Vast, expansive vistas of the most well-managed prairie I’ve ever seen. That was the setting for our first Montana hunt for Hungarian partridge. Six crates meant we’d have plenty of dog power, Al Gadoury’s setters defining the strategy: run far and fast for wild-ass birds that probably haven’t seen a dog or gunner yet this season.
Knee high grass and alfalfa flourished emerald green at the corner of Jones and Moonshine roads northeast of Big Timber. Someone out here has a sense of humor! But was it the diminutive imports that scattered when Al’s setter Ellie cat-danced into a point? Nope, native sharptailed grouse erupted from the low cover, startling us both, but not enough to distract Al’s side-by-side from its intended target.
[Here’s a taste of the country we hunted.]
We rotated dogs and drove miles over unbroken ground all day, finding sharpies in both the tall stuff and the skinny shortgrass prairies. More like late-season birds, they flushed wild and ran out from under points. But enough came close, and a few held for statuesque points by Al’s setters. One obviously suicidal grouse virtually eliminated himself from the gene pool, hooking back toward director Tad Newberry’s camera and my only decent shot all day. You know it was a “gimme” shot when your camera guy can do the retrieve without moving a single step!
Our Hun hunt finally materialized late in the day with a picture-perfect point and a double by Al, who simply does not miss when he shoulders his beautiful shotgun.
Manny’s moment: Sea Biscuit the setter locked solid and skylined on a low ridge among the alfalfa. Manny bounced, puppy-like, from upwind and settled into a very pretty honor of Biscuit’s point. You’ll see it next year on Wingshooting USA.