Our Breed standard calls for a Chesapeake to be .. ‘equally proficient in land and water’…. and although their reputation as a strong tenacious swimmer may be legendary their skills as a competent upland game dog are often underestimated…..the following tale might sway your opinion….
Through the old stone wall piers and onto the lane, the dogs wandering just ahead of me , we were just short of where my friend Joe and his lab Solo were seated, when Uisce dived into the ditch on the right and up the other side of the sheep wire fence rose a wounded cock pheasant.
His wing beats were laboured, going too fast for the speed and level of flight he was at, and very quickly the effort was too much and I watched him drop down and run the fence line towards the gate into the field beside the rushy bottoms. The banked hedge meant that his path was not visible to either dog.
Uisce was still buried in the cover, so I took Bertie to the corner of the field where a stile made the stock fence safer to cross and sent him back along the fence line where I had seen the bird drop and run. He took a good line and when he hit the point where I had seen the bird drop his lowered head and quickening pace told me he had found the trail.And so the hunt was on….
Half way down the field , just past the gate that turns into Foley’s field he pulled up abruptly and a frustrated bark told me this was most likely the point where the bird could have stalled but stock fence topped with barbed wire pulled tight along a hawthorn hedge was preventing my dog from progressing any further. I caught up with him quickly, and brought him back fifty meters to where the fence was not so tight to the ground, guided him under and then from there he retracked back to where he left the point of scent inside the fence….
Again the bird broke cover and into flight, this time though Bertie was determined no hedge or fence was going to hold him back either and he busted through the hawthorn keeping pace underneath the bird as they headed off across the field towards the maize crop that bordered the narrow wood. Uisce had caught up with me by this time and we both watched from the gateway as the drama continued to unfold across the field.
Just short of the crop the bird dropped to the ground but continued to run with Bertie closing in on every stride. One last quick dip to the right by that wily bird threw Bertie off balance and he tumbled head over heels across the boggy bottom ground and the bird was away again.
If the bird made cover now , it would be a much more difficult task to find him as the dog would have to sift through the combination of scents coming from the several birds that no doubt had begun to gather in the crop at the end of the drive.
Uisce had him marked and I sent her in pursuit…off across the field she went at full gallop. The bird reached the crop and disappeared but the Chessies were literally on his tailfeathers as the crop swallowed all three.The chase continued through the crop as maize was thrashed by two forty kilogram Chessies intent on keeping pace with the agile bird.
Then everything stopped and within a few seconds the crop parted and Uisce emerged with the wounded pheasant held securely in her mouth and a very tired Bertie in her wake. Head up she saw me and picked up her pace where the bird was delivered safely to hand.
We made our way back to where Joe and Solo waited…Joe rose from his seated position took the bird from me and with no words spoken shook my hand and acknowledged both dogs with a quiet salute. We gathered up our game carriers, called to our dogs and as the winter sun dipped below the level of the treeline we headed for home.