September 15th, 2012 - 03:20 PM
The big day was here, the opening of our annual pheasant hunt in Iowa. Not only were we beginning our annual hunt on a spectacular fall morning we had a crew of my favorites together who will most likely never be together again. Today I had GK, Mark, Scott, and Ed. But our bonus this year was the return of our old friend Fred along with the addition of Eddie and Corky. Corky had his beautiful Mabel with him and of course I had Cromwell my three-year old English setter.
The morning began before first light with our normal fantastic breakfast cooked and served by Martha and Keigh. After we’d filled our bellies we packed dogs and guns, stopped for coffee and gas, then headed the 60 miles northwest to Oakland, IA and the Robinson farm. As usual the five hundred acres of switch grass was high and today waving in a stiff wind. Our saving grace this year was that the grass was dry and would not pull at our legs too much as we wading through hundreds of acres of five-foot tall grass.
Our morning was an opening day success. Our group would work through a large section of grass while other hunting parties worked nearby fields within our sight. Each group would flush birds back and forth between the fields. It was exciting to watch all the pheasant flying from field to field. Immediately we had a bird up and down but we lost him to a too long shot and the tall grass.
Through the morning GK shot two roosters, Eddie shot one, and Scott one. We had plenty of excitement from wild flushing roosters and close in hens. A little additional excitement was the Deputy Sheriff who stopped to ask for our hunting licenses. There were no criminals among us I am happy to report.
After lunch and a nice visit with our hosts, the Robinsons we hit the tall grass again. The wind had definitely picked up from the steady blow of the morning. Mariah was blowing gusts over twenty mph, which kept the birds running but not flying. After a couple of hot dry hours pushing into the high wind covering mile-long fields end to end we decided to call it a day.
Tired our little group of Argonauts trudged slowly back toward our vehicles. If I know our bunch cold beer, not pheasant, was first on everyone’s mind. We broke out of the switch grass onto bare ground just over a quarter mile from the trucks. Our path took us over a picked bean field following a grassy strip hoping to bump one more bird.
A branch of the grass strip broke out at a 90° angle away from our path. Cromwell all of a sudden got interested wanting to follow this new path. I suggested that we work it. The guys stopped, calculated the additional distance of the walk, then laughed and invited me to go ahead. They informed me they were going for a cold one. Always the troopers Ed and Eddie threw in with me.
Ed took the left side of the quarter-mile long berm and Eddied the right. I walked along the top so I could control Crommie’s movements. The wind was blowing more fiercely than ever and I think it was only my personal ballast that kept me from falling off the top of the berm.
We worked slowly as a high wind is confusing to both dog and bird. Cromwell would move a few yards, stop, smell, look, then move on. We did this dance to within ten yards of the end. The berm petered out perhaps twenty yards from the fencerow in a bare bean field, nowhere for a bird to run only flush.
Ten yards before the grass petered out Crommie hit a rock solid point. Confident, I shuffled in and kicked at the grass. Cromwell did not break point. I kicked and moved and the dog followed me to the end of the grass. He went on point again. I kicked grass and the dog’s head moved side-to-side, a clear indication that the bird was moving. Still no rooster issued forth. Cromwell moved back ten yards to his original point. He hit a hard point but again no bird was forthcoming.
We did rinse and repeat of this maneuver three more times. Eddie moved to the end to block. Each time Cromwell would come back to his original point but no bird. We were perplexed to say the least. We were working an area maybe ten yards square but primarily a three-foot wide strip to the end. Where could a bird hide? How could he hide? Cromwell would hold a hard point on the same spot while I kicked and stomped. I think I stomped every square inch of that ground.
At last on the forth point I kicked a young rooster out of a heavy patch of grass where the ground made a natural bowl for him to snuggle into. That bird hit the stiff wind launching off the ground like a rocket. I was looking directly at Eddie when the bird hit the air. Eddie went flat to the ground. I whipped my Remington to my shoulder for a snap shot and decked our errant rooster.
The rooster took his final tumble onto the bare bean ground. Cromwell of course made his usual picture perfect retrieve, head held high and a look that said, “Why would you ever doubt me?”
The three of us had a good laugh about our little adventure as we too headed to the cars for a cold one. I always thought of that bird was as much Eddie’s as mine. It was the ultimate culmination of a day hunting with my boy and my favorite hunting companions. What a beautiful day and a great adventure. The day we shot the high wind rooster.