Many members identify with the hardworking, blue-collar sentiment of our namesake bird
By Tom Carpenter, Pheasants Forever Journal Editor
The only thing white-collar about serious, down-home, hardcore pheasant hunting is what rings the lower neck of the male version of our favorite gamebird.
In its purest form our hunting passion is, at its best and its real heart, a blue-collar endeavor. I am mighty proud of that, and of my parallel status. It is just what life has made me, and what I shall forever be. Knowing what I know about so many dedicated Pheasants Forever members, I can guess it is who you are at heart too.
It starts, of course, with our namesake bird. He works to make everything hard. So you gotta just go to work too.
A wild rooster’s behavior is abysmal, his shenanigans shameful. And we wouldn’t have any of it any other way:
» Flushing from hundreds of yards away as you open the vehicle door.
» Sprinting like the wind from our dogs and taking wing before our canine partners can roust or point him.
» Circling and skulking and slinking and snaking to save his feathered hide and to keep us and our canine companions off-kilter and always-guessing.
» Erupting in a heartstopping flurry of wingbeats when we least expect it and exactly when that willow sapling is going to block your shotgun’s swing or that cattail stem just jabbed your eye.
I especially admire the 100-yards-out cackle that you needed 80 yards earlier to make a positive i.d. It’s the pheasant equivalent of laughing and flipping a middle finger.
Our dogs are blue-collar too. Show me a dog that won’t plow cattails or bust plum thickets or push through bluestem, and I will show you a dog made for other kinds of bird hunting.
Nothing beats up a dog like pheasant hunting. An eyelid half shuttered. Goop weeping from tear ducts. Paws scraped and cut and thorned. Burrs under an armpit now worn fiery red. Pokes, scratches and cuts. Raw bellies rubbed free of hair. Exhausted but ready to go again.
In her prime my Brittany Rascal once opened a chest wound bigger than a silver dollar on barbed wire. On our way out of the field for care, she stopped to point one more rooster. When we walked into the busy small-town Dakota vet’s office, the receptionist said: “Take a number, it’s pheasant season.”
That’s all blue collar.
I get a real big kick out of tales of fine hunting lodges, waves of birds, white linen meals, a cigar worth more than a box of shells out on the veranda, and brandy or bourbon by the crackling fireplace.
That’s all good. But for me it’s more like:
» Peanut-butter-and-jellies on the tailgate.
» Cherry Pepsi and a pinch of snus for an afternoon pick-me-up before one last push.
» Maybe one warrior of a rooster in the gamebag.
» A burger for supper at the local bar- and-grill if there even is one in town and if there’s not, a slice of lukewarm pizza from the convenience store carousel.
» A Pabst or Busch Light from the cooler for a nightcap.
» Peeing out back of the motel with the dogs before bed.
Blue collar permeates more than just real pheasant hunting. Blue collar is also at the core of the Pheasants Forever mission … actually working, really doing things: Putting more upland habitat in the ground that upland gamebirds and wildlife of all descriptions can roam and making more public access and public lands so that more people, of every collar, can experience the wild and hunt our namesake bird.
Thanks for being part of it, and for staying part of it. Like blue-collar pheasant hunting, the work is hard. But it is good. And it all comes together when a joyful dog bounds out into the habitat with us a-following and hearts flying too, to see what our work will bring us.
This story originally appeared in the Summer Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to see more content like this in the pages of the magazine, become a Pheasants Forever member today!