On the slope to the farmstead and the western horizon, the reason for the lack of flushing pheasants became clear. A golden wall stood at the end of the snow-filled drain where the mostly frozen creek flowed down to the small impoundment where my lab Ole and I started our final walk of the hunting season. Between clumps of grass and the occasional field rock revealed by the recent mild weather, three-toed tracks darted in and out of the snow covering the iced-over trickle. Some prints were locked solid in a frosty crust from days before, others were fresher and suggested a set of sprinting birds ahead of our pursuit. As the cornfield at the far end of the draw came into full view, Ole’s tail whirred like a helicopter blade and he approached a clump of bushes no wider than the pickup truck we arrived in.
Suddenly a blur of beating wings thundered out of the tiny piece of cover as five, then ten, then fifteen or more hens and roosters took to the air while he dove in and I sprinted to get into my little scattergun’s range. I paused as he worked the heavily-scented area, expecting one last bird to rise. Instead, the end of the bushes on the far side of the draw began to explode ahead of us as a dozen, then two, then three, then a rattling blur of fifty or more birds busted out of the end and headed toward the rolling hillside of unharvested corn. Again at full sprint, I resumed the chase with Ole at my side for a few strides before he broke from me and sent a trio of hens up the hill and a rooster doubling back behind us on the far side of the buckbrush. Realizing the final stop on the drain, filled with cattails and the last thick cover was all that was between us and the frozen crops, I continued the charge behind my dog and watched as another twenty or thirty birds took to the sky at the end of the small slough well ahead of us.
Read the full story in your Thursday, January 2nd Times-Record. Purchase a paper copy at the TR office or an electronic edition online at www.times-online.com