This year the pheasant season opens on Sept 23rd at our hunting club, Hastings Island Hunting Preserve. But like every other year that Patty and I have been members, they have a half-dozen early days that are billed as “Pre-Season Rooster Shoots.” Today was one of those days and since our record breaking heatwave simultaneously came to an end, Patty and I jumped at the opportunity to get out.
I asked John at the club what the rational was for these preseason shoots. According to him, the birds that they release throughout the season are the current year’s hatches. But every year the producers also want to turn over some of their breeding stock. It is those older roosters that are released for these preseason hunts.
Patty and I got a late start leaving home so we weren’t in the field until 10:30AM. It was already getting warm but after a week of 100+ degree days, 85 felt pretty good. We parked the truck, put Patty’s collar on and got out the shotgun. We crossed a footbridge over the large canal that borders the field and started hunting along one of the smaller tributary canals.
Some days at the club it seems that the birds will hold tight in front of the dogs while other times, they all seem to be runners. Today, it was the later and we worked hard for each opportunity.
Patty has learned to hunt the runners in stages. He starts, like any good hunting dog, by checking out the country, checking my direction and speed and then quartering with me. When he gets the scent and locates the source he points of course. If the bird moves out in front of him, he waits for me to release him and then he goes into tracking mode until he relocates the bird and points again.
We went through that cycle dozens of times today. We had runners in the bottoms of dry canals, runners in the reeds along the canals and runners out in the grassy fields. Sometimes if the bird was close, Patty would only move a few feet before locking up again. Other times, we might go 30 or 40 yards between points. In each case, eventually we managed to pinch the bird between us so they’d hunker down, hold tight and ultimately flush.
Patty tracked about 8 or 10 birds today. We let a few hens fly and I missed two easy shots too. (Somethings never change.) But we ended the day with four fine roosters in the vest, a great start to another pheasant season.