SOME PEOPLE purchase a sports activities automobile after they attain a sure age. I went searching on New 12 months’s Day. That wasn’t a radical life change, as I hunt loads of days, however a part of the deal I’d made way back with my household is that I don’t go on holidays. This, I made a decision, could be an exception. In just a few months, the primary of the 2 boys round whom my complete life had revolved for the previous 18 years would go away dwelling for varsity, with the second not far behind. The beginning of a brand new 12 months appeared like the fitting day to get outdoors and ponder precisely what my remaining days would possibly maintain, or possibly to run away from the concept for just a few hours.

I didn’t have a clue of what empty-nesting could be like. I had requested a turkey information in Texas that spring about it when he instructed me his twin boys had gone off to school the earlier 12 months. “First day they had been out of the home, I obtained up and made espresso bare,” Jack mentioned. “I preferred it a lot, I do it day-after-day now.”

Perhaps I missed the bigger level, however making espresso bare didn’t appear to be a lot comfort. As a substitute, I imagined day after day of dreary sameness: simply my spouse and me in a quiet home, rising older, questioning what the youngsters had been as much as and why they didn’t name. Even the fields round dwelling, usually my glad place, would develop stale and predictable. Nonetheless, they had been the one fields I had, and getting out into them and respiratory the contemporary, chilly air of the brand new 12 months would possibly cleanse the dour ideas from my thoughts.

Tanked Up

The boys had been off with mates. However Ike was accessible, and I by no means needed to ask him if he needed to go. My 10-year-old setter’s life objectives would have match on a T-shirt: EAT, SLEEP, HUNT. Watching me take weapons out of the secure didn’t excite him, however brush pants despatched Ike over the sting. He had a particular, ecstatic yip he saved for the sight of me in searching garments.

We made the quick drive to the general public reservoir, the place the refuge opened to upland searching after the shut of duck season. It was often good for a pheasant or two and generally some bonus quail. I figured most individuals could be hung over and/or watching soccer, and we’d have it to ourselves. As at all times, Ike rode quietly as we traveled the hardtop roads, then whined in anticipation once we hit gravel.

Partridges peck at a few teasel crops to get on the seeds. Donald M. Jones

I let Ike out, and as he at all times did on late-season hunts, he discovered a gap within the ice and tanked up on chilly water. Then he barfed, as canines do after they drink ice-cold water, and at last was able to hunt. I used to be gone the “tanking up and barfing on New 12 months’s” factor, part of being older I used to be fantastic with. I dropped two shells into the side-by-side, and we walked into the sector.

Shock, Shock

We weren’t 10 minutes into the grass when Ike obtained birdy. Misplaced in thought, I used to be neither shut sufficient nor prepared when the rooster flushed wild. I made a decision towards a protracted crossing shot and as an alternative watched the chook fly off, marking it down within the grass alongside the shore of the reservoir. We turned and adopted up, the wind in our faces, and Ike went on level as quickly as we reached the spot the place I assumed I’d seen the rooster land. I’m at all times disoriented when a covey flushes as an alternative of a pheasant, and I used to be particularly confused by this covey; there have been solely six birds, and so they had been the most important, fattest quail I’d ever seen.

They flew previous me, giving me time to comprehend that they weren’t quail in any respect however Hungarian partridges—authorized sport, if rarely seen on this a part of the state. I’d shot at, and missed, precisely one Hun in my life as much as that point. On this present day, I began the brand new 12 months proper by making the shot depend. One among the six tumbled, and I picked it up, shocked to get my first up-close take a look at the grey and russet feathers of the partridge—and from probably the most un-partridge-like cowl, alongside the banks of an enormous lake, relatively than one of many open fields they usually choose. Ike was already searching for the following chook, and he discovered it on the fringe of a small soybean plot. Having tucked my first-ever Hun into my gamebag, I walked up on Ike’s level prepared for my second.

I used to be shocked once more, this time by the rooster we’d been searching for. Pheasants are large, and there’s no want to choose one from a flock when there’s just one. All of the sudden, I had a Hun and a pheasant. We saved searching into the wind, and after just a few hundred yards, simply as I used to be feeling like we’d gone farther than a covey of Huns ought to fly—not that I knew something about Huns—they flushed once more, this time exhibiting the traditional, spooky, edge-of-shotgun-range flush I’d heard about. I hit the trailing chook exhausting however may inform it wasn’t utterly lifeless because it fell.

Vibrant Spot

Ike’s poor efficiency on cripples was at all times a frustration, although we had been engaged on it in his outdated age. At dwelling, I hid canine biscuits round the home, then gave the command “Discover it!” We hadn’t but used the command within the area, however there was no higher time than the brand new 12 months to strive it. “Discover it!” I mentioned.

Ike discovered it.

We known as it a day and hunted again to the automobile, feeling a bit of giddy. I had discovered new birds on acquainted searching grounds. My outdated canine had discovered a brand new trick. Skipping bowl video games for searching had turned out to be one of the best thought of the brand new 12 months up to now. Perhaps there have been different good issues to come back, in a future that didn’t look so dreary anymore.

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