SOME PEOPLE purchase a sports activities automotive once they attain a sure age. I went looking on New 12 months’s Day. That wasn’t a radical life change, as I hunt quite a lot of days, however a part of the deal I’d made way back with my household is that I don’t go on holidays. This, I made a decision, can be an exception. In just a few months, the primary of the 2 boys round whom my complete life had revolved for the previous 18 years would go away residence for college, with the second not far behind. The beginning of a brand new yr appeared like the best day to get exterior and ponder precisely what my remaining days would possibly maintain, or perhaps to run away from the thought for just a few hours.

I didn’t have a clue of what empty-nesting can be like. I had requested a turkey information in Texas that spring about it when he informed me his twin boys had gone off to school the earlier yr. “First day they had been out of the home, I acquired up and made espresso bare,” Jack stated. “I favored it a lot, I do it each day now.”

Possibly I missed the bigger level, however making espresso bare didn’t look like a lot comfort. As an alternative, I imagined day after day of dreary sameness: simply my spouse and me in a quiet home, rising older, questioning what the youngsters had been as much as and why they didn’t name. Even the fields round residence, usually my blissful place, would develop stale and predictable. Nonetheless, they had been the one fields I had, and getting out into them and respiration the recent, chilly air of the brand new yr would possibly cleanse the dour ideas from my thoughts.

Tanked Up

The boys had been off with buddies. However Ike was accessible, and I by no means needed to ask him if he needed to go. My 10-year-old setter’s life targets would have match on a T-shirt: EAT, SLEEP, HUNT. Watching me take weapons out of the secure didn’t excite him, however brush pants despatched Ike over the sting. He had a particular, ecstatic yip he saved for the sight of me in looking garments.

We made the quick drive to the general public reservoir, the place the refuge opened to upland looking after the shut of duck season. It was normally good for a pheasant or two and generally some bonus quail. I figured most individuals can be hung over and/or watching soccer, and we’d have it to ourselves. As all the time, Ike rode quietly as we traveled the hardtop roads, then whined in anticipation after we hit gravel.

Partridges peck at a few teasel crops to get on the seeds. Donald M. Jones

I let Ike out, and as he all the time did on late-season hunts, he discovered a gap within the ice and tanked up on chilly water. Then he barfed, as canines do once they drink ice-cold water, and eventually was able to hunt. I used to be gone the “tanking up and barfing on New 12 months’s” factor, part of being older I used to be tremendous with. I dropped two shells into the side-by-side, and we walked into the sector.

Shock, Shock

We weren’t 10 minutes into the grass when Ike acquired birdy. Misplaced in thought, I used to be neither shut sufficient nor prepared when the rooster flushed wild. I made a decision in opposition to a protracted crossing shot and as a substitute watched the hen fly off, marking it down within the grass alongside the shore of the reservoir. We turned and adopted up, the wind in our faces, and Ike went on level as quickly as we reached the spot the place I assumed I’d seen the rooster land. I’m all the time disoriented when a covey flushes as a substitute of a pheasant, and I used to be particularly confused by this covey; there have been solely six birds, they usually had been the largest, fattest quail I’d ever seen.

They flew previous me, giving me time to understand that they weren’t quail in any respect however Hungarian partridges—authorized sport, if rarely seen on this a part of the state. I’d shot at, and missed, precisely one Hun in my life as much as that point. On this present day, I began the brand new yr proper by making the shot depend. Considered one of the six tumbled, and I picked it up, shocked to get my first up-close take a look at the grey and russet feathers of the partridge—and from probably the most un-partridge-like cowl, alongside the banks of an enormous lake, slightly than one of many open fields they usually desire. Ike was already searching for the subsequent hen, and he discovered it on the fringe of a small soybean plot. Having tucked my first-ever Hun into my gamebag, I walked up on Ike’s level prepared for my second.

I used to be shocked once more, this time by the rooster we’d been searching for. Pheasants are large, and there’s no want to select one from a flock when there’s just one. All of the sudden, I had a Hun and a pheasant. We saved looking into the wind, and after just a few hundred yards, simply as I used to be feeling like we’d gone farther than a covey of Huns ought to fly—not that I knew something about Huns—they flushed once more, this time exhibiting the basic, spooky, edge-of-shotgun-range flush I’d heard about. I hit the trailing hen onerous however might inform it wasn’t fully useless because it fell.

Brilliant Spot

Ike’s poor efficiency on cripples was all the time a frustration, although we had been engaged on it in his previous age. At residence, I hid canine biscuits round the home, then gave the command “Discover it!” We hadn’t but used the command within the subject, however there was no higher time than the brand new yr to attempt it. “Discover it!” I stated.

Ike discovered it.

We known as it a day and hunted again to the automotive, feeling a bit giddy. I had discovered new birds on acquainted looking grounds. My previous canine had realized a brand new trick. Skipping bowl video games for looking had turned out to be the perfect concept of the brand new yr up to now. Possibly there have been different good issues to come back, in a future that didn’t look so dreary anymore.

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