connecting. The rooster hit the ground running, but in this cover he was no match for even a poor retriever like the setter. A bird in the bag. We walked on, miles behind and miles ahead.

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