Goodbye Year

Pheasant hunting in the snow
Seems like the end is near

Cold. Cold. Then hot.

The virus from hell took one to the jaw yesterday and I escaped the domicile for the first time in way too long with gun, mutt, wife, and good friend. Impossible to pass this up.

Cold, bright, dusty snow, shivering dogs, numb fingers. Crops long down. Cover at a premium. Roosters and hens out picking frozen greenup in the middle of big plow, blessed with long vision and leisurely 200-yard flushes into no-permission land. Walked two miles admiring and doing my best to imagine life at the prey level, but, of course, failed miserably at that. Thank goodness. Still, their feathers marking their takeoffs and landings in the snow made their way into my dreams. Thank goodness for that, too.

Pheasant tail mark in the snow
Pheasant tail mark in the snow

Next farm. Angus gets 40 yards in front of me along a nice ditch with lots of weeds. Not too birdy, but suddenly stops cold. Before I could close the gap he pounces and the Chinese feathered kaleidoscope vectors to safety. I’m still confused about the pounce.

But he gets birdier, and I stay closer. 30 minutes and no birds. We come to the Interstate and I’m worried he’ll find a hole in the hog tight fence, but his nose is Hoovering crazy eights across the snow still. Then he stops and a rooster elevates toward the freeway until I bring it straight down inside the fence, wondering about the pellets that escaped the bird; hit any cars? Probably not, but I don’t like the road.

Pheasant roosters in the snow
Snowbirds

Back to the ditch, and another rooster blasts from the brush and I miss all three shots, semi-conscious of the butt of the gun somewhere near my armpit. WTF? Is it just the cold? Twenty yards farther, another rooster. Butt cheeked, bird down. And that was it. Pheasant 2012.

With the epidemic of clean farming in the “Treasure Valley” around Boise pheasant get more beautiful every year. I’m lucky to have a friend with long-standing relationships among the older farmers in some of these places, but these guys are beat up and old and either converting to cleaner farming, selling or parceling, or handing it to their heirs who don’t want strangers shooting up their cattle or nephews. All understandable and not altogether lamentable in certain lights. How much longer do we have?

Corn rows in snow
Roostercam

Chirp away