In the great pheasant plains of the semi-west this morning, 22 legs are stalking through soaked fields of corn stubble, brome, and native weeds. Ten shanks are accounted for by son, grandson, son-in-law and friends. The other 12 are distributed among the shorthair, the vizla, and the yellow-ish lab. I am keeping camp. I am hoping the boys' Filson gear is keeping them comfortable.
It is the Great Annual Clan Pheasant Shoot-At and Group Dog Hug which is headquartered at Camp J, a tradition I cherish. It is also a tradition in which I do not participate totally due to the approach of the time when I must concede that I nearing my mature years. Breaking through dense cover for hours is a fine way to stay young, or to remind yourself that you no longer quite are.
Although I did enjoy yesterday morning in the field. One of the dogs treated us to a classic point and flush. She also had the manners to remain straight of face when the ringneck continued his impromptu flight to Terril, several miles to the south. My lads policed up the three expended 12-gauge rounds. I was on the far end of the search and destroy line, too far away to justify a shot. This prevented the need to dream up a creative excuse for missing. We never saw another bird.
In fact, I own marksman-of day honors. It happened like this:
I was carrying one of my spare shotguns, just because I had never shot it and decided it was time to blood it. On the first rest break it occurred to me that I should see if it would go bang. One of the boys tossed a can for me. Boom. Can reveals a cluster of No. 6 holes. This means that I have +never+ missed with this gun, and I'm tempted to carve "Ol' Sure Shot" on the stock and retire her to pegs on the wall.
The bird dearth didn't seem to dampen the evening of food, beer, and stories which were, in nearly every case, at least nearly true.
If the next rain holds off, I'll be out again this afternoon. If a pheasant jumps in my zone, I'll try to remember to lead him.