They gave fair warning. In fact, it seemed that they exchanged a look, shrugged their shoulders and then looked back as if to say, “Please don’t look for the bird on the ground. Look up.” ‘They’ were two beautifully-poised Brittanys, named Jessie and Josie Wales, heads cocked, eyes locked onto ‘their’ bird. It really was their bird, well, theirs’ and Jacob’s. Jacob was the guide, using hand signals to silently shift the two dogs one way or the other. Pellets from the top barrel dislodged some feathers, those from the bottom brought the chukar down. Jessie led the charge towards the falling body. Her retrieve was redolent of Robert Ruark’s wonderful renditions of his boyhood hunts for quail. As a matter of fact, just like Ruark’s dogs, the Brittany spat out the loose feathers before heading back into the midst of the wheat field, and her next bird.
The wheat fields, river bottoms and hardwood stands – all to be traversed in this outing after chukar, pheasant and bobwhite quail – were located outside Danielsville, Georgia. The hosts for this hunt were Colby Phillips and Jacob Nash, co-owners of South Fork Hunting Preserve. They were the reason for the wonderful cadre of spaniels, pointers and setters. Jacob and Colby train all of the dogs used on their property, currently 21 in number. We would be hunting behind three pairs of their companions/co-workers. Now, don’t get me wrong, Colby and Jacob were fantastic guides, but their dogs were something special.
It seemed that there was only a minute-or-two to briefly hold and examine the lovely chukar. Jessie and Josie wetted themselves in one of the small water tanks used as cooling-off stations for the dogs during warmer weather and then were once again on the move. It seemed to take only another minute for the two pointers to lock up on another bird. Once again, the bird was mostly missed with the first barrel of the 12-gauge, but at the report of the second it dropped. This time the dogs retrieved a hen pheasant. Again, there was only a moment or two for admiring the beauty of the creature before the dogs again took off. Crisscrossing the field in a way that looked like a choreographed dance, heads sometimes held down and sometimes in the air, they worked as a team to cover the most area. It was indeed choreography; the dogs had been trained by their handlers to ‘dance’ together, in a manner most likely to locate the game. This time the bird got up from directly under Josie’s nose. It was actually amazing that she chose not to snatch the bird out of the air, instead of waiting for the report of the shotgun. This time the pellets brought down a male bobwhite quail. The tobacco-stained coloration of the little bobwhite females is beautiful, but the bleached-white appearance of the cheek patches found on the males is even more striking. The downing of the quail marked the end of the two Brittanys’ work-day.
Next week: In the Company of Artists – Chapter 2