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  • The story.

    I promised the "most memorable" story of my time with Opal. For most of my dogs it's been the first and last birds that stick in my mind. At five months Pearl fetched her first bird when I managed to duck next to an abandoned gang plow in a wheat stubble draw and took a honker from a family group gliding overhead to land in an adjacent cornfield. Ten years later when she was sick with autoimmune disease six months before she died, Pearl retrieved a eleven geese shot from the same flock. Those were her last birds. Opal pointed and fetched her first bird, a Hun, at only three months. Sadly I forgot to take a picture but my partner snapped a photo of us three days later with her second retrieves, two sharptails. In November I posted the story and photo of her last birds, the only daily limit of roosters I've managed to shoot over the last two seasons. It was a great day for a grand old lady.

    Still, my most cherished memory of Opal happened another day on that same piece of property within a stone's throw of the gate where I snapped that last bird picture. Two years ago an early snowstorm and heavy rains turned the creek on that place into a raging river. I can almost always count on finding pheasants on a willow brush corner where the creek curves almost ninety degrees east opposite the rancher's hen house. The owners are okay with me hunting that spot as long as I don't shoot towards the buildings. But it's tough getting a good shot through the trees going the other way. That day the dogs put up a spooky rooster out of range before we got to the creek and I figured we were busted. That late in the season if one squawker gets up, any other birds in the area usually follow suit immediately. I was surprised when Puppy (Fr Britt) working out front went on point near the edge of the creek. I called the Labs in and moved quickly to get us in position to intercept if the bird flew downstream to a grove of Russian olive. I released the Labs, in they went, and up went a cackler. I shot through the willows and dumped it dead on the opposite bank. Opal and young Ellie were in the water as soon as it hit the ground but Ellie was spooked by the swift current and turned back. Opal drove on and finally hit land almost to the next corner sixty yards downstream. I tried calling her off but it was hopeless. She really lived for pheasant hunting. I guided her to the rooster with hand signals and she had no trouble finding it. Opal jumped back into the creek and was half way across when she was caught in a big whirlpool eddy caused by the corner's radical change in direction. It spun Opal around almost three-sixty before sucking her under. She just disappeared. I gasped and my heart fell right through my boots. Oh no! Then just as quickly Opal surfaced again, nose pointed straight in the air, rooster still firmly gripped in her jaws. I'll never forget her blowing water from her nostrils like a mini-whale. You'd think that experience would send her into a panic. Nope! It was all just business as usual, paddling away calmly. I followed her downstream and then laid down to reach over and pull her up the cutbank. Sorry, no photo of that bird. He was a soggy, muddy, scraggly looking thing by the time I had him in hand. Instead I've attached another great shot of her this past season with a fine bird she pushed up for me on the bird refuge.



  • #2
    Her look of intensity of purpose and adoration of you put a lump in my throat.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Ontario Honker Hunter View Post
      I promised the "most memorable" story of my time with Opal. For most of my dogs it's been the first and last birds that stick in my mind. At five months Pearl fetched her first bird when I managed to duck next to an abandoned gang plow in a wheat stubble draw and took a honker from a family group gliding overhead to land in an adjacent cornfield. Ten years later when she was sick with autoimmune disease six months before she died, Pearl retrieved a eleven geese shot from the same flock. Those were her last birds. Opal pointed and fetched her first bird, a Hun, at only three months. Sadly I forgot to take a picture but my partner snapped a photo of us three days later with her second retrieves, two sharptails. In November I posted the story and photo of her last birds, the only daily limit of roosters I've managed to shoot over the last two seasons. It was a great day for a grand old lady.

      Still, my most cherished memory of Opal happened another day on that same piece of property within a stone's throw of the gate where I snapped that last bird picture. Two years ago an early snowstorm and heavy rains turned the creek on that place into a raging river. I can almost always count on finding pheasants on a willow brush corner where the creek curves almost ninety degrees east opposite the rancher's hen house. The owners are okay with me hunting that spot as long as I don't shoot towards the buildings. But it's tough getting a good shot through the trees going the other way. That day the dogs put up a spooky rooster out of range before we got to the creek and I figured we were busted. That late in the season if one squawker gets up, any other birds in the area usually follow suit immediately. I was surprised when Puppy (Fr Britt) working out front went on point near the edge of the creek. I called the Labs in and moved quickly to get us in position to intercept if the bird flew downstream to a grove of Russian olive. I released the Labs, in they went, and up went a cackler. I shot through the willows and dumped it dead on the opposite bank. Opal and young Ellie were in the water as soon as it hit the ground but Ellie was spooked by the swift current and turned back. Opal drove on and finally hit land almost to the next corner sixty yards downstream. I tried calling her off but it was hopeless. She really lived for pheasant hunting. I guided her to the rooster with hand signals and she had no trouble finding it. Opal jumped back into the creek and was half way across when she was caught in a big whirlpool eddy caused by the corner's radical change in direction. It spun Opal around almost three-sixty before sucking her under. She just disappeared. I gasped and my heart fell right through my boots. Oh no! Then just as quickly Opal surfaced again, nose pointed straight in the air, rooster still firmly gripped in her jaws. I'll never forget her blowing water from her nostrils like a mini-whale. You'd think that experience would send her into a panic. Nope! It was all just business as usual, paddling away calmly. I followed her downstream and then laid down to reach over and pull her up the cutbank. Sorry, no photo of that bird. He was a soggy, muddy, scraggly looking thing by the time I had him in hand. Instead I've attached another great shot of her this past season with a fine bird she pushed up for me on the bird refuge.

      You are lucky to have had Pearl and Opal, two super dogs.

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      • #4
        Honker - Is that a good practice to send the labs in to bust the birds in front of the pointing Brittany?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by 99explorer View Post
          Honker - Is that a good practice to send the labs in to bust the birds in front of the pointing Brittany?
          In most cases it is best to keep the Labs back if the Britt is on point. Then walk in for the flush. But in situations like this one where she is on point in thick stuff and there's little possibility of getting a good shot in close, I choose to get myself in the best position to intercept with a clear shot and send the flushers in. Sometimes when Puppy is gone into cattails or willows and doesn't come out, it's obvious she's locked up on a bird. But it's often impossible to shoot in that crap. I'll pull the Labs in to me and wait, sometimes five minutes or so. Still no Puppy, then I'll quietly release the flushers. Being quiet is the key in those situations. The sudden arrival of two other dogs should panic the bird held on point and it may flush in a direction for a clear shot if it doesn't know where I'm located. Same reasoning for stand and wait quietly for five minutes. At some point the Mexican standoff between bird and pointer will end and if I haven't given my location away, I may get a shot when it inadvertently flies in my direction.

          Note to self: Opal is gone. You only have one Lab/flusher to work with now. Better get used to it.
          Last edited by Ontario Honker Hunter; 06-29-2019, 04:12 PM.

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          • #6
            My pointing dog always wore a bell on his collar as a means of telling me his location.
            And when the bell stopped ringing, I knew he was on point.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by 99explorer View Post
              My pointing dog always wore a bell on his collar as a means of telling me his location.
              And when the bell stopped ringing, I knew he was on point.
              I have a bell for Puppy. She's so small it's hard to keep track of her even in light cover. Unfortunately, I now often can't hear it even if she is in close. Just the right pitch for my shot out ears to miss.
              Last edited by Ontario Honker Hunter; 06-29-2019, 04:10 PM.

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