Stellar weather blessed us for a visit from out-of-town family and friends last weekend. My brother, who introduced me to bird hunting many years ago (thanks, dude), joined me and Leslie in a couple of my favorite birdspots. The next day, friends of his (and now ours) joined us for a wonderful hike with shotguns.
I’m proud of the places we have to hunt around here — all public — and want to share them with people I like and care about, or as Leslie likes to quote from my extemporaneous narration of a recent video, “…with people I like and dogs I love.” It’s the sharing of it that intensifies my enjoyment of my favorite pastime; when I go alone, or even with my immediate family unit (Leslie, Angus, and Peat), it’s wonderful but different than the rare occasions when special people to me can see and appreciate the beauty and thrill of our “backyard” outings. It’s really the sharing that matters. It’s not, “Look what I have”; it’s more like, “Look what I wish you could share with me all the time because it’s such an incredible aesthetic, athletic, human, animal, and natural experience; it keeps me going, gives me something amazing to look forward to because you never know what it’s going to be like except physically demanding and visually stunning — we might get birds, we might see some excellent dog work, we might see other wildlife, we might learn something about ourselves…” To me, you couldn’t ask for more than to be able to share this incredible experience with others you suspect might get something similar out of it.
My brother enjoyed the hunts we shared, which made me happy, partly because he introduced me to this activity 20 years ago by loaning me his Sears & Roebuck 20-gauge shotgun with a built-in adjustable choke to look for ruffed grouse to shoot in ground-growing juniper patches in southwestern Montana when I was still a cat person. I can still remember when we met up after a day of hunting — me for grouse and he for pronghorn — and how happy he seemed when he saw the several birds in my hand.
He also introduced me to dogs through his first Brittany, Zeke, the best bird dog — upland and waterfowl — that ever lived (a scientific fact; I have pictures to prove it). Saying “He introduced me to dogs” is like a blind person describing seeing the world for the first time after gaining vision: there is the ecstasy of discovering new beauties and the horror of some harsh realities, like destroyed shoes and favorite furniture and — we all know — deciding to end a treasured companion’s life.
My brother liked what our dogs provided, which really pleased me, since — if you’re familiar with this blog — you know it’s been a journey-and-a-half. Sharing the land and the dogs, both sources of pleasure and, yes, pride, was a gift to me. There were lots of birds, he shot well (better than I), and we all had fun. He and his wife had their old Brittany (13 years) with them, although they kept him leashed most of the time so he wouldn’t run himself to death out there.
The next day, with three more people, we made a hunting party of 7. I knew we wouldn’t see the frequency of birds of the previous day, and the hiking would be tougher, but the weather was gorgeous and the terrain stunning, and everyone loved the 4 or 5 hours we were out there, looking, laughing, falling, stalking, waiting, and shooting. The whole thing was stellar.
Here are videos of the first and second days, respectively.