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    Day's End

    New Tricks

    So I met an older gentleman, Buddy, at the gun range many years ago, and we talked about bird hunting after a while. Eventually, I invited him to go quail hunting with me; he said he had hunted before and that he used to have a bird dog, so what the heck.

    Off we go, me with my setter pup Jake and new hunting friend on an Arizona quail hunt. The conversation was easy on the way. He talked about his shooting clay targets, his ailments, how he missed having a dog, but now he liked to travel with his wife and for this reason hasn’t hunted in several years. Nice guy — this should be a fun day in the field if what he told me was accurate about his previous experience.

    As we unload the truck and get ready to hunt, I notice his hunting vest had obvious miles on it, he had a water bottle for my pup, along with a nice side-by-side field gun, used but well cared for. We chatted a bit about the walk plan, made sure to mark some landmarks so we both knew where the truck was if we got separated.

    Buddy listened, nodded and said, “Sounds great. I have it.”

    We were off and hunting. The dog worked nicely in between us and on our flanks for a good while. We eventually separated and walked some different cover as is natural when hunting wild quail; we tried to keep in visual contact now and then.

    We walked the hills and draws. I had not seen Buddy or Jake in a while but felt confident Jake was somewhere between Buddy and me when two shots rang out. When we met up later, lo and behold, he was with my pup and had a bird for each shot.

    The morning was spent walking great cover in the stunning Arizona desert, though Jake only appeared now and then, and I observed that he was now working well over by Buddy, and in the distance it was easy to see when Jake slammed to a solid point. Once again, some birds came back with my friend.

    Eldridge Hardie, “Desert Flush,” watercolor, 14 by 21 inches, eldridgehardie.com
    Eldridge Hardie, “Desert Flush,” watercolor, 14 by 21 inches, eldridgehardie.com

    Not much of a hunt for me so far, but what the heck, my hunting pal was having a good day.

    We stopped to rest, watered the dog and broke out a field lunch when I noticed Jake’s muzzle had an orange color all around it; what the heck had he gotten into? He seemed fine, but I couldn’t figure it out, and Buddy didn’t mention anything.

    After lunch I almost never saw my dog; he was off working with his new pal Buddy which now seemed quite odd. He always hunts close by; at least he used to.

    After our full day in the field and lots of shooting and birds for Buddy, the answer became crystal clear. As I packed Buddy’s gear into the truck, a small, empty bag of Cheetos snacks fell from his hunting vest.

    The light went on.

    Buddy had been baiting my dog with Cheetos, and coupling his good marksmanship with keeping my pup nice and close, he had enjoyed a great day in the field.

    A wry smile came across my face. I had a new respect for Buddy and had clearly been outmaneuvered by the old guy.

    Buddy became a regular hunting pal. He loved my dog, we both loved to walk the land, tell stories and hunt, but the jig was up.

    The next time I hunted with Buddy, I stealthily removed the fresh bag of Cheetos from his vest before the hunt, and Jake soon learned who had the treats for him this time. This old dog learned a new trick from good old Buddy.

    Buddy and I have laughed about our first hunt together, and his antics, for many years. Age has taken its toll on Buddy as it does with all of us, in time. He has become too old to go on hunts these days but still has a few Cheetos ready when Jake and I visit him to share our hunting stories.

    Here’s to Buddy and new tricks.

                               – Greg Shay

    Wolfe Publishing Group