A Tale of Two Sisters in Sisters
By Gary Lewis
Red, Dan Ramming's three year-old Viszla was focused. She'd been coursing back and forth in front of the hunters staying about 50 yards out front. Now, she cut a tight pattern around a fallen juniper. Low to the ground, she suddenly froze, head cocked, body bent toward a tall sagebrush.
"We got a point," Dan said. "Jennifer, swing around to the left. Tiffany, you back her up."
We'd showed up in the early afternoon at Alder Creek Ranch with the low clouds spitting snow. A barbecue was under way, with the smell of hamburgers and hot dogs drifting across the parking area. This was the Bend Chapter of the Oregon Hunter Association's youth bird hunt. Two elk tents had heaters glowing inside. Outside, several hunters and volunteers huddled around free-standing wood stoves reminiscent of elk camp.
Safety comes first. A volunteer sized up the two teenage girls with their break-action guns and stepped them through a refresher course on gun handling in the field.
Next, the girls shot clay pigeons. Ten clays apiece. Tiffany, with the 12-gauge, broke one bird, while younger sister Jennifer hit four with her single shot 410. They looked a little discouraged with the performance. OHA member Steve Mathers, though, was smiling. "Those pheasants are bigger than these little targets and easier to hit." We'd see about that.
Pheasants were donated by Canyon Creek Shooting Preserve and pen-raised chukars were provided by Don Wallace, while the use of the property was provided by Alder Creek Ranch.
Hunters, aged 10 to 17, had to bring a hunting license and a Hunter Education certificate. Some kids brought their own dogs, but most relied on the skills of a few pointing dogs provided by volunteers.
13 year-old Jennifer carried a single-shot 410 shotgun and a handful of 3-inch No. 6 loads in her pocket. Tiffany, her older sister packed a 12 gauge over and under, her vest pockets bulging with cartridges.
At the first point, Tiffany missed a going-away rooster and Jennifer passed up the opportunity to back up her big sister. "I wasn't ready to shoot yet," she said, but the fire in her eyes said she wasn't going to let another opportunity pass her by.
At the next flush, the bird flew low to the ground, just over the ears of the Viszla. No shot. Ramming smiled, happy he didn't have to scold anyone for endangering his dog. That's when the Red pointed into the sagebrush next to the fallen juniper tree.
"We got a point. Jennifer, swing around to the left. Tiffany, you back her up."
This time, the bird rocketed out on a 30-degree angle, well above the dog and straight away. Jennifer, with her gun mounted at her shoulder, covered the bird's head with the barrel bead and pulled the trigger. The rooster pheasant crumpled and big sister didn't have to back up the younger girl with the little 410.
By the end of the day, Tiffany's 12-gauge had added two more long-tailed roosters to the bag. After the photos were taken and congratulations made, it was time to clean the birds. And time these girls learned to do it on their own. Their father, with a smile on his face, warmed his hands at the stove inside the elk tent.