I finally managed to get away with Cookie and go duck hunting. That is what living in North Dakota can do for you; Cookie and I were in the Suburban, out of town and at our first slough in just under three minutes. (I timed it.) With my binoculars I looked over the slough and sure enough there were several mallards on the slough.
Now, hunting ducks that are sitting on a slough is not like other pond jumping hunts, and that’s because you really can’t get as close as you’d like—too much mud! If you’ve got several hunters you designate one or two to be the jumpers and the others will space themselves around the slough so at lest someone gets a shot. Notions of taking off into the wind and all that other nice stuff will quickly evaporate when the ducks are jumped. Usually it is just Cookie and me on the hunt so it is up to her to send the ducks to me.
I scooted into a depression where I was fairly hidden and then I turned Cookie loose, ordering her to “spook the ducks.” Okay, it’s not a sophisticated command but it seems to separate the notion of finding a cripple or lost duck from what I want her to do. She darted to the slough, then turned and ran around the slough without going into the water, a maneuver that she seems to recognize as one that sends the ducks into the open. I am not sure what prompts her to turn from running along the edge of the water to plunging in but suddenly she’ll turn and splash into the water after the ducks. As soon as they take to the air she turns, as though she is herding the flying birds and most of the time the birds turn and fly near me, giving me a shot. Not that I always hit something and the other day I managed to miss with both barrels. To punish me Cookie came out of the water, walked up to me and shook, spraying stinky, slimy, muddy water over me. I earned it; both shots were doable and I muffed them.
The next slough was across a field and when I looked at the muddy field I decided to let Cookie try and flush the birds without me nearby and she did, but the birds were too high by the time they came over my hiding spot.
Just for grins I decided to walk a nearby grassy field where I flush the occasional grouse. We were approaching the end of the hunting light and I was following Cookie when I looked up and she was running across the ridge of the rise in the ground, silhouetted by the setting sun. In those few seconds she was a perfect picture of nature, surrounded by hundreds of shades of gold. There was sky, and the water of the slough, the bare fingers of a tree on she slough’s shore and the grass of the gentle ground and moving across it all was my dog—Cookie—and everything was bathed in the dust freckled golden Alpenglow . Those seconds were what I had left my office to find. Perhaps a mallard hanging from my belt would have somehow reshaped the image in my mind—perhaps not. I was satisfied. I loaded Cookie in the back of the Suburban and drove home—satisfied with the short hunt.
9 months ago