The cooling weather was welcome; the accompanying clouds less so, if you asked Tad Newberry and Lynn Berland, who were running the cameras for a show we were producing at Red Bank Outfitters near Red Bluff, Calif. Oak leaves crunched underfoot as Manny lead off our lineup of five different dogs. He’d been emboldened by recent successes on pheasants, their rich intoxicating scent lingering in his puppy nostrils.
The country was close, more a grove of oak trees with short grass understory. Birds would be hunkered in brush piles or grabbing a last bite in the open before dusk settled. Manny coursed through the rough-barked trees, gracefully dancing over fallen logs until drifting to a foot-up, tail-high point at the base of a gnarled trunk.
The bird flushed wild, with Manny in hot pursuit. As it fell to earth, still, Manny was slamming on the brakes and opening wide for a mouthful of bobwhite. Amazingly, he trotted toward me bird in mouth and a glint in his eyes. No, he didn’t retrieve to hand, but he didn’t eat it either. (Don’t ask me about a later bird.)
Puppy point after puppy point solidified the instinct generations of Three Devils Kennel breeding had refined. Host Bo Riley and I traded shots, handler Ric Gould helping steady Manny on many quail that rocketed through the branches, many to live another day but enough falling to Bo’s .410 and even a few to my 20 ga.
To his dismay, Manny was soon urged into his crate to make room for his uncle Buddy. But his story will have to wait.