Bob Carlson, his son John and their dog Cole joined my son Isaac, our dog Victor and I on a pheasant hunting trip to the Four Winds Pheasant Club in San Jacinto to kick off this years upland bird club season.
The weather was seasonally appropriate - with temperatures just below freezing to start off the sunrise, followed by the beginning of a Santa Ana wind that brought clear skies and a warming breeze by mid-day.
It was Cole's first hunting excursion. He is a tall, one year old black lab pup that displayed all of the youthful enthusiasm and easy distraction one expects from a learning dog. He followed Victor around as Victor did a good job of tracking, stalking and holding point on lively birds that didn't want to stay put. Victor's stamina was noticeably better than last year, when he was benched as a result of inhaling a foxtail early into the hunt. This time, we took frequent breaks so that he could recharge his nose and his enthusiasm.
We also fared better as shooters on this occasion. We were able to get all 12 birds that flushed for us, which was a significant improvement over the birds that escaped our hail of gunfire on the last hunt we were on.
This was Isaacs second time shooting at live targets and he is getting much steadier. He is now over 100 pounds and is long enough to handle the full size Berretta 12 gauge auto I brought our for him to try. He mostly stuck with his 20 gauge Remington auto in the field, since it is a really quick swing.
After we got our birds, we were able to relax and shoot some trap
with the club's clay thrower while our charming hostess Melanie cleaned our birds. She did a great job and was as friendly and helpful as ever, stopping in to check on us while we took tailgate breaks back at the truck in between walks.
When we got home, we gave Victor and our car a much needed bath, before I set into a frantic "iron chef" cooking assault to prepare the six pheasant we took home for the neighbors and my folks. I prepared the birds a few different ways. I even got my mom, who professes to hate the idea of hunting, to wolf down a few platefuls and then take home some more in a foil doggy pouch.
We were too tired to clean the guns, which I left out so the three year old boys would have something with which to distract themselves while the adults enjoyed after-dinner beverages in the warm Santa Ana night. This turned out to be fortuitous, because the hill behind our house began to give off some eerie noises. The little boys got quite scared, because they recognized the sounds as the peculiar yip of coyotes, which they fear as a neighborhood animal that is perfectly willing to eat them.
They began crying for me to get the guns out of the cases and shoot the coyotes. We were knocking back our fifth bottle of excellent cabernet, but the boys' pleas were so urgent that I found it hard to resist, especially when they dragged my double Weatherby out to the table on the porch where all of the adults were gathered around our portable Mexican fireplace. It was so cute - it took both of them to carry it out to us.
Although I was beat, I didn't want to let the young ones down. Even Wendy wanted me to do something about those annoying predators, although they have done some good in terms of harvesting our neighbors small and less desirable pets.
I went back to the garage, where I have a commercial freezer. I took out a couple of vacuum sealed freeze-dried dead monkeys from the supply that we always keep around to bait predators. They are an excellent universal bait – equally effective on land and sea - especially the ones we marinate in garlic cheese sauce. Everyone knows that dogs love cheese, so cheese flavored monkeys are
I hydrated and thawed them out a bit over the chimney of our portable fireplace, which seemed to turn off some of the wives who previously had been acting kind of frisky, since "Desperate Housewives" was on later that evening. I hopped the fence and hung
the primates by their tails (these were new world monkeys) from a wooden cross bar we have mounted about 40 yards up the slope past our back fence.
I duct-taped a flashlight to the gun barrels and waited, with my two fascinated three year-olds laying in the dirt by my side, whispering their inquiries so as not to spoil our chances amidst the darkness of this ambush.
The coyotes came skulking in, but then scattered before they were in range. We heard a low, moaning sound and saw a much bigger shadow heading at a peculiar gait toward the bait monkeys.
I hit the flashlight, even though it was out of effective range. Just as I did so, a frightened Chupacabra let out a weird bark and retreated from his advance on the bait.
I turned to scream back down to our group to get them to look up at the creature I had momentarily frozen in the lights. It had dark, coarse fur and looked like a large, ugly dog with bad teeth.
No one was on the patio. One of the women shouted through the screen door that "Desperate Housewives" had started and I should come down and watch. I looked back up the slope and the creature was gone.
There was nothing to do except come back down the hill with the little ones, who were chattering about the strange creature they had just seen. They wanted to look it up in their animal picture book.
I left the monkeys on the post, since once you rehydrate and thaw them out, they really won’t last.
I sat down and watched the rest of the show as the boys went to bed. We were the only ones that saw the creature. It's good to know that there are still a few of them around. It's probably just as
well that we didn't get a shot off.
These are the days.