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Oh, What a Night!

The Outdoors
Lead Summary
Scott Rall, outdoors columnist

I had the Black Pack Pheasant Attack group, (four seasoned black Labradors ranging in age from 2-11 years), out one afternoon this week, and man, was it an adventure!
I invited a friend who was in Nobles County for the week, and we made plans to try a pincher move on what is now very educated pheasants.
He went in from one end and I approached from the other.  You can only do this move with two experienced hunters that you have some experience with, because if it works out as planned, you end up trapping the birds between the two of you. Only after the birds have taken wing and moved off to the side in one direction or another can either hunter actually fire the gun safely.
Well, before we got close to one another, he had already harvested his two Minnesota roosters. I, on the other hand, had just missed a lay-up. A lay-up is an easy shot when the bird originates within 20 yards of me and is flushed by one of my dogs. I don’t miss this kind of shot very often, but when I do, it screws with my head.
We met in the middle, and he decided to take his dog and wander back to the truck. I continued to work my way around in some great habitat, flushing one hen right after another.
There is one spot on this parcel that is normally good for a bird, and it allows the hunter to work toward a big bend in a modest creek. The birds run ahead until they have no place left to run and have to take wing.
As we neared the creek, one of my dogs went on point. Most Labradors are not pointing dogs, but my big linebacker dog Sarge will point on occasion. As the other three were quartering back and forth, I saw Sarge had entered a little plum thicket and was standing like a statue. I figured this could be my chance to redeem myself after the earlier easy shot miss.
As I eased my way closer, he pounced, and what happened next was not what I expected. I figured a great big, full-color rooster was about to erupt, but what I got was a dog with a big mouth full of fur.
Sarge was just as proud as punch as he held on to a completely alive, hissing and growling opossum. He brought it back to me and sat there at heel like some sort of proud papa. I grabbed it by the tail and told him to drop, and Sarge told me to go jump into a lake. I imagine he was telling himself that it is so rare that I get a creature like this I will just hold on to it for as long as I please.
It took some coaxing, but a little training collar incentive and he finally dropped it. Once I had it clear, I was going to dispatch it. Sarge had removed most of the life in it by now, and as I contemplated my next move, one of the other three dogs had just flushed a great big rooster about 20 yards ahead of me. With a gun in one hand and opossum in the other, there was no way I was going to get a gun on that bird, and he made his easy escape. I pitched the now waning mammal into the grass, and as I did so, yet another rooster flushed at the very end of gun range.
I made a great shot and piled up that bird, and 30 seconds later I had one dog with a rooster and a second dog, not Sarge, with the same opossum. If it was fun for Sarge, it just had to be as much fun for Ghost.
Now I’ve hunted all of my dogs the same for north of 15 years. They all know their job and stay close. It is the most satisfying endeavor to be able to do so with a high level of control, and in most cases with some pretty great hunting outcomes.
If you would have seen me on this day, you would have bet your IRA on the fact that I had taken up pheasant hunting about three days earlier. Sitting on the tailgate of the truck with the one beer I brought and one beautiful bird and reliving my last 45 minutes are part of what makes an outdoor lifestyle so great.
I cannot imagine a life without a lot of dogs in it. This evening made crystal clear one of my famous sayings: One of the few things that can impress the daylights out of you and then disappoint the daylights out of you two minutes later is a dog.
I took this afternoon hunt as a success. Not because I shot so well – I did not – not because of the greatest dog work I have ever experienced – it was not – but just for the humor of it all and the look on Sarge’s face and how proud he was with his big, furry prize.
Dog training is never done and this night was living proof of that.
Scott Rall, Worthington, is a habitat conservationist, avid hunting and fishing enthusiast and is president of Nobles County Pheasants Forever. He can be reached at or on Twitter @habitat champion.

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