It was one of those days where nothing was really in my favor. The clouds had opened up all morning sending down wave after wave of torrential downpours. The birds had been fed up the day before as I knew it was coming.
The temperature was in the seventies. Then the sun peeked out. Could I? Would I? I went out and weighed the birds. Tess was way too high, 70 grams higher than I normally hunt her. She would probably still perform, but I didn't want to take the chance.
Gonzo was closer; 676 grams. 26 over what I like to fly him at, but I didn't know when I'd get another chance to fly. Gonzo was going solo.
The wind was blowing a steady twenty and gusting over thirty. The trees strained back and forth and the "bottoms" were truly flooded everywhere I looked. Even at his higher weight, Gonzo followed well, but I didn't have high hopes. Squirrels tend to hole up when the wind is high and they are hard to dislodge. Every time I pulled a vine a miniature rain shower would pelt me. I was drenched, Gonzo was fat and alone, and all the squirrels were holed up tight.
Then, to add insult to injury, a passage red tail nailed Gonzo in the top of a pine tree. He didn't even care that I was there until I started blowing my whistle. He was gorgeous, with the brightest white chest I had ever seen. He finally flew off and Gonzo and I kept on.
It was going to be one of those days. I didn't think I had a chance. Then, one vine,one nest, and a squirrel pops out the top. Ho-ho-ho.
I couldn't see much of the chase due to the dense canopy of the live oaks. Gonzo chased the squirrel tree to tree until I saw the bird fold up and dive straight down the side of the tree and nail the squirrel on the ground. Score one!
Transfer, move on.
Time was getting the better of me now and I start working my way back to the car. We chase a squirrel to a hole and lose it. Then Gonzo goes winging out over the flooded bottoms and alights in a tree right in the middle. He sees something out there. I can't get to him from where I stand, so I call to him, but he is busy diving at something that I can't see. I follow the "shoreline" around, looking for a way across.
It takes me fifteen minutes while I can hear Gonzo chasing something up and around on that same little island. Soon I am out of sight of him, but I can hear his bells and I find a possible way in. I cross part way by balancing on a log and shuffling across the wet, slippery bark, but the log runs out before the water does.
I thought it was a lost cause. But Gonzo knows there is something there. Screw it. I slide my feet into the water, feeling for the bottom. Knee deep, I start to wade. Thigh deep. Deeper. I start raising my hunting vest higher so it doesn't get wet.
I pull myself out on the little island. It is about four feet across and consists of two trees, cane, and an old rotted out log lying on the ground. Gonzo sits low, searching the ground, but there is nothing there. Only one place the critter can be, the log.
The wood is old and rotten, I begin tearing it apart, nothing. I probe it with a stick,nothing. I look up and around. I can't figure it, What happened to the critter. Gonzo saw something, and he was sure it was still here. There was no where fo it to be hiding in the tree. I give up, so I start to look for a better way off the island. I follow the hollow log out to where it terminates, half submerged in the water. Another hole. I probe this end with a stick. Gonzo launches.
I see nothing, but Gonzo bullets to the ground, there is a flash of fur from the end of the log, and my bird slams into the water with a splash. Gonzo rows with his wings, but is being pulled the other way under the water. And then a face emerges from the water, giant teeth first, clawing its way onto the leaf litter.
Ha ha - marsh rabbit! first rabbit of the season. Gonzo holds on tenuously as I grab hold. Gonzo relinquishes his grasp and waits off to the side for his tidbit.
I wade off the island thinking about hip waders, Gonzo going solo, and my first rabbit. Banner day - even with the cards stacked against us.