It was my first day out pheasant hunting this year, so when two roosters disappeared into 6 foot tall mostly dead nettles the dogs and I had to follow. Partially becuase we were out pheasant hunting and partially because this was pheasant hunting in southern Wisconsin and the general rule seems to be if you aren’t slogging through mud or stuck in some sort of ridiculous cover, you’re not really pheasant hunting.
Despite the fact that dead nettles scratch more than burn and were well above my head, I managed to drop the first bird that went up in a beautiful head-over-tail somersault. Trip and I both marked its fall and we were off, up a slight incline where we popped out of the tangle of nettles at the edge of a canal. Only to realize that the bird had clearly dropped on the far side.
We were pheasant hunting in southern Wisconsin after all, where all public hunting land seems to involve the word, “Marsh ” and this place was no exception, a large chunk of public land with a network of man-made canals and natural ponds and waterways connected by a lot of soggy ground and cattails.
However, Trip was on it. He jumped down the edge of the bank and landed on what seemed to be a dryish spit of mud extending into the water. It was not dryish. It was, apparently, quite soggy and the mud came half way up his back as I yelled encouragements, willing him to keep moving since if he got stuck and I had to join him in the mud, I wasn’t sure either one of us was going to make it out. Trip wallowed and slimed his way to the edge of the mud, quickly swam across to the other side and encountered a tall, steep bank.
That old dog of mine jumped on his hindlegs and scrabbled with his front paws, whined and jumped some more while I yelled more encouragements from the other shore till he made it up and over the edge and disappeared into the cover on the other side.
Moments later he was back, rooster in his mouth. He ran to the edge of the bank, looking across at me like the beautiful, wonderful dog he is. Then he spit out the bird, gave me his best doggy smile and swam back over to me.
All the encouragements and re-direction could not get him, Goose, or my friend, both of whom had showed up in the middle of the fun, to re-cross the mud.
Fortunately, there was another way to the other side. A quick car ride and a rather long hike later (during which I only filled one boot up with water) Trip pointed my dead bird which was, conveniently, right where he left it.
Chasing pheasants in southern Wisconsin isn’t always very glamorous. But there is always a story.