When it came to effectiveness on multiple species of game birds, Farley was a “Jack of all Trades.” In his three seasons, I harvested valley quail, scaled quail, pheasants, ruffed grouse, blue grouse, Hungarian Partridge, chukar partridge, and sharptail grouse over his staunch points. Had I been able to shoot straight, I would have added a lesser prairie chicken in Kansas to the list. He also pointed some bobwhites in Kansas, but I had no chance to shoot. Many consider the wily ringneck as the toughest game bird for pointing dogs to master, but they were not a problem for the White Wonder.
In Part Three below, I wrote about a trip in October, 2002 with Farles and family to hunt valley quail in western Idaho-awesome day to say in the least! The following weekend happened to be the pheasant opener in Southern Idaho and again, many of my family members wanted to follow Farles into the uplands. I used to think this was because they enjoyed hanging out with me, but after a few years of Farley’s abscense, I now realize that it was all Farley.
Present for this occasion, were me, my Dad, my brother-in-law Eric, and my nephew Josh. We planned to hunt a public area and some private property in Idaho’s Magic Valley. My brother-in-law Eric obtained permission to hunt around a private commercial feedlot, which was surrounded by irrigation ditches, sugar beet fields and unplowed sagebrush patches. The area is not much to look at, but the landowner left some good cover for birds. The plan was to first hunt the public area before it got pounded by the masses and then move on to the private property.
Just before noon, we parked at the head of a well-known public walk-in area. To our chagrin, a truck with Utah license plates belligerently drove past where we had parked so that the hunters could steal part of the walk-in area right out from under us. This action rubbed me the wrong way as I understood that the huntable ground for us had just effectively been cut in half. As a sportsmen, I try to respect others in the field and to give them plenty of room to hunt. Thus, it really gets my blood boiling when other hunters disregard commonsense courtesy and ethics (See “Covet Not Your Neighbor’s Covert” below). This experience and other negative run-ins with hunters have caused me to totally steer clear of the pheasant opener in the Magic Valley.
At exactly 12:00 p.m., we pushed across a weedy field towards a big patch of cattails. Although we did not see as many birds in this cover as we have in the past, Farles found a huge rooster on the edge of the cattails, which my Dad flushed and dropped over the thicket. After a minute, my Dad located the expired bird and we all admired its extraordinarily long tail. Due to the spoilers, we quickly ran out of good cover to hunt.
Dad and his long-tailed rooster.
My hopes were still high as we drove towards our next destination, the feedlot. After we had arrived, loaded our shotguns, and started walking down a weedy irrigation ditch, we ran into some Mexican employees of the feedlot. They knew exactly what we were after and, although they did not speak English, they helpfully volunteered where they had just seen some roosters, by proclaiming, “Rojo! Rojo! (Red, Red)” and pointing us in the right direction. Sure enough, within fifty yards, Farles slid on point in some sparce cover along the ditch. He then did something that I have seen him do numerous times: First, he snarled and then struck like a viper and came up with a live, wild, bird-of-the-year rooster in his mouth. Wanting to give the bird a sporting chance, I let it go hoping it would fly, but it just ran. Big mistake! Farley chased it down with a vengeance and caught it. After we took this naive rooster out of the gene pool, we continued on down the ditch.
Farley soon made another solid point. For once, I was smart enough to stop and take a picture and capture the moment forever. I’m so glad that I did! When the rooster got up in front of us, I missed it cleanly, but Joshua’s shot hit the mark and the rooster dropped in the freshly plowed sugar beet field.
Farles, putting on a show. I’m greatful that I have this picture!
In short order, Farles pointed a number of hens and roosters with his characteristic flare and style and we all blew some good opportunities. Dad too harvested a young bird over Farley’s exciting point.
Apparently, Farley had an audience for his impressive performance. As we reached the end of the feedlot, we met up with two hunters with two goodlooking German Shorthair Pointers. We probably did not notice them because no shotgun reports were coming from their direction. The dog handler looked longingly at Farley and then me, and jokingly asked: “Want to trade dogs? I’ll trade you both dogs for that pointer.” Raising my eyebrows at the request, I laughingly responded, “No thanks.”
For the final hunt of the day, we pushed through an unplowed sugar beet field. For those who don’t know, pheasants love sugar beet greens and if there are some still standing this is an awesome place to hunt. As we moved across the field in a line, Farley pointed and the rooster flushed in between Eric and I. We both pulled up on the bird insync and the simutaneous reports were indistinguishable. With all that lead in the air, the bird fell limp to the ground.
Sugar beets + weeds = pheasants!
The pictures we took with Farley that flaming October afternoon are some of my favorite pictures of him. You can literally see the sheer joy of the hunt in his face. I can’t emphasize this enough: Farley lived for the hunt! When you are in those special moments with your bird dogs, sometimes their magnitude is not fully realized at the time. None of it was lost on me that day! I realized I had a one in a million birddog.
Farles lived for the hunt!
As a final tribute to Farley, all I can say is: Cherish every second afield with your birddogs because they are with us for such a short time. I only had Farley for three brief seasons before he was suddenly and irretrievably gone. Sometimes, I wish that I could have just one more day hunting with Farley. For me, Farley is the standard; he is the measuring stick by which I judge all other birddogs; he is the White Wonder.
Farley wasn’t just a “Jack of All Trades,” He was a master! I wouldn’t trade the hunting seasons we shared together for anything, my friend.