This is the final excerpt of my story, I hope you enjoy it.
For the morning hunt, Todd brought out a German shorthair named Uno. Uno was a shy sweet dog that adored Todd. Now I had to worry about NOT shooting someone else’s dog. Maybe I wouldn’t even load my gun today.
This time after getting all of our gear on and load the guns, Mitch loaded mine for me, how thoughtful, we headed out and we actually went in the direction Todd sent us. The morning was 100 percent nicer than the day before. The sun was shining, the winds were calm and the temperature was about 45°, a little chilly but doable. We walked up the hill to the top cedar break. With just five of us, we sort of spread out in a crooked line sideways on the hillside.
Buddy and Uno were ranging in and out of the cedar trees and down the slope trying to catch a whiff of a scent. Harley walked next to me making sure one of us protected the other. Oh well, at least he wasn’t gun shy. A rooster flew up and three of us shot at it at the same time. Steve got the credit, Uno retrieved the bird and everyone’s step seemed a little lighter, knowing that we were going to be successful.
We crossed over to work the other side of a hill with a cedar break across the top ridge. A row of cedar trees was planted to slow the wind down and help slow down erosion. It also made great cover for the birds. Mitch was on one side of the trees, Steve was working his way in the middle of the trees and I was halfway down the hill walking the slope. The dogs were ranging back and forth in front of us. The dogs’ heads are down close to the ground, their noses twitching, sucking up all the scents in the grasses and somehow their olfactory glands separate each scent and categorize it. It never ceases to amaze me how they know the difference in all the smells out there. They trot along; tails up and wagging back and forth, until the right scent hits their noses and then they make this abrupt turn and move more deliberately. You can hear them breathing in and out, sucking in all of the smell, like a pig snorting.
They scare up a pheasant and I heard it before I saw it. There was the very distinctive sound of the “whump, whump, whump,” of the wings flapping. Mitch fired at it and missed as it flew across the trees. I turned toward the sound; at the same time I raised the gun to my shoulder. As I looked down the barrel to the sight I found the bird. I wanted the bird just off to the left and a little lower than the end of the barrel; I lead the shot to where I was hoping he would fly. My thumb pushed the safety button to off and as I got set I squeezed the trigger. If the bird didn’t drop then I would fire again. The gun recoiled back into my shoulder with a mild kick. There would be more of a kick if Mitch hadn’t put on a recoil pad, but it absorbed most of it. The whole process took place in mili-seconds.
As soon as the bird dropped to the ground, I put the gun on safe and charged off after the dogs to where the bird dropped. If you don’t kill the bird, just knock it down and wound it, it can run off before you can get there. Pheasants are hard to kill and are notorious for disappearing in the underbrush after being shot. One of the dogs chased it down and grabbed the bird in his mouth. The dogs are trained to hold the bird firmly in their mouths, but not to crush the birds by bearing down too hard. Buddy, got to it first and brought him back to me, dropping it at my feet. All the others complain that it doesn’t matter who shoots the bird, Buddy brings the kills back to me. If the bird is not dead then we have to wring its neck, usually by holding the bird by its head and swinging it in a tight circle. I picked up the bird by the neck and looked at it. It was just hanging limply, its’ eyes were closed and there was blood coming from its’ beak.
Mitch yelled down at me, “Did you get it?”
“Yeah I got it.” I yelled back up the hill.
I laced the bird by the neck on the stringer on my shell belt. As I let it hang by its own weight, he started flapping furiously on my leg, splattering blood all over me.
I started screaming, “Aah, aah, aah!”
Mitch yelled down from the other side of the cedar break, “What’s wrong?”
“It’s not dead!”
“Well kill it!”
“I can’t! It’s hooked to my leg!”
He started laughing and I know he was bent over slapping his knees, even though I couldn’t see him. “Well take it off and kill it.”
“I can’t get it off!” thoroughly frustrated I yelled at the bird, “Stop that! Stop that right now or I’ll shoot you again!” Like he really cared.
So Steve, another member of our merry group, came down the hill to help me unstring the bird and kill it. We restrung the pheasant back on my belt and I stomped up the hill to find Mitch exactly as I knew I would, doubled over hee hawing at my expense. There was the overwhelming temptation to shoot him in the butt, but I controlled it. Instead, I just threatened him with his life, even though deep down I felt a great deal of satisfaction. I had just shot, ran down and killed my first bird. At least now I look like a seasoned hunter, with blood splatters all over my new field pants.