Another terrific season of pheasant varmint hunting came to a close on a good note today. It was starting to smell a little skunky around Buddy and me, but as it happened we were headed back to the car for the last time when things took a turn for the good.
It was a dreary looking morning - low overcast and misting a little, but warm 45 degrees. Up to now I had been nearly 100% for attempts (missed one) with my Winchester 101 O/U. This being the last hunt of the season I wanted to get the little 28 out and see how I'd do with it. So I grabbed the little Ruger Red Label 28 and a handful of 1 oz #6s (Winchester Super X), rounded up the pooches and headed for the prairies. I was struck by the fact that 10 rounds for the little 28 took so little room, compared to the same amount of 12 ga fodder.
We, Buddy and I, started out pretty good I thought...w/in 5 minutes Buddy shnuffled up a couple roosters, but they flew right at some other hunters about 200 yards away, and I decided NOT to give them an instant case of measles
So, they got a pass. I got that "what the heck????"
look from Buddy.
Well, we hunted for another hour and never got a whiff of another bird. The sound of other hunters in the area taking shots didn't make it any easier. This was a new area that I hadn't tried before, and decided to go to another area where we had always had better luck.
After 2 hours of slogging in wet grass and some standing water - deep enough to go over the tops of my boots and wet my feet...we hadn't even seen one; not even at a distance... I guess that's why they call it hunting!
Well, it was a great season anyway, and I intended to head home. But, hey...It was only a little past noon and I might have just one more push in me. So, in spite of aching back, legs, and sore cold feet, there was one place that because of its immense size just HAD to hold at least one birdie...right? It was very rough slew ground, wet, saw grass, and a real "ball-buster" area. But, because of that, only the hearty would be so foolish as to attempt it...I'm just foolish enough, and besides...the smell of "skunk" was unbearable!
So, I got Buddy out of the car, and I pulled the little 28 O/U out of the case and together we headed for "no man's land". Before I had time to drop a couple shells into the barrels and snap the gun shut, Buddy Boy's energy level went to "DefCon3". Well!!! After hours of nothing, at least this is something!
Sure enough there were sets all around. There were so many feathers and sets that the area must have reeked with pheasant scent, and Buddy was in "bird overload"! But, in the end, it was a case of "here they were; now where'd they went?"
After about 1/2 mile of sloggin and stumbling in those knobs common to slew ground, and nothing being telegraphed by Buddy's tail (he's now back at DefCon5), I was beginning to think this was not such a good idea. Then suddenly out of the corner of my eye I caught the motion of Buddy's nose dropping to the ground and he made one of those quick U turns, followed by a quickened step a sudden burst of excited energy. Now the side to side motions of his head, so quick that his ears flopped! "VERY CLOSE!" is the message to me! Not to disappoint, a nice rooster bird exploded about 10 yards out, but before I could get that quick little 28 ga on him, he managed to put a lone tree between us. I could see his wing tips on either side of the tree, and before I could get a clear shot, he was out of range. In spite of seeing where he landed, a 45 minute search only got Buddy a few whiffs, but the thicket where he plopped was so thick that even a rabbit would have pause to enter...That pheasant wasn't stooopid!
Well, Buddy and I were both tuckered after a long morning and most of the afternoon. I said to Buddy, "Let's head to the car and call it a good attempt and a good year, ol pal." So, as I slogged along, Buddy was too tuckered to hunt anymore and just walked along in front of me, pausing now and then to look back to see if I was still coming. Then...about 300 yards from the car, Buddy dropped his shnuffle to the ground and began to trot ahead about 20 yards - DefCon4. Then he stops, makes a couple quick circles, lifts his muzzle for a "high sniff" and transforms from a tire pooch to an electrified hunter (DefCon3)! His eyes are darting and his ears are cocked forward and he's making those quick little course changes - snapping this way and that; energy and excitement increasing (DefCon2!!). I brought the gun, hanging from one hand at my side, to "port arms", thumb on the safety and eyes glued to Buddy, but using the peripheral vision to catch any movement out ahead of Buddy's shnuffle-shnuffle-shnuffle...
It had been a long and sometimes grueling day, but suddenly a pair of cackling rooster birds exploded about 10 yards out. One went off to my right and behind me, but the other was reaching for the sky, climbing way up before leveling off. As he did so, the muzzle caught up with the tail feathers and passed thru the red, the white ring and off the end of his beak, and the little 28 barked and sent an ounce of 6s thru the Improved Cylinder choke at the bird now maybe 25 yards out. Instantly there was a puff of feathers, one "landing gear" dropped down, and the bird began fluttering to the ground to fall about 100 yards out. I marked the spot with my eye, and marched straight toward it. Buddy was on his scent in a second, and about 10 yards to one side of where he went down, the grass was moving like a snake was crawling thru it. He wasn't going anywhere fast, so I stood back and just enjoyed watching Buddy "do his thing". In a few seconds the bird had hidden himself under a clump of grass, but to no avail. Buddy was onto him in a few seconds and dragged OUR prize out of his hiding place. The perfect way to end a great season. This is another one for the memories book. I wish y'all coulda been along to enjoy it with me.
Who says a 28 ga is too small fer pheasants??