I needed a break from work. Sunset was less than an hour away. It was too late to hunt turkey, and the ducks aren’t here, but I still needed to get out. I asked Linda if she wanted to join, and she did. At least we would witness beautiful end-of-day weather.
We drove out to the creek and I decided to walk it. I parked and Linda elected to stay in the car. Her responsibility would be to photograph the sunset while I would do a quick loop.
I loaded up and walked the road to where the creek crosses under a bridge. Historically birds on the huntable side of the road flee at first seeing me … over to the side I can’t hunt. As I approached this time something quite the opposite happened: a rooster flew from the safe haven on the right side, across the road, and filed, to settle along the creek several hundred yards upstream. I noted the spot and proceeded.
I was wearing a shirt, sweater, and down vest. The vest wrecks the way I shoulder my gun. I didn’t want to drop the vest as by the time I got to where the bird was I would be just cold enough to lose my edge on the jump. Then as I got closer I couldn’t shed my vest, as any waiting bird would seize the opportunity, and flush unscathed. So I practiced bringing the gun up and securing a good sight picture.
I got close to where the bird landed and was startled by the splash of a muskrat behind me.
The lay of the situation suggested the bird would still be there. There was too much water for the bird to run, up the bottom, and I was now close enough to see anything running up the bank. And the cover for the bird ended. He had to be close.
Closer, and closer, and no bird.
I kicked clods into the grass and water.
Somehow the bird had moved on, unaware.
As sometimes they do … escaping unaware.
It was over. Then he flushed!
I was so keyed for the jump that the first shot was pure reflex, close, a bit behind, sawing off his tail. My second shot was conscious, and felled the bird. Both shots were almost instant, and it amazed me how much ground the bird covered between the two … (and) it amazed me how essentially a dead bird could still be making such a fast exit.
I wanted to brag (to Linda), yet I was also humbled … everything had happened faster than skill. I had nearly missed the bird, on the first shot, and while I did everything to be ready for the flush, the bird still so totally surprised me.