Late December brought on another cold. I had just recovered from a nasty flu bug, only to wake up on Christmas morning with many of the same symptoms that occurred earlier in the month. My condition was very disappointing as I planned on taking Thursday and Friday off for bird hunting in Eastern Colorado. Lots of water, plenty of Cold Eeze and a couple of DayQuil provided me the elixir for ensuring I would spend time in the field.
Despite the constant coughing, and leaky nose, I awakened at four am on December 28th to leave for the two day trip. The Dodge Ram 1500 was already packed, and sported four new Hancook DynaPro tires. On my last two trips, I tore up two of the Goodyears that came with the truck. The Hancooks were an unexpected and untimely investment made at Discount Tire. Greg met me in front of my house at five am with his truck as he planned on coming home that evening.
The two and three quarter hour drive had us entering bird country with five inches of fresh snow on the ground. The conditions were perfect; a five degree air temperature and a light westerly wind had Greg, Pride and me set up for pheasant hunting success. Driving down the first country road, we spotted thirty birds dancing through the unharvested corn. Two miles later, we entered my favorite field with the sole purpose to make it to the thickest cover situated one thousand yards from our trucks. We worked the edge of the CRP until we reached the berm where I hoped birds were holding tight. Pride is familiar with this land, and he worked feverishly to find a fresh scent. The deep snow drifts made moving to the key area slow and tiring. The effects of my cold were obvious as I struggled to catch my breath during the deliberate jog. Pride was obviously excited as he darted into the tumbleweeds. His speed allowed him to cover a lot of ground, and he looked in every nook that could possibly hold birds. Greg and I made our way west along both sides of the draw waiting for a rooster to take flight. It did not happen. In fact, the entire field did not produce anything of merit.
Although we were a bit disappointed, we knew that there were birds to be had if we hunted the right fields. Greg and I drove to some popular public spots where we encountered hunters who were already in pursuit. We drove slowly along the adjacent private land, and we witnessed more than fifty pheasants moving from the tree line to the corn fields. The temptation to pull over and hunt this area was real, but inappropriate, so we moved on.
Due to the lack of cover, the options were limited, so we decided to venture to the private land where we have permission to hunt. The rancher had planted two rows of evergreens that were situated just to the north of his house. Given the conditions, I felt there should be birds present as they would be seeking protection from the elements. Instead of entering the area from both sides, we decided to walk together from the east. Despite our stealth approach, the birds started to fly into the adjacent CRP before we closed the truck’s doors. We sprinted into the tree line only to see more birds jump too far away to get off a shot.
All of the pheasants that flew from the trees touched down in the rancher’s CRP just south of our position. The strategy became obvious; Greg would move southwest and I would take Pride five hundred yards to the south and hunt him into the wind. If we worked the area correctly, perhaps we could force the evasive roosters into the air. One thing that was clearly evident in this field, was that there were the fresh tracks of pheasants everywhere. There was no doubt that Pride smelled bird, as his head remained low and his tail moved swiftly from side to side. As we walked towards Greg, I anticipated we would see exploding birds. Disappointingly, it never happened. We hunted the rest of the field over the next forty five minutes, and never got a bird to fly. On a hunch, I told Greg we should once again hunt the tree line, as I saw two birds fly back into the cover minutes after we departed. This time, I dropped Greg off on the eastern side and I quietly made my way west. We moved in unison, trying to pinch the birds and force them into the air. I readied myself when I saw a hen sprint from a bush to the trees. Another hen surprised me when she took flight, and then another soon followed. A rooster flew straight up then banked a hard right towards Greg. I yelled “rooster” and heard Greg take a single shot from his Beretta Silver Pigeon. Two more hens darted from their hiding places, and flew less than twenty feet from my barrel. When I realized all of the birds had left the area, I made my way to Greg with the hope that he would have a downed rooster in his hand. Unfortunately, his shot had not found it’s mark, and we were still without the intended quarry.
We hunted for another two and a half hours before realizing that the sun was setting quickly. My rancher friend told me the name of the landowner who abutted his property. I called him with the hope that he would grant us permission to walk his fields. When I got him on the telephone, I introduced myself, and asked him the critical question. He responded with a resounding “no”. Disappointed, we drove from country road to country road trying to locate cover that we could hunt. After an exhausting and disappointing forty five minute walk through a WIA stacked with evergreens, we made our way back to the rancher’s land for one last effort before dark.
Greg and I walked the initial 100 yards into the CRP, and startled two hens that had hunkered down for the night.
Unfortunately, my cough became more intense and constricting as the day concluded. To that point, I made a decision that staying the night would not be prudent, so I made my way back home.
Ideal weather conditions do not always mean that an opportunity to shoot a bird will present itself. We were diligent in our effort, but luck was not on our side. Despite our lack of success, we encountered many birds that we will pursue aggressively at a later date.