Pheasant Season 2004

I’d like to say the 2004 Minnesota pheasant season got off to a bang for this hunter…but of course that would be exaggerating things just a bit. Not only were the pheasants hunkered low because of the high wind…they were, shall we say, performing a Houdini-like disappearing act quite successfully.

As I reflect back over the many pheasant openers I’ve experienced one thing seems to be common with most of them. In particular, opening weekend usually means some tough pheasant hunting. Now, get prepared for the litany of excuses you are about to hear.

This year currently at least 85 to 90 percent of the corn is still in the fields…and I would say probably 30 to 40 percent of the soybeans remain unharvested here in southeastern Minnesota. Considering that both the corn and the soybeans act much like a huge refuge (you can’t hunt them or risk upsetting the farmer), this leaves large expanses of area that simply is off limits to pheasant hunting at this time of the year. Plus, you know the birds will not venture far from their food, so this limits much of your hunting to areas along fence lines and sloughs near croplands.

Today I partnered up with my buddy Steve and we pushed several areas that held promise. In retrospect, we probably did not hunt our first patch correctly because the wind was at our back. Duchess, the fearless black lab, kept diving into the cover and pointing her nose to areas behind us. Even so, this error in our technique probably held little consequence. The main problem was it was too damn windy today. My guess is the winds at times must have been gusting over 30mph from the W/NW creating a biting below freezing wind chill.

Eventually we pushed some cover on sort of an east facing slope that was protected from the wind. I really thought of all areas this was the one holding the most promise. This patch of cover was probably about 200 yards long and 70 to 80 yards wide sandwiched by standing corn fields on both sides. As we zigged and zagged through the cover I was feeling confident that a feathered surprise would be waiting for us at the far end. Indeed it was…it flushed, but the three white tails waving goodbye were not exactly what I was hoping to see today…maybe in three weeks from now…but not during the pheasant opener. Of course, that is my luck…during deer season I will see more pheasants and squirrels than anything else…and vice versa.

Even though we only hunted for a short time this morning it felt really good to be walking through the sloughs once again carrying my trusty Ruger Red Label. Now as I sit here reminiscing about the day…I’m reminded, too, how the not-so-young-as-it-used-to-be body pays the price for these little outdoor expeditions. I’m also now quite aware that my hunting clothing isn’t as briar-proof as I thought it to be. In fact, I have several souvenirs in the form of prickly ash thorns embedded deep in my skin as reminders of my first pheasant outing of the year. Ahh…such is the life of a sportsman.

It’s funny how you focus on all the little aches and pains after a day of hard hunting with little to show for your efforts. I suppose one could take some Ibuprofen to help diminish the stiffness and muscle soreness…but I’ve got an even better idea. I’m going to bed early tonight and taking two of these in the morning – two pheasants, I hope. The best thing about getting skunked on opening day is your luck can only improve tomorrow. Furthermore, there’s no better medicine for a decrepit old hunter’s body than feeling the weight of a bird or two in your game vest pocket.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.