Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Bird in the Hand

My son Alex has a friend who, when they were in high school, had never hunted pheasants despite living in the "Mount Rushmore State" his entire life. So we decided in the fall of 2006, it was time for Joe to shoot his first rooster. So, on a crisp Saturday afternoon in October, we took Joe with us in pursuit of the South Dakota ringneck pheasant.

After an hour-long trip to our hunting property, we met our hunting partners, did the obligatory hunting safety session, loaded our weapons and spread out across the first field of the afternoon.

In a scene familiar to any pheasant hunter, we were making our way through a field on a line with those on the ends slightly ahead of the rest to give them a chance to shoot at a pheasant that might try to make its way out the side.

Joe was strategically positioned at the far right end of the line in hopes that he might have a better chance to get a shot there. It seemed that all the birds were getting up and flying straight away from us into the wind.

Finally a rooster pheasant got up in front of the left side of the line and veered to the right giving everyone a chance to shoot at it. Everyone did shoot at it and as it flew across the line of 10-12 hunters from left to right, shooters unloaded their guns at the bird.

By the time he had made his way to the right side of the line where Joe was, the bird seemed to be both armor-plated and about 70 yards high - way out of range. But Joe, not to be cheated, took a shot at the $20 bird (he had at least that much in shells expended on him!).

You guessed it, the bird helicoptered to earth about 20 yards in front of Joe. Everyone let out a big cheer! Some cut loose with a jeer as well.

We encouraged Joe to retrieve the bird even though we had a couple dogs with us. So he hustled over to the pheasant and grabbed him and put him in the back of his vest with, seemingly, very little fanfare.

The group walked out the rest of the field and then made their way over to the right side of the field where Joe was standing, grinning from ear to ear! After we all congratulated him and relived the event from a few different perspectives, we told Joe to pull the bird out so we could see it.

He handed his gun to someone and reached back into the rear pocket of his hunting vest. As he reached back with his right hand, the bird jumped out of the vest on the left side. He looked as alive as when he was flying across the line of hunters fifteen minutes earlier.

He didn't seem to be able to fly so he ran (boy did he run!) toward a fence line about 50 yards from us where there was some thicket and a few trees.

While Joe stood there with a shocked look on his face, and the rest of us doubled up in laughter at what seemed like a scene from a Saturday morning cartoon, Repo saw the bird and took off in hot pursuit.

By the time we had picked ourselves up and gone over to the fence line, Repo had pined Joe's wily rooster under a rock. He got the bird in his mouth and retrieved it. Finally, the color returned to Joe's face.

Joe always had an appreciation for Repo after that incident!

Joe (right) with a facial expression similar to the one he had as he watched his first pheasant run away!

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