Leaving West Yellowstone before first light allows us to arrive in camp by dark. The days are short, getting shorter by the day – it’s damn near impossible to drive six hundred plus miles and arrive with light in the sky. Big Karl and his Father had been there for two days prior to our arrival, when we pulled up to their 1960’s Airstream, Karl popped out with a Bud can in hand and quickly drained it. He walked over, extending his right hand for a shake and in the other was a beer for me…..Bird Camp was upon us.
I shot the photo above while waiting for Willie the Shorthair to finish up at the vet. Earlier that morning, P-Man and I had slipped into Quill Pig Ditch for a look around. Stella pointed a hen pheasant right out the gate, then a pair of sharptails flushed wild and I dropped one, missing the chance on a double. “Oh well” I thought to myself, “this walk between the wheat stubble feels right”. A moment later, Willie turned back towards us revealing a three inch gash in his chest, skin flapping. Old barbed wire, hidden in the tall grass, had sliced him. Willie could’ve cared less and wanted to keep hunting, but we turned around and walked a fifty yards back to the rig. An hour or so later, we finally found a vet. P-Man was bummed, as Willie was now out for two solid weeks while his body healed. That really sucks, it’s early November and your pointer is down…..what else is a guy to do but drink more beer. No reason for P-Man to get up early now. As it turned out, another friend in the group had a pointer nail a fence as well. Two dogs down in one day…..that happened last year. All of us drank too much that night.
Stella has a maddening amount of drive, which is not all that bad, but reigning in this drive can be quite difficult from time to time. She is young, barely in her second year…..consistency is not her MO just yet, even though we worked throughout the summer on all the basics. Her nose works, that’s for sure, now it’s up to me to refine her game. She throws out a few different pointing styles, the one that sticks out in my mind is the belly crawl down to a low point. If she does this in the CRP, you can’t see her until you’re feet away. She pinned several running roosters and that point is super cool as well – she’ll be twisting around in the grass, following the scent, inhaling it and then quickly sprin ten feet only to land half-cocked on point. If I am close enough for shot, this point almost always results in a rooster.
We arrived to freezing rain and wind, the roads were shit, but we hunted the afternoons anyway. Then warm air came back in, melting the snow and ice ensuring the prairie trails to become impassable for two days. Just a few days later, a storm hit with big wind and snow, from the north, and blasted us. Each successive morning there after found us sitting around, drinking coffee, ’till it warmed up a few degrees. We hit the field around eleven each day, but hunting was slow moving in the deep, snow drifted bottoms of eastern Montana. More frigid weather was on its way, so pulling out early was inevitable. Within twenty-four hours, the rigs were headed south for West Yellowstone, at a snail’s pace via a ice/snow packed two lane highway.