Brute’s Bleat

by Harold Brutlag

Winding up the pheasant hunting season in Kansas has been something of a ritual for Mike Muller, Daryl Hennen, Ron Rassat and yours truly for the past three years . . . This year Rassat couldn’t make the trip because of a bidding commitment to M & P Utilities and his wit and keen eye with a scattergun were missed by the remaining trio. The up-side was more of Jane Muller’s delicious chocolate cake for the rest of us . . . Scouting reports on Kansas hunting told us not to expect a whole lot because of dry and extremely hot conditions right after the hatching season which took its toll on the pheasant chicks . . . Nevertheless we set sail early Sunday morning, arriving in Downs about 12 1/2 hours later on a route that took us down through Iowa and Nebraska . . . G. W. Jones, who has been raising English Setters for several years, took us under his wing and hunted with us for three of the five days . . . His three Setters, along with Muller’s Smokey, Hennen’s Abbie, and our Blue gave us the dog power we needed for the 21 pheasants and five quail we harvested. Hunting behind that many dogs prompted Hennen to draw a similarity between hunting with Setters and fishing with tip-ups. As soon as one of the Setter’s tails went up (and G.W.’s were classics in that respect), or Smokie went on point, you knew they were locked up on a bird . . . G.W.’s 11-year-old Setter had the best nose in the group and often was able to hone in on a pheasant or quail 40-50 yards away; and that was something we hadn’t seen before . . . some of the milo crops hadn’t been harvested because of the dry and hot growing season; and that, along with CRP fields, provided us with the action we needed to make for an interesting last hurrah of the season . . . In our longest tail, largest spur and first bird of the day contests, the money was split fairly evenly with Muller and yours truly getting two first birds and Hennen one. Hennen had the longest tail for the trip, but I edged him on the last day for the largest spur when Blue bumped a pheasant from the edge of a milo field. There was some whining when Muller nailed a quail for the first bird on Friday in G. W.’s backyard hunting grounds, which Hennen and I felt was part of his pet flock of 900 released earlier for dog training purposes. We couldn’t find anything in the fine print to cover the issue and Muller was awarded the prize ($1.00 each) . . . G.W. got quite a kick out of our contests and alluded to the good times we were having with it despite missing some great shooting opportunities. In one instance Muller and I had both missed a chance to double. He hollered to us and illustrated the proper reaction for us would have been to jerk off our hunting caps, throw them to the ground, stomp on them, and all the time uttering whatever verbiage was appropriate . . . We had a hunch he may have been enjoying the hunt as much as we were. On Thursday, designated Quail day, G. W. suggested we hunt near Lind in Northeast Kansas and he took us to several spots which had held lots of quail in previous years . . . Apparently quail hunting, like many other sports, requires people to pay their dues and we listed Thursday as dues paying day in that we harvested only four among us from the two coveys that were flushed . . . we learned something about the type of habitat to look for in the future in the event we really get hooked on hunting those small torpedoes . . . Hennen’s Abbie, a Springer Spaniel, has a keen nose and is good at flushing and retrieving; but Daryl had a tough time keeping up with her after Wednesday when his daughter Valerie called to let him know he was a grandfather for her and Scot’s baby girl, Emily Margaret . . . He claimed it was the Setter influence that prompted Abbie to run like a streak of lightning when she’d get a fresh scent, although G.W. reminded him that Springers are supposed to flush birds . . . Hennen agreed, but indicated he may be in the market for an electronic collar to slow her down a bit . . . In the off-hours of hunting Muller had a hot night Thursday when the three of us played 31 for a couple of hours. He apparently felt he was on a roll and got the cards out as soon as the dogs were fed and put to bed Friday. He was hot for a couple of hands, but as the night wore on things evened out and the quarters changed hands enough times to make things pretty even. Hennen and I played cribbage a couple of nights when Muller needed his beauty sleep and we were on an even keel after I racked up a couple of skunks. Other things we noticed in Kansas was the price of gasoline which was in the $1.37.9 range and down to $1.27.9 in Beloit the day we went quail hunting. On the way back to Minnesota it continued to get more expensive. . . The fellows at the local cafe in Downs where we ate breakfast got friendlier every day and figured us for politicians who were only able to hunt there because of kick-backs. One was the local mortician, a goose hunter, and the most vocal of the group. He had a quick wit, and like some other morticians I know, had one of the largest houses in town . . . He asked us where we planned to hunt on Friday, our last day, and Hennen said we thought we’d try road hunting! He figured we were finally learning! It has been a great hunting season for us and we’ll probably go into depression waiting for next September when it starts all over again. In the meantime we plan to fatten Blue up and include some winter fishing in our routine until the lakes open up in the spring . . . we hammered out this column Sunday during the fourth quarter of the Vikings-Giants game. We should have started right after the first two Giants’ TD’s . . .