Today, I’m home spending time with the family. So Sunny-girl and I will not be out chasing pheasants until Thanksgiving break next week. However, since the soreness and pain (physical and emotional) from last week’s difficult hunt have subsided (see “Hunting the Hell Hole” below), I’m ready to get after those roughneck roosters once more. But I won’t lie to you, my success with wild pheasants over the years has been sketchy, at best. They are not a gentlemen’s bird like the blue grouse or the sharptail. They will give you no quarter! As Datus Proper so succinctly stated in Pheasants of the Mind: “[A rooster pheasant] has only one song with one discordant line: ‘Don’t let the bastards wear you down.'”
To meet them successfully in the field requires an almost crazy man, who schemes and laughs like a diabolical villain and absolutely relishes and gloats at the demise of his quarry, or cusses like Yosemite Sam when they get away (“Riggin’, Friggin’, Dag’ Nabbin’ Roosters!”). Does anybody else feel that way about wily, wild rooster pheasants?
I recently reread one of my favorite hunting stories, Steve Groom’s, “Blizzard on the Race Track” from his unequaled book Pheasant Hunters Harvest. In my opinion, this is the best book on pheasant hunting ever written. Anyway, in this story, he tells a funny little anecdote about a fast and furious pheasant hunt he and a friend had in South Dakota on a public walk-in area:
. . . The rest is quickly told: two hours, eight chases, six rooster flushes, six shells fired, six retrieves. And every bird ran like a cat with four soup cans tied to his tail. It was the most aerobic pheasant hunt I’ve known. We had done a 10K marathon in shell vests and boots, toting over-unders. Our shortest chase might have been sixty yards, the longest three times that distance.
Back in the car, Bill drew an arrow on the map toward the management area and carefully penned the name we’d give it: “The Race Track.”
“Jim Layton should have seen this,” I said as we drove off in search of a place to sleep. Jim had been our pheasant hunting host in central Iowa for years. A canny pheasant man, Jim was also an incurrable optimist. He’d squint at the skies each morning and drawl, “Awww, it looks super. I bet them ol’ roosters will be settin’ real tight today.” And he was wrong every time. Every damn time. Whether the skies were gray, blue, or chartruese with pink polka dots, we never once found Jim’s late season roosters willing to hold tight.
Bar none, the best book ever written on pheasant hunting.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to pheasant hunting, I can relate! Pheasant hunting is an exercise in frustration with a few glorious moments mixed in. But hey, those moments make it all worthwhile and keep you coming back for another butt kicking. Just don’t forget to brush up beforehand on your villainous laugh and cursing. They should come in handy.