This section is from the book "Moose-Hunting Salmon-Fishing And Other Sketches Of Sport Being The Record Of Personal Experiences Of Hunting Wild Game In Canada", by T. R. Pattillo. Also available from Amazon: Moose-Hunting, Salmon-Fishing and Other Sketches of Sport: Being the Record of Personal Experiences of Hunting Wild Game in Canada.
For at least twenty-five years every spring and autumn found me at the settlement of Port Joli, for a week's outing and shooting blue-wings, ducks, and wild geese on its harbour and lakes. Owing to the tide leaving the flats bare for miles, it was and is yet a famous resort for thousands of ducks, and the winter home of the largest Canadian goose, as well as the resting-place of thousands of the ordinary-flight geese on their way Northward in the spring. There are numbers of large ledges in the harbour over which, with favourable winds, the birds fly from the outer to the inner feeding-grounds. On such days I went with my punt to some one of these, the wind deciding the selection. Then, after sending it to the shore with my yellow tolling retriever, I concealed myself behind the rocks, and was ready for business. I did not often have to wait long if I had been put on the ledge at the right time of the tide. From my position I could see them coming hundreds of yards, and was always ready, whether they went to windward or to leeward of me, so long as they were within shot. Sometimes they would come so directly at me and over me, that I would be obliged to throw up my gun to change their course. This was the time when I generally made the best shot. Beady, my faithful old setter, was right after them when they fell, always going for the wounded first and killing them, then landing the whole of them right at my feet. Many a day I have shot and secured twenty birds and upwards, not infrequently getting a fine chance at geese in their season. I spoke above of Ready being not only a "retriever" but a " toller." Now, many of my readers may not know what kind of a dog that is. I have met with men who have hunted many years whom I could not persuade that a dog would toll duck up to them, until they have really seen it.
When Ready was fifteen months old, a gentleman, whose faith in the tolling powers of a dog was very weak, offered me $50 for him, after he and I had stopped and secured sixteen duck with our double shot out of a flock the dog had tolled fully 300 yards. This gentleman had come 150 miles to go with me on my outing, and during the journey I spoke of Ready's tolling qualities. He scouted the idea of a dog bringing birds ducks to him. " Why, it is simply ridiculous ! Who ever heard of the like ? You are just stuffing me. A dog toll duck to him! I never saw one yet that the moment the duck, and particularly a blue-wing, got his eye on, that wouldn't get up and get quicker than scat. Now, tell that to the marines, but don't try to fool an old hunter with such froth ! " ejaculated my friend. He was so excited over the ridiculous part of it, that I could not get in a word by way of explanation, so that all I could say in reply was, " Wait till we see some birds, and then I'll open your eyes, and show you something you never dreamed of."
The following morning, after we reached Port Joli, we started out for a day's tramp and hunt, Beady with us, of course. After an hour's walk we spied a flock of two or three hundred blue-wings, about 300 yards from the shore, resting in a body. The morning was very calm, and there was a couple of inches of snow on the ground. When I spied that flock, I thought, "My old fellow, here is the chance for an eye-opener I" Well, by my direction we crept and sneaked as near to the water as possible, then concealed ourselves behind spruce trees, rested our guns over the branches, cooked and ready for the signal to fire. These precautions have all to be taken, as the least movement on the shore when the birds are close, reconnoitring, is fatal to success. Now I bade him watch the flock, while I sent Beady on to the beach to toll, the edge of the water being about 10 yards from us. "What do you see now, Mr. D. ? " " They have all got their heads up." " What do you see now ? " " Why, eight of them have left the flock, and are coming for the shore as fast as they can swim." " What do you see now ? " " Well, I declare, if there aren't about a hundred in another bunch coming!" By the time this latter body had come within 100 yards or so of the shore and stopped, the first eight had reached the shore, and were swimming up and down within 10 feet of Beady, and specially interested in him. At any time we could have knocked over a half-dozen of these, for they were directly under the muzzle, not 15 yards distant; but I knew there was something better in store for us, so I kept Mr. D. back from shooting.
After some ten minutes of moving up and down the shore, these spies or scouts, or whatever term suits you best, were satisfied there was no danger near. They went to the smaller bunch that was awaiting developments outside, and, after swimming in amongst them, evidently talking in duck language, the larger body was so convinced of the report given, " no danger," that they all came to the shore. When these did so, the largest body of the flock that was outside commenced to come also, so that it was a string of duck for 150 yards off.
I started Ready in with a lively movement as they approached the shore, and they were coming as fast as they could he drawn with a line, as unconscious of danger, as if all gunners were miles distant. When within about 20 yards of us, they divided into two bunches, which drew together. This was the time we were waiting for. I gave a whistle: up went their heads. The signal, " One I two! " was given, " Bang-bang-bang-bang! " Both our No. 10 double barrels were emptied into them. As a result, sixteen ducks were soon on the shore. Then it was he offered me $50 for my Ready.
"Well, well, well, I never dreamt of the like, and really thought you were gassing me! " he said. " Do you know what it is in Ready that makes them come to him, when I am sure they would have flown if a black dog had gone out to the beach ? " he asked. I explain it in this way, which I think is the correct one: Nature, represented by its Creator, has made provision for every living thing. We are taught that the tiniest insect is fed, so by observation we know that the red fox in fact, any fox can go to the shore of a lake, where there are duck, and, by jumping up and down, wagging his tail all the time, while he may even be rolling on the ground, then running up and down the shore, that he may attract attention, the inquisitive duck will approach so close that he can spring on it, and thereby secure his breakfast. Rather hard, you will say, on the duck, but all right for the fox! Now, by acting on this trick of the fox, and training a yellow dog to similar performances, which is easily done when one knows how, results similar to what I have recorded often follow. Talk about $50 for Ready! why, I would not have accepted $150 for him then. It is not every yellow dog that can be trained as he was, to toll first, and then retrieve. The most of them will toll very well for a time, but soon get so that they want to go in among the ducks. My dog was a cross of a thoroughbred English setter bitch and an Irish setter dog. I kept the old fellow until he was over twelve years old, and then he became so enfeebled with rheumatism that I had him chloroformed. I have shot more birds in a week at Port Joli by the aid of Ready, than all the local gunners have gathered the whole season. I might just say here, that I have learned by experience that diving-fowl, like whistlers and shell-duck, will not toll excepting at the mating season, nor will the larger Canadian goose (known as the winter goose), but the ordinary-flight geese will, quite as well as ducks. Whenever in the future of my gunning cruises my dog is mentioned, it is Ready who will be meant. He was my constant companion, and travelled thousands of miles with me, even to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.