October 19th is circled on my calendar. That’s South Dakota’s version of Christmas day – the pheasant hunting opener. Let’s be honest, 114 days seems like an eternity from now. The winter’s snow changed to rain and most of my hopes for nesting season have been washed away by torrential spring storms. Nevertheless, I don’t own bird dogs and buy hunting licenses and then decide whether or not I’m going bird hunting because of pre-season forecasts. A good nose and some comfortable boots turned loose across quality habitat can hunt up roosters even in leaner years.
As I pondered creating a pre-season get-ready list this year, I intentionally steered away from the clichéd suggestions like “get in shape,” “get your dog in shape,” and “get your shooting eye in shape.” My guess is you’ve read those types of articles before. So instead, my hope was to come up with a few new thoughts for a June audience as starved to contemplate autumn as me . . . or a moment’s entertainment at least. In any event, here are a few “resolutions” I offer for the 114th day from today:
1. Relax. We live in a busy world, especially if you reside in the stress-filled urban jungle. One thing I’ve found myself doing less of in the last few years is appreciating moments, birds and companions. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy every hunt, but I want to savor the parts more than the sum better in the coming year. I want to take the time to hold a rooster in my hand admiring its colorful plumage and assessing spur length before I slip it in my game pouch. I want to laugh a little more and think a little less.
2. Pluck. Patience, as it’s been said, is a virtue. When you’re tired and hungry for a rare steak and a cold bottle of short term memories, it’s easy to skin a rooster. But hand plucking takes time, concentration and patience, but the effort definitely pays off on the dinner plate.
3. Signature. What is your pheasant hunting signature? Ron Schara’s black Lab “Raven” wears a red bandana, Gerald McRaney (Simon & Simon) wears a cowboy style bird hunting hat, and my co-worker Rehan Nana hunts with a scarf around his neck, satchel around his shoulders, suspenders pulling up his pants and an ammo belt around his waist (he likes to accessorize). Me, well I wear your standard ball cap, strap vest and brush-guard Wranglers. I need to find a signature pheasant hunting look and think a blaze orange old English D is a good place to start.
4. Spruce Grouse. A few years ago, Rehan started a fun tradition in the Pheasants Forever marketing department of tracking a species of upland game bird a co-worker had never hunted before and was hoping to bag during the coming season. For the third consecutive year of Rehan’s list, the spruce grouse is my target. Beyond the water cooler value of this exercise, I think it’s valuable to always set sites on new challenges. Experience gained in search of a prairie chicken, Hun or spruce grouse will undoubtedly lead to insights into pheasants down the road. More importantly, new species will introduce you to new habitat and a new appreciation for the variety of birds and lands within our reach.
What about you, do you have a 2013 bird hunting resolution?
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.