Today has been a long day. I was up and on the road before dawn but not to go hunting--I had VA eye doctor and physical therapists appointments. The eye doctor informed me the eyes are slowly getting worse, which is expected, and my therapists, one physical, one occupational (I can’t keep ‘em straight) try their best to deal with me. Jody is tall, looks like he should be a Marine (like me) and Vicki is petit, blonde, blue-eyed-cute and quite capable of chewing me out for not following instructions. Anyway, my blood pressure decided to act up and Vicki made me promise to take my blood pressure several times a day and keep a journal with the results, then bring the journal with me when I go back to the VA next week and show the journal to my doctor. Not a problem. But here is what I am wondering. Jody has repeatedly pointed out that I need to “take it easy” on the hunting. He didn’t say not to hunt, just change things a little.I got to thinking about a hunt I had earlier this week. . . .
The other day I took Cookie and drove out to our favorite grouse hunting area. I wasn’t in a hurry and besides, I’m supposed to be trying to recover from the cardiac adventure, so, I walked very slowly and Cookie ran ahead. When she got birdy I turned toward her and when that bird flushed wild and out of range I just watched it fly away. “At least I don’t have to clean it,” I said to the wind. Cookie was disappointed and was quickly off again. I called her back then returned to the Suburban so we could try for a duck.At the little slough where Chas and I had shot several ducks I pulled on my waders (I have got to get some new waders) and after unloading my gear, consisting of one bag with shells, coffee, camera, notebook, pen and goodies, and pulling four decoys from my decoy bag, I parked the Suburban and walked back carrying my shotgun and holding Cookie on a leash. Back at the slough I carefully put my shotgun down, picked up the decoys and started into the muck. By this time Cookie was having a good time and when I was about fifteen feet into the muck I noticed Cookie had switched on the “bird here!” attitude and was eagerly working scent on the far side of the slough, in the same grass were she’d retrieved two birds a few days earlier.
Now, one of the things I am fond of saying is that Cookie is smarter than me and danged if she didn’t prove it again. Twice she stopped working the scent and looked back at me with the “get your gun” expression that means she is going to be flushing a bird. I figured she was scenting some ducks that had been there earlier so I didn’t get my gun. I set the first decoy. Then just as I was about to set the next decoy a mallard drake burst out of the grass. It landed on the water and Cookie thought she had a cripple then it took off, scolding her as it climbed into the air.Cookie gave me “the look.”
Yeah, I stood stupid. I set the other two decoys, went back to my gun, loaded it and sat down. Once I was comfortable I poured myself a cup of coffee to chase away the end-of-day chill. A little later Cookie tensed up and looked over her shoulder. I followed her gaze in time to see the geese coming over the trees. The loads I had were too light for the big Canadas so I sat and watched. I watched them fly over, they were not seeing either Cookie or me, and I watched them land in a field a half mile away.
Later, when the sun was getting that golden hue that is a signal to mama earth that for this part of the planet the day is over, a few ducks flew past but I forgot my calls. Besides, I’d been writing notes for my journal and I’d talked myself into thinking that unless it was a fat mallard drake I wasn’t going to shoot. The ducks were cooperative and avoided coming too close and in short order it was dark and time for me to pack up and return to my office and get some work time in.
The evening was a good day. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Maybe I did overdo it a bit with the grouse walk, the walk to and from the Suburban, and of course wading into the thick, clinging mud that sucks at your feet and forces you to strain to take each step. But it was worth it even if I did have to take a nitro pill later that night. The geese were brilliant, the ducks were just enough to get the juices going and Cookie had a great time. I am thinking about taking Cookie out tomorrow evening, maybe walking a different grouse field and then sitting on a slough. Who knows? I might get a mixed bag of a duck and a grouse. I’m content with a couple of birds. There’s still some pheasant hunting to do before the weather gets too cold. Maybe a couple of pheasant to round out my larder would be a good thing, too. But, then I am back to Jody, Vicki, my primariy care doctor, and everything about taking it easy. So, I did promise to take the blood pressure readings and keep a good record. I am wondering, however, if sitting on the edge of a slough, sipping hot coffee and sharing a sandwich with your hunting dog would really “lower” your blood pressure? I’m going to find out by packing my blood pressure cup in my bag with the Thermos, box of shells, sandwich and duck calls. I am not sure how my doctor or physical therapist will appreciate the blood pressure journal having duck blind doodles, probably some dried dog slobber, a little spilled coffee and no doubt it’ll pick up that deliciously thick aroma of rotting vegetation that is common to all North Dakota sloughs, and hopefully a drop or two of duck blood, but at least I’ll have a complete record. Heck, if I get a shot at a duck or two maybe I’ll take it then, too. It might be interesting to see the results of the blood pressure in a duck blind and prove conclusively that bird hunting is good for the blood pressure as well as the soul.Think about it.