I live for this moment. This sequence.
My dogs look like they’re onto birds. I sense it from subtle nuances and have learned from training and experience how to read their body language. If I’m hunting with just one dog all my focus is on that one dog. If both of my dogs are in the picture, I have to decide which one to trust more and which one to follow more closely.
I remove my shotgun from my shoulder and hold it in ready position and carefully pick my way through the loose rocks without trying to look down. I see Angus through the thick sagebrush. He has stopped and is motionless. He’s on point. Out of the corner of my left eye, I see Peat rushing up and stopping just behind Angus.
Angus with his beautiful show dog gait starts creeping forward. Peat stays put. Scanning the tops of the sagebrush, I’ve consciously made myself focus softly, not knowing which direction the birds might bust. I slowly start moving into position in front of Angus.
Like a flash of lightning, more to my left than I’d anticipated, a small covey of chukar busts flying at top speed away from me. I quickly mount my gun while taking the safety off, then point the end of the barrel with the fleeing partridge’s arc, my index finger goes onto the trigger, and I squeeze. Everything happens so fast I don’t have time to think, relying on muscle memory from past experiences.
The dogs hear the noise of wing-whirr made by the covey of chukar taking off, and the sound of the single shot, and they get excited and run in the direction of where the birds flew hoping to pick up some scent on the ground of a downed chukar. They run back to me and give me that look: why did you miss? The sequence of usual events gets messed up this time and we don’t have a retrieve to make it complete.
I berate myself, making up all kinds of excuses and asking questions. Was it my stance and posture, my gun mount, or that I didn’t focus on the bird and follow through? Some or all are true. It messes with my head.
The three of us move on and we’ll try this spot again next year.