Rory and the 2001 Hunting Season

March 30, 2009 by  

By Doug Panchot

Having gone every hunting seasonexcept for last, without having a dog to hunt with of my own, I came to the conclusion that a gun dog is something that everyone should have the opportunity to have. Sure I have hunted with others who bring along their dogs when we hunt together. But there is nothing that compares to having your own dog retrieving the very birds that you harvest.

Last season was a good year for my black lab “Rory” and me. We started Rory off shooting some blue-wing teal right away on opening day. She did well so to fill the bag of ducks I had the opportunity to harvest a nicely plumaged drake mallard to fill the bag for the day. I haven’t seen too many drakes with that color so early in the season. It was a nice way of ending Rory’s official first day of hunting. All that work during the winter and summer seemed too have paid off. I was one happy waterfowler walking across the CRP donning chest wader with a bag of decoys strapped to my back, gun in my left hand and the dog heeling on my right.

Little did I know that was just the start of another great season. My self and a couple of friends were hunting a large slough where mallards were starting to concentrate the following weekend. This would be the first time that she has had more than one gun shot over her. Rory worked flawless. The birds seemed to be working a bit harder than I anticipated. The first couple of mallards decoyed really well. I let the other guys take the first shots, they came up short, so I had to finish the work that they had started. This happened a few more times. The second to the last drake that I needed to take in order to fill my limit happened to give us a 20yd fly-by, the other two missed their shots once again and with a shot of about 35yds the drake folded cleanly and dropped into the standing cornfield we were hunting against. I gave Rory her command and in a few minutes she returned with the plump drake with jewelry around its foot. Not only was it her first band, but mine also. The guys just shook their heads when I brought it over to them. Nate and Steve you better practice up on your shooting skills for this up coming season!! The next couple of birds that were bagged were 45yd-crossing shots. The last mallard for my bag was one that seemed to sneak through my shot pattern on the first two attempts, the final shot hit him, but not to hard. He flew two hundreds yards out into the slough and dropped stone dead in the thick pigweed. In watching Rory I knew she had seen it go down. I sent her. It took her quite some time to get out to the area, with a 15 mph cross wind. As she approached the area where the bird went down she swam down wind and circled around the area twice before catching the scent and getting the bird. What a retrieve for an 11month old pup!! After 15 minutes she had the bird in my hand and a snicker bar in her mouth. The final bird to fill my limit was the drake Canvasback. What a magnificent shot it was. The flock of 5 birds came out of nowhere; I swung on the lead bull and pulled my trigger and the third bird back (which happened to be a drake) skipped across the water. Again the retrieve was made perfectly. What a way to end a memorable day afield.

Goose hunting with Rory was a bit interesting this year. Seeing that she was only eleven months old in October she was a bit undersized for the residents we harvested in October and November. On one occasion we were hunting a small complex of sloughs that the geese usually loaf in during the day. The sloughs were almost completely dried up. This made it very difficult for us to get into. Nothing like dragging the canoe full of decoys and a dog across numerous fifty-yard mud flats to get into the area we usually hunt. With a lot of work we finally got into the spot. Setting up the three dozen duck decoys and half dozen Canada decoys was no easy task in two feet of gumbo mud and three inches of water. With not having that many mallards getting up when coming into the slough I figured that we would have a rough day. Boy was I wrong!! After getting the decoys set out, hiding the canoe and getting situated in the reeds we were ready. It wasn’t five minutes into legal shooting time that I heard a couple of lone honks. It seemed that they were coming our way. It was still hard to see, but I had a good idea that they were coming from the north. It didn’t take them very long to cover the half-mile to where we were waiting in ambush. All I had to do was give them a couple of clucks and it was all over with. With only 3” 3’s I was concerned. The Winchester Supremes did the job. Now came the interesting moment, Rory retrieving the big birds across the mud. It was more of a drag than a retrieve. She just wasn’t big and strong enough yet to carry the big birds in her mouth and walk across two feet of gumbo mud. She got them to me though. About fifteen minutes later we filled our limit of canadas when a single came out of the stratosphere to meet its maker, when a string of Hevi-shot 4’s met up with him. The bird landed only twenty feet away, which made it an easy “drag” for Rory. We ended the day on that note. Rory had many more days where limits of mallards and geese were collected throughout the season.

Hunting pheasants with a dog is something else to watch and be a part of. I have only on a few occasions been able to do that. Most of it was done in CRP. The pheasant hunting that we usually do is the late season variety where we tromp through the edges of frozen sloughs in search of the elusive rooster. With Rory being smaller and a ball of fire this was something she was built for. It is just amazing watching her weave between my brother-in-law and my self and the thickest cover imaginable. Then we she starts to speed up and start pouncing you know that something is about to happen. The rooster erupts and the shots are fired and the dog looks at you like you are a lunatic for not knocking down a bird. Hey what can I say, when I’m used to those in your face canadas and mallards, not a crossing shot at 25 yards. We did bag some pheasants during the later part of the season, so not all was lost.

It is an amazing thing to have the dog that you trained out in the slough, wheat stubble field or CRP taking part in the past time that you love so much. If only you could have seen my smile when she fetched up her first duck, goose and pheasant. Everyone should be able to have the same feeling.

Now that Rory is pretty much full grown at seventy pounds and stills has the drive that won’t quite, we are looking forward to another great season in the vastness of the North Dakota Prairie!

ht path from us the prior evening. There were so many birds we didn’t worry about disturbing a few the night before. We put out about 400 decoys, a collage of windsocks, shells, rags, and goose magnets. We got into the blinds this morning, and spent a long time making them disappear. At first light, the scout flocks started to make their runs. With the help of a couple ecallers, small flocks of snow geese started appearing from the south of us. There wasn’t too much wind, so I expected a lot of circling by the geese in route to our landing zone. Boy was I wrong. Juveniles don’t have the patience or the knowledge to check out a decoy spread, to them the dinner bell is ringing. The birds would “shuck” into the spread so fast you had to let them circle. And once one started shucking, it’s like it turned into a race as to which goose would land first. This made for mostly clean harvests, with an occasional cripple which we ran down. As the morning ends we start picking up the spread, only to be bombarded with yet more geese. At this point I can only laugh, is this goose heaven or what?


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