As a kid, one of my favorite swimming holes was located at the base of a local landmark called Eagle Rock. Known to many locals as Soaks Hole or simply “Eagle Rock”, the swimming hole is part of a local irrigation canal that tumbles over a 12 foot waterfall and forms a deep pool. If you can somehow ignore the enormous horseflies and swarms of mosquitos, it’s a fantastic place to cool off during hot Wyoming summers. The farmland in the area is now leased by Trieven Hunt Club, a local game bird farm that allows hunting of pheasants and other game birds through the end of March.
Last Saturday, I had the opportunity, along with my brother Barry, nephew Carter, and a buddy, Jake, to visit the hunt club and work the dogs on some wild roosters. Barry brought his young dog Griz, a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (WPG), Jake had Miley (also a WPG), and I hunted with my 4 yr old Deutsch Drahthaar, Abby.
It feels weird hunting pheasants in March. The Spring-like weather last Saturday just made everything feel off. Unfortunately, we had missed a snowstorm earlier in the week, and most of the remaining snow had melted. Pheasants are notoriously difficult for pointing dogs to pin down, since they much prefer running to flying as an escape strategy. Snow accumulation gives hunters an advantage since running pheasants leave visible tracks and allow you to track them, along with the dogs. Additionally, if the accumulation is greater than a few inches, pheasants run less and are more likely to be pointed by a good dog.
Despite the dry conditions, we were able to track down a number of roosters and even shot a few over solid points. Most of the points were over hen pheasants, but we saw good dog work throughout the day. Griz in particular, pointed a hidden rooster that the other dogs had unknowingly run past moments before. After Barry flushed, Jake dispatched a wild ringneck with a single shot.
An incident with Griz made the day even more memorable, but because of his bird pointing skills. The land we were hunting had a large number of cows grazing on the property. Many of the cows had young calves with them, and we enjoyed seeing many newborn calves through the day. For the most part, the dogs left the livestock alone, but Griz seemed to have more than a passing interest in the cattle. This was confirmed as I was hunting along the canal bank and had a calf run right past me and tumble down into the empty canal. Moments later Griz appeared looking for his new play toy.
Although the canal is not carrying water this time of year, there is still ice over some of the deeper holes. The poor calf tried to stand up on the slippery surface, but to no avail. I frantically tried to get Griz gathered up, find a place to put my gun, and hopefully rescue the calf before he injured himself or worse (for me), before Mama came looking for him. Mother cows, like most animals, can be extremely dangerous when protecting their young, and knowing this, I wanted to be far away when she showed up looking for Junior.
I finally got my hands free and headed down into the canal to rescue the calf. I gathered him up and carried him up onto the bank. Just as I was setting him down, I spotted the mother walking up, just yards away. As I tried to put some distance between me and the mother, I looked back to see the calf stand up, take a few steps, and tumble once more off the bank and into the frozen canal. Only this time the calf broke through the ice and quickly sunk up to his neck.
I cautiously worked my way back to the calf, but the mother had that look in her eye warning me to stay away, despite my intention to help. Fortunately, Barry had arrived on the scene to manage the dogs and Jake was able to occupy the mother cow until I could get the calf out of the water and back on the bank to safety. We watched speechlessly as the pair trailed away, thinking about the crazy ordeal we had just witnessed, as well as the other events of the day. I believe, even though no one said a word, we were all thinking the same thing: maybe…just maybe, there’s a reason you don’t hunt pheasants in March!