Bird Dog & Retriever News

April / May 2003 issue Page 20

  The Honey Hole
By Loyde Childs

t, hence a honey "hole". It is that impeccable place or time when everything is the best like no other. Regardless of what you do, if you do it long enough, you will remember that special time when it all together.
In bird hunting three things have to be right to have a chance for a perfect event to happen. First, the scenting conditions for the dogs need to be exceptional, and the dogs must put game in the air for close easy shots. Second, the hunter must make every shot. Finally, there must be an abundance of game. When all this happens together, hunting seems so ridiculously easy.
I have found that at the time of these significant moments it is like reaching the pinnacle of a mountain and asking what is next, what is left? Oh it certainly is fun to be part of the happening, but the challenge is gone. Sometimes I have felt it was not a matter of skill but all luck. When you reach this level your happiness or degree of satisfaction will be based on your expectations of what you want to accomplish. If you can visualize what you expect is the ultimate then when it happens it might not be so gratifying. However, if it is much better than your greatest expectations, it will be a lofty high. It's like the first time you found the mint on your pillow in a first class hotel that you never expected to find. Now your expectations for that hotel are huge, and if they don't come up with something else in the future you will not feel good about your next visit.
Ed, my hunting partner, and I experienced the ultimate with pheasant hunting in Iowa in 1993. You may recall that 1993 was the year of the great flood. Des Moines was hit hard along with several cities in central Iowa. With all the water the word quickly spread that the pheasant season would be washed out. Conservation people spread the message and in the fall, outof-state hunters were noticeably absent. We had hunted North Dakota in October and had put up with wind gales for three days. We returned with seven birds, which equates to a poor hunt. With all we had heard about the water in Iowa the pheasant season appeared to be pretty bleak.
Our first trip to Iowa was in mid November and we started finding birds in our old spots. This was a surprise based on the prior information. Late one afternoon we had some runners on the ground and the dogs finally put them up out of range. They flew across an east-west trending road into an area we had not hunted.
The next morning we spent some time to try to obtain permission to hunt the area where we saw the pheasants fly into the day before. After several attempts we found a party who had farmed some of the land and explained that the owner lived in Northern Iowa however, we could hunt the area.
The land ("The Honey Hole") is cut corn strips trending down hill, with several small islands of heavy grass, and with a creek with good cover meandering through what turns out to be about one hundred acres. We start hunting down hill about two hundred yards apart. As I head into the first bit of heavy cover Brandy starts flushing pheasant roosters into the air all around me. I swing on one only to pull up to get an easier shot. I shoot two birds quickly and move only a few feet when more erupt. I knock down a third. I pick one up and Brandy brings the other two back to me. I have my limit and start to go back to the truck while watching Brandy put more birds in the air, all within gun range. Nearly all the birds I saw in the air were cocks. This is not unusual, as late in the year after a cold spell the birds will flock up by sex. When I get back to the truck Ed is coming down the road and he also has his limit of 3 birds. It is a Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. and we are done hunting for the day. This is a bit out of the ordinary since we normally will hunt late in the day to get a limit of birds. It was quick and fun to say the least, and we also got a chance to watch football on television back at the motel. Something we usually can do only when there are night games.
During the remainder of the season we made four more trips to Iowa and hunted primarily the same spot with the same results. Every time we hunted the area we found the birds. They moved around and sometimes it might take an hour to find them but we knew we would.
One particular stretch, which I remember, was always excellent. It was a tall grass piece which was about fifty yards wide and extended about a quarter mile. It was a gentle up-hill walk with a fifteen to twenty degree grade. I had my best luck working with Bonnie as she was a bit slower than Brandy and would not rush the birds into the air. I knew that when I got to the fence on the far end that the birds on the run would be airborne once they ran out of cover. This is a given when hunting with a flushing dog. Your heart is in your mouth as the end nears and up they come, but you're ready and that's what it is all about. High expectations just like the mint on the pillow!
Over the last several years we have hunted that same land with poor results. Although the land looks the same and there is corn planted each year there are no birds. I can't explain the change over the years. However, I'll never forget how easy it was that fall in a place we called "The Honey Hole".
Loyde Childs hails from Marshall, WI

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