y son Jacob was not always a hunter. As a small child, he even thought it was bad to hunt. As he grew older, I let him make up his own mind - and he decided he was going to be a hunter.
At the age of ten, he started out hunting blue grouse. Since he was young, I let him decide if he wanted to shoot at a grouse sitting in a tree. He did, of course. But he also was trying wing shots and he got a couple on the wing. When we went chukar hunting, he tried like heck and he was lucky enough to get four chukar that year: two flying and two running. It was a start in the right direction
Well, the 2005 season started out ok. I would say the blue grouse numbers were low and chukar were also not as plentiful as the year before. We started out with grouse and we both did pretty good. Chukar season began and Jacob struggled to hit them on the wing.
Jacob proudly displays his first grouse
One night, after we got back from chukar hunting, I got a phone call from a guy I grew up with. He said, "The ducks are here... come as soon as you can." Hugh was my best friend all through school. He owns a large farm. Hugh grows corn on most of the farm and only allows good friends to hunt with a invitation.
Friday rolled around and Jacob was ready to climb the walls. We both knew that since we were waterfowl hunting we would need our best retriever. He came in the form of a English springer spaniel named Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger MH. Buzz was eleven years old at the time. His hearing was not as good as it once was. He eyesight was not as sharp - but what he lacked due to age, he made up for in experience.
We pulled up to the farm house well before daylight. We gathered up the decoys and headed for the field. After setting up, we each found a spot to cover up with corn and wait for the first duck hunt of Jacobís life. As we were lying in the corn rows, we were dressed in camo. Even Buzz was dressed in his camo. He was lying beside me, quiet, but shaking. Since it was warm, I knew it was excitement. Buzz was not the only one - Jacob was also shaking like a leaf. He couldnít wait for his first duck. The hat he was wearing was my hat I had when I was a kid hunting ducks. Hugh named it "the carpet hat" and it was good to see him wear it.
Jacob and Buzz pose with the day's ducks
I would like to say that our success was due to my ability to call, but that wouldn't be the truth. The fact is the ducks wanted to be there. They would even try to land with us standing up. I did use my calls, but like I said they were not needed.
As the first ducks started to fall, I held off from shooting. I wanted to watch what Jacob did and brush Buzz up on his manners while duck hunting. We had four hunters in the party: Hugh, Jacob, me (Ron) and Mike. I thought Jacob would have a tough time but Mike was worse than Jacob when it came to shooting. Jacob was taking his birds while they were hanging right above the decoys. He was having the time of his life.
I was watching the sky for incoming ducks but I also needed to watch Buzz because even though he is old he was watching for incoming ducks behind me. Hugh had hunted with Buzz many times over the years.
In fact, he was the only dog that was allowed to hunt geese in his fields. Other dogs always seemed to do more harm than good, he always said. Buzz made some good field retrieves and Mike was very impressed with his skills. I told him that he should have seen him when he was about six years old.
It seemed like we had just begun when it was all over. Jacob made some great shots for his age and we were both very happy. Hugh and I were talking about the old days of duck hunting and it was fun. We took some pictures and headed home to clean our birds.
I got a phone call as soon as I got home. It was Hugh. He said a bunch of geese had moved in after we left and said to come back tomorrow.
We got up a little earlier the next day and Buzz was ready again. The old boy had made 28 retrieves the day before. I thought he might be sore. We got to the farm and found out it would only be us for the day. We set up in the same place as before and found our spots like before. Jacob was in a hurry to limit out again... and did so quickly. I would pull my gun up and take a lead on the duck just to see him fold to Jacob's 20 guage Weatherby. Soon he was done and I only needed two birds.
Hugh walked out to adjust the decoys (if you know what I mean) and we heard some geese coming. I hit the goose call and Hugh hit the dirt. This was Jacob's first chance at a goose. As the birds came over the lead goose turned around and set it's wings. The birds were cupped and committed. Jacob shot with his 20ga and I followed with a pair out of my 12. The goose came down soft and landed about 75 yards out.
I released Buzz. He took off after the crippled goose. Buzz found the goose running down a corn row as fast as it could go. The goose turned to fight but Buzz hit him at full speed. Both the dog and the bird were rolling on the ground. Buzz started to pick up the goose and soon he was dragging it. Hugh said, "That is why I like that dog, he never messes up your chance at a shot."
Jacob was amazed at the size of the goose. He looked it over and over. His excitement was fun to watch. Who got the bird? I don't think it matters.
I limited out on ducks soon after the geese came in. Hugh didn't fill his limit, but it was his choice. He said, "All I need is a couple... besides, I like watching Jacob having fun."
In the two days, we shot a total of 44 ducks and one goose. Buzz retrieved almost every bird. I can't help but think that someday Jacob will look back on hunting with Buzz and smile. He will remember the little spaniel that just always got the job done. The dog that was a good luck charm. The dog he loved because he was a part of the family. And as Jacob, Hugh and I look back on Buzz we donít need the AKC title to tell us he was a Master Hunter. He was one from the very beginning.