Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Eve Pheasant/Quail Hunt

The sun is starting to shine through the window as I wake up.  We are upstairs in Christina’s parents house.  My eyes have not yet started to water when I grab my cell phone and dial Dad’s cell phone.  Mom answers with a sound of sleep still in her voice.  They were still asleep.  This would be rare at this time of morning, except we had been up late visiting the night before.

I asked if Dad wanted to go out hunting before lunch.  She handed him the phone.  He said he would be over after he got dressed and had a cup of coffee.

My eyes were starting to water so I put my contacts in.  I grabbed the older pair of jeans out of my suitcase and chose what I would wear carefully, as I usually get blood on my cloths when I go hunting.

Downstairs the rest of the household was starting to stir.  We had not seen them the night before since we got in so late.  I asked my brother in law if he would like to go hunting with Dad and I.  He did and so did one of my nephew’s and niece.  Another nephew had been out shooting rabbits in the tree break with the .22.  He wasn’t going to get to hold a gun in the field so he didn’t want to come along.

Dad arrived about a half hour after I called him.  It was chilly but not too cold.  You could see your breath and there was frost on the cars, but you could stay warm with a jacket and a pair of gloves.

We decided to start out in a draw next to the house.  While I was waiting on Dad to arrive 2 roosters had flown into the draw.  Everyone was saying that there are no pheasants this year due to the high amount of rainfall they had in Northern Kansas, besides seeing these two I believe them.  On top of that, Christina’s Dad said there was a covey of about 40 quail down there they had seen the evening before.

We walked a cornfield out and started to bring the draw back.  The draw looked perfect for an early morning hunt.  It was thick with Sunflowers and other weeds and had tall grass with a couple trees surrounded by cut cornfields.  I imagined being a pheasant flying overhead and seeing this perfect setup.

It had been a while since I had last hunted.  I knew it would be hard for me to aim on the first shot.  About halfway down the draw I found out how right I was.  We stepped into the covey of quail.  They dispersed fast making a distinctive beat with their wings letting us know they were quail.  I pulled up my shotgun and fired a shot.  Nothing fell.  That was not surprising since I did not bead in on a single bird.  I had tried firing into a group of them.  That might have worked if I had not been loaded with 4 shot for pheasant.

A little ways further into the draw, the dried vegetation was getting thicker.  We stopped to wait for the two in the middle of the thickest part.  As we stood there a couple quail jumped up right in front of us, then some more, right behind me.  This time I took careful aim at one and fired.  It fell.  I heard another gun shot but saw right away that my brother in law had missed.  After looking at the rest of the party to make sure they saw me I took off running to where the quail fell 40 feet away. 

Without a dog, I knew it would be tough to find.  I started walking in circles kicking the brush as I walked to see below it.  The quail was under the brush one time and took off running trying to find cover.  It quickly eluded me.  I continued to look while my brother in law came to help me.  After several minutes I was starting to think we might not be able to find this one.  About that time he says he has it.  He grabbed the quail and handed it to me. 

During this time we see one of the pheasants fly out of the draw into the cornfield on the other side of the road.

We hunt the rest of the draw without seeing anything else.  At the end we decide to cross the road and hunt the fence row between a corn and wheat field.  Halfway through the field I get the signal that we are going to start to turn and push the field out in another direction.  Right then a pheasant jumped out of the fence row.  Dad was quick on taking aim and dropped the pheasant.  It jumped right back up and started to fly.  Dad fired off a 2nd shot dropping the pheasant again.  He ran out to pick it up.  He ran right past where the bird had fallen.  The bird was running.  He caught up to it quickly.  That was one tough bird to take 2 shots from the 12 gauge and still be able to run. 

We hunted the rest of that field out and saw one more hen.  It was getting warm and since it was Christmas Eve we decided to stop the hunt and spend the rest of the day doing other family activities, like eating a lot of food. 

I cleaned the birds and once I got cleaned up, noticed I had indeed gotten blood on my jacket as well as my jeans.  It felt manly walking around the rest of the day with my bloodstained pant legs.

We had wild game with soup for Christmas Eve lunch.  Maybe this will be the start to a traditional family Christmas Eve hunt.  If not, we will always be able to look back on this one time.

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