It's All A Memory Now
For most avid hunters the season end is bittersweet. While it spells an end to waking up and going out into the pre-dawn chill often characterized by inclement weather, it also delays the feeling and urges that lie deep within and are only satiated by pursuing our sport. Alas, every good thing must end, as they say, and so it is with the hunting season. Our 2018-19 waterfowl season ended last Wednesday and it can only be relived in memory now.
One of those memories dates back to the last day. I had gone to get the truck and as I came driving up to where our blind was located I noticed Wade and his dog Duke walking down the road. I then spotted a drake Goldeneye floating down river ahead of them and quickly surmised the reason for their stroll. As pulled up beside them Wade quickly explained that a couple of drakes had flown by and he fired three shots with no apparent effect. He couldn't believe he'd missed and as he stared in disbelief one of the birds (the one I spied floating down the river) folded up dead about 200 yards downriver.
When I arrived on the scene the bird was about to enter a stretch of rapids that would make a retrieve impossible. I told Wade to load Duke and himself in the truck and we would drive down the river to where the rapids ended. We drove about two miles to where we could access the river again and waited. It was a surprisingly short wait and along came the drake. Wade sent Duke on a blind and the big chocolate dog completed his 2 mile plus retrieve - one of the longest I have ever witnessed.
One of the lines that never ceases to put a smile on my face is "I need more shells"! Fortunately, I was blessed to hear that line many times this past fall. Like the time that my brother joined us for a hunt. He brought two boxes of shell with him but its been a while since he has shot ducks, plus the morning was chilly and his heavy coat and waders made it difficult for him to shoulder his gun properly. The birds were very cooperative that morning and those two boxes did not last long. It brings a smile to remember his frantic search for a shell, any shell, with birds landing in the decoys.
I hadn't shot white-fronted geese since leaving Saskatchewan many years ago. This year I was able to shoot a few of them and create some great memories. I'll never forget the flock of about one hundred that came from several miles away as if they were on a string. They never even circled but came right into our decoys, whiffling and dropping air in an effort to slow their approach and make a safe landing well within gun range. Nothing like it.
For me hunting birds with dogs is what it is all about, The hunts, the retrieves, the looks you get from your canine companion when you miss, the insatiable desire of the dogs to do what they are bred to do, all combines to make it something I can't get enough of. I remember years ago hunting with a friend on a river. We shot a goose that was not dead and managed to swim across the river. I told my friend to send his dog. The river at this point was probably a hundred yards. He was astounded to think that I would even suggest sending his dog for such a long retrieve (he was new to the hunting with retrievers). We had to drive around and retrieve that goose from the other side.
The very next year we were hunting at almost the same location. We again shot and only winged a Canada goose, only this one swam down the river with the same friend's dog in pursuit. The dog disappeared from sight and was gone for quite awhile. I asked my friend, aren't you worried about your dog? He assured me he would be alright. In awhile the dog came back with goose in mouth. It was a fantastic retrieve, but what's more memorable is the transformation of my friend as he gained an understanding of what these marvelous dogs are really capable of.
With the end of this past hunting season a variety of memories are added to an existing bank of recollections from seasons past. With the addition of fresh memories, old ones are not diminished, in fact they are polished by the new ones. I cherish each one and would not trade them for anything. Many of the dogs and people who are a part of those memories are no longer with us, but with these cherished recollections they remain as if they were.
God willing and the creek don't rise, the coming season will bring a new batch of remembrances and new stories to tell and that my friends is something to look forward to with great anticipation. I do!