Monday, November 14, 2011

Hay Creek Hunt #2

Molly and Me ;)
Sometimes there are advantages in numbers. Or to say it another way, numbers do count. I had written a couple weeks ago about a first hunt on a game farm and the experience of hunting over placed birds....not as easy as one would think, even with dogs. A that time, my good friend Dave and I and our two labs spent the better part of a day at Hay Creek Game Farm near Sand Creek Wisconsin and returned home with seven birds and plenty of stories on the drive back.

We returned to visit Bill and Lynn at Hay Creek again, this time armed with two other great friends, Mike and Moe, two hunting companions who usually make the trip to North Dakota each year with us. The trip west couldn't happen this year, so I suggested we get the dogs to the game farm where they would get plenty of shooting and the labs a great workout. Once again, our hosts did an excellent job of making our hunt memorable. Adding two more shooters and two more shotguns to the mix on the same number of birds, almost assured us of a decent percentage of pheasant to take home this time. Dave and I managed seven of twelve birds, but this time, the four of us would take eleven for twelve, although a few were scratch birds. Bill had asked us how hard of a hunt we wanted, so we decided to take the hunt up a notch and the birds were scattered over a much larger field, with tougher cover. Putting those birds up was no easy matter, and without the dogs I doubt we'd have found many at all. The advantage of four of us was we could cover ground more thoroughly and the labs would work back and forth between us until a scent cone hit them and it was bird-on!
Tall Grass Rooster and Molly
I've found that there is nothing more enjoyable than watching the dogs do what they are bred to do. It absolutely makes the hunt. Barley, the chocolate lab veteran has a great nose and seldom is wrong when she gets birdy.  Molly, my new black lab, continues to improve each hunt and complements the older dog (who is related, from Dakota Labs Kennel in Chippewa Falls) and I couldn't be more proud of her progress. Even with four of us marking downed birds in tall grass, without those noses and retrieving instincts, we would have lost many of the birds we put down.
Mike and Dave with Tough Bird
Any hunt will have it's share of ribbing and joking around, but adding our two hunting partners to the mix I think multiplies the laughter by a factor of ten. Doesn't matter if it's a great crossing shot made or missed or perhaps a connection with a bird a bit to early in the pellet spread, someone will say something about it. As serious as we are about bird hunting, wanting to be safe and successful, it's the story time afterwards  around the pick up that makes these hunts so much fun and memorable.
The first Field Pass
After the hunt, we quickly dressed the birds and headed them for the cooler. Bill meanwhile, gave an impromptu demonstration of a few of his high quality labs who were dying to get out of their boxes and train a bit. It was amazing to watch how well each dog performed for Bill, who spends countless hours on voice and hand signals. These are national champion caliber labs and it was fun to see performance at that level. Molly and Barley would have a long way to go, but at this point of the day, they were content to rest in the truck and watch the show as well. They were spent.

The numbers of pheasants lined up at our feet for the obligatory group hunt photos (labs, of course, included) really didn't matter. Rather it was the number of memories shared with best friends from this perfect day in November in NW Wisconsin that count, and how these stories of the day will probably change over the years. So in this case, those numbers do count.  And that is just fine with me.
Six Hunting Companions

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