A Hunting Tale .... and a Hunting Tail
8/30/2012 12:52 PM
Bill Stancil is a hunter education instructor who lives in Rocky Mount. A retired newspaperman and a regular contributor to the Hunter Education Program newsletter, this is an article from the Summer 2012 issue about a particularly adventurous hunting trip last season, and a different perspective from his bird dog’s viewpoint. The headshot photo shows Stancil. The other photo shows Ginger and a friend.
A Hunting Trip, a Bird Dog, Women’s Intuition and a Game Warden
The season for quail hunting ended Wednesday, so before the rains came, Frank and I took my bird dog, “Ginger,” to the Tillery Game Lands last Wednesday.
Since Ginger has a penchant for wanting to hunt on her own, without the benefit of my company (a trait blamed on her owner and trainer by someone else in this household), I bought a new battery for her training collar.
The weather was just right for the morning hunt and the three of us could hardly wait to get started. We hunted a small woods and a straw field first, without finding quail, and moved to a milo field to try our luck. We followed the dog as she worked the field and the adjoining woods, stopping to anticipate a shot whenever she looked like she might strike a “point.” No quail were flushed.
By this time, we were thirsty, so we loaded the dog back into Frank’s pickup and moved to another milo field. We took a few minutes to contemplate our bird hunt thus far, agreeing that watching the dog work is really the best part of the hunt, saying things such as “I’m just out here to work the dog and get some fresh air.”
And, “I just love being in the Great Outdoors. That’s what it’s all about.” I called my wife to let her know that we were going to hunt one more place for about 30 minutes and then come home.
“Is Ginger all right?” she asked. “Of course,” I answered,” wondering why she asked.
We began to hunt a milo field toward a pond where there were quail last year. The wind picked up and Ginger suddenly picked up her pace. I whistled her back to me to keep her from getting out of reach. As I started to slip the leash over her head she pulled away and started running toward the pond and woods on the other side.
Then she was out of sight. Blowing my whistle and toggling the remote control for the collar had no effect. We began a search but could not find her. We figured that she was on quail and would not break the point.
Frank telephoned his wife to tell her we might be a little late, because we had to find the dog. “You had better not come home without that dog,” she said.
We searched for Ginger for more than an hour without finding her, and decided to return home for help, or even to wait until morning when I would come back. But as we started to leave the game lands, a Wildlife Commission vehicle came in. Wildlife Officer Dustin Ethridge got out of the vehicle and we introduced ourselves, and told him about losing the bird dog. He asked for her name, my telephone number and gave me his card. “I’ll be here for quite a while,” he told us. “I’ll keep an eye out for your dog and give you a call if I find her.”
We were relieved because we now had help with our search, but mostly we didn’t want to face our wives without the dog. So, we headed for Rocky Mount. We stopped for a drink and a sandwich in Enfield, and when we got back into the truck, my cell phone rang.
“Mr. Stancil, I have your dog,” the voice said.
Game Wardens — you just gotta love ‘em!
The Real Story Of Hunting the Game Lands, as told by Ginger the bird dog
I’m Bill’s bird dog, an English setter with a better pedigree than Bill. If I was human, I wouldn’t associate with him, but somebody needed to take over his training.
Now I’m spending my better days teaching him how to enjoy the outdoor experience. Lord knows, somebody needs to!
Bill had promise when I undertook his training and in no time at all I taught him to fetch a stick. He would throw it, yell “FETCH’’ and I would just sit there. After a while he would fetch it and bring it back… “Good Boy.” I could see possibilities, so I decided to train him to hunt.
Recently, Bill and I and a hunting partner, Frank, went to Tillery Game Lands. They were excited, even bringing nabs and Mountain Dew — to keep their blood circulating, I guess. Me? I was so underwhelmed that I tried to hide when Frank’s pickup pulled into our driveway. I finally yielded to Bill’s leash, just to have him from a hernia while dragging me to the truck. Then we were on our way… yippee?
We hunted places they swore had quail, but there were no quail.
We hunted for more than 30 minutes in the places they chose. They forgot who has the nose for the job.
Another 30 or 40 minutes passed while I led them through milo fields and woods. They are both slow and can’t keep up. On the other hand, I love to feel the wind in my hair and can really move on when I feel good. Bill kept blowing that whistle and pushing the button on the remote collar control that he thinks helps. I was afraid they would get lost so I kept them in sight. They soon tired and needed refreshments. We got into the truck and they talked about the morning. Bill said, “I’m here just to get some fresh air and watch the dog work.” Then Frank said, “I just love being in the ‘Great Outdoors.’ That’s what it’s all about.” Yeah, right!
Bill has been teaching hunter education a long time, but it’s a good thing he doesn’t teach the section on hunting dogs. That would be howl-arious!
Bill called his wife and I could hear her ask, “Is Ginger alright?”
Heh-heh, she didn’t even ask about him. He told her we would hunt for another 30 minutes. I thought, “Oh Yeah? We will see.”
We went to another field and I could smell quail on the far side near a pond. I picked up my pace, getting farther ahead of them. Then Bill blew that confounded whistle again. Awww, man, I had just started rolling. He almost got the leash on me, but I jerked my head back, whirled around and headed for the pond. There were quail there and it would be a good place to give them some urgently needed training. They called, but when I realized they couldn’t see me I laid low and worked on getting rid of that collar. I could hear them shouting my name, but I stayed hidden and enjoyed the Great Outdoors on my own terms. Soon the calling stopped.
Later, I was approached by a wildlife officer, sometimes called “Game Wardens” by humans, with expletives attached. He was gentle and kind and spoke to me. Then he put me into his car and reached for his cell phone. His name badge read “Dustin Ethridge.”
I didn’t want to leave Ethridge, but soon I saw Frank’s pickup truck. The jig was up! They put me back into the truck. “The battery is gone from the collar,” Bill exclaimed. Frank said, “I’m glad we’ve got her back. When I called my wife, she told me I had better not come home until we found the dog.”
Bill told his wife about it when we got home. “I knew it,” she said, “I felt like something had happened to Ginger. It’s a good thing you came home with her.” Women’s intuition… I love it!
So that’s how I lost two old geezers, disabled a training collar and met one of the most helpful wildlife officers I have ever met. I can’t wait to go back to the game lands again.
And I sure hope that Wildlife Officer Ethridge is there!