A trip to Montana
|Sunnie backing her mother|
Two years ago we had one of our beloved k-9 hunting and couch companions get sick and pass away before her time. My wife Angie, and I were in desperate need of a good setter puppy and after a few phone calls and text messages I was hooked up with Tim Powell (Long Hollow Setters)and Later Don Olsen(Ashuelot Sunset Setters). Don owned a lovely female setter out of blood lines I liked and had bred to Tim's setter dog that was out of lines I also thought highly of. The best news was that the pups were already born. After convincing myself and my wife that this was the litter we put money down on a pup. I did not know what a great friend I would make in Don, or what a great little dog Sunnie would be at the time. In the time since Don and I have emailed back and forth, talked on the phone many times, and Angie and I have visited he and his wife once. I send him pictures of Sunnie's progress and he sends me pictures of his pup from that same litter. It has been fun for both of us to watch littermates grow up, and develop.
I had never driven eight hours to hunt birds before. My hunts are mostly less than two hours from my door, but hunting is getting tougher and tougher in my world. It is especially tough for one of my favorite birds to target the ring neck pheasant. So this year when Don invited my wife and I to hunt pheasants with him at his home in Montana we happily loaded dogs in the truck and made the drive. We arrived in town in the early evening, made plans with Don to meet up in the morning, and tried desperately to get some sleep. I don't travel well. I almost never sleep the first night in a strange place. We woke up to big sky country like this.
|Don walking in on his dog Sadie's point|
The grounds Don hunts on are not much different than the ones I grew up on. Lots of ditch banks
|Tic standing point over a rooster pheasant|
On the second day we saw fewer birds. We had opted to rest the young dogs, in favor of the older more experienced dogs. Don's dog Sadie and my pal Tic put on a veteran dog show of class and beauty pointing and backing each other many times. On one occasion Sadie turned in to obvious scent in a hay field and followed it 150 yards out to slam a point. Angie walked to it only to have a nice covey of Hungarian partridge explode from the alfalfa. She was able to connect on one. It was fun for Don and I to watch from afar. I was proud of Tic's work too, he has grown to be a great little bird dog. Tic always gives me eye candy. He is five years old already.
|Angie holding up a nice rooster|
Don had other commitments later that day so we returned to the hotel with tired legs and minds in the early afternoon. Angie had some sore feet, and I sat in a chair thinking about the last three days. Then it occurred to me, “I'm in Montana. My 3 day license isn’t expired yet. What the heck am I doing sitting here?” I got on the laptop and quickly found a piece of block management land that was open to public hunting. Twenty-five minutes later I had dogs on the ground.
|Sunnie and Tic|
It was so nice to be alone in my element. As I walked and watched the tired dogs keep hunting out of love for the game I felt that bond that I hope we all feel with our bird dogs. I like to think that they were feeling it too. I was proud of them and was really enjoying watching them when Sunnie froze into a point on the edge of a hay field. She was so beautiful standing there. Tic saw her and backed, and I just watched in admiration. After a long pause I walked in. A young rooster jumped and flew straight at a the only house in the area. It was okay that I couldn’t shoot. It didn't bother me in the least to let him go and released the dogs. With a smile on my face and a new spring in my step I followed the dogs for another two hours. We found a several coveys of Hungarian partridge and the dogs really did a nice job. We harvested enough for a nice meal, and went back to the truck finally leaving well enough alone.
Sitting in the hotel room later that night with a full belly, and my feet up I was so relaxed and content. I was exhausted from travel and hunting, but it felt great. I decided that this feeling is the best kind of tired.