I'll admit to being selfish regarding dual limits. There were many that I'd still like to take, so I've been cheating Bo out of the opportunity to shoot several additional dual limits over her that I'd previously taken over other dogs. But today was to be different. She had already had an incredible first two months. At 7 months of age, I shot two combination limits, two double limits and a triple limit over her.
I had long dreamt of taking a double limit of pheasants from every major, bordering, pheasant state in the midwest. The two double limits we'd just taken were part of that fulfillment. But now I was wondering if I could possibly do this all over one dog! And a Lab at that. I took the Minnesota/Iowa dual, and the Kansas/Nebraska duals over Critter, a springer spaniel and Woogs a yellow Lab many years ago. Then the North Dakota/South Dakota dual over just Critter more than a few years ago.
I had a day to burn and hundreds of acres in each Dakota to get Bo into more birds today. Who knows, maybe we could do it.
I was determined to get a better feel for the number of birds by only hunting cover that we hadn't already worked in the past couple of days. Bo and I started by using a hill for cover as we approached a small slough in the middle of a picked, North Dakota corn field.
My plan appeared to be working as Bo was on birds as soon as we rounded the hill. I was hoping for an immediate flush but we walked nearly the length of the slough with only a couple of hens flushing. Then a rooster bolted out the far side staying low just in front of Bo's charge. He stayed so low I could barely make him out through the tall grass but at about 30 yards he gained some altitude and I could see Bo was losing ground when I shot. He carwheeled to the ground Like a dead bird, but Bo took several minutes to find him dug into some trash in a furrow.
I could see a brushy fenceline about a quarter mile away still bordered by picked corn and headed toward it. Several pheasants had been feeding in the corn along the fence line and as Bo was rousting a couple of hens, a rooster tried to sneak out behind us. I clipped a wing on him with my second shot and the chase was on. I tried to run to the side and get another shot at him around Bo but reloading, running and shooting at the same time are not a strong point of mine. I got the reloading and running done, just as he slipped back past Bo and ran straight toward me. Realizing his error, he started hopping rows and I shot him while Bo was still 20 yards behind and just about gassed.
We were very lucky with our North Dakota limit bird as I was just cutting across the middle of 160 acres of picked corn heading for a grass lined pot hole when Bo got birdy and with a few yards had another rooster in the air. It again took me two shots to bring this one down but he had a lot less life left than the last one.
Proud Bo was on her way back to the truck and struck bird scent again near the road, flushing a final rooster for an empty gun.
I really wanted to walk more of the farm I shot my last SD rooster on yesterday. I knew it had to be loaded with birds and boy was it! We started walking the pastured creek heading towards a shelter square in the middle of his ground. Probably 20 acres shaped like a maze with alternating shrubs and taller trees and grass strips throughout. But there was a heavy feeder draw with high cane, ditchweed and volunteer sunflowers that had to be worked.
This draw was more of a pocket in a hill so I stayed above and walked the perimeter while BO crashed around in the cane. A couple of birds flushed out the far side that I couldn't make out color when I heard Bo rattling closer and a rooster busted out in front of me. I hit him and then a second rooster flushed flying across the middle of the cover. I hit him as well, but not hard enough. He crashed down with a lot of life. I could hear chasing after the second bird so I set to finding the first. I found feathers where he hit the ground but the bird had run. I tried not to mess the area up tracking around but it was beginning to bother me that Bo was still looking as well.
I climbed up higher to see If I could locate Bo. She was returning and it looked like she had her bird. That was a relief, but we searched for a long time for the bird I was sure we would find, with no luck. It was difficult keeping Bo interested in this corner when she flushed several more hens and another rooster out of the cane.
I finally surrendered the bird to the cripple gods and headed for the shelter square. Bo flushed a pair of roosters at a fence on the hilltop and I hit one hard and this time I sensibly, didn't try for another double. This bird was doing his last flop in a mowed area when Bo scooped him up.
I was surprised by how few birds we flushed out of the heavy cover, but then it was midday and there was little for them to eat in the shrubs. We headed back down to the creek bottom and Bo flushed a juvenile rooster that was climbing above some streamside willows and I heard him splash in the creek. Then a large group of juveniles started flushing all around us.
It took some time to get Bo's attention from this group of pheasants as they didn't fly far and filtered back down within her sight. I finally got her through the willows and I couldn't see the bird anywhere in the beaver pond. Bo was voluntarily splashing around and soon had her head under overhanging tree roots on the far side. She was throwing mud and water out into the pool and gnawing at roots, but I couldn't find a dry way to help her. I just couldn't stomach losing another bird today, but just as I sat on the bank to ease my way into the pool, Bo was spitting tail feathers and soon had the mostly exfoliated bird out in the open. This bird would certainly be no candidate for pictures, but he sure was memorable.
This short unplanned trip would likely be the most memorable three hunting days of my life. When I left home I told my wife this was just a scouting trip and if Bo and I returned with three or four roosters, I'd be happy.
In just three days of hunting an area I had never hunted before, and with no contacts, Bo and I put 19 roosters in the cooler for the ride home.