40 Minutes Of Bliss by Gary Adair
Although I can’t take credit for coining the adage “A bad day of hunting is better than a good day of work,” I can relate to its ingenious connotation. Work stinks! Yet, the good days afield will forever be our most memorable. And in ‘03 there were no shortages of these “good days” for the dogs and I. No, hunting three new species of game birds in Oregon — blue grouse, mountain quail and band-tailed pigeons and watching Sage blossom into a seasoned pro were all unforgettable. But so were Kentucky’s dove opener and our annual trip to Michigan to pursue woodcock and ruffed grouse.
However, the one hunt that stands alone involved Cinnamon and a few Kentucky woodcock. I like to refer to it as the 40-minute hunt.
It was a seasonably, late-October morning when I arose from the confines of my comfortable bed and decided I was game for a mid-morning hunt. Because Sage was somewhat tender-footed from previous outings, I decided it was best to rest him and take only Cinnamon. Arriving at the WMA (wildlife management area) around 10:45am, I grab my gun, released Cinnamon from her dog box and headed down the graveled trail to one of our favorite coverts. As we reached the bottom of the hill we ran into a deer hunter and his girlfriend, who were dragging out a prize — a decent eight-pointer, from the morning’s hunt. After ten-minutes of customary hunter jibber-jabber, we bid one another farewell and went our separate ways.
Working our way towards the base of the covert, Cinnamon began to show signs of birdiness. “Find-em girl,” I instructed. With her tail wind milling and her pace quickening, Cinnamon methodically followed the edge of a spring seep indicating to me she was definitely on game. With my gun at the ready, my heart would skip a few beats when a covey of about twenty-five quail — not the anticipated woodcock, flushed before us. Unfortunately, no shots could be fired, since Kentucky’s quail opener was five days away.
With Cinnamon looking to where the quail had flown and then back at me — as if to say, “hey stupid, the birds went over there,” I told her to forget about them and lined her in the direction of the covert. Two-minutes hadn’t passed since the quail encounter when Cinnamon was back at it again. This time it was a woodcock and he would fall in a puff of feathers from only one slap of the trigger. After a crisp retrieve to hand and a couple of head rubs, she returned to hunt-mode in short order.
Heading up the ridge towards an edge of blackberry brambles, I noticed Cinnamon repositioning from the outside of the cover. Apparently a woodcock was trying to evade her by running as she tried to close the door on him. I thought to myself, “you picked the wrong dog to pull this on” when all of a sudden Cinnamon froze. “Get him, girl,” I commanded and with that she plowed into the cover flushing the bird. With the Timber doodle flying directly towards me, the first shot I could muster-up was at 12:00 high — which I’m miserable at, before finally catching up with the bird and wing-tipping him going away. Because Cinnamon was out of position to mark the fall, she frantically began searching the area for the prize. “Over here girl,” I told her and as she entered the area of the fall, the bird took to the air. It concluded with one string of #8’s.
Continuing our momentum further up the ridge, I began to have reservations for the remainder of our hunt. Not only had the dogs and I harvested birds off this property on previous outings; flight-birds were a good week or two away. Well, that apparently meant nothing to Cinnamon as she scoured the area diligently and produced what would be our third and final bird. Once again she proved my deductions wrong which is something you would think I’d be use to by now. After all, she is the true hunter of the team!
Back at the truck my clock revealed it was 11:30am. Minus the five-minute walk downhill and the ten-minutes spent talking to the hunter; I guess I should have called this 30-minutes of bliss. Regardless, as I reminisce about this special day — the covey of quail, the limit of woodcock, the time spent outdoors, the one things that stands out most is the pride I have for my dynamo little Chessie, Cinnamon.