Flying Solo

I enjoy spending time alone. You have time to think clearly about the goings on in your life. You’re allowed to make spontaneous, unilateral decisions and suffer only the recourse of your conscience. On December 28, 2011, I decided to take the day off from work and travel to Burlington, Colorado in order to hunt pheasant. Burlington opens up private land to hunters for a fee ($50 to $125).

I had talked to a few locals the night before in order to get an understanding of my options. The unanimous opinions were to head northeast of the town, and walk the CRP fields that abut the cut corn.

On every other trip this year, the early morning had birds moving from one type of habitat to the other. As I drove to my first CRP field, I was on the lookout for any type of pheasant activity that would allow me to set a strategy for the day. Unfortunately, I never saw a single bird.

My confidence was still high as I entered the first field. We walked about 3/4 of a mile into the wind and Pride never got birdy. After four fields and three hours of uneventful meandering, I decided to glass for cover instead of just blindly entering the field. After pulling up to the fifth CRP, I noticed a large grass draw next to corn about 1,000 yards from my truck. Pride and I took a direct line to the draw. The temperature was around 40 degrees; up from the low 20s earlier in the day. Pride does not react well to warmer temperatures, so I had to set a pace that would allow him to comfortably hunt the day. When we were 100 yards from the start of the draw, I told Pride to heal as I did not want to draw attention from unsuspecting roosters. Pride was starting to show signs that this piece of land might have the requisite quarry. He darted from right to left with his olfactory glands working feverishly. A quick final move to our left brought up a hen that was holding tight to the dense cover. After repeating the “no bird” call a few times, we continued our walk through the draw. As we neared a row of young spruces, Pride started to quickly move his tail from side to side. When his head got low, I mounted my Beretta as I anticipated an immediate flush. Sure enough another hen sprung up and flew high to my left. While I was disappointed, I was comforted to know that members of the species were present.

Pride and I hunted a few more fields but we were only able to find one additional hen. Realizing that I only had another 90 minutes of hunting, I started to make my way southwest towards I-70. I identified one last CRP field that was only 15 miles from the highway. The sun had started to set in the west as I pulled up to the eastern portion of the land. There were many access points to the property, but no habitat distinguished itself from another. I let Pride out of the kennel and we marched forward for our final stalk of the day. About 100 yards from the road, Pride got excited and darted ahead. I followed him staying within 20 yards of his rapidly moving tail. Without warning, three roosters took flight. One moved low and left, the other flew straight and the third banked to the right. I slowly mounted the Beretta and started to swing the barrel toward the bird that was heading north. Shot one ended up behind the bird. I composed myself and, with both eyes open, fired again. The pheasant tumbled then hit the ground about 30 yards from where I stood. I turned to my left hoping that one of the two other roosters was close. Unfortunately, I watched them both head over a hill about 150 yards from my position. After retrieving the bird for me, I watered Pride and we continued the march towards our daily limit. Pride got birdy one more time, but we could not locate the pheasant.

Pride, exhausted from the day in the field, collapsed next to the truck. After a nice meal he loaded up and we made our way back to the highway. What an amazing finish to a day of frustration. The adage of walking the extra mile for late season pheasants played itself out on December 28, 2011.

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