Friday, December 23, 2011

The Eve of Christmas Eve

Tyler was wrestling in the Best of the West Tournament today in Tri-Cities, Washington, Kim had some Christmas things to do and I had an itch to hunt Jesse.  I called uncle Tom this morning to see if he was up for some company and a duck and goose hunt by his house; we are planning an ice fishing trip tomorrow and so bird hunting would have to be today or not at all.  Corey, Cole, Jesse and I headed for Baker County around 9 AM.  We were  late, but today was about fun, not keeping time schedules.

We saw four coyotes along the freeway but didn't shoot them despite having the 7mm along.  We headed for the crick, hoping to jump shoot ducks and possibly geese.  We saw NOTHING along the crick, but ice.  It was slow to say the least.  But around the end of the walk we jumped a big covey of california quail that all landed in a big pile of hawthorn and wild rose bushes.  We waited for uncle Tom and Shem to rendezvous with us, shared the good news, got everyone through the fence, exchanged the heavy #2 duck and goose loads for the lighter low based #7 steel shot we'd brought, turned Jesse loose and headed for the the hidey-hole.

Jesse had a slight breeze working in his favor and he was fast to the bushes, locked solid in a classic point, his tail quivering, ears perked, and body tense.  I wish I'd taken a camera!  I strung Shem, Cole, and Corey along the frozen slew, spreading them out then headed around the bushes so I'd flush birds past them.   The quail held tight, flushing a bird or three at a time so that there were lots of birds in the air for probably a minute.  The shooting was fast and furious with the occasional bird dropping to the frozen ground.  Jesse retrieved them all and we headed for the tall grass, bushes, and teesle around us where we expected to pick up some scattered singles.

Our shots put up some ducks and geese further to our north.   The ducks flew up, circled, some drifted off to quieter mid day lies, but most dropped back to the oxbows of the creek.  We were planning a hunt on them when I looked up and saw 30 or so geese coming our way making for the meadows behind us. They were low and definitely going to be in range.  Shem and the boys had the shots with Tom and I flanking them.  Someone jumped early, flaring the geese.  The would be perfect shots were now long and rushed; we didn't get a bird.  But the ducks held, so we made our way north, the half mile, circling wide and coming in on them from the west.

We were spread out wide, covering as much of the oxbow as possible and still could have used another hunter or two.  Shem, Tom, and Corey held up short of the fence, waiting for the flush.  Cole I slid through the fence and he was the point man, sneaking to the edge of the crick.  The ducks flushed in waves.  The sound of 600 wings beating is impressive!  The whistling accompanied by a dull roar.  The shooting was fast with four drakes down.  I felt really bad for Cole.  He had the first shot, but his gun just clicked.  He frantically opened to action to find it empty.  We had taken the shell out of the single shot while crawling through fences and we'd forgotten to reload.  The poor kid had 300 mallards at 20 yards and didn't get a shot.

With the birds gone and the dog working to get the downed birds, Corey took a walk around the next corner to check out the noise he heard.  It was a common merganser that I guess didn't get the memo that duck season was on and we still had some empty spots in our limits.  I'll let Corey tell you the story.

The walk back to the cars was fairly uneventful until Jesse found the remnants of the scattered quail.  He had a real solid point on a broken down hawthorn bush.  As we walked up to flush the birds, Corey spotted the covey making a break for it, running through the low, grassy spot the hawthorns had grown up in.  He took a fleeing shot, but missed.  Jesse broke at the shot zig-zagging the area looking for casualties.  We were talking about what had just happened when a little rooster quail broke cover, circling us low and fast.  He was my bird and at my shot he crumpled, the #2 duck load did its job and then some.  ITS NOT RECOMMENDED WE SHOOT QUAIL WITH DUCK AND GOOSE LOADS AGAIN, but you don't have much time to switch sometimes.  We lost one leg and half of one of the breasts but overall it was a clean kill.  Shem got another one a little later ending out the day.