NORTHERN FLICKER

A pair of Northern Flickers. (Associated Press)

My dogs and I have been playing a fun game the past couple weeks. Ever since the snow melted, we have been playing “get the woodpecker.” It is a really fun game that consists of lots of barking and running around the house, and there might even be a curse word or two shouted in frustration.

Again, it all started a couple of weeks ago. I was sitting and reading the paper one morning and heard the familiar hammering of a woodpecker on the side of the house. Now, just know, I am a bird lover at heart. I learned at an early age how to identify most of the birds around here, including their calls, and love to watch them. But, when one comes and starts drilling holes in the freshly-painted siding, that’s when we’re going to have some issues.

So, when the woodpecker, specifically a northern flicker, came knocking, I went to the gun safe, grabbed my high-powered air rifle and headed to the door.

This is where the dogs got involved in the little game. As soon as they see me bring out any kind of gun, for any purpose, they think it is time to go hunting and go almost apoplectic. Bailey, my five-year-old black Lab, gets especially excited and starts yipping an unbelievably loud, high-pitch bark and spins in circles. Tessa, my old yellow Lab, that can hardly walk because of really bad arthritis most mornings, starts hopping and running around the best she can.

Needless to say, all the dog commotion pouring out the front door is all it takes to send the flicker flying.

It has gotten to the point now when Bailey hears the flicker pounding away at the side of the house her ears will go up, and she will turn and look at me with a look that says “did you just hear that?” I don’t know how she figured it out so quickly but she knows the stuttering noise on the roof means I’ll be marching for my air rifle.

So far, the flicker has bested us. But I have a few more tricks up my sleeve. As much as it will hurt the dog’s feelings, I might have to put them on the bench if we’re going to win this game. They may have to go to the fenced-in back yard, before I go for the pellet gun. That, will break their hearts, but it may come to that if I’m going to sneak up on the persistent woodpecker.

Frankly, I might have to bring out the big guns to deal with the situation. We live in the country, so hearing shotgun and rifle fire is semi-common. I feel like I have given the flicker just about enough fair warning and if it comes to it, I’ll bring out the 20-gauge.

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I don’t like the idea of shooting the bird, but I will if I have to. We spent several thousand dollars painting our house last summer and the last thing we need is a hole in the siding where yellow jackets can build nests, let alone a hole big enough for the woodpecker to use for its nest.

So far, the flicker has been unscathed, and dogged in its quest. It returns every morning, and maybe during other times of the day when we are not at home. The early warning system that is named Bailey has definitely helped the bird.

My next approach, which will be attempted when I have enough time some morning to do so, is to employ some turkey tactics. I am thinking of dressing head-to-toe in camouflage and sitting in the shrubbery to await the arrival of our long-beaked nemesis.

If I do go turkey all over that woodpecker, I am going to have to do it in stealth mode, so the dogs aren’t aware of what strategy is being deployed. There’s no way they’d sit still with me for that.

The funny thing is, Bailey is very patient in just about everything we do that involves hunting. She has learned to sit quietly in the duck blind for long periods of time. And, when we take a break during our pheasant hunts, she will sit patiently waiting for her old, overweight hunting partner to catch his breath. Other dogs I’ve had, including Tessa, wouldn’t sit still for a minute. They’d be whining and fussing because they wanted to be out there finding more birds.

But this woodpecker deal is a whole different ball of feathers for Bailey. She’s more determined than I am to get to whatever it is that is rattling the roof. It is so much fun for her. I kind of hate to take the fun away. But it might come to that. It’s the principle of the thing. There are thousands of trees surrounding our little abode. That’s enough wood for a lifetime of pecking. Move to the trees and we’ll be good. Keep after the house and it may end poorly.

My guess is the flicker follies will end in favor of the bird. It will finally get tired of Bailey yipping and twirling around the wild-haired human lurking about. That’s fine with me. As long as it ends.

Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who has written the Northwest Sportsman column for over 30 years. He can be reached at rob1@spdandg.com