The Close Call
Author: Zack Reinoehl
The moment I had grabbed my Beretta and took my frayed and faded orange vest from the closet my German Shorthairs Gunner -8 years old and Maja (mah-jya) -6 years old began dancing in circles and barking with excitement. Their enthusiasm can only be compared to that of my kids when of a similar age were told they were going to Disney. It’s in this that I envy my dogs. They know two things- What pleases them and their ability to do it well pleases me. In simply this they are content.
What started off as a brisk October morning quickly became warm and dry. I walked to the outskirts of the fields where the previous week’s hunters too numerous to count had trampled through the sorghum and switchgrass leaving it void of any living game. Gunner and Maja hurried through the fields in a purposeful manner much as I do when crossing the street to get to where I buy my coffee with no time to sightsee or mess around.
Having passed through two fields we headed toward the surrounding woods. Having played this game their whole lives they cut through the brush and made zig zagging sweeps through the briars and huckleberry. I walked the edge of the transition point as they moved in line just slightly ahead and to the side of me. We crossed a ravine and upon moving up the next hill Gunner locked up on point. Maja quartering in from the far side acknowledged his point and honored.
I slowly moved ahead in attempt to flank the bird in front of Gunner. Before I advanced 10 feet a rooster erupted out from under a deadfall 40 yards ahead. The lightweight Beretta 690 snapped up instinctively and its 20 gauge bore sent #6 shot through the thick saplings. I saw the bird’s head dropped making a second shot not necessary.
The bird fell and both dogs remained frozen in position. I released Gunner for the retrieve which he did enthusiastically. Upon placing the rooster in my vest I released Maja. Instantly she charged ahead where a previously crippled bird had been hiding. It tried to take to the air but could only muster flights of 20-30 yds in between sprinting and weaving through the thick understory. Gunner assisted and they chased the rooster to the edge of an embankment. The bird took one last desperate leap and soared off the edge. My dogs followed and disappeared leaving behind billowing dust rising up from the drop off.
My heart sank and I panicked certain that both of my dogs just fell to their death. I sprinted to the edge and looked down a near vertical slope 100 feet to the bottom where train tracks cut through the woods. There were two pairs of slide marks going down the face of this edge left behind from my dogs trying to slow their descent. To my relief I saw both dogs crossing the tracks and going over a berm. A 30 foot wide creek flowed in line with the tracks which both dogs leaped halfway across before disappearing into a thick stand of Pines.
I could do nothing but wait and 15 minutes later I could see them returning. Maja in the lead crossing the creek returning with the hardest earned pheasant she ever recovered.