© 2013 Aaron Atkinson

Dead Bird Flying

The rooster screamed into flight 40 yards in front of me out of the wheat stubble. I fired a quick shot and he lurched momentarily in the air, before continuing his escape.

Once or twice each pheasant season I’ll hit a bird that flies away dead on the wing. When this happens, a BB fails to break an essential bone and instead manages to slip into the heart or lungs. The bird will usually shutter at the shot, but instead of falling to the ground, it’ll fly on seemingly unharmed for one or two hundred yards before succumbing to its injury. In the last moments, it will lose a bit of altitude, before giving one last mighty surge that usually takes it straight up forty or fifty feet in the air. At the pinnacle of it’s flight, it runs out of steam, dies, and falls with a thud to the ground. Because of this phenomenon, I watch every single bird that I shoot at until it either flies out of sight or dies in the air.

The latter is exactly what happened last weekend.

In Kansas it’s against the law to trespass onto private property unless you leave your gun behind and take a direct path to your wounded or dead quarry. Since this bird had flown across a gravel road and into a horse-occupied pasture, I left my gun in the ditch, kept my eye on where the bird had fallen, and I went right towards it. Now, even though it’s legal to trespass in this fashion, I don’t like doing it. And in an effort to minimize my time spent on private land, I usually run to retrieve my bird.

Like that rooster, when I started off, I felt great. I was gliding across that uneven pasture in graceful, gazelle-like strides. Even the intense cold of the January morning didn’t do more than tickle my lungs a little bit. Two hundred yards into the field, I picked up the bird, whose ruby-red breast feathers glowed like a Christmas tree in the early morning sunlight. As I continued to jog back to the truck, the cold air started to squeeze my unconditioned lungs. Fifty yards from the truck, my head got light, blood pounded in my ears, my body screamed ‘stop‘, but I gave it one last mighty surge in an effort to jog all the way off the property. Ten yards shy, I slowed to a walk as I coughed billowing clouds of vapor into the morning air.

When I got back in the truck, my hunting buddies chuckled as I continued to cough. And for the first time, I felt for myself a little bit of how those dead on the wing roosters must feel.


  1. Posted January 17, 2013 at 11:49 pm | #

    You really expect us to read this long of a post?

  2. Aaron Atkinson
    Posted January 27, 2013 at 8:56 pm | #

    Ha! No expectations here. I’ll be certain to write a few short ones for you, and I’ll make sure that all of the words are easy to sound out. 🙂

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