Bill Behnke, Anchorage, Alaska
I’ve always found it difficult to describe the experience. I live in Alaska and mountains have become background to me. Remove the background and something seems wrong with the picture. Then open up the space and flatten out the land to small rolling fields of CRP and the whole world seems to slow down. One of the first things I notice is that my cell phone doesn’t always work here. The wind blows differently than at home. I notice it and Opus notices it. He senses it the very minute we land in Bismarck. My wife describes my hunting buddies as a just that “group of guys.” I think of these guys hanging around our detached garage turned dining hall, sports bar, and gun room as my best friends. Each year I notice that my pool of best friends has expanded. I sincerely regret that I can’t have everybody back every year.
We are a short four weeks away from the best week of the year. I want time to speed up so I can be there and when we arrive, I want it to stand still. I get my wish. That first day, the first time I let Opus out of the truck, he is excited. I’m excited. We work through the field, Op is ahead of me; it’s all perfect. If it has ever been anything short of pure sunshine on opening day, I’ve never noticed.
We work through the field. I hear a call to my left and a report of a 20 ga. First blood has been drawn. I’m envious but my time will come. We walk a bit farther. Then, Op flushes that very first pheasant in front of me and for just a moment, time stands still. I’m aware of the land and the sky, I often don’t even hear the call “Rooster” in the background. I see the green head, the red around his eye, the white ring around his neck. The bird just hangs there. I don’t think about pulling my gun up, I forget to think about keeping my cheek on the stock. For me, it just happens…there is a noise and the bird falls. For many, this is the satisfaction. For me, the best is yet to come.
Opus is just half way through his fourth year. He was trained by Mike and gained experience with Jay and Chip. He has lived up to the promise of a Gentleman’s Gundog. He is always under control, but it’s easy to see the puppy still in his eyes. Last year, when my first bird went down, Op marked it and looked back. He wasn’t looking for approval, just looking for acknowledgement that his time had come. This was his moment. I had thought about this moment before he was even born. We had trained for this moment. All he needed was one word… “Op.” Once he heard it, all the pieces fell in place, he knew what to do. I remember it clearly. It was the best part of the whole trip. It wasn’t the shooting, it was that look back waiting for the release, the intensity of the first retrieve, the look as he offered the rooster to me… I’m really privileged to have been taught by Ghillie and now be hunting behind Opus. Today it’s only four weeks away, tomorrow is will be a day closer….