Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lessons From a Pheasant

***Disclaimer:  This post covers my recent Pheasant Hunting experience. There are images including hunting dogs, expired pheasants and firearms.  If that's not your thing, you may wish to wait for the next post.  It is also lengthy.***

As a woman who was raised in today's society, it has been drilled into me that "guns are bad", and "guns kill people".  I have never been anti-gun or anything, but I had also never really been exposed to them in "real life" so there was a curiosity and a desire to learn after it came up in conversation with a member of my extended family.

He suggested I take my Hunter's Safety Course at United Sportsemen to familiarize myself with the safe handling of firearms (plus you have to in order to get a hunting license), and one thing led to another.  You know how it goes...

Once I had my certificate, I was introduced to sport shooting and a game called 5-Stand.  It involves firing your shotgun at clay targets launched from assigned positions in a field, simulating the flight of game birds and even one rolling along the ground like a rabbit (that one is tricky!).  I had some basic knowledge of shotguns from my class and after some coaching from J I am officially addicted.

So, when the offer came up to actually go out into the field and participate with J and J and their family (in a limited capacity) on a Pheasant hunt, I jumped at the chance.  I would like to make a note here that you should not hunt with just anyone - make sure the people you are hunting with are safe and responsible.  You should try and find an experienced hunter you trust to mentor you while you are learning.

Of course one of the stipulations for me was "Can I bring my camera with me?".  It was welcomed because it would be the first Pheasant hunt for the kids and one of the dogs that would be accompanying us.  That made me especially excited.  (If you've been following me, you know how I feel about preserving moments such as these).  To be there to document it just made my day.



We arrived very early, checked in and were assigned our field.  We hung out for a little while and waited near the clubhouse.  As soon as 8 AM hit, the other trucks filled with dogs and hunters took off in a flash.  We waited until the literal dust had settled before heading out to our field and took a leisurely pace to get unloaded and geared up.  Nothing was hurried or frantic, even with 3 adults, 2 kids and 3 Labs.

Once we were all dressed and accented with blaze orange, we unloaded Belle, the most senior Lab, from the truck and the hunt was on.  She's been around the block a few times, and knew the drill the moment her paws hit the ground.


Then came Daisy, the middle child of the bunch.  Can you say "energetic" and "well behaved"? Who knew those things went together?


I have to say, it was such a special treat to see the dogs working the field and flushing the birds.  They love their family, but they live for birds.  The pure joy of the dogs as they came to life, knowing what to do by instinct, was fascinating to watch.  The love, communication and trust between hunter and dog can almost be described as intimate.


I have to take a moment and note that J showed us how it was done that day: 3 birds flushed, 3 shots fired, 3 birds falling from the sky, 3 birds retrieved by the dogs.  It doesn't get much more textbook than that.



The hunt for me was more than just going out to get some birds.  If that was all it was about, I could have just bought one.  It was about camaraderie, education, safety, sport, trust, skill, tradition, and respect.  J didn't go out to get 10 pheasants in one trip, he bagged 3 because that was what he needed.  

There were so many emotions tied to the day for me.  I felt like part of a time-honored tradition. I felt like it was being passed on to these children in the right way, a responsible way, and perhaps most importantly, in a safe way. (They had their own "guns" that played sounds to help teach them how to carry and be safe with a firearm). I learned why you can't hunt with just anyone - they might be the nicest people you had ever met, but still not know their ass from their elbows once they get in the field and excitement takes over.   I learned about the methods, where to stand and why, and how peaceful and relaxing it can be to spend a morning with family walking through thickets and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes (I even have two bites on my palm. My PALM!).  But what I really took away from the experience is the knowledge that just because a moment happens on a regular basis for some, doesn't mean it shouldn't be preserved.


The everyday stuff that we do all the time is what our lives are made of.  Keep some of those moments preserved in images.  If you fish every weekend but have no pictures of yourself doing it, you should rectify that. Your kids and family will thank you.

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