Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pheasant Tales: Maxim The Hunter

This weekend was the resident/public land opener for pheasant season...kind of the "hey, we live here...we get to hunt our land first" weekend. On Saturday about 10 of us guys from around the lake hunted the public ground just across the road from our house. I wanted Maxim to go with and he was more than happy to get out his new hunting vest and go walk the field with his dad and some buddies.

Saturday was great, a little bit of mist in the air and the dogs worked great. Annie was a solid as the last 12 years I have hunted behind her and Lilly finally started as good as when she is about 3 days tired. Meaning she didn't run like a crazy English Pointer, but she was controlled and solid. Both dogs had 2 points each the first day where birds were taken over their heads, and one was about the coolest thing ever. Where both dogs were pointing the same bird, (Lilly actually honoring Annie's find) and I gave the shot to a friend's kid...he nailed it with one shot and was super excited.

Maxim walked about 2.5 miles with us and loved every minute of it...we did a lot of pretending that we were Clone Troopers and fighting the bad guys. Hey, if Star Wars gets him into the wild, let it be.

Sunday was raining all day long, but I felt the call of the wild to get out in nature again, so with a steady rain falling, I asked Maxim if he wanted to go hunt again, and he was ready with his full-on rain suit and rain boots.

We walked about 2 miles and he loved it. Lilly had the only 3 points of the day...the first was a hen, the 2nd was a rooster that I took with one shot, and the 3rd point was the scariest thing I have ever been a part of...

Right at the end of our hunt, Lilly locked on point and I approached her from my usual 45 degree angle, and I noticed that she started creeping forward, so I stopped about 10 feet from her with Maxim right at my side. Since I thought the pheasant was moving I let Lilly creep without "whoaing" her. As she crept I noticed that there wasn't much cover to the area she was going, so I scanned a little harder at that spot.

In the "wild" your senses are always pretty keen and alert, and I always love the adrenaline rush I get when one of my dogs go on's the rush of the hunt for me. The big pause before the explosion of wings. This was one of those "story" moments. I loved the fact that Maxim was right there with me in the controlled environment of dog, gun, father, rain, adrenaline, nature, and bird.

As Lilly crept I noticed a lump of strange grass that almost looked like a rock for a second...then it dawned on me that it wasn't a rock, and it wasn't happy and Lilly was about 2 feet from a Red-tailed Hawk with about a 4 foot wingspan and a huge open beak. I tried to call her off, but she was was the hawk. I swear it looked into my soul and noticed the fear it caused me. I had grabbed Maxim's arm and pulled him right to my side. I quickly pointed out the hawk to Maxim and said, "look right there." Just then Lilly was about a foot away from the hawk.

I didn't know what the hawk was protecting, a fresh kill or a nest so I decided that Lilly needed to get away from the sense in paying a vet bill. She didn't respond to my calls so I had to buzz her on her collar, that got her attention and she came right to my side. I called in Annie and with Maxim's hand in mine we slowly walked by one ticked off hawk...about 8 feet away. The closest I have ever been to a bird that size that wasn't in a zoo.

I kind of high-tailed it out of the area since I didn't want it to attack my dogs or my son, and then Maxim and I went into full story mode. We relived the tense moments staring down a hawk and when Lilly went right up to it and it didn't move.

I can't help but wonder if he fully understood how cool today was for his dad, but I think these moments are what makes life on Earth.

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