Sunday, November 13, 2011

One more story on a Sunday

Yesterday was the Glorious 12th - the day on which pheasant and dove season open in the Imperial Valley. The dogs and I spent it roaming from the border to the Salton Sea, hunting and touring, having a fine time, and finding plenty of birds.

I've been shooting my Fox most of the season and decided to give my Westley Richards droplock a day's use. It is a lovely gun, an engineer's delight, and I shoot it pretty well. I started the morning hunting for dove, and though the shooting was slow, I had a handful of birds by 7.30.

I decided to try another spot and on the way noticed a lot of dove working around the intersection of four fields. The birds were feeding in three newly-planted fields of row crops but the fourth field was alfalfa and unposted. I concealed myself in a drainage canal and killed a couple more dove in just a few minutes. Then I noticed that some hunters were driving the alfalfa for pheasant and managed to put up a few birds. They had not hunted my edge of the field so perhaps a few of the roosters had moved into that area? I got Rosie and Silk out of their crates, loaded the gun with heavier loads of #6, and gave it a try.

We worked the area for 20 minutes or so without moving a bird and then I noticed a couple of dove land on the other side of a drainage ditch 200 yards away. Since the pheasant were not cooperating I dropped dove loads into the gun (I shoot very light dove loads with very small shot) and walked in their direction.

Of course I had not gone 30 yards when a big cock popped up right in front of me. I probably should have just waved at him, but instead I took a close shot with those dove loads, and hit him hard enough to kill him - but not until he had flown 400 yars, collapsing dead in mid air, in the middle of another field that was (a) posted, and (b) being actively worked by a couple of guys on fast tractors with hay rollers. I walked over to the edge and looked for an obviously-dead bird without luck. The drivers would have been very annoyed if I started combing their field with my setters so I cursed my choice of guns (most of my doubles have two triggers, but W-R was very proud of their single trigger and apparently only sold droplocks that way) and headed for other spots.

Next I was in an area with a deep irrigation channel bordered by heavy, waist-high chaparral. I've killed pheasant there before so I loaded with #6 and even managed to kill a dove with that load. Then I ran into a covey of Gambels quail and proceeded to miss 4 in a row over some decent dog work. That was quite annoying. I'm convinced that those little demons flew right through the sparse loads of #6 (I shot 4 for 4 on quail that weekend when shooting #8, so I should have killed at least a couple of them).

Now I'm feeling pretty bummed. I have a nice collection of dove, but no pheasant and no quail, and some pretty sorry stories to tell about it all. Then, redemption: a cock pheasant flushed out of canal and back over my head. Since it was first sold in 1901 the W-R has probably killed 5,000 pheasant on shots just like this and the #6's did their work. The bird was dead in the air and hit the ground in an open spot.

Now I could relax, give up on pheasant, and just shoot quail and dove. We got into more quail and I killed a couple, and then I found a spot for dove that had about 150 birds working the area. Killed a few more there, including a couple a long-range passing shots (60 paces to one of the dead birds) that left me feeling pretty good about the day.

So, the lesson: shoot a gun with two triggers when hoping for a mixed bag! I have a nice thumblever Purdey that would have been a great choice. But the day came out well. Mike, wish you had been there to point out my folly.


Cal Walker said...

Nice write-up Peter. I was out in the fields on Sunday....saw plenty of birds, pheasant, quail and dove, even took a shot at a couple of ducks!
Nothing like a day in the fields of IV.
Good luck the rest of the year.

Cal Walker.

Gary Thompson said...

That bird picture just strikes me as weird, but very cool. Strange bed fellows, know what I mean? Great story.

Unknown said...

First time I've seen your blog. Enjoyed it very much. I hunt NE Ore. Have had a wonderful season. Thanks for sharing your hunts.
Pastor Owen