We were only in the corn stubble for a few minutes when my bird dog went on point. At the edge of a grassy ditch Jake froze and remained immobile as I walked up to him, my shotgun ready.
That was when my grandson snapped the photograph accompanying this column, capturing a moment in a hunt I’d seen many times over the years I’ve been hunting with bird dogs.
The photograph of Jake on point, staring into ditch where a rooster pheasant hid, was taken by Liam with one of those combination cell phones cum cameras teenagers carry today. He digitally froze forever one of those fleeting times in hunting I’d experienced countless times before but had never recorded on film.
The morning Liam photographed me and Jake “working up a pheasant” was ideal for hunting. Warm and sunny, a light breeze out of the west, a freshly cut cornfield and the all important ingredients, a grandson you could take hunting and pheasants that from the way they held for Jake, hadn’t been hunted or harried.
Take look at the photograph. Jake tells me a bird is there by instinctively locking up as he and generations of bird dogs have been bred to do for aeons. All I had to do was walk up to Jake and wait for the bird to flush; or kick the bird up if it was reluctant to move.
If you are alert and ready, moments like this are easy to capture with a camera. Yet easy as they are to photograph, they rarely ever are. Most hunting photographs are usually before and after shots: Hunters ready to set out for the day with guns under arms and dogs on leashes; guys with smug or wooden smiles standing besides vehicles draped with deer or an afternoon’s bag of ducks, geese and pheasants. Typically posed, no action hunting pictures, in other words, every hunter has on his gun cabinet and desk.
The essence of hunting, what makes hunting alluring and addictive, are moments like the one Liam captured of me and Jake. This is what makes the photograph special, even extraordinary. Now, when the snows come and hunting is over for the season, and when one day I finally have to put my shotgun away, I’ll have that hunting moment Liam captured, a moment to treasure and remember and look at over and over.
And now that Jake’s hunting days are nearly over, I’ll have a memento of our decade long tramps through uplands in pursuit of wild birds; bird that sometimes hold for a point and let the moment be captured forever.
What could be better?