Posts Tagged ‘pheasant’

And he's the legacy.

And he’s the legacy.

Buddy and I were wandering the sage behind our place, me admiring the incredible weather and he searching the brush for sage rats. Then he simply glided to a stop, pointed, and before I could compliment him a pheasant hen flushed. Not one to ignore providence, I marked it down and we flushed it twice more before it disappeared into our rural subdivision.

Yes, it was the wrong place for a pheasant, and we’ve been puzzling over that question all afternoon. But it was also an echo bouncing back at me after 25 years.

I’d moved here because it was between two of the best trout streams in the west. My weekends were mapped out for the foreseeable decade, casting to wild rainbows until my elbows gave out or darkness set in. My tying kit was set up, waders were hung by the garage door, awaiting their baptism.

My rods were hardly unpacked when I lost the argument and we were getting a dog. I was awarded the consolation prize and got to pick the breed. So when we saw a fuzzy, dog-shaped beard and eyebrows in the back of a parked pickup truck, we were committed.

That dog was pregnant and her owner was a long-lost sorority sister of my wife’s. A few weeks later we were the proud owners of Bill, a chubby ball of wiry fluff. He soon graduated from waddling, to streaking across the prairie hell-bent for election.

Then came the day he zigzagged in front of us, leaping the sage until he slammed on the brakes. I wondered aloud about the tail pointing skyward, the front foot lifting elegantly. But before I could answer the questions in my mind, a commotion signaled the rise of a pheasant hen. I soon bought a shotgun, and as you well know am still learning how to operate it.

The rod cases are dusty, it’s three dogs later, and I’ve never looked back. Except to thank Bill whenever a pheasant hen rises in front of one of his successors.

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Pheasant Under Glass. Crackling-fresh trout fried in an iron skillet streamside. Deep fried walleye. Mmmmm. What’s yours?

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Okay, we’ve all been on a BAD lodge/preserve hunt: Dogs that won’t hold or retrieve, pool table smooth “cover,” birds that couldn’t fly themselves out of a paper bag.

Uh oh ... nothing good can come of this. For the chukar.

Uh oh ... nothing good can come of this. For the chukar, that is. Preserve or wild, who cares?

But what’s wrong with a GOOD preserve hunt? It offers much to the dog owning hunter: more plentiful birds, convenient location, a chance at that rare commodity camaraderie, and at least a taste of the natural world, even if it’s been crafted by the hands of man.

And that’s not even weighing the value of your time, driving hours (or days) to knock on locked doors and not get permission to hunt non-existent wild birds on beat-up property that was hunted by every third cousin of the landowner’s last weekend. So “paying” for birds becomes moot, unless the value of your time is zero dollars.

I just had a pretty good preserve hunt. My friend Rob and I enjoyed every minute of it, from the dog work, to the weather, to the unlittered fields we had all to ourselves. And while a true wild bird hunt offers a philosophical and possibly emotional charge I won’t get at the local lodge, it was better than nothing. Way better. And according to Buddy, pretty darn gratifying.

Caveat: don’t get on my case about the nightmares that occur at many preserves. I already know, and have lived through, them. That’s not my purpose here (maybe in another post). But consider:

Fly anglers are pretty much over the planted trout issue, except in the rarest of cases. Many of our best “wild” trout streams were barren until someone put fish in them. Even put-and-take fisheries redeem themselves with most anglers if the fish “act wild.” Clipped fins, brookies in the West, McCloud River rainbows in New Zealand … who cares if the package is good?

Hmmm. Tastes just like chukar to me.

Hmmm. Buddy sez: tastes just like chukar to me.

Let’s not forget our favorite winged quarry were planted, albeit 40, 50 years ago. What makes them better than a hard-flying, skittish, human-and-dog-averse Hun, chukar or ringneck “liberated” 40, 50 hours ago? Or last season, or this morning, for that matter? 

So, back to the question: notwithstanding the philosophical differences, for you, your friends and family and your dog … what would make a lodge/preserve hunt as good as a “wild” bird hunt?

Subjective answers in the comments section, please. And spare us the Ortega y Gassett quotes.

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Anyone else call this a hunkie?

Anyone else call this a hunkie?

Every region has it’s quirky names for critters. Time to compile the ultimate list of those we shoot at as they fly away. What do they call a ringneck pheasant in Montana? Is a timberdoodle in Vermont a bogsucker in New Brunswick? And what the heck is a mudbat?

Offer up your upland and waterfowl colloquialisms in the comment section … and if you can’t come up with a “real” one, feel free to make one up.

I’ll start:

Woodcock: mudbat, bogsucker, timberdoodle
Pheasant: ditch parrot
Merganser: flying liver
Up yours!: (anything we miss)

Your turn!

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Historic Mission Creek Lodge, at Ravenwood since the Civil War era

Historic Mission Creek Lodge, at Ravenwood since the Civil War era

Good friends often do make the hunt. That was the case along the edge of Kansas’ Flint Hills at Ravenwood Lodge. 

I’m often happiest hunting alone, nobody else determining the direction, pace, nor “helping” handle Buddy. But after a week on the road, friends are a welcome change from solitary pursuit. This stop on the Awesome Upland Road Trip was all about that.

The Corbets, big and little Ken, tend some of the best habitat in the Midwest. That, in turn, offers challenging yet satisfying hunting. Buddy cast left and right, first with the wind at his back and doubling into it on each turn. One memorable buttonhook pattern yielded a quail-ringneck double that little Ken and I shared

Even Buddy’s well-honed sense of smell was challenged and after several wild flushes, I asked that we get to the downwind side and do it right. I am glad I did. 

Have you ever argued with your dog about where the birds are? I learned long ago to follow the hunter with the longest nose, and after a fruitless pass through head-high CRP, I let Buddy lead us to the fencerows.

The Tri-Tronics beeper with hawk scream earned its recharge that night. We never saw Buddy lock up once. But we heard him, and followed our ears into bobwhite after bobwhite. True to form, Buddy never griped about the tough conditions.

Maybe you’ve experienced that day in the field when your dog is at his best, even if your shooting isn’t. And you had witnesses who appreciate it. That was today, and it reminds me that hunting dogs are simply four-footed miracles.

Take a moment, and remember when it happened to you …

You’re welcome.

We wore our Irish Setter boots through thorn thickets and grass that pulled at laces all day. Where would you take your new pair? Tell me in the comments section below, and you might win a pair!

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