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.