Bird hunting with dogs always has risks. Hunting in December adds to the danger. The risks will surface when you least expect them.
While hunting pheasants along the Missouri River, my shorthaired pointer, Magnum, decided he needed a quick drink. He jumped off a steep 10-foot river bank onto an ice shelf and slid into the river. Our fun bird hunt suddenly turned into an emergency rescue.
When I saw Magnum, he was struggling to climb onto the ice shelf while not being washed away. The water was over his head and he was at risk of drowning, hypothermia, or… Time was critical. I stashed my gun and I commanded my other dog, Shelby, to stay. Off the bank I went. The ice shelf was only 3-4 feet wide from the shore. I did not know how thick it was but knew I needed to trust to luck.
I looked downstream and saw a place where I could beach, if I ended up in the river with Magnum. The river was fast, cold, and deep. Suddenly, Shelby slid past me and was now in the mix! Oh CRAP!!! The single dog rescue turned into a double.
If I did nothing, this story would end badly. I crept out as far as I dare and grabbed Magnum’s collar. I hauled him onto the ice and he somehow zipped up the bank. Shelby is a great swimmer but was barely holding her own. As I reached for her, the river current would wash her away. Finally, I got ahold of her collar and hauled her 75 pounds onto the ice. Thank God for adrenaline and that the ice did not break.
Once ashore, I figured this hunt was over and herded my dogs back toward the truck. Now you think that this adventure would be enough to scare the dogs and ruin the hunt. Instead, Magnum cracks onto point with Shelby at his side. I walked over and was surprised by a flushing, cackling Cockbird! Somehow, I raised my gun and instinctively shot. Magnum and Shelby came over holding the rooster together. I guess this was their way of saying thanks for saving our lives!
A half mile later we were back at the truck. This is when the reality and anxiety surfaced. We could have all ended up dead.
What could I have done different? “Not hunting near the river was one thought. We had hunted this area many times before. If I hadn’t seen Magnum, he would have been a goner. I could have removed my coat and thrown it onto the ice allowing the dogs something to have traction on. Accidents happen. This close call was averted. It wasn’t our time. Oh Well.”
Once home, I checked the dogs over, and they were fine.
Montana Grant needed a strong drink!
For more Montana Grant, find him chilling at www.montanagrantfishing.com.