Monday, February 1, 2010

A Pheasant Hunt to Remember

After getting my first rooster on the opener, I longed with all my heart to be back out in pheasant country. I began seeing little clumps of cattails or other cover on the side of the freeway and think that it was some of the most beautiful plant life anywhere on earth. I hear of the pheasant hunts in South Dakota where the pheasants are like flocks of black birds here in Utah, and you can take your limit in a matter of minutes. A pheasant hunt to remember here comes from the way we got our birds, not the numbers. Hunting the wily ring necks requires lots of work and a good shot. Tal, in his final semester of his masters degree in engineering still has his priorities straight, so we skipped school one final time to go after the elusive roosters before the hunt closed. We went on a Tuesday to some public land and had the whole place to ourselves. Our party was two people strong with no dogs so we knew our chances were slim, but we also knew our chances of surviving through the rest of the year without getting back into the field were even slimmer.

We began zig zagging through the fields to cover as much ground as possible. All we were seeing was hens, so I volunteered to be the bird dog for a while. I went stumbling, and tripping through a dried up pond bottom of 10 foot tall cattails, while Tal waited on the hill next to it. Sure enough, running out came a monster rooster. He looked Tal in the eye and all I heard was, "KEV!!", the flush, and finally through the cattails I heard the shot and saw him drop. The day continued, and we were surprised at the number of birds we were hearing and seeing. As another rooster cackled and took off not ten yards away from me in the willows , I was so jolted I almost dropped my gun and I missed him. We never know if we are only going to see that one bird so it was tough on me mentally. Tal stopped to call and tell my dad about his shot and my embarassing miss. I heard some chittering in a thick patch of grass not far from us. After he hung up I told him I thought I could hear one right where we were. I had said this before to no avail, so needless to say he was skeptical.

The patch I heard him in was right against a river bank so the hillside next to us was very steep and about 40 feet tall. There was a fence there so I grabbed my barrel and reached it over and began stirring through the grass with the butt of my gun. Sure enough, just like stirring a magical potion, I stirred up the rooster. The only problem was that I had my gun by the barrel on the other side of the fence and it only had to climb 40 feet before he'd be gone forever. I pulled the gun back up and over the fence, shouldered it, he crested and I fired. Down the hill he rolled right back to our feet. Even the sting of the first miss was gone for a minute. We continued hunting until both of us kept falling down and cramping up from pushing through so much thick cover and covering so much ground. Both of us wanted to see just one more rooster, and just as the sun was setting a hen flushed. Then right behind me, flying right into the setting sun, an uncackling rooster flew the coop. I put my sight on it but with the sun in my eyes I decided it was another hen. Only when Tal, who had a better angle than me, screamed at me for not shooting did I realize I had just let that one last rooster fly from right under my feet to freedom. Then came the question of who was at fault. Me for not shooting or Tal for not yelling "rooster"? Either way, the hunt was one to remember. Never will I have a trip that will be both such a story teller and also haunt me forever.

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