Hurd State Park lies on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River roughly between the city of Middletown and the small town of Haddam. The state of CT swears they will stock pheasants in this area. Cooper, the gun pup, and Bella
, the old gun dog rescue, visited this spot together prior to bird season. A trial run after which I thought it best to hunt them individually. Bella won the Nutro biscuit toss up. Late in the afternoon we walked the mile down hill to the meadow, known as Higganum Meadows
, following powerlines and over a seasonal stream wet from recent rain. The land falls quickly and lower and lower you climb passing through hardwoods bright with fall color until you are on the flat meadow that abuts the river. If I was a farmer I would think corn or hay. The state cuts a maze through grass as tall as the average man. I had been told that Bella was a good hunter but my expectations were low. The previous owner was about to drop her off at a shelter before we took her in and he said Bella was quick on birds. He had also tried to give her away to members of his hunt club, but there were no takers for this 7-year-old. Today she worked close and kept an eye out for me. She, as well as Cooper, have learned to change direction on command. “Whup!”
She shifted direction, ignoring other dogs and hunters, honoring another dog’s point. I did not expect much action from the put-and-take pheasant this late in the day either. That was probably a good thing since the Ruger Red Label
in the crook of my arm was new. I have held the company of Rugers in chopped corn fields and on skeet fields and sporting clays courses well before they sported choke tubes so this was a reintroduction of sorts, like meeting up with an old acquaintance. Still I shouldered it a few times making sure the recoil pad cleared my vest. Bella was suspicious of the small wave of water coming toward shore but she was thirsty. Reassured when I stood in the swallow water, she felt safe to drink though still suspicious of the rolling ripples. Back up the river bank we made the loop around the back half of the meadow, working the fringe then hunting the soft ground around the marsh hoping for a wayward woodcock. The other hunters had left and Bella was quick to find the remains of downed birds, she looked me in the eyes. "Yes, girl, we are a little late."
On the walk back, I cracked the Ruger and carried it over my shoulder. It was stiff like all new over-and-unders so I opened and closed the action on empty chambers and held two shells in my hand as we climbed the hill to the truck in case we flushed a straggler. I thought I would be the one waiting for her to catch up, but she stopped looking back for me. At home I brushed her out and she looked into my eyes. “Yes it was a good day after all.”
And then the gun pup pushed his nose between us. He wanted to be brushed, too.