Less-than-perfect hit ends pheasant hunting By Bob Karolevitz I went on my last pheasant hunt about 10 years ago.
It wasn't, that as an old infantry guy, I was tired of carrying a gun. It was because of Phyllis that I finally quit pursuing South Dakota's wily bird.
Let me tell you about it.
As I recall, it was a beautiful day. The trees had shed their leaves, and there was a seasonal nip in the air.
I had spent much of the day in my office, so I was anxious to get out into the fresh air. It was too late in the day to go road-hunting which I occasionally did (gas was much cheaper then), so I decided I'd just walk along the shelterbelt on our own farm and maybe chase up a rooster or two.
My weapon was my trusty single-shot Stevens; no fancy gold-inlaid double-barrel for me. I slipped a couple extra 20-gauge shells in my pocket, checked to see if I had my license and told Phyllis I'd just be gone for a little while.
There was an unharvested cornfield right outside our gate, a hundred yards or so from the house. Between it and the trees was a narrow weed patch, not so high as to make walking difficult. After all, I was just out for an early evening stroll, and I didn't want to work up a sweat.
I suppose I was contemplating the beauties of nature, not paying much attention to what was ahead of me. Then all of a sudden I saw it � a cock pheasant sneaking its way through the underbrush like pheasants usually do.
That started my hunting juices flowing. No longer was I a casual stroller but a fired-up nimrod in pursuit of his prey. I hurried after the bird, wanting to force it up before it disappeared into the tall corn where my chances of getting it there were slim to none.
Then the dumb bird did what it wasn't supposed to do. It burst out of the weeds, letting out the familiar cackle which all hunters have heard over and over again. It rose up over the corn stalks, flying frantically away.
I shouldered my gun and made the simple shot at what was almost an ideal target. It was a perfect hit, I thought, as the fleeing pheasant dropped like a fluttering rock into a corn row. My one-shot hunt was over; all I had to do was find the dead bird which, I was sure, wouldn't be much of a problem.
I headed back into the corn to where it had fallen. It wasn't there!
Up and down the rows I searched. The shot had been a good one, I knew, and the bundle of feathers had dropped with no indication that it wasn't ready for the frying pan. But why couldn't I find it?
I remembered "Maggie's drawers," the red flag that they waved to signal a total miss on the Army's rifle range a long time ago. Somehow I had qualified as an expert marksman then, and I was sure I hadn't earned a "Maggie's drawers" with my shotgun. I had seen the bird go down.
Finally I gave up looking and returned somewhat dejectedly to the house. I made a mistake when I told Phyllis about the "perfect hit" and how the obviously dead pheasant had disappeared.
"It's wounded," she said. "You just winged it, and now it's suffering some place."
I could tell by the look in her eye that I was in real trouble. Then she headed for the cornfield.
She was gone for what seemed like an interminable time. I was sure she was just wasting her time, walking back and forth in an ever-increasing pattern. It wasn't a good thought, but I knew the pheasant would make a nice meal for some meandering fox, and the circle of life would go on.
That's when Phyllis emerged the corn. Cradled in her arms was that colorful bird, very much alive but unable to fly or even to run. She had found it hiding as best it could.
I remember the tears coming down her cheeks as she came back to the house. The beautiful ringneck lay peaceful-like in her grasp, not struggling to escape. It had found a soft-hearted human.
I don't know if we eventually ate the pheasant or not. It was too badly maimed for rehabilitation with our chickens; so I must have done something to put it out of its misery.
What I do recall, though, is the look on Phyllis's face as she brought that injured bird home. That's when I put my 20-gauge up on the rack, never to be used on another hunt again. I haven't taken out my better gun either.
Oh, I still keep both of them just in case I need them to ward off attacking dogs or a sneaky coyote after our outside cat. But pheasant seasons have come and gone without me.
I may have lost a much-cherished and macho South Dakota sport, but I think I have gained a compassionate wife.
© 2000 Robert F. Karolevitz