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The Master

Jim Edmundson | All Hunting Articles
Posted 04/18/2024




One of my earliest memories is the smell of the Hoppes gun oil my dad would use on his Sweet 16 Browning after a bird hunt. He and my uncles would tell stories of 30 coveys a day, of the “ditch bank birds”, those bobs that would provide great sport by scattering out down a line, giving the gunners an easy opportunity. Tales of limits by lunchtime and perfectly broke pointers and setters kept my interest high. Like a puppy, I wanted desperately to go with the men on a real bird hunt but was deemed too immature.

Admittedly, when I did get to tag along, I found it hard to keep up through the thick briars and would soon be back at the truck.

By the time I reached young manhood in the early 70s the glory days for quail in Eastern North Carolina were on the wane, but my enthusiasm was peaking. I made up for lost time, going every chance I could get. Sometimes I would borrow a dog, but often I would just walk to likely spots and hope to catch some birds out feeding. When my Boy Scout Master, Bill Faust, asked if I wanted to join him on a hunt I jumped at the opportunity.

Bill was respected as a tough outdoorsman and his reputation as a bird hunter was legendary. He possessed a knowledge of the ways and habits of quail which was uncanny. He had a kennel of about 40 dogs, of which 15 or so were broke and ready to go, the remainder started dogs and puppies. The area around Warsaw still had decent numbers of birds at that time and now I would finally get a chance to hunt them with some good dogs.

Well, my first trips with Bill found me mostly watching the Master at work. I soon found that not only was the old man knowledgeable at bird hunting, but he was highly competitive as well. When we hunted together I was invariably behind on the wide right flank of a hard left turn. Whenever Bill turned, the dogs followed him, so I was forever playing catch up, arriving back at the front of the hunt just in time to help him look for dead birds.

And boy could that gentleman shoot! Many times he would already have two birds knocked down before I could even get my gun up. I once watched in amazement as he stepped in for the flush and cleanly dropped 5 birds on the covey rise. One evening we went to his favorite roosting spot,a patch of broomstraw with scattered pines behind a cemetery. He turned out one dog who was quickly on point. Now it was almost dark, I could barely see. I looked over and the Master was laying on the ground, he said” Kick em up”. When they hit the sky light he dropped two.
Needless to say, I found myself hooked on this bird hunting thing. I would show up at Bill’s BBQ restaurant, "Bland’s”, about 4:30 a.m. and watch him chop up the pork while we decided where to hunt and which dogs to take.

Sunrise would find us parked beside a cut-over listening for coveys to sound out their morning call. We would usually hunt 3 dogs at a time and would try to match them to complement each other. One a big running covey dog, the second, a closer working one that would hit the thick cover, and the third was often a young dog steady enough to be trusted.

The dogs that he had were equally as talented as their owner. English pointers and setters which carried their own style and purpose. The Master followed the field trial circuit and kept up with blood lines and traits that he liked. For pointers he wanted “Rebel” breeding. The setters were mostly “Smith” bred. Once, we were on the way to a local field trial and decided to let the dogs clean out before the event (all nine of them at once!). Dot, a liver and white pointer bitch, locked up on point and the other eight all backed from their respective positions. Quite impressive!

And the dogs. The setters. Paul, Dolly, and the bird crazy Mert. The great pointer Blackwater, and all his get, most of which were born ready to hunt. To keep a place in Mr. Bill’s kennels they had to be top notch, no trash.

It did not take me long to figure out that I needed my own dogs if I were to have much luck. The Master patiently took time out to show me the proper way to start working a prospect and soon I was working his young dogs on a regular basis. Before long I had several that would get the job done and hunt to my voice. I was on a mission, one of dogs, wild birds, big fields and briar patches.

I hunted hard. I could not outshoot the Master so I had to point more birds and get more shots than he to keep up. He would often tell me “Take your time and pick out just one bird”. Slowly, the cadence of coming up fast on a bird while taking your time came to me and I began to be able to knock down my share of the game we so passionately pursued.

I learned some ethics in this time as well. Some simple. Don’t litter. Ask permission. Be safe. Some with deeper meaning. Once, we were on a hunt near Westbrook Crossroads when a snowstorm hit. Covey after covey out feeding. When Mack came to point, shivering but sure, we could see the birds on the snow. Easy pickings I thought. The Master called off the hunt. “They deserve a fair chance” he said.

The pinnacle of our adventures came for me the day I called point for Roxie. Roxie, solid white with black head, always classy, who would forever try to please and retrieve tender to hand, and who one day went back to the truck and ate all our birds, and who would unscrew the lid to the water jug to get a drink. Roxie was standing in tickle grass on the edge of an old log deck, tail poker straight, head high. The old man stood watching as I took 3 on the rise.

That same day as sunset approached I asked “How many you got?” I was ahead. I had never beaten the Master in the bird tally, but it seemed this was to be the day. We were in a stand of mature piney woods making our way back to the truck when Parvo, a solid white setter, pointed a covey on the roost. The Master deftly put the bevy to wing, the bulk of them heading somewhat advantageously for himself and dropped 2 birds before I could blink. And then he was ahead and it was dark.

It was unspoken, but I graduated that day .I had come close as the Master would allow. While I wished those hunts could have gone on forever, it was time to move on. I did, following dogs and wild birds to the prairies and plantations. That competitive spirit rubbed off on me as I went on to become a professional dog trainer, taking my string of pointers and setters to championships across the country. All because a man took the time to take an eager young boy bird hunting.

My proudest moment came when I ran the great setter bitch Ida O Priscilla at the National Championship out in Grand Junction. Many there thought she deserved to win. My source of pride however was in the fact that the Master came out there to watch us run. He seldom gave compliments, but on that day after the 3 hour heat was up he said to me “Good job”.

I know we can’t go back in time, but I sure would like to have that covey at dark to do one more time.
(Bill Faust died July 8th, 2023. He was buried at Devotional Gardens Cemetery, near the old roosting spot.)
 


About the Author : Jim Edmundson
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Jim Edmundson is an avid outdoorsman and hunter. He spent over 30 years training bird dogs and horses, competing in field trials from the prairies to the southern plantations. He currently lives on the family farm in eastern North Carolina where he enjoys hunting with his son and friends.

 
 

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