While at home yesterday I had a surprise visit from an old friend, Eric Bullock. He was a friend of my son and daughter's who went hunting big game with me on several occasion's while he was in high school. His visit reminded me of how many young men and a couple of young women I took out on first hunts. There were lot's of successful hunts and most of those young people still send me notes and pictures of them still hunting to this day which I really appreciate.
Eric mentioned he was on the list of Bob Farris's Poodle Pointers and was hoping to start doing more bird hunting now that his family is almost raised now. I envy the exciting journey of training and hunting with an upland dog he is about to encounter. It's just one more reason to be in the outdoors enjoying life.
What has this got to do with confession's? While visiting with Eric I realized I'm still a young kid. Most elderly gentlemen, which I am getting close to that age, say it doesn't matter about getting birds anymore, it's about the dog's or experience. Somehow, I never grew up. Although I wouldn't hunt chukars without a dog and I do love the scenery, I don't think I'd be out there humping the hills the way I do if I didn't think I could have some success. I still love walking up on a point, flushing the birds, and being successful with the shotgun. If not, why even pack it. I take hundreds of pictures every year and although I enjoy taking them, most of them are just to show off my dogs abilities. I never get the thrill with a camera as I do with the gun. Maybe that's wrong for an almost elderly man but somehow being successful, not only with dog work but also with the gun, is why I am out there.
The last two weeks have slapped me in the face to how immature for my age I must be. First of all, I went into a dismal slump of shooting. I thought of calling Troy over in California for some shooting tips but I soon realized these slumps are fairly common each year for me. Missing birds isn't uncommon for me but I was missing chip shots and I knew the dog's were wondering why hold the birds if the outcome was never to get a bird in the mouth? A mature elderly gentleman would not let that bother him and say something like "I was just out there for the dog's anyway and now I don't have as many birds to clean". Not me. I'd get home and be so frustrated with my shooting I couldn't let it go and was making my plans for tomorrow's hunt. I did this for five days in a row, the dogs putting on over 100 miles each while I did 32 miles and countless thousands of feet of elevation gain. Most almost elderly gentlemen would have been happy with all the beautiful scenery they had seen and the great dog work but I was frustrated with my lack of successful participation. Driving 100 miles in the morning hoping for a good day of dog work accompanied by a day of good shooting and than driving 100 miles home with the let down that I didn't do my part got pretty old.
I took a day off to reload some more shells and rest for the next days hunt with Conner. There was no way I was going to pack the camera and take pictures of Conner and the dog's and maybe get a shot now and then. I needed to put some birds in the vest and get my confidence back. That hunt was when I realized how immature for my age I must be. Most grandpa's would be plum tickled to have his 16 year old grandson with 7 birds in his vest while I had none and fired four shots. But with me not packing a camera over a shoulder for an excuse and knowing I wasn't getting my head down on the stock I was getting a little discouraged with myself, especially with Conner thinking I was the best chukar shot in the world. (Amazing how easily you can fool a kid).
The next covey of chukar the dog's pointed was Conner's eighth bird and I dropped one also. Anyhow I thought I did. I shot once and Conner shot twice. My confidence level was low enough I was wondering if maybe Conner shot my bird. He said he crippled his bird on the first shot and finished it on the second. A little more then two hours into the hunt and I had one bird and Conner had a limit. Since we were only about a mile from the truck and only a little short of 1000 feet of elevation gained a mature adult would have said "we've had a good day so let's head down" but with my performance of the past week I just had to try and redeem myself.
Try this for being an immature almost elderly man. What kind of grandpa would agree to letting his grandson pack his bird's all the way back to the truck, grab a camera and meet you somewhere on the hill and take pictures as I hunt. I quickly felt like an elderly man as I kept hunting behind my dog's and it seemed like at no time at all I could hear Conner's whistle letting me know he was back on the hill above me. It would have taken me forever to make that trip.