Sunday, January 9, 2011

Comancheria Revisited

Thursday afternoon, the sixth, we re-entered the last stronghold of the Comanche Indians with a pack of twelve English Setters and Pointers. General Custer, a dog man, would have approved of our rolling kennel. Unfortunately, our results were about like his. We looked damn good but had trouble finding the quarry.
As we walked endless miles of mesquite, ragweed and every kind of freakin thorn imaginable,  my mind began to wander a bit. I started seeing in my mind's eye the past canine greats and rascals I have been fortunate enough to follow behind. Forty-two years ago my uncle introduced me to Gentleman Bob after a morning duck in the Arkansas Delta. His dog was a black and white pointer named Paladin's Punk. We took two limits of birds in about two hours. I'm pretty sure I got a few, but my uncle was a National Champion skeet and trap shooter and filled both of our limits pretty quickly.   PP pointed and retrieved every bird that afternoon. That was a feat considering the shotgun stock that was busted on him the week before. Discipline was tough and limits easier to come by in those days. The next few years were pretty foggy (high school, college and such) but I remember a pointer my father had named Jake the Slider.  Jake was a red and white ugly dog that liked to point and slide. He would have been a great pheasant dog! The next truly great dog belonged to my friend Deano. His dog's name was Mike. Deano and Mike had the same personality with the same shit-eating grin and they were both death on a bobwhite. The only problem I had is Deano had about five Mikes and you never new which one you would get. My first exposure to the setter world came with my friend Bart.  Bart had the great fortune of hunting his father's dog, Suzy.  One trip to an island on the Arkansas river was all the convincing I needed to become a setter man.  Suzy not only was a great bird finder, but she acted like you were hunting as a team and she was happy you were along with her. My first good dog was Pat, a Llewellyn I bought in a parking deck in Little Rock. She found birds in numbers and you really didn't notice how many she did find until the day was over and you added them up.
The rascals I hunted with were just as memorable. The first was Buck Wiley, a setter that  my buddy, Ray and I hunted.  Bucky Wiley always wanted to look at you when he attempted to point or fake backing another dog. By far my favorite was a big red and white setter named Skeeter.  Birds always seemed to come up on Skeeter and he always looked surprised when it happened!  We now hunt with two that fall into this category, Bobby and Homer, but they have a long way to go to top Skeeter.  My Grandfather had a Gordon setter named Gordon, of course.  Gordon was the best looking dog in the world until he went hunting. He then turned into a homing pigeon when you turned him loose. If he ran into a bird on the way home he would point it until you found him. You always made sure that you were ready to go home when you let him go.

Heir apperent, Jack The Dog
 This brings me to Carmen. We bought her in Nebraska in 2002. She is a direct daughter of Tekoa Mountain Sunrise and used to look the part.  She is the only rascal /bird finding  great I've been lucky enough to be around. When a brace of dogs is turned loose and set free you focus on Carmen. Her first misadventure in the Texas panhandle was when she mysteriously lost two thirds of of her tail - the victim of a barbwire fence or a gate. Don't know. Next came a point by a plum thicket.  Bird falls in the thicket, Carmen goes in, fight to the death with a seven point buck. The deer lost but Carmen sustained an injured  eye, teat, and canine teeth and was semi-conscious.  The doctor hunting with us said she wouldn't make the night. She pointed three coveys two days later. The final straw came last year as once again in the Texas panhandle we let her go.  I forgot to turn on her Garmin and we found her two days later. Since then she's just had the wanderlust to see the open spaces.  She basically goes where her nose tells her to go.  We had about moved her completely off of our rotation because of the effort to keep up with her.  We decided this week-end that bird hunting is really tough and we may as well put some experience on the ground. When the Garmin beeped she was six hundred and thirty nine yards away. When we got there, she didn't look at us or change her posture and the birds were still there. We both missed!  Carmen found three of the five coveys we found in 2 days of hunting.  She is out of shape, pretty old in dog years, and can still find birds like a mofo. You just have to follow her. The pictures we took don't do her justice and I wish also I had pictures of the others. I bet y'all see them or some just like them right now.

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