Forty some years ago I remember waiting at the front window for my Dad to pull into the driveway, for I knew we were going pheasant hunting until dark. As soon as the ’68 Tempest drove in I could see my Dad making eye contact with me. He knew I had all my chores done and all that was left was getting ‘Dusty’, our setter, into the trunk of the car. With a slip knot leaving a small vent, we’d take off. As usual, I’d watch my Dad move the column shifter around as we backed up and then headed towards the creosote covered road. Normally, I’d ask the same questions, how he knew where to put the ‘shifter’. That afternoon my focus was different. I had hoped we’d go to one of my favorite spots…next to a corn field. I later learned Dad wasn’t fond of pheasant hunting near a corn field, for a wounded ring neck would most always take refuge.
He drove into the two-track lane leading to a corn field but we’d come far short of that. As we climbed out he would always help me put on one of his old hunting vests…making sure the zipper went all the way up since it hung just above my knees. It was my job to undo the slip knot keeping the trunk lid nearly closed. Dad lifted Dusty having to hold her tight as she was always so excited. As soon as her paws hit the grass she was off and running. I’d yell at her to stay near us and my Dad would always remind me to let her ‘do her business’. I acted as if I knew what that meant.
Dad seemed really good about making sure Dusty would work certain areas with birds. I think if I asked him today he would share back that we always let the dog take us to the birds. Our hunt spots were mostly well away from roads, so it now makes sense reflecting back on the spots Dad would pick. After all, these spots were probably hunted by the ‘Morgan tribe’ for a couple generations. I remember we went to three different spots one afternoon, asking who owned all this land. Dad said Mr. Goetz did. I thought Mr. Goetz must be rich.
With two roosters being a bag limit we most always took home two birds. I distinctly remember this since Dad always had me carry the pheasants in my game pouch. One afternoon I recall Dad shooting three roosters. I speculate Dad thought he missed one and Dusty later found it after already stuffing two in my game pouch. Anyway, that is the time he sent me out to the car to see if ‘anyone’ was there. I remember yelling back to Dad that the coast was clear. I don’t think he planned for me to yell.
We drove back home. I tended to Dusty, making sure she had fresh water and was fed. Dad cleaned the birds. I would always remind him a million times to save me the tail feathers, which he always did. Mom would always have dinner ‘about ready’. That day Dad told Mom he wanted to run the cleaned pheasants down to Goetz’s before supper. I would ride along with him despite knowing Goetz’s had a dog that would prevent me from getting out of the car. I would always think, “why can’t their dog be as friendly as Dusty?” Despite Dad saying their dog would never bite someone I was never convinced.
As Dad drove us back home he reminded me to give Dusty some more water. I filled her water dish from the hose in the back yard. Like any kid, I made sure my thirst was also quenched. After supper Dad would take his shotgun out to the car port. I remember him wiping the gun down with an old rag with some special oil…which had a good smell to it. Dad would always carry his gun back into the house and stow it someplace in his room. The evening would wind down and I knew my hundred questions were wearing my Dad’s patience a bit, but he kept answering them. I don’t know why my parents never took a few pictures of those adventures, but, boy would I ever love to have just one.
Fast forward: Reecently, a friend of mine invited me and a handful of others out to his family farm for an afternoon of pheasant hunting. The afternoon started and ended just as I had hoped. As we greeted each other the dogs reminded us it was ‘time to go hunting’. We flushed a few birds with one rooster finding its way into a game pouch. We interrupted the festivities with Tom’s wife, Ginny, serving up a wonderful lunch. I remember sipping my cup of coffee just before it was time to try our luck again…thinking, “boy, this is a good cup of coffee.” Our hunt seemed to conclude way too fast, but not without all of us feeling we need to do this again. The day had brought together new friendships with old ones. Yes, this time we took some pictures!