After working the opening day of the local Ring-necked Pheasant hunt and having to sit out the second day due to more pressing responsibilities on the home front, Goose and I were eager to get out in the field. Luckily I had Friday off which provided an opportunity for a half day hunt in the morning (the local conservation hunting grounds are closed to hunting from noon till dusk on Mondays and Fridays).
Since I worked Thursday evening and have a 5 week old infant at home these days, it would be fair to say we are all tired. My wife woke me around 7 am after our son’s early morning feed and handed me our son dressed in a little camouflage onesie. We had some morning snuggles and I dragged myself out of bed, brewed a pot of coffee and filled my thermos for the road.
Hunting starts at 8 am at the local hunting grounds and parking is restricted to designated areas demarcated with parking stakes (or pegs as they might be called across the pond). I wanted to arrive early to ensure we got a spot as I have been told sometimes space can come at a premium. I should mention there is also no Sunday hunting in our municipality. So local hunters and some that travel far and wide take advantage of the opportunity to hunt quasi-public ground (technically the conservation land is private property but available for hunting use to those that buy a permit. I have opted for the Pheasant, Small Game and Migratory Birds option this year.
When we arrived there were two other hunters already there each with their respective breed of pointer. This place truly is a pointing dogs paradise. The local conservation authority manages the forests and abandoned farmsteads with the goal of enhancing biodiversity and improving water quality throughout the Grand River watershed. The conversation authority stocks pheasants and there is an abundance of waterfowl on the nearby lake (reservoir) and ponds on the property. After many miles of scouting in the preseason I have learned there is also some good Woodcock and Ruffed Grouse habitat.
Goose had previously encountered some Ring-necked pheasants raised in pens at a local farm owned by a relative but she had never had a chance to hunt released birds. When we arrived there were some tail feathers from some roosters from the previous two days of hunts in the parking lot so I drew Goose’s attention to these as we set out to find our own patch of ground to hunt on away from the other hunters and dogs.
At first Goose seemed to think we were going on more of a hike than a hunt mostly sticking to the well-groomed trails throughout the property. Though with some encouragement she began to work a better quartering pattern and explore the treelines and saplings. After limited success in the open fields we took a detour down a treeline which looked like prime Grouse cover and Goose got birdy, or so I thought. After working the cover for about ten minutes it became apparent Goose was trailing a deer which we flushed, but Goose did well to not chase after it once I spotted it. I checked the map, wind direction and compass (all via apps on my iPhone) and then headed in a different direction away from where we encountered the deer.
Shots rang out in the distance and Goose got excited. She finally seemed to realize we were in fact hunting, not just out for a hike. She wanted to go see what all the fuss was about, so it took some effort to keep her from running off in the direction of the shots. Not long later some more shots rang out. Judging by the sound the birds seemed to be towards the back of the property. So we continued in the direction we were heading systematically covering the edges of fields, tree lines and swampy areas just in case we came across a Woodcock. We reached the back corner of the property and Goose seemed to want to continue onto the neighbouring property, but she listened well and came when called as we turned to work back in the direction we came. Just as we emerged from the trees into a field a Rooster flushed to my left which I took two shots at but did not connect. I called Goose back to where the bird had been holding and she was eager to continue hunting. We walked in the direction the Rooster flushes and after entering the next field Goose indicated that she caught wind of something which I assumed was going to be a pheasant so I prepared myself trying to be mindful of my footing, released my safety and a while turkey flushed about 20 yards ahead and Goose was in hot pursuit. I called her off and she returned to hunting within gun range and we circled back to where we first flushed the bird.
A whistle was blasting just beyond the trees and Goose froze and then began to bark as a blaze orange figure emerged from the trees with an over-under slung over his shoulder. I calmed Goose, said hello and asked if he had any luck. He said he shot his limit (likely those first shots I heard) and was now trying to reign in his dog a German Shorthaired Pointer which seemed to have plenty of hunting desire. He said she just kept pointing birds and hunting even though he could no longer shoot as he already had his two bird limit for the day. He wished us luck and we continued on back in the direction he had come (he did say his dog had pointed a couple of birds so I was eager to see if we might find some more of these elusive pheasants.
Again Goose got birdy and a we flushes a hen pheasant and again I missed. I gave myself a quiet pep talk about doing better shooting, for the dog. We continued down the field and this time a Rooster flushed and I connected on the second shot with the bird crumpling mind flight falling to the ground. Goose located the bird and brought it back to me and released it when I asked for it. I was giddy with excitement. My first pheasant and Goose’s, a very proud moment indeed. After some praise and the bird in the bag, we continued on, this time back towards the truck as it was now 11:30 am. Only 30 minutes remained of legal shooting. A short distance further near an apple tree I spotted a Rooster on the ground. The dog was working off in a different direction. It jumped up to take flight and I fired a shot knocking it back to the ground. I called the dog in for the retrieve as the bird was down but still had its head up. Goose came crashing in and seemed to be in pursuit of the wounded bird but after about 5 minutes it became apparent she had not located the bird. We circled back to where we started. Marked the waypoint and began to systematically search the undergrowth as the bird had not flown away and I am certain I hit it with evidence of blood and feathers on the ground. We continued to search for another 30 minutes. At which point I unloaded my gun and decided to make tracks as I didn’t want there to be any concerns that I was hunting after the 12 noon limit.
I was frustrated with myself and the dog for losing the second bird, but happy to know we had one in the bag. On the way back Goose found and flushed another hen pheasant and seemed confused when I didn’t follow her after it. We made it back to the truck about 10 after 12 and I dug out my thermos and changed into dry clothing. All in all not a bad way to start the pheasant season and a reminder of the wisdom of that famous idiom “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush”.
Birds Flushed: 3 Roosters, 1 Hen, 1 Wild Turkey
Birds in the Bag: 1 Rooster
Temperature 14 C Winds SW 5 km/h Altitude 425.63 m
Distance 14.3 km Steps 20789