feature By: Kelly Knee | January, 20
A sly rooster bested me all season long.
On opening day, Frank my black Lab forced the rooster to break cover, but his explosive flush so startled me that I only got off a warning shot. Chalking up that first encounter to opening day jitters, I vowed to return.
The second encounter began with Frank hot on a scent, his tail rapidly moving, a sure sign that birds were near. Quail flushed, and my hurried shot brought one down. But then as I fumbled for shells to reload, the rooster flushed virtually at my feet. He cackled as he flew into the safety of a cornfield. Funny how those cackles sounded like a laugh.
The next encounter began with the flush of several quail just out of range. After the quail flushed, Frank continued, the hurried beat of his tail saying, “On a bird!”
A hen pheasant flushed from the cattails. While I watched her glide into the opposite field, the rooster flushed with a cackle from behind. It was time for a new strategy.
The strategy for the fourth hunt was not to react to the quail flushes and instead stand steady at the top of the ditch and wait for him. A minute passed and then five more. Frank was working but not hot. The Lab moved down the ditch with a more hurried pace. I abandoned the strategy and followed. I hadn’t moved more than 30 steps when the rooster came out of the ditch on the run from the exact spot I had just vacated. He flushed, cackled and flew. The rooster’s cackle had a mocking tone.
The last encounter occurred on the final day of the season. This would be the last chance to walk the field, to send the dog into the weed-covered ditch, to flush and hear the sly rooster cackle. The wind was blowing hard, and the ditch would be a welcome place for birds to escape the bite of winter.
Frank busted into the brush knocking the morning frost off the cattails and tall grass. He caught scent and charged hard into the last 20 yards of the ditch. The rooster flushed and banked hard to the left trying to catch the wind in his wings. Bringing the gun to my shoulder, I swung the sight past his long tail up and past that beautiful red head and shot.
The season has ended. The pursuit of the sly rooster is over. Sitting by the winter fire, I reflect on the encounters with the sly rooster, toasting him with good Irish whiskey.
— Kelly Knee