At just seven months old, Bo had been hunting pheasants for less than a week, but she had more multi-state pheasant experience than most dogs in a lifetime. We started on Saturday opening day of the Nebraska pheasant season and took three roosters in time to hunt chickens in the afternoon. Then a couple more roosters the following mourning before I headed home.
Wednesday mourning Bo took the two bird Minnesota limit and that afternoon the three-bird North Dakota bag limit.
At 10:00am Thursday mourning we began hunting a South Dakota Walkin area and five minutes later Bo had her first South Dakota pheasant! A couple hundred yards later, Bo got birdy and pushed a rooster through trees and over my head. I shot once fast trying to hit it without turning around, but I was behind the bird. As I spun, I found an opening in the canopy for my second shot. The rooster curved into that downward arc we all hate to see. Gonna be dead, but probably dug into a nasty tangle.
In Nebraska, a game warden told me the retrieving philosophy of a dogless pheasant hunting friend of his. If he wasn't sure the bird fell dead, rather than hustle over to try to find it, he would mark the fall and then continue hunting away from the fall. Then ten or more minutes later, he would return to the fall and typically find the rooster dug in right where it fell. His theory was that cripples run because they hear the dog or hunter chasing after them. If nothing chases the bird, he digs in right where he hit the ground. This was a good time to test his theory, as Bo hadn't seen the bird fall and it was easy to call her back with "No Bird, no bird!".
After reaching the end of the shelterbelt, I hunted the grassy edge back to the small pot hole where the cripple fell. Bo was sloshing around more drinking than hunting, as I circled to the downwind side to send Bo in to search. As I rounded to the back side, I looked up to see a rooster pheasant sitting on a dirt clod right next to the cattails. He was teetering, and then he fell over dead! Ok, it wasn't much of a retrieve for Bo, but bird number two was in the bag and test one on the cripple theory proved positive.
What should have been our limit bird literally flushed right under my feet as I was hustling to circle into an opening as Bo was trailing birds through a dilapidated corral. I just looked down to make sure there wasn't any barbed wire under the grass as I passed between two fence posts and I saw a rooster looking back up at me! Yeah, I missed him twice as Bo pushed several pheasants out of the corral. I didn't see her birds as I was busy missing my gimme.
An hour later, I received permission on some private that was the best looking pheasant cover I had ever seen. And I've seen a lot of pheasant cover. A wild, overgrown pasture with a winding, beaver dam choked creek. The pasture draws were full of head high volunteer sun flowers, rag and ditch weed. Then on top of the hill was a picked corn field with strips of standing that surrounded a shelter block. Not a belt, a block of alternating bushes, grass strips, cedar trees and more bushes in no particular order. Then below the hill was another picked corn field with several more rows of standing corn! And I just received permission to hunt the ground for as many days as I wanted. As long as I always came alone.
I set Bo loose in the pasture, as far from the house as I could get. And like you would expect, she flushed a pair of roosters at 20 yards, from a brush pile along the creek. They were slow flying juvenile roosters, just the ones the owner asked me to kill. He said he had too many pheasants and for some reason there were a lot of very young birds that he didn't think would make it through the winter. One of them definitely didn't live to flush again and Bo carried him the 50 yards back to the truck. You see, we were kinda in a hurry, because there was still time to drive back to Minnesota and have a few hours left to find Bo another Minnesota pheasant or two.