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Jeff
JEFF
IDLEMAN

Cockleburs

The Next Step

Mon, November 26, 2012

rooster head

The beauty of a cock pheasant is always amazing. It never gets old.

Went out in a very dense fog the day before Thanksgiving.  A friend had drawn a free upland permit for Manito but a little DNR harvest results research revealed that zero birds had been killed there last year.  Quite a long drive for a walk. 

We decided to hunt an area near El Paso that had some birds on opening day.  Made it to the field shortly after legal shooting hours but the fog was still what they call a “shutdown fog” in the barge business and didn’t really let up by the time we quit around 10 a.m.  To illustrate, a harrier flushed out of the grass 20 yards ahead of us and disappeared in about two wingbeats.

Mr. Drysdale had his two springers and we did a pretty good job of covering the filter strips that were available.  Dogs got birdy several times and we found roost sign but nothing popped out of the best-looking cover.  We then hunted to the north and the dogs started circling and acting birdy.  Finally, a rooster flushed near Mr. D. and headed across the ditch.  He folded on the second shot and, after a brief refresher course on the meaning of the “back” command, Libby brought him to hand. We saw two hens at a small final bit of cover and that was it for the day.

Probably the best memory was having the chance to visit with Roger Thomas, long-time hunting buddy.  During the slow drive in the fog Roger described why he enjoyed hunting.  The time outside, the unexpected things you always wind up seeing, the thrill of having your scouting and preparation pay off. 

One thing he said that really struck a chord is that upland hunting is different from most other forms of hunting in that there is always the excitement of what the “next step” might bring.  Deer hunting, goose hunting, turkey hunting – you will spend most of your time in a blind or stand.  The world will go by as you sit still.

In upland hunting, you have to stay in motion and there is always the complete unknown about what comes next.  You might walk for hours in great cover with perfect conditions and see nothing.  You might take your first steps into a miserable looking field and have birds bouncing everywhere.  Couple that with the thrill of seeing and hearing birds flush and you have a pretty good explanation of why I still keep trying even though the odds of shooting a pheasant seem to go down every year.  Sure the time outside, watching the dogs work, the beauty of the birds and the challenges of finding them are important.  But it still needs the added anticipation of never knowing what that next step might bring.

Comments

Great article. You know you are alive when one flushes underfoot and decides to go straight up vertical! WOW! That gets the ol’ ticker kickin’. That is why we do it and any step could be “the one.” Nice job and good luck afield.

Posted by Mallardmike on November 26

I started hunting squirrel and rabbits, quickly progressing to pheasant and quail.  For many years, weekly upland hunts, coupled with some waterfowl and dove outings, was the extent of my hunting.
Deer hunting last weekend, I almost stepped on a rabbit.  That rush brought back joyful memories of tromping central illinois fields in search of upland game, now almost extinct in my area.  (Yes, in younger days, Jeff and I kicked some of the same weed patches.)  While I try to get enthused about deer, but find it mind-numbing boring and would trade all the deer in Illinois for the pheasant and quail we had in the 1950’s and early 60’s.  Even a snot nosed kid with a .410 single shot and no dog could bring home a few rabbits, quail and pheasants.

Posted by riverrat47 on November 26

Jeff;  Or another way of stating it; Its like combat…hours of boredom punctuated by moments of chaos.  A “flush rush” is worth every penny and every ounce of effort spent during the year.  In some ways, having less birds seems to provide more adrenaline per flush.  Small consolation, but I’ll take it.

Posted by Mr Drysdale on November 27

Agreed, I often can remember freezing in the deer stand but the walks of pheasant hunting I have found myself overdressed on more than one occasion sweating. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time afield upland game hunting and even had my time where I have hunted and 2 roosters jump early in the hunt and the awesome feeling of getting a double to then realize I was done for the day was actually a let down. The days of any doubles seem long gone now where it can be rare to even see 2 roosters in a day of hunting(minus the canned hunts.) But the memories remain and oh what memories they are!

Posted by enjycreation on November 30

One of the things you learn in upland hunting is that if you’re not freezing when you start, you’ll soon be boiling. An advantage of low bird populations is that it’s easy to shed layers as you go and put them in the game bag. No yucky messes since there probably won’t be any birds sharing the space.

I know that bloody, feather filled game bags are part of the mystique. The Lord of Thorndale’s wife had his game vest dry cleaned after one season and he has never lived it down.

Posted by springer on November 30

Jeff, you are definitely right.  Better to start off shivering.  Speaking of cleaning….one year, in my pre teen years, I saved up and bought my Dad a pair of brush pants for Christmas-double faced, but not with nylon or another layer of canvas, don’t know what it was.  But they were expensive-I believe around $25.00, when a Model 12 was less than $100.  My Mom thought they were too stiff and washed and dried them…totally destroying them, leaving them a shriveled mess.  Boy, was I PO’ed.

Posted by riverrat47 on December 02

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