It started like a lot other hunting trips, just me and a dog getting ready to go wondering around looking for whatever was in the wilds for us to find. It was in Wyoming kind of close to home where I had decided might have some game. I had actually been to this place a couple times. It’s a big chunk of public land walk in only that has some upland birds, an occasional snow shoe hare, deer, antelope, and if the ponds aren’t frozen a few ducks. It gets hunted pretty hard, and there is never a lot of game, especially anything tame in the area. I had a young bitch named Wanda out of our dog Cruiser who was just over a year old at the time. She was starting to cover some country and I really liked how she was developing. The plan was to make a big horseshoe about three miles for each leg, and end back at the start point. The temperature was perfect with a small amount of wet snow. Wind out of the northwest at about five miles an hour, and I didn’t think the ponds would be frozen yet so ducks might be in order.
The first mile or so was pretty uneventful. A very wild cotton tail took off well ahead of us and made it up to the rock cliffs before any chance of a point. When I got into some of the rolling grasslands Wanda locked up tight looking down into a small draw. A dozen huns took off and I got a double. She retrieved the one right to me, and then wanted to take off running again. It took me a little coaxing to get her on the scent of the other one, but she retrieved it nicely. I didn’t see where the covey went so I just continued with my plan. Another half mile or so produced another nice point. This time it was sharp tail grouse. Bang, bang, two dead birds. I usually miss quite often because I’m trying to watch the dog with one eye, the bird with one eye, and the covey with one eye, well you get the idea. I don’t always focus enough on the shot when I’m out by myself. If I’m hunting with someone else I rarely do any shooting, just watch dogs.
At this point we were about where I was going to make the turn. The country started to rise quite a bit going forward to the south, and there were three ponds all about half a mile apart running east to west in the bottoms of the draws. I brought Wanda in and put her on a lead. That way we could walk up over the bank and I could let her loose just before I started shooting the ducks coming off the water. The first pond was kind of narrow and long, maybe twenty yards by sixty yards. I was hoping the ducks were not at the other end of the pond. There was a small group of mallards closer to the other end when we came over the bank. I picked out a green head and broke a wing just as he got over the land. He hit the dirt and started towards the water. Wanda was already in the water swimming towards him, but he got in a went under just before she could grab him. For the next half hour Wanda would swim around looking for the green head and it would pop up and down always staying just out of her reach. I never could get a shot because it seemed like every time it popped up Wanda was in the line of fire. Finally it popped up right in front of her nose and she nabbed. All this time in the water seemed to give Wanda an extra boost of energy. She took off like a bullet across the prairie. I was pretty sure the ducks had just gone to the next pond and landed there so we went that way.
About the time I was ready to put a lead on her for pond number two she went on point again. This time I could see a big partly white, partly brown snowshoe hare standing on its back legs looking at Wanda. If I would have had the gun I normally hunt with which is a twenty gauge/223 rifle combo I could have taken a shot with the rifle. As it was Wanda couldn’t handle looking at that big fury rabbit any longer and she went after it. She gave up the chase after she could not catch up to it in the thick cover, and decided to come back to see what I was up to. I hooked her up and started the creep to the pond. This pond was round and smaller. When I peeked over there were lots of ducks everywhere. I let Wanda loose and shot another green head dead. It landed on the other bank and Wanda swam over to get it and then got back in the pond and swam around in a semi-circle for a while before she came back to me. At this point I’m maybe three or four miles from the pickup, with one pretty good climb ahead of me. Of course my bird bag on my back is quite heavy now, and I was kind of hoping she wouldn’t find anything else.
About two miles of Wanda running hard had produced nothing else and I was looking at the hill ahead of us thinking this is going to be a workout. Little did I know the load was going to get much heavier. Just before Wanda dropped into the creek bottom she locked up real hard with her head and nose up very high, and she was almost standing on her tippy toes indicating to me she had something just over the rise. I come up slowly and peeked over the small ridge, and a couple dozen turkeys were looking back at me. Well YES I did have a turkey tag in my hunting pack that was good for either sex, and the season was open. If I had been smart I would have ground pounded the smallest one, and called it a day, but I jumped them, and shot the biggest tom in flight at fifteen yards. Wanda went up and hopped on the big bird very happily, but then just like her dad Cruiser had found out, turkeys are hard to pick up. The feathers seem slick, and they are a big bird. She wrestled with it for a while and never did figure out what Cruiser figured out. If you are a Wirehair retrieving a turkey you have to grab it by the neck and drag it. I finally convinced her to let go of her prize and go get a drink of water from the creek since that was the last water until we got to the pickup. I figured one mile left with a good climb to start it off. The twelve gauge side by side was heavy, the hunting pack with steel 3 ½ shells, water, first aid kit, gps emergency locater, extra clothing, two huns, two sharp tail grouse, two green heads was heavy, now a big tom turkey slung over the opposite shoulder from the gun made this a true workout. The last mile produced nothing except sore legs for me. I didn’t do much except put my head down, and my ass up, and powered forward. Wanda was pretty tired by the time we got back and I’m not even sure how long we were gone, but a good portion of the day.
I have hunted as many as 150 days in a year and been to many locations, in many states, hunting pretty much everything with my dogs, but this was the best single day me and a dog ever had together. It might have been the perfect temperature/conditions with the mountains in the background, or the fact it was a young dog giving it everything she had, or the variety of game, but it was probably the whole experience. When I can’t remember this day of hunting I will be very old without any memory left.
Just a side note you would think a dog like Wanda would be a great dog for me to hunt with the rest of her life. Well she got rejected by my wife because she wouldn’t perform in the show ring. She had a good coat, correct form, no physical issues, but she just didn’t have that show dog attitude that says she is completely confident. I tell people all the time the show ring doesn’t just make or break a dog on conformation, but the temperaments are put to the test there as well. And even though she was great as a hunting dog with plenty of boldness, and confidence, our dogs are measured in the ring and field. She is now living with a couple in Texas who had gotten a dog from us years ago who died. She is primarily hunting ducks. Of all things I wouldn’t think ducks in Texas, but Texas is one state I still need to hunt so maybe a quail/duck hunt in Texas needs to go on the bucket list.