Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Sporting Editor [Sandy Griswold]. May 1, 1892. Omaha Sunday Bee 21(318): 18. Portion of column.

May's First Gust of Sport

A Glorious Day Among the Jacks Out on the Loup.

Even if the ducks are about gone, the jacks have arrived at last, and for the next two weeks fine sport may be had on most any of the favorite grounds within a radius of fifty miles. The birds were a little backward in getting here this spring on account of the numerous cold rains, but now that the weather has evidently settled for good, they have come on in a body. Their stay will be short, and gunners should improve the first opportunity to get out.

Jack Morrison and the writer were out on the Loup Friday, and put in a royal day with the precious little scolopax. There are fine grounds here—probably as good as any in the state. A low-lying meadowland, stretching away down the beautiful valley for miles, forms an attractive feeding ground for the birds, and when found anywhere, they are found here.

The soil is loamy, black and rich, with thickets of wild rose, flags and moose grass all over it. Hundreds of trickling rills cut their way in and out, up and down, and across this choice bit of territory, not only for the jacks, but for song birds of all kinds, the red-winged blackbird, the jay, robbin, tanniger and blue bird have long made this their spring rendezvous.

Jack and I reached the vicinity of the grounds early in the morning, and after seeing to the [word n.l.] and getting the right bearings from our host, we started in with Fan, Morrison's red setter cavorting around us.

Once within the oozy land, Jack ordered Fan to go about her business, and she did.

I can't see much use of a dog for snipe shooting, at any rate when the birds are fairly plentiful, but on this occasion we were a bit doubtful whether we would find any or not, and Jack was anxious to try his new dog. However, they never came amiss in assisting in recovering the killed, and of course no objection could be made. A dead snipe—all old hunters will bear me out—is about as hard a thing to find, especially on a reedy, grassy ground, as any game bird that can be mentioned. Without a dog, the utmost care must be exercised in marking down, and they should be retrieved at the earliest possible moment, as the homogeneousness between a well-ordered snipe ground and the plumage of the bird is a wonder and a perplexity always.

"Hie on."

The stuck setter looked back over her shoulder, on into our faces for just a moment, then as Jack raised his hand, she bounded off with an eager whine, soon slowing to a quick walk, her nose up, her nostrils dilating and her tail going at a rate that plainly told that the morning air was tainted with a welcome odor. Completing a circle she returned, and glancing in at Jack, said as plain as words.

"There's no jacks here."

She was waved off the second time, and vaulting the conical tussocks and splashing with her velvet feet in the brackish pools, she was soon harder at work than ever, gingerly she moved here and there, poking her nose among the prickly rose bushes, searching grassy crypts, and reed caverns, and sniffing over the ground as if determined to let no scent, however faint, escape her.

What a picture she made. It is one that never fails to send the sportsman's blood coursing and tingling through his veins.

Suddenly, Jack and I had just pulled our rubbered feet out of a little larger mire than usual, we noticed a relevant movement on the part of the dog. The next moment she was as [two words n.l.] as if chiseled out of stone. Her eyes were wide open and her red nostrils expanded to their fullest, and pointing straight into a little flaggy, tangled sward.

"There they are," laconically proclaimed Morrison, and the sound of his voice seemed to shatter the spell that lay over the scene.

"Skeap, skeap, skeap," and up from those reedy recesses here, there, and all about us, it seemed, flushed a full score of jacks, the little white and brown sprites, darting, twisting and convoluting in the dazzling sunshine, like so many fleeting shadows, and although much flustrated at their sudden flushing we both got in both barrels and downed three birds. Fan found them all, but she would not retrieve, and we had to gather them ourselves. She would stand beside the bird until we reached her, then she was off.

"We are in for some shooting, after all," I remarked, as we stopped a moment to look about us.

The birds had evidently enjoyed a hearty breakfast, and instead of rising high in the air and circling, they had dropped all about us, in the low, scrawny undergrowth and weedy sloughs. A yelp had steadied Fan and she stood crouching and trembling, gazing back at us with a wishful look in her big intelligent eyes.

Jack bade her on, and we were soon in the midst of te liveliest sort of work.

It was a regal morning and the picturesqueness of the scene was such that no artist could hope to reproduce. So romantic, so refreshing, so exhilarating. But what can beat a fine spring morning on a good snipe ground!

Fan was quickly on a stand and we moved cautiously up to her. "Skeap!" That was a bird from almost under Jack's rubber boot. But he didn't get far. My good old LeFever was too quick for him.

Instantly, upon the crack of my gun, there was another flurry of birds, and we grassed two more. Unfortunately, we both shot at one bird the last time, and when I picked him up he was riddled in such a way as to render him useless, and he was cast aside.

A few steps further and two birds got up and both got away, not, however, until Jack and I had both emptied our pieces at them. Nobody need be ashamed of missing an occasional snipe, no matter how sluggish or how well they may lay.

Funny things happen afield, as was quickly exemplified in our case, for the next moment Morrison made a cracking double and soon after I tallied with him.

"There she is, Jack," I called as Fan once more, for about the tenth time, poised herself into a statue of living beauty. "You shoot," replied Jack, "and I'll take the rest."

The next moment, with that sharp, plaintive little cry the bird was up, and so was my gun. A buff of azure smoke, a ringing report, and the frantically gyrating gallinago plunges dead into the mud.

Crack! crack! echoes Morrison's gun, and so the sport went on.

In time we got the birds pretty wild, and they flushed at long range, flew further and were less easy to bag. Fan's vocation was about gone, for whenever she ventured more than a hundred yards away, she would be hidden by the intervening pucker-brush, the moving flags, grass and weeds, and Jack and I were depending as much on our own efforts to jump the bird as we were on her finding them for us.

In the order of this hunt, we finally separated, I beating down an inviting slough, while Jack went up. The water, only patches showing here and there, midst the sear splatter-dock, and fluffy weeds, glistened like burnished silver, and as I plodded on, I kept my eyes open for rising teal or some belated old hen mallard, and correct were my suspicions for I hadn't gotten more than 200 yards from Jack before four blue wings leaped into the air from a patch of broken down smart weed, and whizzed round past me. I gave them both barrels, but was disappointed at only stopping one bird.

What were my feelings, when I saw the three remaining birds fly directly over Morrison, and at the crack of his gun, the entire three let go and come tumbling down. One, however, managed to keep awing just above the growth of grass and weeds, and led jack a weary chase, before he got in the deciding shot.

I waited until he had returned and secured the other two, then started on again.

Well, we hunted and shot all morning, meeting at a point not over twenty yards from the point we started in at a little after 12 o'clock. Our coat [word n.l.] were bulging with birds, and being tired and hungry, we repaired without further ceremony to the house. The dinner, with a couple of bottles of Krug's coolest on the side, we got away with, made the farm hands stand aghast.

By 2:00 we were in the marsh again, and in exactly the same spot where she had found the birds in the morning, Fan located them again.

They were wild and all flushed at once, whisking off in all directions, and rising high in the air, circled and circled until they were mere specks against the overarching blue. Here they darted, whirled and fluttered in most erratic flight, until we grew tired of waiting to mark them down.

All about us in the mucky soil, we saw where the birds had been boring for angle worms and crabs, and from the marks they left, one would have thought hundreds of them had been feeding there.

While we had abandoned sport in the afternoon, our bag footed up considerable one-half less than that of the morning. But we got what we went after, a day's healthful outing, and a mess of the rarest and most delicious of all feathered game, the royal little jack.

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