Friday, April 5, 2013

November is for Pheasants

November equals terrific pheasant hunting, and the equation held true this past season.  George and I were able to enjoy nearly two hours afield one evening in the early part of the eleventh month. No sooner had we met, chambered up, and began ascending an old tractor path above Spring Creek, did we spot a mighty rooster standing confidently before us. Daisy's bell clued him in to our purpose, and he turtled into the underbrush.  It didn't take long for our beagle to work into a frenzy, sending the bird airborne. With one shot of my reliable Mossberg, he came crashing down. The shot was sufficient at such close range, though excitement likely got the better of me as it was not perfect, but having one heavy bird in the bag tends to relax one's sole, which makes for calmer nerves and more accurate shooting  anyway.

Soon, we were tromping through the spacious upper fields quite alone, and quite happy at discovering this unshared paradise. Daisy worked birds in and out of cover, and eventually chased another male into a wooded alley, which is never great for uninstructed  shots on a bird taking wing, but we knew the lack of sufficient underbrush would eventually force him up, which it did.  The launch was full of cackling, and George and I both fired in a desperate attempt to score on our target, which we did, simultaneously, and like a helicopter struck in mid flight, he dropped quite abruptly, but in his landing, he rolled and ran. The toughness of these birds and their will to live is admirable. 

Daisy gave chase, and a quarter of a mile later, it became obvious that the bird was crippled such that flying was not an option for him. Instead, he would rely on his better instincts by committing to a death run. Our saving grace was our dog. Daisy stayed on the bird with determination. And, she continued to remind us, like she has a thousand times over, that a good dog is worth its weight in gold. Finally, after scrambling along the steep, rocky ridge lines of the creek canyon, Daisy turned the bird up a dry runoff channel within range of my brother, who took the high ground to prevent an escape into the fields, while I blocked the creek.  Yes, pheasants are also good swimmers.

George's smooth 20 gauge reported once or twice, I can't quite recall as I was just so happy to hear him shooting, and by this point, I was shouting "Did you get him? Did you get him?" I should have known better. After all, my brother is an expert shot and the dog had stopped bawling.  George laughed, "Yeah, I got him." And the three of us  collapsed for a water break while admiring another fine bird.   

As we crested the last hilltop headed due west into the brilliant light of the setting sun, I caught my brother's silhouette. The shot looked more like South Dakota than central Pennsylvania, but I don't think the location would have made a difference to me.  Instead, the deep sense of satisfaction and happiness I felt knowing we were part of this scene took the day.