Late season wariness
By Bret “T-Bone” Amundson
It’s inevitable this time of year. Snowstorms, Christmas music on the radio, and roosters that flush wild.
A recent walk in Southeastern North Dakota began with optimism. Despite an armada of pickups filled with orange drivers hauling camouflaged kennels, our destination was a section of rested private land. Before we began, words of encouragement were offered, “some guys walked the land next to us yesterday and said they pushed all the birds over here”. We smiled and loaded up.
It wasn’t long before we started seeing birds in the air, mostly bumping up from the same area that we were working towards. Would enough birds let us get within close proximity? Inside the first 15 minutes or so, the dogs picked up a rooster and we had 3 more on the ground. This is going to be a quick walk-or so we thought.
For every hen that held and flushed close, we’d watch a rooster catch air and head for the next county to lease space in a new slough. It was like the first of the month and all my tenants were sneaking out the back door to avoid paying rent.
After the first four, phrases like “there goes another one” and “anyone got a rifle?” became more frequent. With only 3 guys, employing posters wasn’t completely practical. We did attempt the old squeeze play on one of the smaller set of cattails that we crashed, but that one turned out to be vacant.
That’s late season pheasant hunting for ya. Fortunately the snow and colder weather will bunch the birds and push them into heavier cover, but one tends to get a bit jumpy after two months of getting shot at.
If you want that heart attack-inducing flush from beneath your feet, you may not get it in December. If you look at pheasant hunting like deer hunting and employ a few ninja-like moves however, you might be able to sneak up on a couple.
Don’t slam your doors, don’t talk about the weather from 30 yards away and don’t yell at your dog. In fact, take some time in the offseason to work on some silent signals or a vibrating collar to keep from having to blast the entire zip code with your whistle.
We didn’t carry any more birds back to the truck after those first four despite a good long swamp workout, even if we did leave one or two with shorter tail feathers. Of course that only means they’ll get up farther out next time rent comes due.