© 2011 Aaron Atkinson

One Lucky Pheasant

In South Dakota it is legal to hunt pheasants in the grass and cattails of the road’s ditches. Lest you think this is unsportsmanlike, I offer you these two pieces of information. First, we almost never do it, preferring instead to hunt with Indie in the swaying grass of the prairies. And second, the pheasants are smart. At the first hint of danger – a decelerating automobile, a slamming door, the metallic clang of a gun’s action – they don’t hesitate to take wing and fly to safety.

But one tired evening as we drove back to our hotel after the day’s hunt, we crested a small rise on the lonely gravel road in time to see a trio of pheasants, two hens and a rooster, scoot into the grassy fencerow.

Like I said, almost never do it.

I had Dad drop me off about 100 yards down the road, far enough, hopefully, to not alert them to my plan. I stepped into the ditch and loaded my gun. The basic trick with pheasants is to get them to fly only once you’re close enough to shoot at them. This is obviously to the benefit of the pheasant because they have so many options for escape. They can flush far out of range, they can run and never fly, by running they can put additional distance between themselves and the gun and then fly, or they can choose to not fly at all and instead try to hide.

Knowing these evasive options, I decided that the biggest threat was these birds taking off before I could close the hundred yards down to a manageable thirty five. So I ran at them, hoping to catch them off guard and panic them into holding tightly for just a few more yard-closing seconds.

At forty yards the first bird got skittish and flew right to left over a harvested soybean field. And while she was at the edge of my affective range, she was a hen, and was thus off limits to shooting. At her flush I slowed my run down to a cautious walk. Pheasants are like dominoes, one usually causes the rest to go, and I wanted to be ready for that rooster when he flushed.

A moment later the last two birds lost their nerve. Flying in the same direction as the first bird, two beautiful South Dakota pheasants, a male and a female took wing. I raised my shotgun and touched off the safety. But as I moved to pull the trigger all I could see of that rooster was his long tail trailing behind the hen. You see, almost from the moment they took off, the rooster had positioned himself in the only place that I couldn’t shoot him – precisley on the far side of that hen. And while I tracked them both, waiting for him to clear into some shootable airspace, he never did. All I ever saw was that long tail flopping as if to wave goodbye.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>