My good friend Ron VanderHeiden and I were filming at Hastings Island Hunting Preserve in northern California last week. He wanted to try out some new camera configurations and techniques. The subject would be Patty hunting HIHP’s released pheasants.
Patty was obliging by quartering back and forth in front of the cameras. Ron was panning side-to-side and experimenting with settings. My job was mostly to stay out of the way. Since we were filming in just one small area, it was not likely that Patty would be finding any birds, even in the target-rich club environment.
A trio of hunters with a German Shorthaired Pointer passed along the edge of our field. It was the holiday season and the club was busy. Even though most of the members are courteous, people do occasionally follow their dogs in a little closer than you’d like. This was one of those annoying circumstances and I might have said something but Ron’s two cameras stacked on the stabilizing tripod seemed to act like a hunter magnet.
When they were at the closest point that a justifiable trajectory would allow, one of them hollered out, “Hey!”
“Hey,” I answered as I brought Patty in to heel and gave him a drink of water.
“Is that setter any relation to Hank?” He was referring, of course, to Dez Young’s Llewellyn setter from that great old TV show “Hunting with Hank.” I was less angry then.
“Yeah he is,” I responded, “but only distantly. Hank was his great, great,…..great, great uncle.” I released Patty and he continued working the area.
“Man, that’s cool! I met Hank at the hunting show in Sacramento, oh man, almost 20 years ago!”
He kept talking but I didn’t hear much more. My head was swelling with pride, no anger left at all now. Patty had a fan, even if only by association.
As if on cue Patty slammed into a point, his body folded almost in half. He must have run through a surprise blast of scent while just passing a hunkered down bird. Ron brought the tripod in closer, circling around Patty to get the best shot. I came around the other way, planning to approach the point from the front.
Our fan was still standing back at the edge of the field but now had his phone out and was videoing everything that we were doing. Paparazzi! My head swelled up a bit more.
Ron was ready so I moved in. Patty was rock solid and the rooster was holding.
When the big pheasant finally did flush he came straight up between the three of us and flew right over my shoulder. Patty held steady on the flush (could I get any prouder? could my head swell any further?) so I spun around, raised my double and shot.
The bird flew on, safely out of range now. Patty had broken on the shot but stopped soon after to watch. He knows only too well what a healthy bird looks like flying away from one of my smoking barrels.
I turned back to Ron and saw that both he and the fan were still filming. I had to laugh. The swollen head was all gone now. There was plenty of proof “in the can” that I, at least, had nothing to be especially proud of.
Patty didn’t notice any of that. He had found a bird. We didn’t get it. He just wanted to go out and hunt up another.