A Field of Dreams
by Bob Hendricks
(According to Bob McDonald who secured permission to run this article,
it ran in September 2002 issue of MidWest Outdoors magazine)
The first sight that greeted me was my little buddy Cooper the Vizsla
with the big heart wagging his tail and filled with anticipation of the
day ahead. Had I had a tail I would have been doing exactly the same thing
on that blustery winter's day at Lowell loerger's Panola Prairie Sportsman's
club in Minonk Illinois. It was one of those days that captivates a hunter's
spirits with a magical spell of Ringneck visions in high brown grass with
just enough wind to allow a dog the perfect scent trail.
I greeted my good friend and hunting buddy Bob McDonald and we both talked
of our anticipation of a great hunt ahead. Lowell loerger soon appeared
and we climbed into his blazer to travel to our hunting area. After pointing
out the land boundaries we were left to do what we do best and that is
to hunt pheasants with Cooper already on the birdie scent of a big fat
rooster. We were walking down a ditch line laced with foxtail that looked
every bit the perfect hideout for an outlaw rooster. Bob with his Remington
1100 and I with Lady Ruger my Ruger Red Label.
Coop was getting about as birdie as a dog can get when he suddenly as
though frozen in time locked up on a perfect point complete with tail
in the air and front leg folded back. Bob offered me the shot gentleman
that he is and I kicked the fox tail weeds with a hefty jolt from my Danner
boot encased sized 14 foot. A rooster exploded with the cackling of a
magnum sized bird nearly in my face. I swung Lady Ruger around and watched
him fall graveyard dead from a potent load of Remington Nitro Mag #6 shot.
I smoothed the feathers on the giant ringneck pheasant as Cooper pranced
with pride at the feet of Bob. The Vizsla never ceases to amaze me with
his eagerness to please and the precision scenting abilities he possesses,
all within a dog that is still very young. I have to admit I had never
hunted behind a Vizsla until I met Bob McDonald but after witnessing the
breed's bird expertise I am sold on their usefulness in the field in upland
Bob collected two more birds as we walked the ditch line. The morning
air was particularly cold but as the sun got brighter the air slowly warmed
up to a comfortable hunting temperature for both dog and man. Lowell picked
us up and asked how we did? We proudly displayed our good fortune not
knowing who was prouder the mighty little Cooper or we hunters.
Lowell showed us our next area to hunt and again left us to what we enjoy
most. This new area was a mixture of sorghum, foxtail, and corn, decorated
with yet another ditch and some brushy draws. Perfect habitat for a rooster
looking for a hideout. I slipped a couple of 2 ¾ inch Remington
Nitro Magnums into my Ruger and Bob did the same. I was trying out a new
set of chokes from Kicks Industries today. The chokes are ported and are
designed to slow the wad down and give the shot string a more uniform
pattern with a reduction in recoil as well, which is always a welcome
addition. The tubes are from the Kicks smoke series and if they are anything
like the Goblin Thunder turkey choke I thought, they will be deadly
Coop was on point and locked up like a bank on Sunday. I stepped in for
the kill. The big fat hen winged out and to the right like a Texas tornado.
My shot caught her dead to rights as she folded like a bad hand of cards.
The choke tubes were definitely deadly in the Ruger. Coop was on the bird
as quickly as a hobo on a ham sandwich and returned the big hen to Bob
in field show pride.
The sorghum was thick almost like a carpet and it amazed me how Cooper
could navigate the weedy maze but he had very little trouble weaving in
and out like a professional skier going down a ski slope full of obstacles.
The dog knew what he was doing as he quartered this way and that never
leaving gun range and always alert and obedient to Bob's commands. He
was running with the speed of a deer when he stopped stone cold still.
A slight turn of the little fella's head and he was on a point that would
make any bird dog owner proud. Bob took this bird and proved yet again
his skill with the Remington as a big rooster ringneck went into the game
I was getting warm now from the walking and paused for a drink of cold
bottled water as Bob and Cooper worked a patch of sorghum. I marveled
at the sight of dog and hunter, the ultimate matching of friend and hunter.
Each complimented the other walking in harmony during a space in time
when all was right with the world and a bright sun shone, complete with
a crisp wind that would stir the hunting instincts in even the most laid
back hunter. IT was a sense of poetry as the dog locked on a bird and
hunter, bird, and dog came into the same frame bordered by the beauty
of the sorghum field and blue skies overhead. A shot rang out and my senses
were awakened to the hunt again as I heard Bob praising Cooper for his
great work slipping a big rooster into his game bag while doing so.
I rejoined the dynamic duo of Coop and Bob and we three musketeers again
went in search of long tails. The wind had died down and Cooper as working
the maze of sorghum even more intently. We knew we had a runner as Coop
crawled low along the ground in slow pursuit of the escape artist with
a ring neck. This way and that the dog edged on, the rooster unraveling
every trick in the book to fulfill his mission of escape. Soon having
nowhere to travel the big bird revealed himself and in the wink of a hungry
hunter's eye the big rooster turned into what would be the Sunday dinner
at my house. IT just doesn't get any better I noted to myself.
I couldn't help but notice how lean Cooper always is and the great stamina
he possesses. Bob said that he feeds him Canidae dog food and that his
coat, weight, and endurance have never been better. Cooper is like the
Energizer bunny that keeps going and going, and going. Bob has worked
a lot with the dog and it always impresses me that for his age he is so
well trained and ringneck smart. If there are ten birds in that field
you can be sure Coop will scent out every one of them. His attention to
Bob's commands never waned no matter how excited he became or how near
a bird he thought he was. When Bob speaks the dog's head immediately comes
up to full attention and the eagerness of the little hunter is evident
in a never give up spirit and will to please. I am told the dog is Hungarian
but I know that I must find out more about the breed after several hunts
with it. Cooper is also a house pet and Bob says the perfect companion
complete with good manners.
Lowell came out and said he had to go pick up some Hungarian partridges
and would be back later. HE left a generous supply of deer jerky as well
as a new culinary delight called simply goose sticks. The sticks were
like a form of goose slim Jims and very tasty. Lowell had also left some
cold drinks that went very well with the snacks and thirsty mouthed hunters.
Cooper of course had to sample the tasty snacks and showed his appreciation
with a good licking of the entire circumference around his mouth
We went on to take a pretty impressive bragging board of pheasants and
even had a try at a couple of Huns. Bob got his Hungarian partridge with
one shot. I was not so lucky. But then that is why they call it hunting.
A wise old hunter once said" if you want a sure thing Bob go to the
grocery store", and right he was.
Panola Prairie Sportsman's club is located in Minonk Illinois right off
of highway 39 and 51 and 116. They feature a dog training facility so
you can have birds year round. IT is quite affordable at only $80.00 dollars
a membership. Lowell loerger is a laid back kind of guy who will do all
in his power to give you a good hunt and has all the habitat your legs
can stand and then some. I think the varied habitat complete with the
quality of the birds he has will leave you well satisfied that you chose
his place to hunt.
You may call Panola Prairie Sportsman's club at 309-432-2448. See for
yourself what it is like to get lost from the humdrum of everyday life
in a field of dreams. Good luck and good shootin'.