© 2011 Aaron Atkinson

Lucky Unlucky

Much of Kansas was mired in drought throughout most of 2011. The lack of moisture combined with a month-long stretch of intense heat brewed the perfect storm of disaster for birds and bird hunters like me. Despite the lackluster pheasant report, just as I have the past several seasons, I joined a group of friends in Southwest Kansas for our annual pheasant hunting opener. But unlike the last few years when pheasants abounded and harvests were plentiful, this year’s hunt was less than spectacular with only a few birds seen and even fewer brought to bag.

So it was no surprise that spirits were down slightly on the second morning of hunting after yet another unproductive walk on the prairie.

It was at this moment, as we¬†were driving in our small caravan down a dusty Kansas backroad that we all saw something that we hadn’t seen nearly enough of lately… a rooster flying toward us. Cars slowed as we watched him sail our way. We weren’t, however, the only ones watching. As that lone pheasant neared the road, the hawk that had been perched in a nearby tree took wing and dove at the passing pheasant. The rooster saw the danger looming and quickly aborted his flight and landed in a patch of tumbleweeds. He flipped onto this back to thwart the avian attack with his legs and long spurs. The hawk landed a couple of blows and would likely have had his breakfast had it not retreated when a hunter from our party leaped from his vehicle, loaded his gun and walked towards the downed pheasant.

Already wounded and likely hesitant to fly I whispered to my carmate that the roosters fate was likely sealed. As our hunter stepped into the tumbleweeds the rooster sprung into flight mere feet from the gun’s barrel and flew straight away. The first blast from the shotgun shaved off a few feathers, as did the second and third. But once again, in a span of less than a minute, that tough old rooster refused to give up the ghost as it sailed back into the shelter of the wheat stubble it came from.

We had a tough weekend of hunting, but it was a cakewalk compared to the morning that one very lucky unlucky pheasant just had.

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