Hunting & Heritage  |  04/01/2020

Little Gifts


An envelope in the mail – and conversations from around pheasant country – provide welcome windows to better times

By Tom Carpenter

We used to call it “sending away,” way back when: Cutting out and filling out a form from a cereal box, scrawling out an address on an envelope, stuffing in a couple box tops, and dropping it all in the mail. 

We were “sending away” for some trinket or prize – who could remember what, anymore, after all these decades? But what really matters what was happened next: Nothing. 

You see, marketers don’t lie in their “allow 4 to 6 weeks for delivery” mini disclaimers, and after the lifetime of one week for a kid, the impending arrival of our treasure was forgotten.

Until one day – 4 to 6 weeks later – when an envelope arrived and the world was exciting again and good things were remembered.

That was the feeling I had when I went down to the mailbox the other day, thumbed through the contents, and came to 2020 PHEASANT STAMP ENCLOSED from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

You see, I had sent away, so to speak, a few weeks before when buying my annual home state sportsmen’s license and collection of endorsements (such as walk-in hunting) and stamps for the new fishing and hunting year. 

And there it was – top prize. 

As I lollygagged up the driveway, I thought about what that little prize represented.

A golden prairie sunset on a warm October evening, my bird dog locking up on a colored-up young rooster.

My annual solo trip – just me and dog and no other being for a few days – to a special collection of WMAs and WPAs that with some effort always produces birds.

Frosty-sunny-blue-skied November days cruising the tall bluestem, and those gray-gale-snow-spitting November days crashing through lowland willows.

Late-season forays across frozen sloughs to the secluded hideaways of warrior roosters giving us the slip under a cattail labyrinth until one bird, just one, makes a mistake and gets cornered by my little bird dog.

And as I reached the house, I realized the rainy day wasn’t so dark any more, and the challenging times we are all in right now -- and I mean all of us, for none of us are unaffected by COVID-19 -- were forgotten for a short stroll. 

The day got better from there. 

People must be feeling closed in. Correspondence trickled in from friends across pheasant country.

From southeastern North Dakota: “We finally got last fall’s corn combined … never saw so many pheasants.”

From central South Dakota: “We may have lost a few pheasants with that January blizzard, but there are plenty of birds out there now, they wintered well.”

From western Iowa: “We’re burning now. Boy, a lot of pheasants came out and went across the road to what we burned last year.”

From western Minnesota: “Every morning on my walks now the roosters are crowing up a storm. There are hens around.”

And from Wisconsin: “Birds are picking around in the stubble every afternoon. They’re back now in that pollinator meadow we planted.”

As we all work through these strange and challenging and unprecedented times together, let us remember all the big gifts we all have … family at hand, bird dogs in the house, habitat in the field, and friends as far away as your phone or computer screen.

And don’t forget the little gifts either: Something as simple as a pheasant stamp in the mail that takes you away if only for a few moments to fields of autumn that surely await.

Tom Carpenter is editor at Pheasants Forever.

Don’t forget your own gifts to conservation and wildlife in the forms of keeping up your Pheasants Forever Membership ($25 Bass Pro Cabela’s Gift Card!) or participating in our "Support Your Uplands" campaign (free Upland Field Cleaning Kit).