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Hunting Woodcocks
My labrador Drakkar became a great pointer when we became woodcock addicts. How to prove it ?

This new story has been wiitten about 10 years ago and was published in a French sporting magazine. At that time, I didn't know how to draw or paint, so the illustrations were from an other artist. Here are mine, painted in november 2005
Woodcocks in negative

I knew it: Saturday will be the mythic day of the Great Migration, with woodcocks everywhere in the forest.
(I 'm smiling traducting this story written 10 years ago. I still look everyday at the weather forecasting, the wind and the temperature in the north of Europe and predict the great hunting day nearly each week. I'm wrong most of the time, but I still call my friends with the same certainty to say: "It's the Day)
My friends, called on the last minute on friday evening, were already invited elsewhere. Too bad ! No, finally, it will be much better, I 'll hunt woodcock alone with my labrador. Arrived at sunrise , I ask the gamekeeper to join me. We decide to start the quest by the "small wood". Just outside of the wood, there is a hedge on a slope, 400 meters of thick brambles bushes, about 6 meters large. A place where we often find woodcocks. After hundred meters, Drakkar, my labrador, points, straight like an iron bar.

Yes! My labrador retriever is a great pointer!! Why do you think I am hunting with this heavy photo-camera hanging around my neck. ..It's just to bring the proof to all the Saint Thomas, who use to laugh contemptuously when I tell my gundog's exploits. This seems to be the perfect opportunity. I put down my sporting gun on the ground and try to focus on my dog. The lens is dimmed by the freezing wind. It's about 25° Farenheit. Las! I stand about 2 meters lower than my lab. The only thing I see and that I could immortalizer is the ass-hole of my dog in a low angle shot.
Difficult to realize a less esthetic snapshot... I 'm sure that you 'll agree !

 

I give up the idea to take the photo and pick up my sporting gun. Under my encouragements, Drakkar charges in the thick brambles. But the bird uses of all his trickery and run away under the thorns, without flying. After 5 minutes of a slow pursuit, my lab renounce and hardly comes out of the brambles, with a nose like a pincushion, full of thorns. We quest further and after 30 meters, Drakkar points again, looking towards a black-thorn bush. I have a perfect sideview. Here is the ideal photo, but to have a better point of view, I decide to come closer and start to climb the slope. It's rather difficult as I have brambles over the knees.
It's the instant that choose the woodcock to fuse out of the thorns, flying direct between my eyes. I drop my camera, grasp my gun, trying to follow the bird which is now in my back. But my feet are entangled in the bush and I cannot shoot. And that is how, in the panic, I miss successively a great photo and the game bird.
Nevermind! These two events in the first ten minutes were full of promises, there would certainly have new occasions to take a great snapshot.
Las ! The two hours that follow, deny all our hopes. We went in all the ravines, explored all the bushes. Not a woodcock. Not a single scent. When we arrive at the top of the hill of the "little wood", noone believe anymore to our luck. Drakkar makes the fool with rabbits in the thorns and on my side, I play to be a photo-reporter.
On the selvedge, wonderful hollies shine in the cold wintry sun that filter in the undergrowth.
.
Putting down my sporting gun on the dead leaves under one of these holly, I take a few photos of the branch covered with red berries and beautiful varnished leaves dazzling with light. Then crawling under the holly, I take a few snapshots of the ground, just for the case if I will, one day, paint a woodcock on her nest. My glasses are as dimmed as the lens and it's really difficult to focus on anything. Who cares ? I 'm just looking for an ambience photo, a palette of colours for my paintings.
Suddenly, a noisy warning signal of my camera announce me that I have taken the last picture of my roll of film. Bip ...bip ... bip Then everything goes very quickly. I hear the rustling of a woodcock taking off and the over-excited cry of the gamekeeper shouting: "woodcock ! woodcock !"
"Ah, I could have made you the story more beautiful !"
I could have told you that the woodcock took off from under this holly where I was on my knees taking photos. No, I won't! This woodcock was exactly at the end of my gun, two meters on the side. That holly was perhap's even more beautiful that the other one on my photos. Why didn't I choose it ?
The best ! would you believe me ? Like a marble statue nimbused by the sun in a wonderful against the light, Drakkar is still pointing the warm place under the holly.
Too bad, as you already know, I just finished the last snapshot of my film...
But believe my word, my labrador is a great pointer !
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