Pheasant hunters are some of the greatest planners in the outdoors.
There were WWII island invasions with less details than some of the pheasant drives I’ve been on, with hunters coming towards a cover from all directions, a push with wingmen to be exactly 41.237 yards ahead of the other hunters. Unfortunately, pheasants are really bad and falling such plans and normally find plenty of ways to run, flush wild, hold tight, fly the wrong direction….of the scheming gunners.
Friday, on Kansas’ last day of the season, all went as planned for me and my ancient Lab, Hank.
For about the past three weeks we’ve been dibbling and dabbling on some pheasant hunts at some fantastic spots in Harvey County, normally only hitting a covert for a half-hour to an hour, taking a bird or two and then heading home happy. Even as late as Thursday morning, we only hit a patch long enough to take a pair of roosters, including one with Boone & Crockett tailfeathers, before resting the field in advance of Friday.
So for Friday, the season’s last day, and possibly Hank’s last pheasant hunt (he’s about 13) we went for broke, heading to the best spots I have in Harvey, Reno and Stafford counties.
About 8 a.m. we did an early raid on a roosting area that’s basically at the edge of a friend’s yard. The first rooster was holding tight, flushed close and fell dead. The next took a little trailing by Hank before the flush, then a lot more after the shot. With super-dry conditions, it took the old dog about 20 minutes to catch up with the wing-hit bird. With a self-imposed two bird limit on that property, we headed west.
Grass where I’d seen five or six roosters a month ago held just a hen in Stafford County. After lunch in Sylvia, I passed on a chance to hunt some CRP in Reno County because of the field’s immense size and thickness. I could tell Hank was already tired, so we headed back towards home and Harvey County. We got to the property, which was across the road from where we’d hunted that morning, with about 90 minutes of daylight left. Basically I was counting on the final 20-30 minutes.
Hank and I took a seat near the field’s north end, where pheasants often traveled back and forth between the lush grass and a neighbor’s soybeans. We’d seen three roosters sail into the grass when we got up with a half-hour of season remaining, quietly walking along the field’s western edge, so we could work it into the northeast wind.
Two more roosters sailed in about the time we started the season’s last push.
Most longtime hunting dog owners will tell you scenting conditions improve greatly just before sunset. Friday was no exception. Hank hit scent where we’d seen one of the birds land and started trailing, and 50 yards further it came out of the grass cackling. It’s partner had landed about 60 yards away, and Hank was hot on its scent when it flushed and also fell.
With a limit of four filled, my first in several years, I set the gun and vest along a farm trail and just followed the dog as he worked out the rest of the grass. He was still pushing up hens as grayness settled over the field, including a cluster-flush of about a dozen brown birds at the field’s northeastern corner.
I hated to see the season end, since there’s no promise Hank may be around for the next or at least be healthy enough to hunt.
Well, if there is a perfect hunt for ending a season, or possibly a hunting career, a rare day when all the pheasant planning comes through is certainly it.