Last Chance Roosters


Not too many years ago, photos like the one above were common. However, good pheasant hunting has been a thing of the past for about ten years now.

In the early 1980’s I hunted with a mixed breed hound dog that was deadly on pheasants. One year I personally killed 16 wild roosters on or very near to our 140 acre parcel on Webb Tract.

In about 1995, on our Mayberry property, our group bagged 107 roosters on 300 acres. Those were the days. The photo above was taken about five years ago and since about that time, I’ve only bagged a hand full of pheasants. However things definitely took a turn for the better this season.

Our little patch on Webb was not planted this past summer and the pheasant population expanded. In fact it expanded enough to where we have had some really good hunts. On my first two trips, I failed to kill a rooster, but I missed four. Lots of close calls. I felt like I was due.

On Saturday, Rob and I worked hard to put ourselves in position, but the roosters managed to escape over and over again. Bushed, I retreated to camp to eat a sandwich while Rob continued on.

After a rest, Lola and I headed to a sand hill that we’d not yet hunted. As we approached the down wind end of the five acre patch, Lola got hot and took to pursuit of the unseen birds. Her animation told me that they were not far away and I also pursued at my best rate. Lola disappeared into a thick patch of smartweed, fat-hen and aster.

When two roosters and a hen shot out of the far end of the patch, I knew where I needed to be and took off at a run (well sort of a run). Half way to the likely spot, another rooster fought his way out of the weeds – in range, but I was on the run. With only one foot on the ground, I took the only shot I had. Luckily the bird dropped. Calling to Lola, I headed to the downed bird. She arrived at the same time as me.

The rooster lay spread-eagle on a patch of Bermuda grass. When Lola nosed the tail of the bird it jumped skyward about five feet into the air where Lola snatched it – a great ending to the chase. As best I can recall, this was my first rooster in about three years.

Amazingly, between Rob and I, we raised over 25 pheasants on Saturday and more than half of them were roosters. We only got off two shots and bagged one bird.

That would have been enough for me, but with an hour left to hunt on Sunday I switched from ducks to pheasants and Lola raised several more roosters. One of them joined the Saturday bird. Now I’m looking forward to some fried pheasant.

My favorite way to cook them is to slice the breast meat thin, pound it and then dip it in four before frying. May have to do that tonight.

The long pheasant drought is over. If the trend continues, Lola will be spending more time chasing roosters next fall. Goes to show you that one of  the biggest problems with pheasants is farming practice. Left with significant habitat, they can make a comeback.

It was a direct hit with good light and he was cackling all the way.

Fate of the Birthday Rooster

If you read the story of the pheasant hunt that took place on my 60th birthday (Nov 25th post), you will recall that I had a rooster dead to rights that day. Lola chased him into a patch of fragmites along the 30 foot wide ditch that runs along the east boundary of our club. Across the ditch is a thick brush patch. The rooster, since named the birthday rooster, rose out of the fragmites and gave me an easy shot at 25 yards, but I let him go for fear that he’d end up on the opposite shore where Lola might not retrieve him.

Since that day I’ve hunted that spot several times in a personal battle to bring home the birthday rooster. Each time he’d flush out in front of me before I could get in range. It was beginning to look like 2009  would pass without bagging BDR. However, Saturday’s duck hunt was so slow that I decided to make another attempt at the bird. Lola and I approached from the opposite direction of our typical hunt.

Lola was on a bird for about 150 yards, working hard, but not coming up with anything. As we approached the ditch, she was in high gear, running nose down, turning, jerking and tail wagging out of control. She passed a fragmite patch and stuck her head in twice. The third time she did more than just sniff. As she rumbled through the patch, BDR burst upward – the thick branches forced the bird upward as he let out a continuous cackle.

This time Lola forced him away from the sancuary. He passed in front of me  at about 10 yards and we were briefly eye to eye. He made a 90 degree turn away from me and I hit him in the butt with steel twos as he began to swing towards safety. The birthday rooster was down and out.

The Birthday Rooster

Pheasant hunting was tough this year, but there are still enough birds at Mayberry to make a comeback if we get better weather next spring. Although I only bagged two wild roosters all year, I muffed quite a few chances and could have had five or six if I’d been shooting well. Rob and his two labs, tule and peatie, bagged 8 or 9 wild roosters this season, so it can be done.

Duck hunting has been very poor. The good news is that when December is poor, January is usually good. We’ll see.

The Good Old Days – again.

Nothing makes me think of the good old days like pheasant hunting.

While looking through the archives – the days before digital photography – I found some old photos of our 90s pheasant harvest. A few of them have the date on them – 11-25-95.

That is fourteen years ago and it sure was different then. Take a look.

Cousin Wes and brother Rob with limits

Friends Fred, Steve, Gary and Ralph with limits

Rich and Terry with limits

Rich and Val with limit

In the 90s, we had years where every hunter went home with a limit through Thanksgiving. We’ve only had a couple limits taken so far this year and tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

What’s different? Weather patterns, a shift from farming to ranching on Sherman Island and older less productive habitat on our property.

Oh yes, we are also a little older and slower.