A Maiden Voyage by Jason King
2008 Spaniel Journal Writing Contest Winner
November 1st, 2007, was the opening day of quail season in Missouri. Normally one would find me following a big running pointer in pursuit of gentleman bob. This day, however, brought a new challenge from a bird and a dog that are unrealized by the locals of southwest Missouri: the woodcock and springer spaniel.
Tim Baker and I hunted along Herring Creek on that afternoon hunt. I was there on a hunch after flushing a bird in the area during the 2006 deer season. Not long after we started, Timís springer, Spud, flushed a woodcock. A little farther another bird was produced and dispatched by Timís 12ga double. We followed the creek for some time up to the fence that borders an open field. As we turned to come back down the creek Spud flushed a bird that flew back behind us and tucked into some brush. I pursued with Sally, my little setter female, and the bird took to air. The first shot found the center of a small post oak.
If the bird had held its course, it would have lived another day. But it hooked to the left offering me a quick shot over the top of a nasty plum thicket. A quick tug on the back trigger of my CZ bobwhite 28ga and my first woodcock was down.
"James took off like a bolt of lightning, and disappeared into the bush. After about 30 seconds, out came a five month old spaniel with the bird in his mouth prancing back to me as proud as a pup can be."
As we waited for the dogs to locate and retrieve the bird, we realized it was taking too long and something was out of place. We ventured into the plum thicket and watched as the dogs hunted diligently for the downed bird. Tim suddenly attracted my attention by pointing up into the sky. My woodcock was hanging about ten feet in the air from a tangled mess and had yet to find the soft ground shaded below. Just after Tim pulled out his camera and snapped one for the scrapbook, the bird fell and Spud was quick to retrieve. I stood with a child like grin, filled with excitement from my first kill of this elusive little bird. This hunt would prove to be day one of an obsession that will surely last a lifetime.
The hunt I just described to you was my first experience with both woodcock and spaniels, and I have become consumed by both. I now have my own spaniel pup and have found other places that will likely hold woodcock come fall. By watching Timís spaniel work cover that day it became clear to me that I had to have one of those dogs. I have spent countless hours training my new puppy and learning about spaniels. Although I have always been a fan of my pointing dogs, and I will probably always have a setter to hunt with, I believe that I am starting to be won over by spaniels.
Since getting my puppy, we have had a lot of adventures and the memories are already piling up. When my pup was only five months old, I had him picking up pheasants from a European pheasant shoot. He had been introduced to birds and guns, and seemed to love both. As if I wasnít already hooked on these dogs, something happened at that European hunt that will always stay with me. James (my springer puppy), had marked a few birds down and made some nice retrieves. About half way through the course, a bird came straight at us. The guns dumped the bird about 50 yards in front of us and I sent James out for the retrieve. The big black pheasant popped up, still full of life and ran for a nearby plum thicket.
James took off like a bolt of lightning, and disappeared into the bush. After about 30 seconds, out came a five month old spaniel with the bird in his mouth prancing back to me as proud as a pup can be.
The gunners commented, "That is amazing! How old is that dog?" I tried to act like it was no big deal, but I could not have been more proud of my spaniel puppy.
As summer seems ready to lengthen the days and warm the air, I find my thoughts are filled with anxious excitement of fall and the memories I will make with my new found friend.